Jess and I absolutely love living in this house mainly for one reason: the covered back patio is spacious and comfortable. It's a place where we can sit after dinner, just the two of us, and share a cold Chang while we listen to the sounds of tropical birds, geckos, frogs, crickets, and the nightly thunderstorms that pass through in the monsoon season. The view is of lush green foliage towering over our garden wall, rolling clouds illuminated by occasional lightning flashes, and the air is cool and scented with rain. These moments make living away from family and friends and the place we love bearable.
What I personally do not like about this house is maintaining the property. We are happy to have this relatively huge lawn for the kids to play in and for our own feelings of privacy and elbow room; however, as I discovered yesterday, mowing the lawn on a hot Thai afternoon is not the same as it is back home.
To begin, the mower is kept in a small but well built and attractive shed in the corner of the property. Once I removed the padlock on the door, I braced myself for what I might see when I swung the door open. A coiled up cobra? A nest of angry venomous arachnids? Thankfully, I saw the lawnmower only. The shed is remarkable devoid of creepy crawlies, which is most fortunate for me, since I am debilitatingly creepycrawlyphobic. So I backed the mower out of the shed and pushed it to the front of the house, which has the longest grass. I figured I should start with the longest grass in case I get tired. That way, at least I can quit with the feeling that the yard has been improved by my weak, but well-intentioned, effort, should I fail to complete the project in one day.
But this is the part of the story that irks me the most. It's the part where I prove to myself, yet again, that there are mechanically inclined people in the world, and there are people like me, who, despite a basic understanding of the inner workings of a small internal combustion engine, act like an ape discovering a new object in his zoo enclosure. At first, I felt confident because I located the fuel on/off switch right away. Then I scanned the machine for any sort of priming contraption it might have. Not seeing any, I assumed I was ready to begin pulling the cord and mowing away. Hahaha, I say bitterly. After pulling like a mad man for 5 minutes and exhausting myself, I took another look around for any levers, slides, switched or buttons I may have missed on my initial scan. Nothing. I started pulling again, the slightest trickle of sweat beginning to appear on my temple. The engine sounded like it couldn't be bothered to start on a sunny Sunday, such as it was. I glanced across the street at the two ladies on the porch watching me. I looked again. This time, like a hand coming out of the mower and slapping me across the face, I saw the throttle on the left hand side of the push bar. The throttle! With the choke and everything? The throttle! With the picture of the rabbit and the turtle and the CHOKE! One pull with the choke on and the mower started right up. I glanced across the street again with a tiny, sheepish grin on my sweaty lips.
Once I had the mower going, it was smooth sailing for a little while. Smooth except for the fact that I realized immediately that this mower had no self-propulsion option. This realization did not have any immediate effect on me since it was only 8 AM and the sun was on the other side of the house. But after an hour of pushing, I made my way around to the North side, where the sun light had already come up over the trees and had started heating up the air. That's when I noticed that the front of my shirt was darkening with sweat. In fact, the sweat pattern looked as if it were in the exact shape and position of my lungs, which were working double time by this point.
When I finished the North side, I had to take a break. My breathing was ragged and the sweat was now pouring into my eyes, stinging and blinding me, so I sat in the shade of the aforementioned patio. Radd brought me a glass of ice water with a twist of lime. Oh, bless you my boy! But I soon remembered the clock was ticking. It was after 9 now, we were expecting guests at 11, and there was still a lot of preparations to be made. Back to work on the East side. At this point I had to remove my shirt and tie it over my head to stop the sweat from pouring both behind and over the front of my glasses. My view was of a windshield driving through the rain with no wipers.
This time I could only work for 45 minutes before quitting for the day. I was completely spent. My body was pouring sweat like it was a mountain spring. My arms and legs went on strike. My skin burned from it's extended interaction with the southeast Asian sun with its UV index of 10 and a humidity level around 80%. I decided to take a cold shower.
After wards, I felt slightly refreshed and a lot cleaner, but just 5 minutes later, I realized the sweating continued and would not be stopped by a brief rinse. There was only one thing to do: close the door, start up the AC in the bedroom and stand before it for 10 minutes. But because of the fact that the AC is high up on the wall and blows in an oscillating fashion, I was forced to stand on the bed, facing the wall, to get the cool air to consistently hit my body. This finally stemmed the flow of perspiration, and I was able to dress and carry on with the day, which by the way, was as fun and relaxing of a day as we've had since we've been here.
Alas, the mowing is not finished, nor is the weed whacking. It's a good project for today though, with the clouds filling the sky and the sun safely blocked away behind them. All I have to do is find the discipline to open that shed again, but what will I see when I look inside? I don't want to find out.