It was when the chocolate melted that we realized we weren’t being picky — our air-shaft facing room at one of Beijing’s top hotels was unacceptably hot. So my Dad (the lawyer) smoothly advocated for an upgrade. And it was in the new room, sipping green tea, with my feet up on our new balcony watching a true blue-to-red sunset settle in over Tiananmen Square, while thousands of silhouetted black birds soared through the sky seeking a perch for the night, that I finally felt ready for the next leg of the adventure.
It seems silly to complain about heat. In Beijing, everything is heated and front doors are closed. In “southern” China, where I’ve been for the past year and for much of our travels, it just isn’t. My sister, dad and I took a three day cruise on the Yangtze to see what is left of the Three Gorges (before they fill up another 25 meters thanks to the Three Gorges Dam project). It was cold and damp, and no where, NO WHERE on the boat was there heat. We were each wearing 5 layers (thermals, long sleeve shirt, tshirt, sweater, jacket) which we didn’t take off, even to sleep. Chongqing — a city you’ve never heard of that may become the world’s largest if the lines are drawn the right way — has the same thing; restaurants and shops keep their doors open, and people just bundle up.
The last two months I was in Chengdu, where heating my room with a little air-conditioning unit was inefficient, ineffective and expensive, I learned to “chuan duo yifu” as they put it — wear more clothing. Hats, scarfs, thermal underwear — all the time. Thick blankets. And my British friend introduced me to an invention apparently only America doesn’t know about: the water bottle. You boil water, fill this rubber bladder up with the water, and throw it under your sheets or walk around with it to stay warm. It’s brilliant, and Allison (my sister) and I fought for the one I got her as a gift endlessly those cold days sightseeing around Chongqing and the Three Gorges.
But despite my best efforts, being persistently damp and cold did a number on my lungs. I constantly needed to hock a loogie. The Chinese reputation for spitting is well-deserved: people in China do hock up phlegm and then spit wherever they are, even on the floors of restaurants. I never spit indoors, but definitely started sounding Chinese after a month or two of winter. This phlegm situation lasted the whole time I was in Chengdu, and then even when I met my sister and her boyfriend in Shanghai to celebrate the new year.
But after a day in Hainan, the sunny island near Thailand south of Hong Kong where my sister and I spent a week on the beach, my lung issue instantly vanished.
I’m still getting used to being warm. It’s an odd feeling.
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I am finally back in Beijing to settle for a while. I have notes a zillion from my trip around China (twice) and hope to get some of these Aabservations out in the next week before I head off again…
Cheers, Liz (Ankexin)