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Students in a long tail boat in Indonesia. Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Indonesia Semester.

Rain March

I laughed like a mad man. Cackled in a scream drowned out by the blast of raindrops the size of my thumbs. I swear loudly, louder than I’ve ever in my life – again drowned out by the rain.

I’d unwittingly landed my right foot in a drainage ditch, after having put both feet (uncovered thanks to my Chacos ™ ) in a gutter stream filled with the kind of dirt that clings to your toes and leaves black-and-brown streaks across the rest of the foot. My rain jacket, a thin affair whose water-wicking was only barely sufficient – it left a streak of wet down the center of my batik button-up – to keep me dry. There’s something utterly terrifying about the heavy, drum-like beating of rain on a skinny jacket hood, like someone’s tapping their fingers along your skull.

By the time we’d (Steven, armed with an umbrella, and myself) had reached the program house, the alley leading to it from the main road was thoroughly flooded. I sighed and just went on, watching how my footsteps caused the water to disperse in a perfect oval around my soaked, stained feet.

 

This is the second time I’ve walked in Jogja’s near-daily afternoon torrent. The first was with Sadie about a week ago: we’d wrapped the day’s scavenger hunt in Malioboro (Jogja’s market district) and had trailed along the back-alleys, wandering along a path of walls decorated with a rainbow of color and the kind of graffiti that just puts a smile on the face of passers-by.

Then the rain started. First a drizzle, then very quickly a torrent. We booked it. Sadie didn’t have her jacket, nor an umbrella. It was cold, wet, and any other of the dozens of descriptors you might associate with walking in heavy rain in a city with gutters insufficient for the several gallons they regularly receive this time of year.

We laughed – I sang and danced in the rain (Thanks, Gene Kelly) and made it back. Soaked, but alright.

 

Today got me thinking about rain. About torrents, about all the assortments of weather thrown at the whole of the world every day. I thought about marching in the rain for a day along a dirt road somewhere in the Middle Atlas mountains, about standing below a tree waiting for hail to stop somewhere on the Continental Divide. I thought about all the times I walked home in one of San Francisco’s signature rainy days in 6th Grade.

I thought about optimism: about how we search for some sort of escape from whatever physical miseries we experience by retreating into our brains and pulling out something to make us smile. I thought about being grumpy and soaked and somehow how a single push – my foot landing in a drainage ditch – projected me forward to smiling and laughing.