Thursday, January 27, 2005

Cold Wave in the Semi-Tropics

Today was nnother cold and wet day. Brrrrr! I'm running out of work worthy winter wear and have been showing up for some of my classes dressed in my winter national costume: an oversized sweatshirt and jeans. Being self-employed has it's advantages. I get to set the dress code bar and somedays that bar is real low.

Around the house, funky, but warm hats are all the rage. We have the grey cat-head, the faux leopard print bucket hat which completes my ensemble now and the plush neon tiger-striped star-shaped hat. The ultimate in family cold weather headgear is the classic Russian rabbit-fur hat complete with military insignia on the front (purchased in Isloo in the 90's when you could still buy spoils of war kind of stuff from Afghan sellers.)

For those who have never endured an Islamabad winter, let me clue you in on the facts. It's true that the night-time temps here rarely drop below freezing and the daytime temps are usually in the 50-70's (Fahrenheit).

Sounds very warm and wonderful doesn't it? But the problem is that the houses are made to repel heat, not to retain it. They are made of concrete, with marble floors and 9-ft high ceilings and they have no central heating. Tiny little gas space heaters burning 24/7 barely make a noticable dent in the chill as the heated air rises to 9 foot levels leaving the living space nearly as cold as if there was no heater on.

What you usually get here are warm and balmy winter days - outside - and cold chilly weather - inside. After a spell of cloudy, rainy and cold days, outside highs are in the 40's and the inside temps are now 45-55 degrees. *whine-whine-whine*

That's why we complain about the cold. I layer up and wear an undershirt, a turtleneck and a sweater or sweatshirt, sometimes a lightweight jacket on top and two layers of pants on the bottom. That keeps me reasonably warm. I have noticed that when I teach at a place with central heating, the first thing I have to do is start shedding layers of clothes.

The poor girlies, have to consider the necessity of doing wuzu, the ritual washing before prayers, 5 times a day. That includes the face, neck, hands, arms to the elbow and the feet to the ankles. They dress much lighter and looser so they can push back their sleves and pant legs and don't wear socks since they say their feet are always wet. Consequently, they sit around shivering with blue fingertips and lips. (Is that the mark of a practicing Muslimah?) They workout on the elicital trainer and drink lots of hot beverages to warm up. Oh, and wear funny hats. Gotta keep your sense of humor or you will freeze to death with a scowl on your face.

This weekend was so cold that my little toy Suzuki Mehran wouldn't start for three days. Hubby was out of town and had to get the battery recharged for 6 hours when he returned. My poor little car isn't made for this extreme cold. It's a tropical car and it knows it.