There is nothing like watching the Winter Olympics on TV when it’s likewise really wintry outside your own windows. Yesterday’s recent storm through America’s Midwest and swooping onward across the country didn’t disappoint in adding that extra “Wow!” factor to enjoying the Games on our USA networks. Our Marshall, Illinois, yards, streets, rooftops and trees are completely covered in that powdery substance we call snow. While it certainly wasn’t a time to be out on nearby I-70, it proved to be a perfect evening of cozy couch wrap-ups and cocoa-sipping.
Snow Experiences in my Beloved Luzhou
In Sichuan Province’s Luzhou (loo-joe), the city where I live in China, temperatures rarely dip below 45 in the winter. Very few of my students have ever experienced snow or the frigid degrees that come with it.
I will say, however, that my first year in Luzhou (2002) did give us a snow shower on Christmas Day, one which I’ll never forget.
I’ve reported this before but I was holding final exams on that day and my students were coming, one by one, for their conversation exams which I was holding on the open-air corridor balcony leading to their classroom. There was no heating in the classroom so all were hunkered down in their seats, mittens on and layered in sweaters. Quite a few were jumping up and down, flapping their arms to extend enough energy to warm themselves. Others, while waiting for their turn to come for evaluation, were wandering the room while spouting well-practiced, memorized English sentences.
I remember my fingers were so cold that I could barely hold the pen to mark their scores.
As I asked questions and waited for the replies, the air filled with my breath. I’d have moved into an adjacent classroom if one had been available but since none were, I was stuck outside in the elements with only the corridor’s overhead for shelter.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, it started to snow.
None of my freshmen, ages 17 to 18, had seen snow before. I later heard from colleagues and news reports that the last snow in the region had been 50 years ago. This snow was proving to be such a unique, rare and utterly astonishing event that it sent everyone inside scurrying to the windows to peer out. My little balcony corner was suddenly engulfed in vocalized exclamations of wonder and eagerness to race outside to play in the snow.
That proved a bit difficult with our exams going on; however, as I was toward the end of my testing list, I figured might as well make their day. I dismissed those who had finished while the others were left to wait it out for their turn to come, after which they, too, could join their classmates to rejoice in all the excitement.
The last few leftovers I was grading were definitely a challenge to converse with due to all the chaos in the courtyard below. Their classmates, not to mention numerous other students, were running about , shouting, twirling, catching snowflakes on their tongues, inspecting the delicate flakes that landed on their clothes, and basically causing such a fuss that I could barely make out my examinees’ responses.
When everyone was able to finish, I remember standing on the second floor of the classroom building, watching the frolic of the campus students below. Such joyful abandonment! It brought back memories of my own childhood: building snowmen, sliding on icy streets and sidewalks, creating snow forts, participating in snowball fights and creating snow angels in snowy drifts. What a shame cellphones were not readily available or even used at that time or we’d all have been able to record the entire thing.
That snowfall was quite brief, a mere 2-hours with no accumulation. By noontime, there was no evidence of this wintry wonder even having taken place. But the excited chatter of that first snow experience lasted for several weeks afterward and I’m pretty certain the memory 20 years ago of that special event, with the Winter Olympics upon us, is being brought up today by those who experienced it.
Looks like I’m joining them by bringing it up here in this space!
Sharing My Snow Experience with My Chinese students and friends
Yesterday and today proved to be a great opportunity to post snow photos and videos to share with my Chinese students and colleagues. I had so much fun! And the response of the below was non-stop. My WeChat replies exploded with exclamations of delight and longing at such a wintry scene. Here’s my offering for today, with more to come.