China Observations – COLD!

As of this writing… it’s snowing…. STILL…… Eff you, Minnesota.

But I shouldn’t complain. Because I have access to heat. FIRES! Glorious wool blankets!

I thought Edmonton, Alberta was the coldest winter of my life…. (When i moved, it was -57…. My car froze once I turned it off until the ‘thaw’ 2 weeks later to a balmy -20C). Then I lived in Melbourne, Australia…

The place where “It doesn’t get that cold, mate, so no one has heat!”

I had to get a boyfriend for a few weeks just so I wouldn’t freeze to death. To date- this was the coldest I’ve ever been.

But I think my aunt has me beat……..

Yesterday was our first day of “spring-like” weather. The birds were chirping. Lime green buds were starting to appear on shrubbery. The air was warm and the sun felt great. But despite the fact that Shanghai is on the same latitudinal line as Savannah, Georgia, the weather isn’t always so pleasant.



A mere 40 days ago it snowed and it didn’t immediately evaporate. Granted, it was only about two inches, but I hadn’t expected any at all! And the wind was as powerful as any wind I have ever felt. If their wind’s force was paired with Minnesota’s cold temperatures, I truly believe that no human could endure it.



So how does Shanghai respond to this type of weather five months of the year? The answer is … perhaps obvious? Don’t even TRY to heat buildings!



Our school is four stories tall. Some exterior walls have actual walls. But other walls just have railings so you don’t fall off the edge. They are completely open to every element during every season. The Ladies room has 10’ high windows that are perpetually open. It’s a decidedly cold place to take a seat. Each classroom has its own heater, but the big school hates it when teachers (or students) turn them on. I don’t actually blame them. The classrooms aren’t insulated at all and it must be like taking a match to money.



But what about public buildings? Unlike the school, the malls have walls. They don’t, however, have doors. They have multiple vertical, thick plastic flaps that hang down and need to be pushed aside to enter the store. And as the flaps would constantly be letting people in — and letting heat out — they don’t even bother heating the first several floors. All of the sales people (women, mostly) wait on you wearing parkas and gloves. I wondered if those first floor ladies got paid more than their co-workers on higher floors, just because they also had to endure the frozen temperatures and wind. Or, did the co-workers on higher floors have seniority?



Restaurants? Same deal, even for the most upscale dining establishments. Jim and I once entered a fancy hotel and asked where their restaurant was. The maître d’ pointed “up”. We went to the second floor and found an enormous banquet room. Being the only ones there, we suddenly had four waitresses bringing us menus, tea, drink choices. They were all wearing coats. All of a sudden they stopped moving, looked at each other, and pointed at the ceiling. We rose, thinking they wanted us to move to the third floor. No. They wanted us to move our seats and sit under the ceiling’s heat vent two tables away.



But the Shanghai railway station wins the prize for the coldest four hours of our lives. We were about to leave on a sleeper train that didn’t depart until 11pm. (If we’d known the building was going to be this cold, we most definitely would have stayed in the afore mentioned restaurant, under the newly discovered heat vent, and ordered brandies until forced to leave!) This enormous cement structure was as cold as an ice cube. For an hour or so we hung out in the VIP lounge. And even though we were not VIPs, there wasn’t anything VIP about the lounge either. We ordered something so they wouldn’t kick us out, which they did at closing time and then it was back to suffering in the concrete structure that was suppose to protect us from the elements.



I have (often) been criticized for wearing long underwear in Minnesota during months when others were wearing shorts and t-shirts. Here in China they sell long underwear which I like a lot (and which I am still wearing!). It is designed in Japan. It is manufactured in … China. Of course it is. For five months each year, I personally know who is going to need it!



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