Autumn, I Hardly Knew Ye

Today I made a very scientific discovery about Kunming people: not a single one owns a hat. Except one old guy wearing a Houston Rockets baseball cap. The reason I know this is because it has very suddenly dropped to freezing temperatures in Kunming – something that I was not entirely prepared for – so I got to see a display of how Kunming people deal with this while scurrying between my office and my apartment.

(My theory is that this hatlessness relates to Kunming people’s vanity over their hairstyles – which are, in fairness, elaborate. In a sea of extravagantly teased bouffants and bird’s nest-like explosions, I am a ruddy-haired anomaly. But at least I know how to keep my ears warm.)

To give you some perspective, cold in China is not like cold in America, because there is no central heating. You may not appreciate the role that central heating plays in your life, but I will put it to you this way: I know several burly and macho Canadians who boasted about their ability to survive in their underpants in the frozen Yukon, only to be reduced to tears by a single winter in Shanghai. And Shanghai is hot.

So now all of my plans for making it back to America without buying a winter coat are now shot, as are the fuses in my office ever since we tried to plug in two space heaters at once so as to avoid frostbite.

The reason this cold snap is doubly cruel is because I was just getting ready to write a post about how I finally found Autumn! I got my dose of fall colors by going to Kunming’s Botanical Garden in the far north of the city over the weekend. So let us now bask in the warmth and glory of only a few days ago, as we sit and shiver in our fleecy blankets!

Act I: The Botanical Garden has a great walkway lined with trees that gloriously change colors before dropping their leaves. On the left-hand side of this photo you can see some of the giant camera gear that people hauled out to take photos of the leaves, leading me to the following further realization about US-China differences: Americans act like tourists only when they leave home for somewhere new; Chinese people act like tourists EVERYWHERE THEY GO.

Act II: In addition to photo-taking, there are lots of other pastimes to enjoy in a park if you live in Kunming, namely: putting on your frothy wedding dress and taking dramatic photos among the trees (sadly I do not have a photo of the woman who lay tragically among her swirling skirts on the ground, in the manner of the Lady of Shallot); and dragging your shiny new tent out to a crowded clearing and camping out until the park closes. Chinese people have a new-found fascination with outdoorsy-ness, and appear to express it by buying a lot of random neon exercise clothing and expensive woodsy gear.

Believe it or not, this is also part of a wedding shoot. A new engagement tradition in China is a day-long series of photos of you and your spouse-to-be dressed in absurd outfits, kept for future reminiscing and humiliation. But, you know, no judgment.

Act III: In keeping with my theory that children are the same everywhere in the world, the younger set may occupy themselves with the age-old activity of slaying the bad guy.

Goodbye, Autumn! Goodbye, feeling in my extremities! See you next year.

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