Two old friends made an appearance this week. They haven’t been around for awhile, but not long enough that I’m pleased to have them back. They would be Heat and, even worse, Humidity.
September was a misery. I had never experienced humidity such as Zhuhai offers. When I was at university in southern California, the slight increase in humidity from the bone-dry heat of home seemed cause for complaint. Zhuhai was a level of discomfort previously unknown or even imagined. The heat took my breath away. I soon stopped turning my air-conditioner off, even when I left the apartment. It took too long for the room to cool down again otherwise.
October brought typhoons and their torrential rains. I waded to class on several occasions, pant legs wet to mid-thigh. The morning would be suffocatingly hot. Eight o’clock in the morning. Sweat rolling down my face. And then the rain would begin. Hot and wet. Those are always the words students use to describe our local climate.
Beginning mid-November the weather began to cool, for which I was terribly grateful. I could walk to class and not be a sweaty mess when I arrived, though it still didn’t take much for me to feel overheated. Scarves were a possibility. I enjoyed wearing a blazer I’d brought. Intermittent rain.
December and January the temperatures dipped. Teachers who’ve been here warned us that though the temperatures would not be that low, it would feel very, very cold. Especially inside. And they were right. My room was like stepping into a refrigerator. I bought a space heater to which I would rotate my feet to track with its oscillation. I bought a hot water bottle for my feet at night. I bought a throw blanket for sitting at my desk.
But all this only for my room. Temperatures outside didn’t require near so much. I could still be hot when teaching lessons, though none of the classrooms are heated. Southern China gets air-conditioners; northern China gets heaters. No, you can’t have both.
My vacation for Chinese New Year allowed me to experience some different climates: the pleasant warmth of Hainan and the brisk, biting cold of Shanghai. The day I returned to Guangdong the temperature was 25 degrees Celsius, a shock, but the next day a cold front moved in again.
Through these somewhat cooler months the thought always in the back of my mind was that this was temporary. Students always tell me that Zhuhai doesn’t have four seasons, but two. Summer and winter. And winter is always very short. So though I was sometimes tempted to complain about the cold, most complaints were not voiced. The cold was such a welcome surcease.
Wednesday morning the view from my window was overcast. Interpreting this to mean cooler temperatures I pulled out a long-sleeve sweater, scarf and blazer and layered nylons under my slacks. Yet a few minutes outside and I realized that this was not cold overcast. This was the humid overcast, especially of October. Uncomfortably hot on the way to class, I pulled off my blazer and rolled up my sleeves. Everything already sticking uncomfortably to my skin. In my classroom I pulled out tissues to blot my perspiring face and flapped my pant legs to get some circulation. As the sweat dripped down my back, seeming to collect in the hollow, and trailed down to my waistband to leave little chalky indicators in testament to the day’s heat, I bit back a groan. It would appear that summer is back in town, along with those two old friends of mine.