Friday, October 15, 2004

Cultural conditioning

Autumn has arrived with all the subtlety of a ton of bricks. Thud. The nighttime temperature, which last week was about 23˚C, is expected to fall to 13˚C tonight, and today was positively chilly. The humidity also dropped quite suddenly on Monday (yay!). It had been a little more comfortable for a few days, but on Monday I knew it was really dry - I got my first big jolt from the knob on the teachers' room door. ZAP! Autumn has arrived!

I am particularly pleased that I'm waking up without a pain in the neck every morning, which is my fate every morning when the humidity is high. (My advice to anybody out there who cares to take note: do not have a traffic accident. You are left with stupid and painful side-effects that last forever and make you feel old.)

The futons have been aired and thoroughly beaten by The Man, and I'm looking forward to a bit of snuggling.

On the other hand, another typhoon is working its way towards Taiwan, and it could conceivably do the u-turn thing that happened two typhoons ago (although it doesn't look likely) so I'm not putting away my summer clothes quite yet. I have, however, been airing out cupboards, which smell horribly musty after the long, humid summer. My winter boots have grown a layer of mould, I noticed this morning. I forgot the shoe cupboard. I'll air that one tomorrow.

Half of Japan has come down with a cold. My students have been doing that sniffing and snorting thing that I find so distressing even after all these years here. I understand that this is a culturally conditioned reaction, but I simply cannot get used to this habit. When you're talking to someone perfectly politely and they suddenly sniff juicily in your face, it's hard to maintain inner calm.

But speaking of culturally conditioned habits (but not distressing ones), here is a question for my Malaysian reader(s):

Why, when Malaysian shop assistants hand you your change, do they touch the wrist of the hand that is passing the money with their other hand? I find this charming, and I always forget to ask when I'm there.