Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cold Tootsies

We shared Thanksgiving dinner with about 35 other Americans yesterday. The food was fantastic and the company was quite interesting. I had met a few of the women in the group, but Dave went in blind. The girls played with toys and other children all afternoon, and so Dave and I ended up sitting around the table with a man who works for Cooper Tire, a man who works for Dell Computers, and a man who works for Best Buy. Their experiences varied quite a bit. The Cooper Tire man spends a lot of time at the factory, and had some pretty interesting knowledge about the working and living conditions therein. The Best Buy man has been helping to open new stores in Shanghai, and has faced some interesting opposition to surprising things. Each of these men, Dave included, are one of the only expatriates in their office. Most of them agreed that their offices are too cold, the heat never working properly. The Dell man, a funny man, said Oh, you've got heat in your office? and everyone laughed.

No, seriously. You've got heat in your office? he repeated.

Dave, Best Buy and Cooper Tire all said yes.

Our heat won't go on until January 9th. By government decree, explained Dell. The weather for the last few weeks has been a very damp cold, the type that seeps into your bones and keeps you chilled for hours. They told us we should wear our coats to work.

The forecast for today is damp, dreary and with a high in the upper fifties and a low in the mid-thirties. The temperature in our apartment may not have fallen down into the thirties, but it will certainly not rise into the upper fifties, either. Homes and apartments in Shanghai do not have central heat. Most rooms have a blower on the ceiling - this serves as the air conditioner and the heater, and acts more like a space heater. Each room in our apartment has one. We set it by temperature Celsius, but that seems less related to the actual temperature in the room and more just a fancy way of setting low, medium and high. I turn the Dining Room heater on when I first wake up. At that point, the apartment is quite cold. Within 10 minutes, the Dining Room is comfortably warm and the chill has disappeared from the rest of our space. Within 20 more minutes, the Dining Room will be uncomfortably warm and arterial rooms will be inching toward warm. Two hours of heat is all our apartment needs for the day.

But that heat never reaches the floor.

Warm air certainly rises in China, and slippers are a necessity in our house. I explained in a previous post that my sneakers were stolen, and I bought the one pair that fit me in all of Shanghai. The Asic shoes I bought are quite comfortable, pricier than I would like, and light and airy running shoes. Unfortunately, light and airy running shoes are quite ill-fitted to a damp, cold winter in Shanghai. My feet have not felt warm for days. In our apartment, the floor never feels warm. I'm taking a class at the local university, and the room never even feels warm there. The building feels as if it is meant to be open air - the entire front panel of doors always stand open; the windows at the end of each hallway always stand open; we shut the windows in our classroom upon arrival every morning; we leave the windows in the bathrooms wide open because of the smell. I spend my class wrapped up in my coat.

And my feet freeze.

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