4/28/2018
Feels like thirty-nine

I don't remember where exactly I heard this theory, but it's definitely in school. Was it elementary school? Was it high school? Was it anthropology class in college? I'm sure it was earlier. It was something about the different working habits of people across the world. The thinking was, people who live in countries with cooler climates tend to be more productive, because they need to work to get rid of the cold. In contrast, those who live in warmer places tend to do less, because it's just too damn hot to do anything.

As I write this, on what's more or less my desk, the temperature outside is at 34 degrees. It's the peak of the dry season. If I step outside, it will feel like it's 39 degrees. No wonder I haven't gotten much done lately.

All right, that's a misnomer. I have been busy, another one of those events that's going down the wire, despite of - or particularly because - we've swapped a ship for a bus. But then, the temperature is not at all conducive for free-wheeling thoughts that's not related to what you're being paid to do. You don't really want to think too hard, not in this heat. I mean, right now, I am alone in the living room. I have the electric fan pointed at me, and me alone. I look at the window and it's way too bright. I start sweating immediately.

I know it's warmer than usual, but it only really hit home a few nights ago. My room is airconditioned - well, it's just an exhaust fan from the next room, but it is still cool enough to do those Korean face routines without defeating the point. I had removed my face mask, patted the remaining essence dry, and was going to throw the packet into the trash bin, which was at the kitchen. The moment I stepped out of my room, I felt immediate regret. I was defeating the point of the last fifteen minutes.

But then, this is the place I live in: despite the recognition that we live in a tropical country, all remaining green space has been bulldozed in favor of restaurants with rudimentary menus. They're building a bigger house, so goodbye, confluence of trees that pretty much provided shade for the whole street. I can't even do my afternoon walks anymore. It's that bad. And yet we're left with little choice but to buy cars, because our public transportation network is unspeakable.

I was chatting with Camille last week; she was flying to Taipei (well, she is in Taipei right now) and we were talking about what to wear. The Taiwanese capital can be hot, I told her, but then I knew I was thinking of the time when I brought a jacket out only to realize the sky would be so clear.

"Is it as humid as Singapore?" she asked.

"It could be," I answered.

I remembered one of my first trips to Singapore, when I found myself, for some reason, walking from the City Hall MRT station to the Sheraton along Scotts Road. Apparently, that's a distance of just four kilometers, but that was an hour-long walk or so, complete with side trips and that one time when I made the wrong turn and got lost somewhere along Princep. It was hot. I remember my hanky being so drenched in sweat I thought, well, screw it, I'll just take a shower. But the walk did not feel impossible. Try walking four kilometers in Manila's streets. I probably would not make it back alive. I'd hope for a convenience store to take a break in, whip my phone out, and check tweets. I'd probably see someone boasting that, after four months of living alone, he could finally afford an airconditioner. "I can finally work!" he'd say.

But then, the heat doesn't quite explain why people in cooler climates are more productive. I mean, have you seen Singapore? Don't answer that - I'm moving to my bedroom. They've turned the AC on.

And your responses...

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