After being here for over a year, I would have thought that by now my body has adjusted to the weather here. But apparently not. One of the topics that we discussed at dinner the other day, is the difficulty of the new comer when it comes to adjusting to the local weather.
First that we have to grapple with is the heat. From my personal previous experience, summer is when we dig out our shorts and flirty skirts, when we sit on the grass out in the open and enjoy our ice tea. I remember looking forward to a summer of BBQ and just sitting under the apple tree reading my book enjoying the sun and the breeze.
But not here. The start of the day could be as high as 43oC and it gets warmer throughout the day. Apparently it could be even higher than 50oC but the thermometers here only measure up to 50oC because if it climbs any higher than that, the authorities with the powers that be will have to declare the day as a public holiday, something that I think they don't really want to do. The heat just embraces you, and you feel it seeping in your blood and your bones, even when you're using an umbrella. I don't go out in the sun very much if I can help it.
Secondly, is the dryness. Almost immediately upon moving here, we bought a humidifier for the bedroom. Without the humidifier, I found it almost difficult to breathe. I could feel a tension on my sinus and sometimes even find blood. Perhaps my body is built for a more humid weather that it is unable to cope with the dry air here.
Thirdly is the dust. Now I am not one of those people with sensitive bodies, who gets sick when the weather changes, until I moved here that is. Back in the UK I never had any problems with pollen allergies. But here, my nose will tell me whenever there is a sandstorm or strong winds blowing more sand into the air. My nose will get blocked. Quick check with my dinner mates the other day, they too tell me that they often experience the same problems. Could it be that the Malaysian body is not trained to cope with excessive dust in the environment?
I woke up one morning with a blocked nose. I checked the humidifier to make sure that it was still functioning throughout the night. But a quick look at my window sill confirms that there had been a sand storm over night. Over here, you would know whenever there was a sandstorm because everything outside and even sometimes inside, will be covered with dust and sand.
And people who never had asthma in their lives ever may find that they begin to develop asthma or asthama like symptoms here. My beloved, suddenly found that he needed an inhaler to help him breathe at night before he sleeps. Perhaps our respiratory systems is unable to cope with the high content of dust in the air here.
Perhaps we should all take the cue from the local themselves. They either go away all summer or sleep in the day all summer. A little difficult if one has to function and go to work in the morning.
But apparently thats now the local ladies here cope. A local girl told me that her typical day starts at 3 pm. I seriously find that hard to understand but perhaps it makes sense for them here because it means that they would be able to escape the hotter portions of the day, and function only in the afternoon and the lengthy portion of the night. She tells me she sleeps at 3 am. Ouch! I am already so drained at 9 pm, I don't think I can last till the early hours of the morning.
I guess now the mystery of how the locals function is unveiled to me. When I first arrived here, I thought going for grocery shopping at 11 pm would be ideal because I thought the shops would be less busy then. (This is gathered from my previous experience of shopping at Tescos at Elmer's End.) But of course my assumption was all wrong here! As the night gets later, the shops got more jammed packed with all sorts of shoppers and children! Now I am one of those people who believed that children should be tucked in bed at 7 pm. Seeing infants and children running around at midnight at the supermarket was a new sight for me. Almost incomprehensible! But I have since found out that the day is like the night over here, and the night like the day.
So just after being here for a year I found that there are many things I didn't know about the locals and their customs and being in this country, the term cultural shock brings a new meaning for me. Because both my Eastern and Western sensibilities have to be thrown out of the window, to be replaced by a Middle-Eastern one.