Friday, July 3, 2009

We get cold feet

It’s not necessarily strange to be back in the United States. After all, we have only been gone 8 and a half months. What is strange is seeing people dressed like Eskimos in June and July. No kidding, while we were driving through the upper peninsula of Michigan and northern Wisconsin the other day, the temperature was barely 50 degrees Fahrenheit, or 10 degrees Celsius. Add that to the fact that it was windy with off and on rain, and IT WAS COLD!!

After driving for about 10 hours, we stopped for lunch at Ashland, Wisconsin around 2:00 in the afternoon. Ashland is on the southern shore of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world, and also one of the coldest. While we were eating our MacDoubles, MacChickens, MacFries, and MacCokes, we observed customers seated at tables wearing sweatshirts, jackets, coats, and even stocking hats. One person was so covered that we didn’t realize that it was a woman until she got up to leave and her voice gave her away as she said goodbye. Unfortunately our camera was in the car, but trust us, that is how they were dressed while eating INSIDE MacDonald’s.

This is normally the hottest time of the year in this part of the world. Days are long and the sun is high in the sky. But it’s been so cloudy that the sun is only a memory of what we were used to in the Philippines before rainy season came a month ago. It’s that big yellow bright thing in the sky, right? The thing that’s supposed to heat us up? Global warming? Seriously, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota could use a little global warming right about now.

What makes this doubly tough is that we have been looking forward to the weather here this time of year. We like it hot. We thought, let’s get out of the Philippines during July and the first half of August, the height of rainy season, and let’s go back and really enjoy that typical summer weather that, quite frankly, many Michiganders, Wisconsinites, and Minnesotans find just too darn hot. People in these northern states typically are descended from Northern European stock, where long, cold winters are normal. Our daughter-in-law, no exception, recently told us that she can’t stand it over 75 degrees and sometimes needs to run the air conditioner when we would still be shivering. Steve’s mother, ethnically Slovenian and thus Southern European, has lived in northern Minnesota almost all of her life, and also suffers in warm weather. Both of these women would live in constant misery in Manila, or even on Corregidor, where 75 (24 Celsius) is rare, even at night.

Northerners have the philosophy that you can always put on more clothes (to get warmer) but you can’t always take off more clothes (to get cooler). You can’t argue with that. However, we have long since decided that we would rather spend our time in shorts and t-shirts than in long underwear. (Here it is common to see people dressed on cold summer days in whatever it takes to keep warm from the waist up, typically hooded sweatshirts, stocking caps, and so on, but some will still be wearing shorts. We know it sounds weird to most of you, but others of you know exactly what we’re talking about. It’s the philosophy, “It’s summer, darn it, and we’re going to dress like it’s summer – sort of!”)

With the cost of heating a home continuing to rise, it made more sense to us to live where you don’t pay to heat your house. For those of you in the Philippines who are reading this, that’s right, most Americans pay to heat their homes. In our last house we had to budget $4000 a year just for heating oil, and this past winter, which was much colder than the last few, $4000 may not have been enough. Our one son who is married – you already know something about his wife – heats his home in the winter by burning wood, which he spends the rest of year cutting, splitting, and drying, just to be able to afford to heat his home.

We had an in-ground swimming pool at our last house. We can only imagine that if we were still living there we might not even be using it yet, since we both like our bathing water slightly warm. On Corregidor we can go swimming pretty much any time as long as it’s not too windy and therefore too wavy. We went swimming Christmas Day and the water, although cooler than in summer, was still comfortable.

We do not even have a water heater in our house. This means that if Marcia wants hot water for washing clothes or dishes she has to heat it on the bottled-gas stove. This also means that we take showers in unheated water. Admittedly there are times when the water is too cool to enjoy a shower, and even times when it is a little difficult to rinse off all the soap suds. But usually if we are patient we can take a shower in the afternoon when the sun has heated up the water which runs to our house through pipes that are barely under ground. In northern Minnesota the water pipes have to be buried several feet under ground to prevent the water from freezing solid in the winter, which results in burst pipes. The result is closed schools and businesses, and often just plain misery until the repair crews can fix the problems, something made immeasurably more difficult by having to work in ground that is frozen as hard as solid rock.

Last night we attended an outdoor concert, with the Virginia City Band performing an hour of patriotic march music. Although most attendees were wearing blue jeans we did spot a half dozen or so in long sleeves and shorts. However, as we get ready to send out this email, we see sunny skies on the morning of the 3rd of July. We’re hopeful that as we attend the local parades and then spend the 4th of July “at the lake,” we’ll be able to celebrate America’s Independence Day with our family while not shivering the whole time.

Happy 4th of July and God Bless America!

Steve and Marcia – currently not – on the Rock

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