Monsoon clouds mop over the ranges with endless sheets of thick, pounding, drowning rain, and then suddenly, the sun drills through the leaden sky. Soon steam rises from the dark green hills like fog. There is an insect that chirps like a bird, and a bird that meows like a cat. But the nocturnal cat, our cat, can't be disturbed from his nap even as the willy field rat, the big one, mercilessly taunts our two puppies while the water snake wiggles across the fishpond as though he owns it.

It is so humid my bath towel never dries. I’ve seen the sun once for, perhaps, two hours in four days. Always, I am drenched in sweat, weakened by heat. Mere contemplation of physical labor brings exhaustion. Skin rashes and bacterial infections plague me daily. Night time, the bed is a pool of sweat. You gasp against the mosquito nets, against the cacophony of frogs and crickets.

“So what's it like, living in the tropics?” people ask me.

One could always plunge deeply into research, interviews, videos, and libraries. One could even take a short holiday to "sample the exotic flavors."

But, truly, noting beats actual experience. Aspiring writers, I encourage you to get out and experience life. Into the heart, into the bowels of darkness, I urge you.

True words flow from true experience.

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