Last night at about 2 am I was lying in bed at my guesthouse up in Kampong Chhnang watching the Discovery Channel when I realized that an odd noise was coming from the window. At first I thought it was one of the guesthouse workers doing something, but when I looked, I saw that the ground was wet. I grabbed my flip flops and ran outside in my underwear and couldn’t believe my senses. RAIN! And not just a little sprinkle, no, a serious downpour was underway. The last time I saw rain was Thanksgiving Day (November 25 for all you non-Americans) during the Phnom Penh Water Festival. I stood there for a few minutes until I was sufficiently wet and cooled off. For the previous 5 hours I had been laying in a pool of my own sweat on the bed as my ceiling fan tried in vain to relieve the stagnant air around me.
I have mentioned before that Cambodia is in the middle of its dry season (January to June), but a significant portion of SEA is also suffering from the worst drought in 10 years. Certain areas of the country have been hit particularly hard as the rains ended a month earlier than normal. The Prime Minister has gone so far as to ask Thailand to extend its cloud-seeding flights up to 10 km into Cambodia.
I fell asleep to the steady rain drops landing next to my window. The next morning I woke up to go teach. The ground was still wet and a faint mist hung in the air. It was cool enough that I didn’t immediately start sweating and that post-rain, musty sent was a welcome relief compared to the dry dust I have been breathing for the past 4 months.
On my way back to Phnom Penh, the bone-dry, brown rice fields punctuated with Palm trees faded into the same surreal mist. I hit a few patches of rain on the way home, but it was not significant enough to cause much discomfort. As I rolled down my street I saw that Phnom Penh had seen a good bit of rain. The backpacker ghetto in which I live has a single, narrow dirt road that has to accommodate many tuk tuks and motorbikes that constantly harass any foreigner who comes within 5 meters of them. I smiled while I drove through some sizable puddles as many travelers were trying to dodge the mud and moto drivers in their flip flops and white skirts.