Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Little Snow, A Lot Of Chaos

I am Canadian and winter does not scare me. I clearly remember walking home from school during the Blizzard of '77 thinking nothing of it. I grew up when the winters were cold and they lasted for 4 months. I know this sounds like our grandparents telling us that "they had a 2 day walk to school ever day" but winters were cold, snowy and fantastic.

We skated and playing hockey on home made rinks until you could not feel you toes. Then using bread bags inside your boots or skates to keep your feet a dry so you could continue.We would latch onto the bumpers of unsuspecting passing cards sliding on our boots, then our butt and finally our head/face, laughing the entire time. Those winters started to fade and now we can go an entire winter without any snow. However this year Mother Nature has returned to show just who is boss, climate change be damned. Niagara Falls is cold and snowy like years gone by.

Blizzard of "77 near Niagara Falls, Canada
I also have worked in Western Canada including Alberta/Saskatchewan and British Columbia in the Oil fields mid winter. First as a laborer, which taught me endurance and ultimately as a transport truck driver which taught me to really drive in the ice and snow and sitting in a warm truck cab was much better than being outside. Minus 25 was normal during the winter months but experience in dressing warm and not buying your work wear at Wallmart made the days and nights bearable.

One special year an extreme arctic cold front moved in while working a little north of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. The temperature plunged to - 52. Yes sir that is not a mistake. Now, when working in the Oil Fields, especially driving a truck, the very first thing you do when you wake up at 5 AM is reach for your phone or TV remote and check both the forecast and temperature. Cloudy means warmer, clear blue skies usually meant cold and on this day there was not a cloud in the sky, well when the sun eventually came up that is. All work was cancelled because machinery would not work properly never mind the danger of skin exposure being critical. We did get paid to stay in the hotel and watch movies for 3 days. During the winter, unless my truck was housed in a warm garage it was never turned off and left running 24/7. Environmental impact aside if I shut it off there was a good chance it would not start again until spring. I did have to run for fuel a couple of time and that just about destroyed me.

So,why the reminiscing about a few Canadian winter experiences? It snowed here in Xi'an yesterday and with 7.5 cm (3 inches) of snow and a temperature of about - 3C (23F). The apocalypse has officially arrived in China.

Yes, that is exactly how much snow fell
This morning I opened my fridge to eat and found pickles and onions. That was not how I wanted to start my day. Since I had the morning off I gathered my courage and with great trepidation, a daily ritual, I headed out into my own real world game of Frogger. Once there I dodged the scooters and delivery vehicles that drive top speed on the sidewalk, yes on the sidewalk. I then joined the masses for the migration across the main intersection hoping not to get nailed by the rouge driver who does not give a sh** about any laws, rules, lights or people in his way but who obviously has a Masters Degree in horn blowing. With my my destination finally in sight I needed to make it past a series of outdoor vendors, parked bicycles and smog belching buses. The green doors of Vanguard, the local supermarket welcomed me with unexpected fury.

The Chinese are extremists on the best of days but this "snow storm" obviously had everyone convinced that they were going to be housebound for weeks and possibly months. They had to stock up on supplies and fast. Now Vanguard is usually busy and in a country of 1.3 billion you come to realize that everywhere is always busy. Anyways it was busier than I had ever experienced and people were in sheer panic. It was louder than normal and this being China you have to appreciate how loud people are. Shopping carts overflowing, pushing, shoving, grabbing and general rudeness. Our very own Black Friday, grocery store edition. I walked in, stood for about 15 seconds and internally I said "no fu**ing way, well at least I think it was internally. I turned around and out I went to the astonished looks from the wide eyed maniacs entering the store. I picked up some bread, eggs and tomatoes at a small out of the way shop on the way back and go creative with the onions and pickles.

Thursdays I have a light day, well evening, with only 2 classes with 3 students. Only 2 of the 6 showed up. Their parents sending messages that it was to dangerous to try and get to the school
today. There was to much snow and it was to cold. So Irene and I built a snowman. First I taught her the art of the snow angel but she would not even think about laying in the snow, so I pushed her in and covered her to show her she "would not die". The snow had no moisture so I used a couple buckets of water to create quality packing snow. It was hoodie weather although the monster coat worn by my teacher partner told another story.

Now all that being said, in my community families were building snowmen, playing in the snow, taking pictures and having a great time. As ever China is the land of glorious contradictions.

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