It’s still not cold here, but that in itself could be one of the best things about winter in Southwest China– it stays a mild 40-50 degrees F, with a decent amount of sunshine.
But there are lots of other lovely little things, if you look close enough, and they do bring a certain warmth to the relative cold that the concrete buildings seal in with a vengeance!
- Chinese Babies all Bundled Up! If you’ve ever been to China in the wintertime, you know the Chinese take their children’s internal temperature seriously…piling on an amazing amount of layers, that usually amounts to the child looking like a marshmallow in a blanket-like shell. When indoors the children’s cheeks turn bright pink, and they’re certainly a sight to see on the streets!
- The smell of chestnuts, peanuts, and sweet potatoes roasting: You can pretty much find these vendors on the streets anytime of year here in Guangxi, but there’s something seductive about the smell and the steam rising in the winter air. Plus, there’s that little allusion to our own traditions, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” Admittedly, I think they all smell better than they taste, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the smell!
- Da Feng, or big winds, and kites flying in the air: Lately Nanning has been subject to gushing winds that fly through the alleyways and chill even a thick-blooded Wisconsinite. The Chinese recognize these winds are prime for kite flying, and as I ran over the bridge over Nanhu Lake it was fun to see all the bright colors in the air. On weekends families crowd the park to fly a few kites and enjoy a green patch in Nanning’s concrete jungle.
- Perfect running weather: As aforementioned, temps here are more like fall in the US than what we expect from winter, and they’re absolutely perfect for a jog alongside the park. The demographic that runs in China is more like sixty-year old men, so I’m always impressed when I see them plodding along, and they’re usually equally impressed by me, as I’m the one who’s really the odd duck here!
- A warm cup of tea: It’s here year-round, of course, but the Chinese actually serve lukewarm or cool tea during the summertime, and hot tea is served when the weather actually demands it. I’ve never been into tea, but friends who have come to Nanning wanting to learn have had me take them to the tea houses, and I’ve generally enjoyed chatting with the knowledgeable men and women, and enjoying the casual cup of tea with the regulars in the late afternoon.
- Hotpot! What do the Chinese do to warm up on the really cold days? Hotpot, a tasty, often spicy, boiling soup into which they throw fresh veggies and meat, and around which they warm their toes and hands, and also fill their bellies with rice wine liquor and beer. Hotpot is surprisingly filling, and incredibly tasty. I’ve been lucky enough to sample goat that’s just been slaughtered in someone’s at-home hot pot in the mountains of Yunnan, and an amazing mushroom hotpot that I still dream about. Either way, it’s the place to be on a chilly evening. New Christmas dinner tradition, anyone?