January 23, 2007 - Guyuan, China
Preparing myself to leave Guyuan for the next month I realized that winter here hasn’t made much of an impression on me.
I think I kept waiting for the winter gales to come sweeping in over the short mountains surrounding Guyuan, swirl and howl for a bit and then settle in until April, spitting snowstorms and breathing icy gusts down our necks.
At least that’s what everybody here warned me about. Suggestions regarding my winter preparedness racked up as soon as the first snowflake fell. I was told in no uncertain terms that if I was to survive winter here there was a shopping list I should follow. Yes, survive - I’m beginning to think that most people envisioned me as a large foreign popsicle. Frozen, huddled and shivering in a corner of my apartment, burning underwear in a dirty little fire as a last ditch effort to stay warm, muttering incoherently about hamburgers, American football and the beautiful, warm shores of New York1.
My touted survival list was extensive.
It was a given that I buy myself a hefty pair of long johns. Preferably the battleship armor class super-john, rated at R-952, 3-inches of itchy wool knit goodness. I was actually given a few invites to go thermal pants shopping. I have a feeling they’d look pretty snazzy with the ever popular leather pants that everybody wears here.
Next on the list was a set of shearling shoes. Patent leather with a cozy layer of shearling pile inside. Think Ugg but more rustic. Now I don’t have anything against them per se, other than the copious amount of sweating that must go on inside. Well, that and their fugly factor. I can’t imagine bringing them inside for fear of asphyxiation, let alone taking a look at the pruned toes squishing around in the tepid pool of brine formerly known as a shoe. I’m also a bit confused as to what happens when the warmth of the shearling is outstripped by the cold and your boots turn into a block of sweat-induced ice.
Furthermore I was assured of certain hypothermia unless my winter clothing repertoire also included a number of other items. A hefty scarf, the uglier and more knit the warmer of course. A set of earmuffs, in typical Guyuan style they must be a pair of puffy pink piglet earmuffs, otherwise it just wouldn’t do. Socks. Big hefty wool socks to be pulled and coaxed and bunched up over my already bulging long johns. As the earmuffs couldn’t possibly be enough a hat is in order. No normal hat though, it must have a classy English phrase silk-screened across the forehead. Something to the tune of “Sassy Girl” or “Snow Cat Club” screaming out my English hip factor. Don’t forget the earmuffs on top.
At the end of all this I’d be a walking scarecrow - but, and this is very important, I’d be alive and warm.
Needless to say I brashly ignored every iota of this advice.
My toes did not turn black and shrivel up, my legs didn’t clump together in a block of ice and my face didn’t fall off from the cold.
I have a feeling some were a bit disappointed I survived this long without said apparel.
Maybe March is a real winter screamer.
- The wonderful progression of death by freezing your ass off.«
- For R-95 I’m going to need approximately 40 inches of fiberglass batting to keep me warm here in the reefer they call Guyuan. R-Value Reference«
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