Father-In-Law on the Roof? Strange Scenes During Extreme Cold in Southern China

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.

My father-in-law standing on the roof of the house, whacking snow away with his bamboo pole.
My father-in-law standing on the roof of the house, whacking snow away with his 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.

IMG_20160122_162048I 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.

Shoveling snow in the front yard with my niece.
Shoveling snow in the front yard with my niece.

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.

IMG_20160121_085748And 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?”


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18 Replies to “Father-In-Law on the Roof? Strange Scenes During Extreme Cold in Southern China”

  1. Jocelyn, the pictures looked nice!

    The weather in the past week or so was rather extreme. Over the weekend a few friends and myself headed up one of the highest peak in HK to do some scrambling. Towards the summit, the temperature was between -5 and -8 deg C, wind blowing at about 30-50 mph and hailstone coming down horizontally! There were ice and icicles on rocks and plants. Our clothes and rucksacks were literally plastered solid chucks of ice just for being up there.

    (Ok, we were mad and seeing icicles on palm trees & papaya trees at 100m elevation was probably a good warning sign!)

    I have say I had never seen anything like that in HK so far in my lifetime.

  2. Brrrr! I am also freezing over here, hehe. Last week I was in Shenzhen and Hong Kong and also there it was waaaay colder than usual! Cold has been the favourite topic on everyone’s WeChat these days.

  3. It is so cold in Taiwan now – it even snowed in some higher areas that has never had snow in years. I was in hibernation all weekend and I think it was the first time we ever used to heater function of our air conditioners. It was 2C here on Saturday.

    I am also not a big fan of the cold or snow. I suffered through too many Canadian winters to ever miss the white stuff.

  4. Clearly, you will need to invest in the roof rake, staple of New England life.

    Meanwhile, I’m about to post a photo showing the brutality of winter in Southern California — an overabundance of citrus. We are out of bowls. It’s a tragedy.

  5. Sigh… I am leaving this Sunday to meet with my boyfriend and his family (first meeting ever) in Hohhot… I know I am going to lose my toes (´;ω;`)…

  6. While basking in the warm sun under blue sky in Southern California, I can still recall the cold Siberian wind cutting my face while riding bicycle to school every morning including Saturday and even Sunday mornings (for special preparation sessions geared for college entrance examination) in late 1947 – 48, Shanghai. Incidentally, (1) where is the picture depicting a western woman with her head lying on the lap of an Asian man coming from? I saw it when I access to one of your blog few issues back. From a movie, perhaps? (2) There are two more
    Nobel Prize Winners one in Physics after Steve Chu who have Western wives. One is 崔琦 whose wife is Norwegian and the other is 錢永健 (2008), a chemist still teaching at University of California (San Diego campus). Born in NY and remotely related to the famous Chinese rocket expert 錢學森, he married an American lady and denied he is of Chinese stock. (3) Perhaps you may want to look into the
    historic episode during the infamous Irish Potato Famine period when thousands of Irish emigrants landed in NY and soon men all went to West for jobs and homestead land, gold rush in California and railroad building, leaving behind thousands of young women without adequate eligible young men for husbands. Meanwhile, China was in a period of turmoil when Taiping Rebellion forces waged a semi-cult war against the Manchu Dynasty but instead resulting killing all the innocent people along the route by both sides. So a large exodus of Chinese young men took place to seek job in the
    U. S. and landed in NY without eligible women for wives. It is just a simple 1 + 1
    relationship that hundreds Irish women ended up marrying Chinese laborers all by social and physical needs. I recall having seen a black and white documentary film
    about this rare episode whereas Irish women wore fashionable bonentte and their
    Chinese counterpart has long pigtail posing for pictures. How they communicated
    is still a mystery to me but they did reproduce children for certain. Few years ago,
    I met an American lady who was promoting her book telling me that her family name
    is Liu because her grandpa was a Chinese laborer married to an Irish lady.

  7. Must be terrible right now with these temperatures! No problem for me to have it cold outside but I need my warmth when I am at home. Even during my military service our tents we okayish warm with the tiny wood heated oven in the middle.

    Btw, why was your father-in-law on the roof? I only know something like that when there is much snow like 1-2 feet of it making it too heavy for older roofs

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