Me and Chairman Mao
  Absolute zero.
That is how warm--or cold, take your pick--I'll be in a little over twenty-four hours. Why? Because last night we finalized the details of aweekend getaway to Harbin, a city in northern China. And when I say northern, I mean northern--it's on roughly the same latitude as Ulaan Bataar, better known--well, hardly known, actually--as the capitol of Mongolia. And I think we all know three things about Mongolia: it's full of Mongols; said Mongols have an affinity for yurts; and it's really, really, really freaking cold. Ergo, Harbin--while presumably not overrun by Mongols, yurts, or any combination of the two--must be really, really, really freaking cold as well.

(Side note: for those of who are interested, I've underlined Harbin in red on the China map. It's northeast of Beijing, and may require scrolling. Consider yourself warned.)

So why go to Harbin, a place where the current high as I type this sentence is -7 degrees Fahrenheit (-22 C!), not including a nice 7 MPH wind that makes it "feel like" -21 F? No, not just for fun. Seriously, why would you think that? What about temperatures in the extremities-freezing range sounds fun do you, sadist? (If you are a sadist though--or are at least into the whole schadenfreude thing and want to know how much I will be/am/did suffering/suffering/suffer--here's a link to the current temperature in Harbin.) (Remember, if you want to properly enjoy my misery, you have to check out the "feels like" temperature. Stupid wind chill.)

But enough about that temperature and more about me! (You: sounds great!) We are going to Harbin in order to see the "not quite" to "approaching" world-famous Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, where they have all sorts of amazing ... well, snow and ice sculptures. Go figure. There's been an email making the rounds lately with a bunch of pictures from the festival in it, so you might have seen those. If not, you can search Google for the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival and find lots of matches. Then again, rather than wasting time clicking there and then looking around for the best pictures, you could also just go to the website that seems to be the source of that email that I mentioned above and accomplish the same thing, only much, much quicker.

Oops--did you already follow the Googe link? Maybe I should have put that second website first. My fault. You can picture me saying sorry with an insincere look on my face--that is, looking the way I normally look when saying sorry--if it makes you feel better. Although I'm not quite sure why it would.

Naturally, deciding to go to Harbin caused quite a bit of panic in our little corner of Seasons Park, since I immediately suspected that my trusty cold-weather combination of worthless REI silk thermal underwear and jeans that I have mentioned before might not be enough protection when the temperature is hovering around ten below. (That's - 23 C for those of you who learned the metric system because you actually believed America might convert someday, like they used to tell you in elementary school. Suckers.) To remedy this, we immediately wandered over--um, took a cab--to Yaxiu, our local knock-off market, and loaded up on the warmest-looking warm-weather gear we could find. Or at least gear that was supposed to be warm weather, although for all I know it's the same chinsy jacket duplicated a thousand times, just with a different label stuck to it. (North Face! Helly Hanson! Burton!)

Either way, we got all kinds of alleged warm-weather goodies: North Face gloves, warm boots, Atomic pants, and--best of all--a complete, Spyder snowboarding outfit for myself. When you consider this amazing suit, please forget that I don't ski or snowboard and don't really have any desire to; nevermind that the red and blue design, complete with a spider silhouette on the back, bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain friendly neighborhood wall crawler; ignore the fact that my having a poster of aforementioned wall crawler above my bed as a wee lad may have had something to do with my choice of color scheme; and know only this: it's really, really, really freaking warm, a fact I am counting on to counter the previously mentioned really, really, really freaking cold weather in Harbin. Because, let's face it, if I'm going to actually go outside in this get-up, it had better be good for something ...

Dorky, Yes--But Warm and Dorky

Jealous much? I thought so.

Anyway, we'll see how it works out. Or at least I'll see: if I come home with no black body parts, I'll just assume it worked okay. What you will see--providing I find some way to press the the camera shutter button while wearing my bulky new North Face Gloves--is the phog to end all phogs when I come back. Or so I hope. I mean, like I said, I'm not doing this for fun ...

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