So while we were gone in New Zealand, the weather here totally changed. Since we arrived in Malaysia two months ago, it had hardly rained, maybe one big storm a week, tops. This seemed funny to us because in Indonesia it was the middle of the wet season and there were ridiculous storms almost daily. So imagine our surprise when we got back to Malaysia and it was raining. And it rained the next day, and the next. I (jm) spent a few free minutes the other day trying to figure out if we were crazy or if something had really changed.
Malaysia has some weird weather phenomena, mainly the two big monsoons and the down time in between. The word monsoon comes from the Arabic word for season and refers to wind patterns. For some reason, I had it in my head that monsoons had something to do with rain, and this is not true. The monsoons were historically very important for trade here. One originates from the southwest, blowing towards Malaysia for about four months, and this was the wind that the Indian traders used to get here. The other comes from the northeast, which was how Chinese traders came. In the month and a half or so of down time in between, the two groups would trade, as everyone was stuck until the winds changed directions.
It’s really cool to think about how these winds get started. During winter, the giant land mass of Asia cools causing the air above it also to cool and sink. This high pressure system generates winds that head towards the coast, at which point they change directions and zoom around China, approaching Malaysia from the northeast. Sorry to any of you who are trained in meterology, that’s about the best that I can explain it.
It turns out that as of April 1 the inter-monsoon season began. The northeast monsoon goes from about December through March, then there is a break, then the southwest one starts up in June and runs to October when there is another break until December when the pattern starts over. It turns out that the breaks are traditionally the wettest months this part of the country. There are variable breezes at all time, and for some reason conditions favor afternoon thunderstorms. So it is now a bit cooler that it had been but it rains every afternoon. Sometimes it rains where we live, sometimes it rains where I work, sometimes it rains in between, sometimes it rains in all three places. All I know is that the drainage system here is much better than the nonexistant one in Jakarta, and rain makes the haze go away. Except of course that we live at the top of a giant hill, so home walking uphill into a rushing current of ankle deep water every afternoon gets kind of old quickly.