"Here in Zibo, we don't have spring and fall, only summer and winter," I've been told more than once... the weather ricochets from bone-chilling cold to sweltering heat, they say.
When I first arrived in Zibo, the willow trees were just beginning to leaf out. For the first two months, the temperatures were very pleasant. I didn't need heat or air conditioning in my apartment. Then it started to get warmer and while riding the bus to work I noticed that the road crews were preparing the flower beds for annual flowers, and they were planting portulaca, a flower that's very heat and drought tolerant. That really let me know that summers are hot here.
Yes -- newsflash! -- China is hot in the summer and the humidity reminds me of childhood visits to my relatives in Southern Illinois or Georgia. I always think about my pioneer ancestors in the summertime before the invention of air conditioning -- my great--great-great grandmothers and aunts having to wear long skirts and petticoats and maybe even corsets -- surely they ditched some layers if they were at home and the menfolk weren't around?
The traditional Chinese view is that it's bad for your stomach to drink chilled or iced beverages. To me, the "clink" of ice on a hot day is music to my ears. And remember how I said that I didn't come to China just to go to modern shopping malls? Well, those modern malls have air conditioning, decent public washrooms, and fast food chains serving drinks with ice, and offering places to sit down and rest for a minute, a fact I really appreciated in Beijing, So I've climbed down from my purist stance quite a bit.
I've practically stopped wearing makeup because I perspire too much to keep it on my face. At least I have Ross now to sweat along with me. And today my friend/colleague and "handler" from the school, bless his heart, spent half of what should have been his day off, finding a repairman to come to our apartment to fix our air conditioning. He also had to stay at our place, sweltering along with us, to communicate with the repairman. This repairman had to tie a rope around his waist and climb through the third-storey window to reach the outside portion of the air conditioning unit. And I was quite fine with him doing this, if it would only help me get some cool air pumped into the apartment. Ross observed that this same repair in Canada would cost perhaps a thousand dollars and would involve renting a scissor jack or some kind of crane to lift the repairman from the outside of the building. In Canada, this repair would have been the landlord's responsibility, but I'm told it's different in China. That doesn't mean my landlord is not evil. He is still evil. Ross has now sat on the butt-deadening sofa provided by the evil landlord. He is, as I write this, and against all probability, actually asleep on the sofa. But if he were awake, he would second my assessment of this sofa -- only a person devoid of all human-kindness would provide a piece of furniture like this. And this air conditioning unit comes from some second-hand store, like the bathroom sink and the kitchen cabinets.
But despite the overly warm reception Ross got, temperature-wise, he is doing well and he's very interested in everything he's seen so far. The good people of Zibo are pleasant and friendly and those to whom I say"hello" as I come and go in the neighborhood, such as the watermelon-seller at the gate of the apartment complex, are happy to see me with my husband.