05
Jan
08

Cold

When I was packing to come to Taiwan last year, my mother urged me to bring warm clothes.  Having only been in Taiwan in the summer, I scoffed at the idea that Taiwan could possibly ever be cold.  A country without snow except for the tops of the mountains couldn’t actually be cold.

And the people recommending really warm clothes came from places like Texas… oh, and Taiwan.  Of course, I now remember that my fellow scoffer, a New Yorker who had been in Taiwan for bit,  has the metabolism of a furnace and had wintered New York without heat.  Oh, and did I mention I’m cold-blooded?  Naturally, that didn’t occur to me when I took said scoffer’s advice.

I, who have shoveled snow off the top of our roof because it was three feet high, and who have tingled with numbness and that snap of awareness a brisk wind brings in New England winter, thumbed my nose at the supposed “cold” of Taiwan and brought a polartec fleece shirt and a sweater and a turtleneck or two…

This year, the day after New Year’s I wore: two shirts, a sweater (a wool tunic from the 80s which could literally fit two of me in it), leggings, fleece pants, wool socks (also another incredible invention), and blue fuzzy thick soft socks of indeterminate material…  All at the same time.  Then, I crawled underneath the cold covering of: one light summer comforter, one humongous poofy winter comforter covered by what usually serves as another light summer comforter, and a fleece blanket.  In the middle of the night, I took out two wool shawls and stretched them up top.  Oh, and I now know why people used to wear nightcaps.  My head was cold outside of the comforters!  I also need to knit up fingerless gloves.  

The thing about Taiwan is that it truly isn’t really snapping cold.   This is due in part to the lack of heat indoors.  There is no snap to attention when the cold stays with you, seeping into your skin, so that steaming water in the shower doesn’t feel warm on cold feet for a good few seconds.  I miss Korea and ondol flooring.  I really do.   Ondol flooring is one of the greatest inventions.  My Korean host mother would lay the air-dried clothes on her immaculate floor, straightening them out as she folded them while watching dramas with Be in them, and they would get WARM.

But I digress (as usual).

Here, the floors are all ceramic tile, and they suck in the cold and keep it with you.  Also, one of my former roommates had an obsession with air-circulation and insisted the main window remain open, so the draft could slither down the hallway and right through my door.

I discovered the joys of a heated gel pack.  Mine is about the length of my arm, has its own nifty little black case, and is the only thing I regularly cook (once the little metal tab has clicked, it solidifies the gel inside the pack, which warms up delightfully and dissolves again upon boiling or steaming).  My roommates and I jokingly call it my “boyfriend” as it does keep my bed warm.  I recommend it highly.

There are space heaters around, but my memory of the space heater we used to keep in the basement was that it was very successful in burning my feet while leaving the rest of me and the room cold.

Honestly, I feel quite ashamed that I, who really does like the cold since it makes tea and baking cosier, and who also loves snow and misses it sorely, should shiver in Taiwan, where outside of the mountains there is neither snow nor frost.  It’s not like I even see my breath in the air.   And truly, in spite of getting my first cold of the winter (it’s a testament to actually following my doctor’s advice for once that I waited this long to get sick this year), I prefer the cold in Taiwan to the heat.  It was lovely and odd to have balmy weather (60s and 70s F) around Christmas, which is unusual even  by Taiwan standards.  Global warming– grr.

I blame the moving pile of clothes in my room on the weather, since I began packing my summer clothes, only to realize they were still needed.  The chill of the past few days seems to have passed on, but I’m still in wool socks and my feet are cold.

Anyway, wherever you are, I hope you’re pleasantly, cosily warm, and that you at least have a nice cup of hot tea to warm yourself up with, if not ondol flooring.

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2 Responses to “Cold”


  1. 1 hbbailarina
    January 22, 2008 at 4:10 am

    I can commiserate with the layered, poofy lump of you that huddled in baby bird fashion after New Year’s… it’s drifted below 10 degrees a few times in Pittsburgh the last few days, which has caused me to be quite a homebody. I took a brisk walk to the Strip today which ended up being much brisker (weather wise), which, in turn, made ME much brisker than I had planned. 😀 I was wearing a hat with ear flaps the other day in my apartment (at least I have a heater, but it doesn’t quite warm my loft apartment). Perhaps I should send you a balaclava or something?

  2. January 22, 2008 at 7:37 am

    🙂 No worries about the balaclava– I have knitting needles and yarn! I knit myself a hat last winter, and just have to finish the never-ending spiral socks so I can get started on all the other knitting projects. Hopefully now that it’s post- application rush, I’ll get things in order and be all set.

    Brisk is good exercise, right? 😀


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