There are things you never expect to see in a lifetime. Like watching a grown man whack snow off the roof with a bamboo pole.
I still couldn’t believe it when I caught a glimpse of this. Was that really my father-in-law balancing himself up there, pole in hand? Or was I having a strange hallucination induced by the bitter cold?
Nope, that was him all right. My husband even snapped a photo to prove it.
Then again, I’m still in shock over the thick white blanket of snow covering my husband’s home village these past few days. And the -4 degree temperatures outside my window.
I have to admit, the weather is messing with my head. It’s completely turned upside down my perceptions of winters here in the Hangzhou, China region. Everyone (including my husband) has always assured me that winters here are mild and, generally speaking, that’s what I’ve experienced in all the years I’ve lived here.
But now arctic cold from the North Pole has invaded China as far South as Zhejiang Province – our province – and it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced here. Suddenly I feel as if I’m back in Cleveland, Ohio all over again, where I grew up. Except, instead of the things I’m accustomed to having in the face of freezing winter cold and snow (like indoor heating and insulated plumbing), we have to manage without them.
Strange things have happened too – beyond just seeing my father-in-law on the roof of the house. For example, the window in my bedroom won’t budge because it has frozen itself shut. We’ll have to wait until the temperatures rise above zero (which we expect tomorrow, according to the weather forecasts) before we can open them.
I’ve always said I never knew the winter cold until I lived here in Hangzhou – which is ironic for a woman who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, a city renowned for its bone-chilling winters complete with heavy snowfall and even the occasional blizzard. But in Cleveland, Ohio, we are well-armed against the winter, comfortably tucked behind our insulated walls and indoor heating. Here in Hangzhou, we have none of that – and instead just make do with electric blankets, space heaters and hot coals.
These days of extreme winter cold, however, have felt like an intimate introduction to the most frigid and forbidding side of the season. I’ve never felt more grateful for the warmth of my electric blanket and my sturdy space heater.
We will survive.
And fortunately, the weather forecasts promise a business-as-usual winter to resume in the next few days. The temperatures will once again hover above freezing. We’ll be able to open the windows again. And with the melting snow, my father-in-law will no longer need to visit the roof with his sturdy bamboo pole.
I expect this won’t be the last time we’ll have some unusual winter days here. Global warming is wreaking havoc with weather patterns around the world, which means the season could become as unpredictable as my five-year-old niece’s mood swings.
Still, who’s to say it’ll always be like this in the family home? After all, the family has plans to rebuild the house in the next few years. And just the other day at lunch, while discussing the new home, my husband couldn’t help but ask, “What about adding in a little central heating?”