More Seasons than a Spice Rack

One of the toughest things for Maggie and I to get used to about living in Suzhou over living up in her home town in the north-east or mine in Canada is the weather.

We are both used to four distinct seasons running from a warming spring, a hot summer, a cooling fall and a freezing winter. I wrongly assumed that Suzhou had fewer seasons. Basically the weather goes from ‘chilled to the soul’ cold to ‘please somebody shoot me’ hot… with very little in between.

As we moved to Suzhou at the end of last summer, and it was damn hot then, I was apprehensive about what June, July and August might bring in the way of temperatures.

My uneasiness turned out not to be unfounded and we’ve been dealing with heat pushing 40°C for much of the last month. To add to the mess, the humidity has been so thick that we no longer get fish from the market. We simply open our 3rd-floor window and pluck them out of the air.

Near the end of June people started telling me that the Méi Yǔ season was coming. And as much as raining plums seemed like a neato thing, I was a bit confused as to what this new “season” was all about.

More officially the time of year is called the East Asian rainy season, but off the books most refer to it as ‘the time of year that everything in your house turns green’. I laughed at this, but it’s not far from the truth. Your clothes take ages to dry, any powdered goods in your cupboard turn into an unidentifiable lump, and once you start sweating… you just don’t stop.

Growing up near the Great Lakes, I’m no stranger to humidity, but Suzhou’s humidity is unlike anything I had experienced previously – bar only Bangkok in early September (at the tail-end of its own rainy season then).

Then suddenly this week it stopped. Walking outside on Monday, and taking off my snorkeling gear, I felt the first breeze brush my face in nearly a month. It was still hot, but bearably. Stunned, I quickly blubbered that it was “cool” today… and so it was that I was introduced to Suzhou’s other summer season – Qiū Lǎohǔ, or Autumn Tiger.

Autumn Tiger hits around the end of the first week of August and only lasts about half a month. It is a brief cooling period (by cooling, I’m still talking 30°+C) before the inferno continues on into September. The nearest thing that could be compared to this from a North American standpoint is “Indian Summer“. Though essentially the opposite temperature-wise, the principle is the same.

Back in May, after deciding I wasn’t going to teach anymore, I was quite excited for the summer and all the chances I’d have to finally get out and explore Suzhou and the surrounding areas – maybe even finally get my ass up Huang Shan. But with this heat, I’ve done little aside from hug my air-con.

Perhaps Autumn Tiger is just the break I’ve been looking for to put my new bike‘s battery limit to the test.

This post was previously published on Ryan-McLaughlin.com and is republished here with a Creative Commons license.

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Photo credit: Pixabay

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