Self-portrait taken while wearing my down jacket Taiwan’s High Speed Rail
For years, I would turn my nose up at down jackets, despite living through the hash Canadian Winter in Montreal. My coat of choice was leather or sheepskin, a good and fashionable insulator to keep heat close to the body. However, now that we are spending winter in Taiwan I am living in my NET down jacket as my refined wool and cashmere coat from Sogo is insufficient for the prevalent cold weather.
On the surface winters are not cold in Taiwan. Today in HsinChu the weather is fluxuating between 5 and 17 degrees. As a Canadian that is not cold. Yet homes and workplaces are not heated in Taiwan so the uniform of choice becomes- yes you guessed it the down jacket. Everyone is wearing one. The school principal, the administrative assistance, the school nurse, teachers, and students. I wear my down jacket, scarf, hat, and gloves INSIDE! At home, in the office, while teaching, on the street, in job interviews.
The Taiwanese have strange views concerning winter heating. Indoor heating is a true “luxury”, most buildings are not heated, and most Taiwanese prefer to leave the windows OPEN in winter. Yes, you read it right! At the moment many of the staff at my school have come down with a cold and this weekend Ranjit and I became sick. This morning we walked into the freezing staff room and started closing the windows and doors that were open. The administrative assistant immediately told us to stop. The air from the weekend was stale. Could we not open ALL doors and windows to let the fresh air in?
Even more contradictory is the Taiwanese attitude towards fresh air and sickness in winter. In Canada we believe that the cold air can cause you to become sick. There is the reverse of this attitude at our workplace, where the fresh air is thought to prevent sickness by stopping the circulation of germs. A few weeks ago our school had an assembly to discuss the flu which was targeting many students and teachers. The solution prescribed by the school nurse: keep those windows open to prevent the spread of germs. The reality: the entire building is freezing their asses off and getting even more sick.
Down Jacket Blues. Yes, I’ve got the down jacket blues. How much longer until things get a bit more warmer? When I can put my down jacket away and spend time in my apartment without a scarf and hat? Its three more weeks until our trip to Thailand so hopefully by that time spring will be just around the corner.