Using an umbrella when it’s not raining might sound strange to some Americans. If I were to do it in my hometown I might get some strange looks. This is however something that many people in Thailand do on a regular basis. Many times it is women who want to stay out of the sun. Unlike in America where many women and men want to get a tan, people in Thailand would prefer to keep their skin tan free. I have learned this is very common in many Asian countries.
As a man, it is something I never would have considered. I suspect I might get some strange looks or even some comments about it if I were to do it back home. Here in Thailand I got used to carrying an umbrella with me especially during the rainy season. However, my American upbringing would have never allowed me to use it in the sun. That all changed today when I took a walk through downtown Chiang Mai in the blazing hot summer sun. I decided to take a walk through downtown after church to learn my way around better. Shortly after I started walking the rain came pouring down and I pulled my umbrella out of my pack. After it stopped raining the clouds moved away and the sun once again showed its face. With the humidity, the shining sun, and the walking, I was soon dripping with sweat, it was like my body just could not cool off. I really was in bad shape, and then I saw some men and women with umbrellas. The idea crossed my mind that maybe I should try that, but the American in me resisted. I could just imagine the kind of ridicule I might face as a boy in my home land if the other kids saw me with an umbrella in the sun. Then I realized, “I’m a grown man and I’m in Southeast Asia, other men are using umbrellas too, and on top of that, nobody who knows me will see me.” I just happened to be walking by a 7/11 and I stopped to get a bottle of cool water, then, on the way out I popped my umbrella open. It was amazing, even though it was still hot I almost instantly felt cooler without the sun hitting me.
Shortly after this I stopped to look at my map of downtown, upon seeing me stop, a tuk tuk driver stopped to see if I wanted a ride. I did want a ride, I was hot and exhausted, but I was one a mission to learn the terrain, and I could not quit until I achieved my objective, so I turned her offer down. It was a difficult thing to do in my miserable state, but sometimes tough choices have to be made. During the conversation, she, the tuk tuk driver, remarked that I looked like someone who had been in Thailand for a while because I was using an umbrella.
I learned a few valuable lessons because of this experience. One, an umbrella is very useful for keeping you cool in the hot sun. Two, you might not look like a new person in Thailand if you use an umbrella in the sun. Three, people in America really should consider using umbrellas in the sun. I think the people in Asia are on to something, I may ever risk a few odd looks on a hot day next time I spend the summer in my homeland.