Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Baby, it's Cold Outside

“What, I sometimes wonder, would it be like if I lived in a country where winter is a matter of a few chilly days and a few weeks' rain; where the sun is never far away, and the flowers bloom all year long?” ~Anna Neagle

“How can you expect a man who’s warm to understand one who’s cold?”  ~Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn

I’m finding it’s hard to type when you’re shivering.  Even if what you want to write about is the shivering itself.

Yep … winter has arrived.

Bear in mind that I am writing from a tropical destination in the South Pacific - not exactly your standard Gilligan’s Island scenario, what with people wearing knit caps and jackets, and saying clever and innovative things like, “Brr! It’s really cold!”

I certainly never expected to say that when we first purchased our tickets four years ago.

I can probably count on my fingers (wouldn’t even need my toes, which is probably good because I can’t feel them) how many times I have worn a sweater here in PNG, (my daughter and husband each wear one almost every day, but we won’t mention how that probably has to do more with a relative lack of personal insulation than weather patterns) so these cold days are always a shock to my system.

Shortly before we came to PNG, we had a garage sale.  One of the things that did not sell, but that I knew we would not need, was a set of flannel sheets.  A few days later, a couple who had lived here for several years came to visit. How surprised I was when they mentioned that they were glad they had brought their flannel sheets.

To PNG?  Really?

I shipped the flannel sheets, grateful to the Lord that he had kept anyone from snatching up such a bargain.

I thought of that again last night when I had to get out of bed to get an extra blanket and realised the flannel sheets are still folded up in the closet, quite content to keep themselves warm.  And then sometime during the night I dreamed that it snowed here … I exaggerate not.

So, what’s the temperature?  I didn’t look when I got up, but at 8am, it was 17 degrees outside and 19 degrees inside the house.  Okay, I admit it … that is Celsius, and equivalent to 63 Fahrenheit outside and 67 inside.  
Now, you scoff … you laugh … you roll your eyes, but I suppose we’ve acclimated because to us this is cold.  While you are enjoying your suntans on your north-of-the-equator beaches, we, here in the Southern hemisphere, are enduring the thick of winter, such as it is.

And since the houses here have little (if any) insulation and windows that are always vented, winter or summer it is pretty much always only a few degrees different between the outside and inside.

67 degrees.


Baby, it’s cold!

Though normally characterised by lack of rain, this “winter” has been particularly dry.  Gardens, which the people of PNG so heavily rely upon for their personal food supplies as well as some level of livelihood, are drying up.  Rain water tanks, our only source of drinkable water, are also running low, and I have heard of many friends whose tanks have run completely dry.  I noticed several people posting on Facebook a few weeks back asking people to pray for rain, and God has answered with some limited rainfall which has replenished the tanks.  It doesn’t take much – a good rain landing on 1200 square metres of corrugated roofing can nearly fill a 2000 gallon tank.

Another thing that characterises “winter” in the highlands is cloudy mornings.  In fact, many days we have pretty good cloud cover until around noon.  Of course, the solar panels which heat our water are on the Eastern side of the house, so you can draw your own conclusion.

Let me just say that stepping into a shower that’s about room temperature was nice when we were down on the coast and sweating 24/7.  But in the highlands, it is usually not very fun, especially when you’re already cold.

This morning, my husband emerged from the bathroom and described the water as “about two degrees above ‘Hallalujah.’

But it’s all good.  While her comment about the rain isn’t accurate for our context, Anna Neagle is right about the flowers.  Though winter, our tropical banana trees and passion fruit vines are still producing fruit.  Numerous varieties of flowering plants are still going about their business of blooming and expressing themselves through vivid displays of colour.  Everything is green and lush.

Though occasionally I think about how much fun a good snow would be, if I had to choose, I think I prefer it this way.

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(Updated 13 April 2013)