Monday, February 17, 2014

China Winter Blues

Ice sculptures in Harbin, a city in northern China (photo credit: Reuters/Aly Song)
Winter in China is hard. Ok, winter can be hard anywhere I guess. But I feel it's extra hard in China (for me). January was actually pretty mild. Towards the end of the month we even had one day where it hit 70F! I know! Now? It's back to near freezing with constant precipitation. It tried really hard to snow the other day, but it didn't stay around for long. I'm a firm believer in if it's cold then it should snow. Nanjing does not agree with me.

We live south of the Yangtze River, which means there is no central heating in homes and most buildings. Hotels and some nicer restaurants will have central air, but for the most part people heat their homes with standing heat pumps that are really inefficient. In all honesty, most people don't heat their homes because they don't want a high electricity bill - we are not most people. We usually have our heat pump (called a kong tiao) going all day along with two space heaters we move from room to room to take the edge off. Our home is comfortable and we've figured out to keep it warm (except the bathroom, the bathroom is always cold), it's when we're out in the elements (on our scooter - yikes!), or elsewhere that the cold creeps in. For example, Sundays when we go to church. We meet in a new building. It's all concrete and tile, not a single insulated wall anywhere. Last week when we got there, the outside door was open into the hall we meet in - letting all the cold air in. They have heating, but will only run it on Sunday which means it gets turned on about two hours before service starts. The room we use for our English service has high ceilings, tiled floors and one wall of windows. In other words, it doesn't get warm. One week, it was warmer outside than inside the church! But this is normal in China, it's just hard for us Westerners to get used to.

Class was similar. December mornings spent sitting in a cold classroom were almost intolerable. My opinion is the tile floor makes it worse. Even if you have the heat pump running at full blast on high, your feet are still frozen. I started bringing those one-use hand and foot warmers to stick in my shoes (they made a huge difference). 

The funny thing is, temperatures get lower in the winter where I'm from in the States than they do where I live in China. However, I feel it's colder here because of the lack of indoor heat. Call me crazy, but I guess when you go from your nicely heated home to your car (which has seat warmers) to a heated office building you don't "feel" the cold as much. 

In other words, I'm ready for Spring. 

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