Shadow, reflection and showers

I feel as if the dry season has stretched a little this year.  Weeks and months creep past, with hardly a drop of rain.  Showers which we can mark in the calendar.  Yes, that was the week it rained, we remember. A January rainstorm and an April downpour.  Aberrations, punctuating the increasingly stifling heat building around us. We start to dream of rain, to imagine we hear drops falling.  The wind rises, whispering promises of rain soon, soon.  My heart soared two weeks ago, on a stuffy Saturday afternoon when I heard that unmistakable sound of large, bulging raindrops falling outside. Raindrops I could count, and see their mark on the ground briefly before they were swallowed by the parched ground.  There is only one thing to be done on hearing this sound, and catching the scent of fresh rain in the air.  Before I know what has happened, I am in the garden, face upturned and arms outstretched, welcoming those first delicious rains onto my face, smiling and laughing like a child.  The shower might be brief but so refreshes the mind and body and sharpens the anticipation of the rains.

The rain came again on Tuesday, hidden while I was inside the airport building and unseen until boarding.  Such a sense of disappointment and being cheated, at not being able to watch or feel the rain as it swept in.  The rain on a runway is not the rain I had been dreaming of, nor the rain streaked horizontally across the cabin windows in the aircraft. Nor the dramatic rain storms underneath while we were kept on hold above our destination. It might have been “not quite the right kind of rain” but it was a renewed promise of monsoon.

It has rained every afternoon since then.  Bulky clouds with attitude gathering in the sky, thunder rumbling and cracking, spirited breezes materialising from nowhere and rains teeming down. Alongside a renewed energy and exuberance within each of us. The frogs are wakening and critters being washed from their hiding places. The landscape will quickly change.

And so too does my image for now.  Over this dry season, I have become increasingly fascinated with the play of light, of shadows and of reflection as I struggle to get to know my camera, and try to capture glimpses of magic I see around me.

I am also a little naughty with the concept of “selfie” photography and have my own version which protects my privacy yet places me in my environment.  The “Shadow Selfie” is what I call it.  Now that the rains are moving in I am sure there will be less shadow and I have therefore chosen an image which comes from this very special time when the season starts to turn, and the trees come to life with their array of colour.  I particularly love the jacaranda and could not resist a “shadow selfie” under a blossoming jacaranda tree as I paused on my cycle home from my early morning swim.

Shadow selfie and fallen Jacaranda blossom
Shadow selfie and fallen Jacaranda blossom

The jacaranda is already shedding its colours as the season changes.

All the more reason to preserve it just a little longer.

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Anticipation

You know that sense of mounting excitement as the most important Festival of the year approaches – such as Christmas when I still lived in the UK, or Dassain in Nepal?  The sense of anticipation intensifies, shops get busier, preparations are increasingly visible and conversations are more and more dominated by plans and tasks for the coming festivities.

In this part of the world, many countries are celebrating Water Festivals and New Year.  As the weather becomes more hot and oppressive, the temperatures continue to rise and the air becomes heavy with the moisture of dreamed-for rains  and the exhaustion and tetchiness which the season nurtures.  The trees start to display their spectacular colours, with the purple jacaranda and bright yellow laburnum flowers already signalling the approaching change in seasons.

Jacaranda in the morning sunlight

Jacaranda in the morning sunlight

In Myanmar we celebrate Thingyan, the Water Festival from today, with four days of watery mayhem followed by the Myanmar New Year.

I love the air of anticipation as Thingyan approaches.  Everyone is challenging the unbearable heat and making their plans for the festival time.  Friends and colleagues have a spark in their eyes, as they pack up and head to their home communities or prepare for the festivities in Yangon.  This year in particular, there has been a proliferation of plastic blossom of the Padauk tree, which is the traditional symbol of Thingyan.  Little pots have been on sale at the traffic lights, sprigs adorning walls, windows and doors, all cars have a spray or two on the dashboard and even the shopping centre and airport have impressive displays!

Padauk displays abound

Padauk displays abound

A flowering of the Padauk on Tuesday sparked great excitement and I was gifted some sprigs on the way to work by a woman who runs a little, wooden betel stall at the end of my lane. 

Tuesday's fresh padauk blossom

Tuesday’s fresh padauk blossom

 

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The streets are filled with vans and trucks, packed with speakers blaring out raucous music and and youngsters dancing happily.  The length of the main roads beside the Lakes are a scene of frantic activity as pandals or stages are being erected against the clock , workmen hammering the wooden planks together and smart young folks hand out flyers for their pandal, advertising best packages of music, entertainment, refreshments and most of all – the number of hoses and powerful water cannons (firehoses with enormous force!)

Thingyan advertising

Thingyan advertising

 

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Building the pandals

Building the pandals

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As we packed up on Friday to leave for the Thingyan break, we were all doused, albeit gently, with sprigs of leaves and sandalwood water just to make sure we received Thingyan auspicious blessings, while other colleagues either sprinkled us with water from water bottles of were waiting outside with waterguns.  No one went home dry, nor was anyone drenched.  Unlike the days of the festival itself when you cannot avoid being soaked to the skin if you set foot out in the street!

Pre-Thingyan Sunset

Pre-Thingyan Sunset

Thingyan is a wonderful time of celebration and release and a very special experience.  However, this year I decided to slip out of the country on the eve of Thingyan, to find a space of tranquility and rest, and relative dryness while the festivities are at their peak!

A very happy Thingyan Water Festival to you all!

Report re port

I realise that I have somewhat neglected to update on my de-portation, after complaining at length about the way my poor skin responded to the adhesive dressings!

Well, one reason it has not featured in my thoughts and words is because, quite simply, there has been nothing to report re the port.  Or rather re the void where the port was.  The surrounding skin calmed fairly quickly once dressings and adhesive were out of the picture, and healing has been incredibly quick.  I have been able to swim from day 7 and although the site is still a bit tender and raised, it is really looking very healthy.  In fact one friend thought it was my old scar, it is looking so good!  Well done Dr P!    It is wonderful being able to move my neck freely and I feel a greater freedom in my right arm.

And what about the port itself?  It might not be surprising to hear that I carry it around in my handbag, waiting for an opportunity to show anyone who shows the slightest interest.  And to anyone who is not interested.  And anyone in fact. It has appeared in the street, in the office (several times), in the supermarket and at a friend’s house and in a couple of cafes.  It even appeared on the flight back from Bangkok!   I don’t think the fascination will ever fade, it really is an amazing thing.  And it is MUCH better on the outside!

So that means I can focus on the riot of colour which is Yangon at the moment.  Jacaranda is blossoming, bright red flamboyant trees are budding and bursting into colour and frangipani and bougainvillea abound.


 

Recalling Radiation and radiation recall

Today is another Landmark Day – it is a year today since my last radiation treatment.  A whole year.  And it was not just the end of Rads, it was the end of what had been the triathlon from hell indeed.  The whole stretch of heavy treatment had started at the beginning of October 2009 with surgery and soon after, the first chemo.  What felt like minutes after the 8th chemo came the start of Radiation.  There was hardly any time to breathe as I trundled rapidly along the treatment process.

And then, finally I was locked in the Bunker for my final session of beeps and zaps, and then I was allowed out into the big wide world.  I could finally make plans to get back to the UK and see family and friends in 3D who had been holding my hand virtually all the way through.  After months of being on a loop between Bangkok and Yangon, staying away from crowded places, napping several times and day and counting the spaces between treatments I was suddenly FREE!

So here I am a year later.  Filled with a mix of emotions and looking and feeling like a different person.  I had not been expecting that strange “after the treatment” phase very helpfully discussed in Dr Peter Harvey’s article, and often called the “new normal”.  It was impossible to imagine that I might rebuild after the destructive yet life-preserving rounds of treatment.  But I have indeed re-built.  I have hair again, thank heavens, even if it is still the wrong colour.  I am much much stronger and fitter.  I have re-gained my independence.  Of course I live looking over my shoulder with Captain Paranoia feeding my fears, but that is part of the deal.

There are, however, the obvious reminders.  That scar of course.  Twang Arm.  My port.  Additionally, I had a rather unexpected and unwelcome reminder of radiation last month.  After I had my port flushed, as usual a sticky plaster was placed over the puncture mark.  As frequently happened, my skin became a bit irritated underneath the plaster and then when I removed it the folowing day, a layer of skin peeled off with it.  I was gifted a beautiful, elastoplast shaped wound to accompany my port scar.  A friend joked that I was aiming to remove my port by peeling it off layer by layer!  I might give it a try if it is less painful than the surgical way?

I have since learned that this tenderness and irritation could well be linked to what is euphemistically called “radiation recall” so that is something else to talk to Dr W about when I see him next.  It cleared up with careful treatment but my skin continues to be very sensitive thanks to the combination of surgery, radiation and chemo skin and the aggravation of a hot and humid climate. It is something else to keep an eye on and something else to remind me.

For today, though,  I am glad to be in such a different place.  I am happy to recall that last dose of radiation and everything it signified.  I am particularly thankful that this year my eyes are open to seeing so many things which I didn’t see last year.  I completely missed the jacaranda blooms which I love so much.  They must have been there, but out of my view in my sheltered routine to and from the hospital, keeping my head down because of the troubles in Bangkok.  So this year I have been blown away by the variety and splendour of so many different blooming and blossoming trees in so many different colours.   I am sharing this picture from my field trip of a week ago, and a glimpse of the amazing blossoms, signs and symbols of regrowth and regeneration that surround me, which I completely missed last year.