Wednesday, 27 January 2016

It's So Very Cold

     I can't believe I'm writing that title as a Scottish girl living a few hundred miles further south than she used to - I never thought I'd feel particularly cold at all this year! But Hong Kong is absolutely freezing right now! We hit a low of under 4°C on Sunday, the coldest it's been here in about 50 years, and although it's slowly climbing back into double digits now, it still feels very, very cold. It has made life a little different lately though - I saw icicles the other day! Icicles. In Hong Kong.

Icicles on the roof of the temples at Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Icicles! Actual icicles on the temple roof.

     My friends are visiting from Shanghai at the moment too, and while they're enjoying Hong Kong, I think they're probably less than thrilled to have picked the coldest week of the year to do so (though Shanghai is colder than Hong Kong, generally speaking). And by a funny coincidence, all the best sights to see here are outdoors... The girls have been pretty good though, and still braved the cold to see two of the biggest sights over the weekend, The Peak and the Big Buddha, and our experiences at the two were pretty different to my original visits there! The Peak was almost better, as the time I hiked it was so hot and sweaty, so this time the exercise warmed us up in the cold! But at the top we rushed straight into Starbucks, and only stayed at the top long enough to get some snaps of the view - which was still pretty impressive, given that there's a fair bit more smog obscuring it at this time of year. The descent back down into Central made ground level seem practically warm in comparison to the top!

My friends Tasha & I at the Lion Pavilion at The Peak, Hong Kong
Smiling through the cold...

     Sunday was even more ridiculous though. It was probably the wettest, coldest day out I've ever willingly taken part in, but the girls agreed that as they're only here for a week and a half, they still want to go see things, despite the cold. Naturally, the altitude of the Big Buddha meant it would be especially chilly, and the wind certainly does not help, so we bundled up. The cable car was suspended, due to the wind and rain, so the bus had to suffice. At the top, we shivered and complained and our teeth chattered away, but the girls said afterwards they were still glad we'd gone. The climb up the stairs was particularly challenging, as the last fifty or so steps had a small layer of ice. Going up, all of us made it except one, who chose to turn back, but the descent took a very, very long time! We joked that I'd later be talking to my mum, who'd ask how their visit was, and I'd reply "Great, until they died up the Big Buddha...". We made it back down unscathed though, and probably even spent longer at the top than I did last time, as we lingered inside the tiny museum up there to regain a bit of warmth! We did the same in the Po Lin Monastery, being both reluctant to step back out into the cold, and the girls being utterly awestruck at the the Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas - which was fair enough, as that room is simply spectacular! And although we complained about how cold it was, and the spattering of rain most certainly didn't help, it was a little bit funny too, especially some of the photos we took, looking thoroughly miserable, even though we weren't really. Thank goodness they were glad we still went though or I'd have been a truly awful tour guide! One day we'll (hopefully) look back on that day and laugh...

The Big Buddha in the cold and the rain, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
It's a bit dreich (Scots for wet). Photo credit to Leo.

     The cold persisted into this week too, as I got the news on Sunday night that all kindergartens were closed on Monday. Sounds great right, a day off, to stay warm in bed? Yeah, for the kids. Teachers still had to go in. Not that it makes a huge difference, as my flat is no warmer than the school, since Hong Kong has no heating or radiators! We got a small fan heater from the agency, but it can really only warm one of our bedrooms at a time. The school doesn't even have those though, hence the decision to allow the kids to stay home. I, meanwhile, had to leave the comfort of my bed and venture into the cold, then sit in a freezing classroom making crafts for the school open day next month ALL DAY. I'm not sure what was worse, the temperature or the boredom, since I was alone most of the day (the teachers that normally use that room with me had either not come in at all, or gone to another where their group of friends was). I was told Hong Kong only dropped to about 10°C in winter, so I didn't bring any of my really warm clothes with me, and they are also too chunky to pack, so I was wearing leggings under my jeans, and 2 tops, a thin jumper, and the one hoodie I have with me on top, with my scarf on all day too. Even yesterday, when the kids were back, I still managed to layer tights under leggings, a top under my dress, then a jumper, a cardigan, and my scarf again. I sleep in at least two layers, top and bottom, at the moment too. The only place I've felt warm in days is in the shower! Though the undressing to get in it is extremely unpleasant...

Selfie with the Big Buddha in the cold & the rain, Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Looking so happy to be out in the cold and the rain... Photo credit to Leo.

     And despite my best attempts at layering up, I've still caught a horrible cold, and am writing this from my bed, as I've taken my first sick day since I started back in August. My headteacher wasn't surprised in the slightest, as when I called this morning, she guessed I was sick as soon as she realised it was me on the phone, as there's few other reasons I'd call her then, and I'd been coughing and sniffing all of yesterday. At least half the students were either absent yesterday, or came to school but were clearly sick, much like me. I miss radiators more than you could understand right now. That's the real killer I think, as it's no colder outdoors here than it is back in Scotland all winter, but at least at home we feel warm when we step inside. Here, the temperature is the same everywhere, offering no respite from the cold anywhere (except that shower, which I've never loved more before!). Even when I was a student and couldn't afford to turn the heating on in our flat for more than a couple of hours each evening, I never wore this many layers, and could at least remember what warmth felt like while in the university buildings, or cafes and shops. At least I only have one more week before I get to go on holiday again... If I haven't frozen solid by that point...

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