At 6:30pm, it is completely dark. Due to the lack of time zones in China, Beijing has always had days that start and end freakishly early. When I first moved to Beijing I was extremely disconcerted when the sky started brightening around 4:30 a.m. In Kunming, the sun would not even think of coming up until close to 7 a.m., and in the Summer we would have nice long days, with sunlight until sometimes close to 8 p.m.. While the days in Beijing gradually lengthened a bit and the sun thankfully began to rise a bit later, we never had those gloriously long Summer days that I remember from other places I’ve lived in the past. And now, the sun is down before dinner time, which must mean one thing — winter is approaching! Of course, it is still early, and we are quite enjoying the nice crisp fall weather, but it has changed fast enough that I can imagine the deep, dark winter we have in store.
Perhaps I exaggerate. I do know that there are colder places than Beijing … like, say, Siberia. I kid. But Beijing does, apparently, drop to less than -10C in the winter, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s ridiculously cold. I grew up in South Carolina, where it was not unheard of to have Christmases in the mid 20s. I spent my early adulthood in Texas where snow would send the population into a complete panic. Car accidents would quadruple as people flipped out over the appearance of ice. Then I moved to Kunming, where every season was like Spring. Sure, it got cold in Kunming. Kind of. It would Snow perhaps once a year in Kunming, and the occasion would always be a cause for celebration, a freak occurance, something people would get out their cameras for in order to mark the occasion. In Kunming, it wasn’t unusual for us locals to be bundled up in sweaters and coats while refugees from the North would be in t-shirts.
As you can probably imagine, I am not a “winter person.” I rather hate cold weather. I dislike wearing sweaters and layers. I dislike being cooped up indoors. I dislike how even breathing hurts when you’re out in the cold. I don’t get excited about snow, and while fireplaces and hot coffees are ok, I’d take the beach and an iced latte if given the choice. This will be the first time that either myself or my husband have spent a winter in a really cold place. We don’t even have the appropriate wardrobe for the level of freezing we’re talking about — people here have snowsuits for Pete’s sake — I’ve never owned a snowsuit in my entire life! Just thinking about the winter ahead is a bit anxiety inducing (although I do get to indulge in a bit of shopping for my son, as he has absolutely no winter clothing). At least all apartments here in Bejing have central heating, so our house, if nothing else, will be warm and cozy.
Luckily at the tail end of Winter we will celebrate Spring Festival, which means a trip back to Kunming, something I am very much looking forward to. After Winter also comes Spring, and that means we will have at that point weathered a whole year in Beijing and will be but one step closer to our goal of going home for good. Put into those terms, bring on Winter I say.