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Frozen Joy

In the eight years, I‘ve had my pup Guozhi, I have never seen such fear in his eyes as when he stood at the front door of my building, looking at the daunting icy-cold natural lavatory in front of him

By Sam Duckett Updated Mar.1

As Christmas approached, Beijing was unexpectedly blessed with heavy snowfall. Truth be told, I went back and forth on whether to use the word “blessed” or “cursed,” but we can talk more about my Grinch-like nature later in the story.  

Growing up in the drizzling streets of southeast England, a white Christmas was something I had only ever seen in movies. Come to think of it, during my more than 10 years in Beijing, it’s been somewhat of a rare occurrence here too. I have always been dumbfounded when my friends in Beijing suggest traveling to the northeast to enjoy the winter scenery, when we could just as easily travel south and enjoy the warm weather.  

As I looked out of my window at the thick layer of snow, I couldn’t deny there was something magical about the seeing kids have a snowball fight among the powdery white mist. However, I was brought back down to earth while pondering the thought of having to trudge through slush and spend my working day soaked from the knee down (which, as it turned out, would come to fruition), or worse, slipping and landing on my rear end. Little did I know that the frosty weather would bring along some unexpected joys.  

At my local supermarket, I noticed they had turned the white snow into profit by opening a bobsleigh rink just outside the store. They clearly saw dollar signs as the snow hit the ground. But my wife and daughter were both starry-eyed at the prospect of sledding down a snowy hill, so we spent the afternoon enjoying the cold weather with a warm family activity.  

The beautiful winter scenery in Beijing was something to behold as well. The Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace are all spectacular in any season. However, the blanket of snow put a new aesthetic twist on some of Beijing’s top tourist spots.  

Even for a pessimistic old soul such as myself, I couldn’t deny that family bobsledding or drinking a warm cup of coffee against a white backdrop on Christmas morning had a warm, wholesome feel that was straight out of a movie. However, having listened to American and European friends talk about the “magic of a white Christmas” for a large portion of my life, I came to realize that they often leave out a few logistical details. And for a newbie like myself, this was clearly going to be a learning experience.  

First of all, the wind felt piercing due to the freezing temperature of the icy ground, and this wouldn’t have been so bad if I didn’t have a dog. In the eight years I’ve had my pup Guozhi, I have never seen such fear in his eyes as when he stood at the front door of my building, looking at the daunting icy-cold natural lavatory in front of him. As I ventured out into the frosty environment, he remained rooted at the door of my building, his head slightly tilted, giving me a blank stare, as if to say, “Dad, have you completely lost your mind? Let’s just go home.” To keep him warm, I dressed him up in a little Santa outfit with matching shoes, and together we braved the cold while he did his business.  

There are other small issues to be aware of during snowy weather too. Traffic is slower, which hits you in more ways than one. First off, nobody wants to drive, so the subway services are really stretched. The good news is that being mushed together with countless strangers on the subway does help keep you warm. You also have to account for slower delivery times. In my experience delivery drivers work really hard and are petrified at the thought of getting complaints, so it’s best to just buck up and accept you might be getting cold food.  

Looking back, I can’t say I disliked the snowy weather that covered Beijing. But I also don’t find myself jumping for joy at the prospect of encountering similar weather next year. The dad in me thinks, “It’s not that bad,” while the obsessive-compulsive in me is busy scrubbing my shoes every time I arrive home. With changes in the climate affecting weather conditions across the globe, I guess it’s high time I get used to unusual weather conditions.