Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Songhua River 

Songhua River

Jack and I taking a horse carriage ride on the Songhua River in Harbin. (January 31st)

Posted by Eric Langager on Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I have said this a lot, but if you want to be warm in the winter, the best place to be is North China. Every building has hot water heat. And the bed I slept on last night had an electric mattress pad. Toasty. I couldn't help making the comparison with last year in Guangzhou and Hong Kong, where I slept in my parka. Buildings in South China don't have heat. My bed last night was warm and cozy. Note, I didn't say warm and soft. This is China.

This morning I went to a little pastry shop that serves coffee. I met a lady there who was from Guangzhou, and she was telling me that she couldn't wait to get home, because it is so cold here. I asked her what part of her was cold. She said, "My feet." I wasn't surprised; Sunshine told me the same thing the other day. I am not sure what the reason is, but my theory is that even insulated boots cannot keep you warm if you are standing for long periods on ice or frozen concrete. I have a solution to this problem. I have very thick wool liners in my boots, which I only wear when I am traveling like this in the winter. But I don't know where you'd go to buy such a thing. I pulled them out of my cannery boots when I worked in Alaska one summer.

I guess that's part of living in the north. It's just easier to live comfortably in northern areas if you have lived in cold country for awhile, and had a chance to learn how to keep warm. For example, I have an old pair of shoes in Beijing that I bought at K-Mart in North Dakota about twenty-five years ago. They look like an over-sized pair of tennis shoes, but they are insulated and very warm. I don't know...I guess, living in a winter climate you collect stuff like that over the years that makes it easy to winter without too much trouble. But the thing you can't collect is the hot water radiators that are standard in north China buildings.

Frontage road along the Songhua River.
After stopping by St. Sophia's Russian Orthodox Church, Jack and I spent a little time on the Songhua River this afternoon. In the winter, the Songhua River, at the end of the walking street becomes a sort of carnival with ice skating, horse carriages, and chair skates. But it is a very wide open space, and it's kinda nice just to walk around.

The lady who runs the guest house has a cute little dog, who is very friendly, and begs shamelessly. This morning I was eating an apple, and the dog was eying me enviously. The lady told me the dog would not eat an apple. I took this to mean that she didn't think the dog should have it, so I finished it myself. Later, I stopped back by the place, and saw the dog playing with an apple. Obviously, the kind lady had given the dog what he could not have when I was there. So this evening, after I came back from having dinner with Jack, I gave the dog a little piece of fish I had taken from the table.

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