This will be my first Christmas without snow. OK, maybe it didn’t snow every Christmas that I spent in Michigan. It’s at least my first Christmas without a jacket and gloves.
And yes, I went to Florida to visit my grandparents for Christmas once, but that was bookended by snow, like the sunny daydreams that would take me away from my cubicle deep in the dark Founders brewery cellar, temporarily, making the darkness that much more cavernous upon my return to “reality”.
My point is, it’s a new feeling to walk, ride, and pedal through December in a tank top and shorts, exposed to the elements, rather than hibernating in puffy jackets and heated vehicles. Every day is more or less the same as far as the weather is concerned. Some days are sunnier than others, some windier. Sometimes it rains in the afternoon or while I sleep.
In August, it would get up to the high 90s during the day. Those were the days when the inevitability of sweat was a constant consideration in my clothing choices. Black or white work well. Gray does not. Loose fits are preferred to anything form fitting. Normal bras, with any amount of padding, soaked up my sweat like a sponge and caused pools to form in the touch of cleavage they inspired. Underwire was beyond irritating. I switched to wearing bralets or going braless most of the time. Thank goodness I’m small chested. I don’t know how women with big knockers swing it—or, more accurately, keep it in place—in the heat.
Gradually the highs have gone down to the mid- to high 80s. Mostly now, it’s pleasant. My apartment windows are open all day. We only turn on the A/C at night to rid our room of humidity and to block out noises from the street. We still store our sugary food items (chocolate, fruits) in the fridge to keep ants and fruit flies away. And, while I understand that excessive packaging is bad for the environment, it actually makes sense to wrap things in serving size bits here in Vietnam. No matter how tightly we roll our opened sleeves of Ritz crackers, they’ll go stale in a day or two.
I fear that I’ve already turned cold blooded. I put on a jacket and pants when the temperature dips down to 73, the thick skin of twenty-seven years of braving Michigan winters erased in mere months. But even that dip doesn’t happen often, and most of my pants and lightweight jackets remain in my closet, reminding me of warm weather clothing items I could have packed in their stead, sitting useless in my basement as I wash and wear the same tank tops over and over again.
“Winter is coming,” one of the Vietnamese women who works at the front desk of our apartment building, Trang, said to me yesterday.
I highly doubt she watches Game of Thrones, but it was so perfect. When is winter coming exactly?
“It doesn’t look like it today,” I said, referencing the blue skies. She giggled.
“It’s like autumn at home for you,” she suggested.
“This is like summer at home,” I responded.
Trang and the other woman, Chau, laughed heartily at the oddity of my statement. It was noon, maybe 85 degrees, and Trang was wearing a jacket. Her arms are always covered, even when she’s indoors. What would she do in subzero temperatures? Does she try to imagine it? How does one imagine the rawness of exposed skin when the wind whips, feeling it cut through your gloves and skin to the bones in every finger, knuckles throbbing? The quiet solitude of tromping through the woods on freshly fallen snow, the clarity of the stars in the winter sky? Or is it too ridiculous for her to fathom living in such a place?
Christmas music plays from time to time at the cafes here, and my initial reaction is to be disconcerted. My brows actually furrow. Then, I remember that it’s December. And the song is over, replaced by a cover of the Titanic theme song. Some resorts and restaurants have put out Christmas decorations, but they feel out of place to the point of depressing counterfeit—though I smiled at the workers outside the hotel on my street as they rebuilt a fake Christmas tree that had fallen over in the wind because I’m white and I’m supposed to be pleased by it, it's for people like me, so why not show some teeth, make them feel good for their effort.
The seasons don’t pass visibly around me, only through the changing date at the top of my journal pages. The plant life is the same. I don’t have to scrape off my car or add layers of clothing. The days are a bit shorter, but I’m close enough to the Equator that it’s ever so slight. It’s the strangest sense of false stasis, knowing that I’m moving around the sun on the same orb as my family in Michigan, but not seeing reflections of that celestial path on my little speck of the Earth’s crust.
I quit a job I enjoyed at Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and left my family, friends, and beloved dog to join my boyfriend in moving across the world, in search of adventure and new experiences. I arrived in August 2015.