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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Living in Dushanbe: Heat

It's been cold here in Dushanbe for the last week.  Today the weather finally got above freezing, something that hasn't happened for a week.  The cold weather has brought snow - at least nine or ten inches - which the children have been very happy with.  We went to the park on Monday, Friday, and Saturday to sled and play in the snow, which might be their only snow of the year as we leave for North Carolina, which isn't known for snow, in four weeks.

Usually, it doesn't snow this early in the year.  Our past snow storm usually would have just been a rainy few days down in the valley with only snow up in the mountains.  But I'm okay with the last week's freezing temperatures because the next week has weather much more fitting for early December, upper fifties and low sixties.  I can forgive a freak snowstorm when the weather returns to playing nicely afterwards.

The one unpleasant part of this whole ordeal, however, has been the temperature inside our house.  Now, a disclaimer.  I'm a very spoiled little American girl who is always used to having her house in the low seventies.  I personally know Tajiks who heat their houses by burning cardboard boxes, so I have no illusions about suffering during the past week.  However, it has been annoying.  But just annoying, and a reminder that I've got a pretty great life.

Our house is heated with radiators.  This, of course, is standard for most countries other than the U.S.  The problem, however, is that radiators only one come in two temperatures: on or off.  We're actually luckier than most of our friends and we can turn on individual radiators in different rooms.  Most people here can either have all their radiators on or all of them off.

Radiators work perfectly fine in a certain temperature range: below fifty-five or sixty and above forty or forty-five degrees.  But if it gets much hotter than fifty-five or sixty, especially in rooms with afternoon sunlight, your only option is to open a window.  And if it gets much colder than forty degrees your only option is to put more clothes on.  It's not very flexible.  You'd think that, in these days of amazing technology, someone could come up with something more advanced than pipes full of hot water.

So last week, when I was cooking cooking cooking for our party, our kitchen was sweltering.  I had already turned off the floors (yes, we have heated floors instead of radiators on our first floor) the day before, knowing that most people prefer cooler room temperatures than me.  I'm still waiting for that mythical pregnancy-keeps-you-warm thing to kick in.  I opened all the windows, which of course brought in all the flies in the neighborhood since screens are unheard of here.  Our third floor, which still had the radiators on, was giving all of the playing children flushed cheeks and sweaty hair.

The same third floor, with all the radiators and a couple plug-ins to help out, has been consistently sixty-two or sixty-three degrees during school this whole week.  So we've just worn more clothes.  And slippers.  And a blanket, when I started getting really cold on Friday.  My room temperature has been dropping throughout the week, and hit a new low of sixty-six degrees when I woke up this morning.  I know some people who consider this a perfect temperature for sleeping, but none of those people is me.  Our study, which hangs out over the front porch and under a balcony is even colder.  Thankfully we have split packs to help, but having more than two or three on at a time trips our generator because I don't know why - a mystery that still hasn't been solved after two years' residence.

Thankfully, as I said earlier, the weather is warming back up to optimal radiator usage range and so I've been mostly okay with our cold house.  And even better, we'll be spending the coldest months in the magical land of central heating where my mother keeps the heat at a blessedly warm seventy-three degrees all day every day no matter what temperature it is outside.  It's like magic.

I know that one day I too will live in a house where I can set a temperature and reasonably expect the house to always be that temperature, but that mythical day is a very long way away.  So I just tell myself that I'm glad to have the semi-magic miracle of radiators and humanity has had it much harder for most of our history and at least I don't have to burn cardboard to keep warm.  And then I put on a pair of socks or open a window.  Depending on the day.

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