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On Becoming a Cold-Weather Hermit

It’s true what they say: Californians are spoiled.  Living in Beijing for the past two winters has certainly made me understand ideas like hibernating for the winter, down jackets, and hats with ear-flaps beyond just making a cute fashion statement in the freezer section of the grocery store.

Perhaps more puzzling is that Beijing is not nearly as bad as other parts of the country where people LIVE their WHOLE LIVES.  Yes, it’s tough for my mind to even get around the idea of waking up everyday in places like Haerbin or Changchun (deceivingly named, as it literally translates into “Long Spring” HA!) where the Winters are bitter, bitter, bitter.

The good thing about adjusting to this new weather is that I feel like I finally have an established home here in Beijing.  Last year, winter was the great foe that stood between me and loving China.  Yes, in spite of the creepy snacks, the crowds, pushing, spitting, smells, lack of cheese and good chocolate, it was the COLD that almost did me in.  I hated going outside.  I hated that everything took twice as long to do.  I really hated that my life had been reduced to a relationship with my laptop and 80 Chinese-speaking channels and CNN.

This year, my activities haven’t changed all that much.  But I’ve figured out how to grapple with the Winter Beast.  Host dinner parties, invest in more pirated DVDs, read more books, and enjoy the company of those close to you.  Also, be grateful that I live above the Yangtze River line where the Chinese government allows central heating (sorry, Jase!).

A few years ago, my parents moved to Oregon.  That winter, I called my dad on a Thursday afternoon, and was surprised to find that he was at home.  My workaholic father would never be home on a Thursday afternoon, so I knew something was up.

“There’s an ice storm outside,” he said.

“A what?” I answered.

“An ice storm.  No one can go to work, it’s too dangerous.  Your Uncle Tim actually injured himself when he was getting his mail because he slipped on the driveway and may have cracked a rib.”

Long pause.

“And that– Dad- is why I would never live in Oregon.”

My dad laughed in his good natured way and told me to never say never.  Well, now I know that I can eat my words.  I actually love Winter here in Beijing.  It’s not my favorite season (hands down, Autumn) but I love the coziness I feel when I am indoors, enjoying life despite the weather outside, and finally feeling like I have a home and hearth here in this strange and always-changing city.  The chaos and Siberian winds have encouraged me to embrace something I would never thought I would have to endure in my comfortable Bay Area life.

And besides.  If there weren’t cold Winters in Beijing, there wouldn’t be awesome snowmen like these:

Well, thank Winter and the Chinese government for cloud seeding.

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