When we woke up this morning, the thermometer showed that it was 39°F (3.9°C). Not 39°F outside, friends. That was the temperature INSIDE our bedroom. Brrr….
But I am not going to complain about how frigid it is because…I promised not to.
This all started nearly two decades ago, when I spent several weeks in Changsha, Hunan, which is one of the infamous furnaces of China.
Those were hot weeks, filled with *so*very*much* sweat, and frequent thoughts of “WHY IS IT SO HOT?” and “why do they insist on keeping the a/c off?” and “why is there no ice in the drinks?” and “how is eating watermelon a viable solution to this?” inevitably followed by another round of “WHY IS IT SO HOT?”
It was that summer that I discovered that living in nonstop heat and humidity without the comfort of air-conditioned homes, stores, classrooms, and vehicles was a significant challenge for me. My brain spent a lot of time dwelling on how uncomfortably hot I was, and I’m confident complaints about it filled a lot of my conversational space as well. (Sorry to everyone who was there.) (Honestly, I loved that summer despite the heat. It’s part of why I came back to China long-term. But that’s another post.)
At the end of those weeks, and all that thinking about how much nicer it is to not be hot, I made a vow. I said to whatever other sweaty human was nearest to me, “That’s it. I am never going to complain about being cold again.”
And you know what? I’ve mostly kept that promise over the years.
Actually, my vow is fairly easy to keep for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I spend my life in warm climates. For much of the year, I’m hot. Therefore, there aren’t many chances to feel cold, let alone to start complaining about icy temps.
Secondly, I honestly do prefer being cold to being hot. (I know. It’s insane. But I’m finding there’s at least a small band of cold-loving crazies in the world. Cold freaks unite! Some day we’ll meet up in Norway and get matching T-shirts.)
Guangxi has made it hard to keep that vow, though. Despite being a subtropical climate, it gets miserably cold in the winter. The factors that make it especially hard to bear include:
- no indoor heating
- concrete, tile, cinder blocks, no insulation, single pane windows
So, when it’s 39°F outside, it’s also 39°F inside. And the heat is whisked out of you by the damp air, so that even when you are in your house, all bundled up like that kid from A Christmas Story, you feel chilly and can never quite get warm enough. Bonus for the curious: look up chilblains. I had never even heard of them before coming to Guangxi, but I know them now.
Anyway, when faced with weeks of damp cold, even a cold-lover like me starts to think “WHY IS IT SO COLD?” and “maybe we can hang blankets on the walls like they hung tapestries in castles for insulation?” and “I wonder how many hot water bottles I can zip inside my coat?” and then back to “WHY IS IT SO COLD?”
But I have to stop myself. I remember my vow, and keep my mouth shut. (That also helps preserve heat, right?) I remember how hot and sweaty I’ll be in a few more months, and I change my tune. I try to enjoy all this cold because it won’t last. Come early May, I’ll be wishing I was shivering instead of sweating.
This is one of several posts I wrote a couple of years ago but never got around to posting. It gets colder where we currently live than it did in Guangxi, but it’s a much drier climate so we have escaped the misery of wet-cold, at least for now. No matter where you are, may you have a warm and cozy December!
It’s All Fun & Games Until Your Pipes Burst
8 Photos of the Aftermath of Chinese New Year
December 7, 2016 at 9:43 pm
I remember how cold it was in Jan 2008 in your apartment in Nanning, and how quickly I figured out why you kept rubber clogs by the bathroom door when my feet clad in wool socks slid me into the splits as I attempted to use your Chinese “squatty potty”!!!!!
December 8, 2016 at 1:24 pm
The slippers help with the cold and with traction. 🙂
December 9, 2016 at 10:35 pm
Holy chilblains – yes, we got them in China as well. Yikes.
We feel very cold as well in a large stone house, but 3C sounds very rough. Awesome perspective. And awesome blog!
December 10, 2016 at 8:10 am
Thanks so much! It was definitely a challenge, but I still like the cold better than the heat.
December 9, 2016 at 10:45 pm
Looks like you are not in Kunmin, I’ve heard the weather there is really nice. I grew up in a town in northwest of China which gets very very cold in winter. The average temperature is around -20°C outside (yes, Celsius and below zero), but fortunately we have heater inside almost everywhere and the climate is very dry. Then I went to college in Chengdu, Sichuan, I thought I could handle the winter there, oh boy I was so wrong. Just like Guangxi, even though it is 10°C outside and inside, the humidity makes it so much worse and I can feel the coldness just penetrates through multiple layers of my clothes. And I got frost-bite on my foot in the first year, which never happened in my life even though my hometown is so much colder. But now when I look back those years, they are so valuable memories and stories for my kids.
December 10, 2016 at 8:12 am
I agree. Cold is one thing, but humid cold is much worse!
December 12, 2016 at 11:33 am
Oh god…I guess I am just an incorrigible moaner 😀 I complain both about the hear and the cold 😀 But I complain about the cold more…Winters are miserable even here, in the very south of China – Shenzhen and Hong Kong. In Shenzhen I remember having to run TWO heaters at the same time in my bedroom in February and still waking up in the middle of the night, because I was shivering. It was a nightmare! And it wasn’t even 4C as was in your case, but more like 10C. I honestly don’t know how you did it in 4C – I think I’d simply get sick (which I did a couple of winters when it was exceptionally cold in Jan-Feb, just about 2 degrees above zero).
So…now I don’t just moan. I run my AC as much as I consider necessary in summer and stock up on heaters, electric blankets and electric hot water bottles in winter. Thankfully, it is easier to heat up Hong Kong apartments because they are much smaller than average apartments in China 😉
December 12, 2016 at 10:58 pm
Don’t worry, Victoria, *you* never vowed not to complain! 🙂 Guangxi is very similar in climate to Hong Kong and Shenzhen. It’s the humidity that does one in, I think. Thank goodness for AC and hot water bottles! Very good point about the smaller apartments being easier to heat. And man, those HK apartments are very small.