Friday, September 23, 2005

Beware of the weather

The change of the weather in Vietnam can be downright wicked, says Teddy de Burca Jnr., so keep one eye on those dark and ominous clouds

“Beware of the moon, lads” is a common quoted line from a classic werewolf film, but as the full moon, marking Tet Trung Thu (Mid-Autumn Festival), swelled to completion, there was something else in the air. Something far more chilling. Perhaps what Vietnamese fear most, even more than a dinner with no rice: the dreaded change in weather.

It started with a whip of a breeze from the west. Then the air pressure dropped, as if the weather upon the city was breathing in one last wheezy gulp of dirty air, before collapsing flat on its face. We could start to write the following morning’s obituaries – Summer was dead, long live Autumn.

Then the winds started to howl. The rain seemed to be going sideways. All around the city the temperature dropped, fans slowly whirled to a halt while the beer in the fridge seemed a little too cold for the first time in a long time. Someone somewhere sniffed. (No one ever knows who sniffed first.)

And sure enough, the next morning, half of the office comes in, dragging their feet, with a little cough here, and a little sneeze there, in what could be the opening scene from Dawn of the Sniffles: The curse of the common cold.

Vietnamese people will tell you, like they have told me every year I’ve been here, “beware of the change of weather” as if it were some sort of bogeyman preying on the weak.The local expression is “Som nang, chieu mua, giua trua, sam sui” (Sunny mornings, rainy afternoons, mid-noon cloudy and drizzly.) Basically, the weather’s always likely to change, which reminds me of a Scottish joke – “If you don’t like the weather, stick around for a minute, it’s bound to change.”

Often in Hanoi it appears to be raining on one street, while just around the corner it’s dry as a bone. Recently, a colleague told me his team turned up for a football game but the opposition had stayed at home. It was raining in the west, but not in the east, apparently.

The change of weather can be deemed the guilty party, conveniently, for a whole plethora of ailments – common colds, mood swings, toothaches, spots, bad hair dos and a strong desire not to go to work.

You might see people at the office, looking depressed, leaving early. When someone asks why, I guarantee they’ll say, “oh, the change in weather” and everyone will nod understandingly in empathetic silence as if remembering a loved one lost at sea.

So be warned, from here on out, as you leave the house, keep one eye on that weather, oh ye fickle mistress, as it is much like the sea, always to be respected, but ne’er to be trusted, and quite ungovernable.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

mr de burca, always with the weather you irish. can you not find something else to talk about?

pittstop designer said...

Oh, Mr Anonymous, you know how to cut to the core of a man. Poor Teddy has admitted he "needs a break" and has headed off to Burma to wrestle spider monkeys and hopefully regain his writing-mojo.