Thursday, November 17, 2005

Staying Warm

As the warm autumn days slowly give way to bitter, soul-suckingly-cold winter nights, my thoughts turn increasingly to the dilemma of how to bundle up and insulate myself against the chill to avoid such nasty experiences as frostbitten toes. Now, those of you living in the land of central heating are probably thinking that I’m a weenie and it’s not as bad as all that. And I am, in fact, a weenie. However, that does not change the fact that it gets cold really here in the land of drafty third-world construction. The inside temperature inside one’s house usually only manages to reach at most 10-15 degrees above the ambient outside temperature. Which means that when it gets down to freezing outside it will be in the 40s in my house. And that, my friends, is cold.

But do not despair! There are a variety of heat-producing options available to the resourceful Indian inhabitant. These include:

The Kerosene Heater – The nice people in the hospitality office of Woodstock provided me with a small kerosene heater for my apartment. They did not, however, provide me with any kerosene nor any insights into where one might acquire such a thing. Huh.

The Propane Heater – These are cumbersome metal contraptions, attached to large propane tanks. Lighting them is a bit of a pain and they smell but they do produce warmth. I have one in my office but didn’t want to shell out the necessary cash to get one in my house. Besides, inhaling the fumes for 8 hours a day is really enough for me.

The Blow Heater – Blow heaters are small electric heaters, about 2 feet by 1 foot, which blow hot air out from a series of fans. For the most part they are fabulous though there are two areas of potential difficulty. First, if the power fails, as it frequently does, there goes your power. Second, and more worrisome, if you turn the heater up too high, it can do bad things to the wiring in your house. These bad things can range from simply blowing the fuse to causing flames to shoot out from your fuse box (as happened to my friend Tara—ALL the wiring in her house had to be replaced).

The Electric Blanket – I brought one with me from the States and finally got a voltage converter so I can (in theory) make it work. The idea is that you put it in your bed and turn it on about a half hour before you want to climb into said bed. Then it’s all cozy and warm and welcoming rather than frigid and awful. Only I’m not sure if mine works. You’d think it would be pretty easy to tell—either the blanket is warm or it is not—but you’d be wrong. The blankets never really get hot to the touch so it can actually be quite difficult to tell if it is functional. However, in a brilliant demonstration of mind over matter, I am telling myself that it works and thereby feeling warmer.

The Bucari – A bucari is an Indian wood-burning stove. They consist of mid-sized metal cylindrical drums with a door, an air vent, and a pipe to channel the smoke out of your house (again, in theory). They’re a bit of a hassle because you have to light them, using large quantities of newspaper and often employing lots of blowing and frantic fanning with magazines. But once they get going they provide an incredible amount of heat (as I discovered when I left our plastic firewood barrel too close to the bucari in the sunroom. Now it looks somewhat like a piece of modern art). They also consume an incredible amount of wood. Part of the problem is that the quality of my firewood supply at the moment is less than impressive. It consists of broken up pieces of furniture that I bought from the school. Many of the pieces are varnished or painted (yay toxic fumes), most have metal in them in the form of nails, hinges, etc. and all of it burns up in moments. However, I have ordered a supply of better firewood and some pinecones to use as kindling so all will be well soon.

And, of course, there is the “wear every piece of clothing you own at the same time” method. From what I’ve heard from my more experienced friends, everyone spends all of February wearing so much clothing that we’ll all look like chubby marshmallow people. At least then if we happen to go tumbling down the mountainside, we have built-in cushioning.


At 12:17 PM, Blogger Rhonda said...

Great and accurate review of the heating situation at Woodstock (if you haven't read my prior comment, I went to Woodstock from '94 to '98).
You did forget one mode of heating that we used a lot of down at the dorms - we were not quite as lucky to be able to have any heating in our rooms. We filled up hot water bottles and cuddled with them while studying in our rooms or sleeping. They were also great to put at your feet - although they were a bit chilly by morning. Some deep breaths under the covers as you first get in bed also helps to warm things up initially - until your body heat takes over. Layers of clothing usually works about the best in any situation.


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