Monday, April 16, 2012

the walls are crying

We are entering the most humid time of year in Hong Kong. This means we are emerging from the “dry” months, in which relative humidity falls to 70-75% (average), and entering the “wet” months. At 85-95%, I start thinking it might as well rain because I’m already soaked anyway.

It’s so humid that…

  • bath towels are perpetually damp, laden with a sour smell
  • bread, left sitting out on the counter in its original wrapping, molds in two days or less
  • concrete walls wrinkle and bubble around the windows, thanks to moisture seeping in around the sills
  • books, papers and photos are often damp and/or molded, sometimes ruined
  • stores devote entire aisles to moisture-collecting items: electric dehumidifiers, containers of dehumidifying material meant to be placed in closets or cabinets to pull water from the air (large versions of those little non-edible desiccant packets we find inside bottles of medication)
  • new envelopes that have been sitting in a drawer are already sealed shut; same problem with postage stamps
  • mold grows on walls behind furniture (I’ve helped several friends move, and we were all shocked at what was growing behind wardrobes and bookshelves)
  • an acoustic piano or guitar should be purchased locally (not shipped from abroad), as the wood has been specifically treated to withstand damp conditions
  • I gave up on hand washing sweaters; if it takes over a week to dry, I’d rather pay a bit more and send it to the cleaners
  • some of the electric circuits in our church shut themselves off every few days or so, and I’m told this is because the breaker box is located in a humid hallway; (I’m not an electrician and, therefore, cannot verify this; also, the building and electric wiring is quite old)
  • when the weather suddenly warms up after a cool spell, moisture forms on concrete floors, walls and ceilings. It looks like someone has just come through with a mop or spray bottle; hence Chinese idioms such as, “the walls are crying”
  • preparation for baking includes hacking away at the sugar canister with a knife
  • a friend of mine purchased several pieces of high-quality wood furniture here and shipped them to a dry climate; the wood shrunk so much that doors and drawers were non-functional—seams between the legs and sides of a dresser came apart completely
  • my double-walled, "sweat-proof" plastic drinking cups have moisture trapped between the layers
  • it takes a herculean effort to keep on top of the mold growth in already-damp places such as bathroom tile, bathtubs, sinks, and the dish drainer
  • people say, “don’t take a deep breath outside or you’ll drown”
  • I recently ran an old pair of slippers through the washing machine; they took two weeks to dry
  • mold grows under the lid of my toilet seat (because I refuse to leave the lid up)
  • for most of the year, I walk around dripping with sweat, clothes drenched, hair wet and stringy, mopping my face with tissues; I probably look like a drowned rat.

They say that long-term exposure to humidity is good for the complexion. I say a drowned rat with nice skin is still a drowned rat.