Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Winter Weather is Relative

You might wonder if it ever gets cold in Cairo? It was August 2005 and I was on a "field trip" with teachers to go shopping for school supplies. It was hot as Hell outside so of course I could never imagine winter in Cairo. I thought "Wow, winters here must be beautiful, warm, sunny, no rain." I asked one of the teachers who is Egyptian/Armenian/American if it ever gets cold. She answered "No, it gets freezing. Especially out here in the desert where the hallways in the school are exposed to the weather elements." I didn't believe her, although I should have just taken her at her word.

My first winter felt really warm. To Egyptians it wasn't warm at all, but to me a new transplant from the good ol' US it was warm, well relatively warm. Egyptians looked at me as though I was crazy perhaps "the crazy American."

My second winter was a little bit colder. I was dressing warmer, of course I was wearing hijab so I thought I would be warmer automatically because my head was covered. Not!!

And now to my third winter - it's cold, cold, cold, here. I can never get warm. I wear my union johns - well Hassan's union johns that just happen to be red, as my first layer of clothing followed by 2 additional layers of clothing, two pairs of socks and slippers.

As for outerwear, I wear a pink polarfleece jacket my one sister gave me last year. I just love it and it is my signature piece for the winter.

OK so you wonder how can it get so cold?

For starters the building walls are about 6 inches thick made purely of concrete. There is absolutely no insulation. The floors are ceramic with area rugs scattered throughout the flat. Our flat faces north and south. We live on the 4th floor - the top floor in our building and the large windows in our flat face north -- needless to say they are not insulated either. Our smaller windows face south, so I heat myself by sitting on my south-facing balcony for about 30 minutes everyday - trying to absorb as much heat as possible before I go back into what reminds me of my grandmother's fruit cellar.

The AC/Heaters that we have do not work efficiently when it gets this cold. This cold? How cold you might be thinking -- ok - it was 7 C the other night. A friend of mine told me that last week it was -5 C in Rehab in the middle of the night. No wonder I can't get warm.

Then I start thinking -- how can I stay warm? Hmm, maybe I ought to break open the liquor cabinet and heat myself from the inside. No, it doesn't work well because I would be warm but drunk and still have to deal with Mira.

I decided to move the two space heaters we have from room to room. We had three space heaters but one caught fire it was about 20 years old I think - or at least it looked like it. Now that I think about it I could have improvised and made it a fireplace!




Living Away said...

oh god, i'm freezing here in taiwan for the same reason, tick brick walls, ceramic floor and the domestic heat i got doesn't work well to warm me up!!

the licor cabinet...yeah, it must be a good idea! lol
i had a very dear aunt who used to drink any hot beverage in the winter as hot chocolate, cafe or tea with some drops of cognac or whiskey. it didn't let her drunk and warm her up.
well, i'm not sure if you can find alcohol there easily!

it's 1:30pm, no sunlight at all to get some warmness. i'm under blanket now, shaking my bones out!

warm hugs!

Marian said...

Leandra - Your recent blog entry reminded me of the winter weather in Cairo. Although we have no humidity it's still freezing. I know what you mean by lying in bed w/ blankets over your body to keep warm. It's amazing. Just think of the sun, think good, warm thoughts and it will pass. As for alcohol, I have a cabinet just calling my name. Maybe it will help my cold too. Peace!