Story Problems

Celsius for Dummies: Redefining the Word “Cold”

These past few days have been cold in Dushanbe. Being an American, Celsius isn’t always the easiest to understand. Here is an easy guide for interpreting the nuances between different degrees in Centigrade, based on a day in the life:

-20˚C/6:00. Force yourself to leave the burrow of your bed and become a real person. Your muscles are stiff, possibly frozen, so you hobble to your alarm, which you regret setting so far away from your bed the previous night due to some cleverly cruel intention about forcing you to actually get out of the bed.

Maybe you thought about going for a run today, but it is cold. Fortunately, you have started figuring out how to exercise in your room: you begin running around in circles, with a new understanding of hamsters and hamster wheels.

-19˚C/7:00. After about an hour of exercise, you decide to shower. It has been several days. There is still no hot water, which means you get to break out your recently perfected method of cold showering:

1. Remain dressed.
2. Using the cold water that is still running (thank goodness you understood that piece of advice from your host mother), bend your head under the spout for a good shampooing. Be quick so you can finish before your hands lose feeling (or your hair freezes, if your hair is a long as mine).
3. Use towel to wrap up hair and reenter your room.
4. Warm hands in front of space heater.
5. Use Pampers baby wipes for the rest of your body.

(I bet you haven’t smelled as clean as a baby’s bottom since you were wearing diapers.)

-17˚C/8:00. Breakfast. Drink as much tea as possible. Get dressed. Discover a new appreciation for stretched out jeans, as you easily layer them over your long underwear. Pack up the rucksack and head to school. (This will include your laptop because, as you discovered a few days ago, laptop batteries do not charge if they are too cold. At home, this means you have to share the prime spot in front of the space heater with your laptop). Trek to school.

-15˚C/9:00. Electricity goes out. Coats go back on. It is something that becomes much more common when it snows, I am told. Electricity returns. Decide to make a nice cup of coffee, since the water heater is working again for now. The drink room is a bit cold, which is weird, since the crack in the window has clearly been repaired by a sheet of ice.

-14˚C/12:00. Lunchtime. Bundle up and scurry to the closest café.

-10˚C/14:00. Attempt to use the Wi-Fi to check e-mail at the school. Due to the inclimate weather conditions, it is actually slower than Saxanet.

-11˚C/17:00. Head home. Studying in front of heater until dinnertime.

-12˚C/20:00. Dinner finished, you return to your room. Upon walking into the bathroom you discover that not only is your toilet frozen, but also a small ice skating rink has begun to develop in your bathtub. (The most serendipitous news, really, as your indoor morning exercise routine just got much more exciting!) You decide you do not really need to wash your hands that your two-year host sister decorated with green scribbles. Besides, the soap is frozen to the counter. Instead, you rush to find your camera, in order to capture this glistening new development. Returning, you discover your camera battery is too cold, or “exhausted” as your camera prefers to say, for photos. Luckily, you still have your phone camera:

What is the most aesthetic way to capture a frozen shower handle?

Artsy frozen shower handle pic?

That is ice in my toilet.

That is ice in my toilet.


“Bathers on Ice”

After photographing icy bits of plumbing and with a new resolve to take all electronics to school tomorrow, including your frozen camera, you finish studying and checking e-mail, pausing occasionally to ponder whether or not you can blow smoke rings with your icy breath.

Aside from the cold, which one somewhat grows accustomed too, the snow here has been absolutely gorgeous:

View from my window.

View from my window.


Dusk in Dushanbe

Dusk in Dushanbe.

Night time view from my street.

Night time view from my street.


2 thoughts on “Celsius for Dummies: Redefining the Word “Cold”

  1. I loled at the smoke rings. I was thinking that here in DC. I’m sure you’re laughing at the weather here now….laughing with maybe a few tears that freeze midstream.

    The fact that you can still study amazes me. Keep it up! The pictures are wonderful! I want to ice skate in the bathtub, maybe you could make some makeshift ice skates for your fingers out of razor blades and some masking tape and pretend it’s the Olympic figure skating competition. Let’s be honest, you wont need those razors any time soon.

    Y U SO COOL???

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