I thought I understood wet weather, I am from the Pacific Northwest after all. But I didn’t really understand humidity. The humidity we have here isn’t like the humidity from the east coast of the USA, it is completely different. It isn’t like I wasn’t warned of the cold and humidity – I was warned many times, but it still surprised me.
First it was the damp cold of January and February. Although it wasn’t really cold (lows in the mid 50’s to low 60’s) it was difficult to handle because we don’t have heaters. Most of the homes in Vietnam don’t have heaters and many don’t have A/C. The house is made of concrete, so when it got cold outside, it got really cold in the house. On the occasional warm day I would open up the doors and windows to let the warm air in. I thought I was pretty smart by leaving all my heavy winter clothes at home and bringing only a few light sweaters, a fleece and one lighter down jacket. Not so smart as most of January and February I dreamed of my husbands chunky brown sweater that I loved to borrow, sitting quietly in storage, so far away. Thankfully I had my cozy socks to keep my feet warm as I snuggled under a blanket while watching TV.
In March came the dampness. So damp that under the windows and doors, water leaked in, and it wasn’t even raining. Water clung to the windows making it difficult to see out. I would climb into the sheets at night and they felt damp. I would wake up in the morning and my skin felt wet and oily. Laundry was another issue. We don’t have a dryer and so we hang our clothes to dry. They would not ever completely dry, for weeks on end. Everything started to smell. I dreaded taking a shower in the cold bathroom, trying to dry off with a cold, damp towel. The covers curled on all of our paperback books. The loose papers in the house felt damp.
Also with the dampness came mold. Our leather shoes grew white feathery mold. I paid a guy 100,000 VND (about $5) to clean them. He only asked for .50 per pair of shoes, but those 4 pairs were so bad. Going into the extra room to pull out the luggage I realized that all of our suitcases were covered (inside and out) with mold. The mold in the closest was picky – some items got the mold, others weren’t affected. My pillow grew strange colored round spots. The red and yellow pillowcase in the guest bedroom was covered with what looked like grey powder.
The kitchen was the most fun. My cinnamon toothpick holder box turned white. The hot pad holders did too. I would search through any open box before I used the ingredients to make sure that they were OK. The sugar and salt lumped together in their containers. Everyday I needed to wipe the floor next to the refrigerator where condensation gathered.
And then suddenly along with the dampness we had a burst of heat. I opened the windows to warm up the inside of the house and the mirrors all steamed up, just like they do when showering. An influx of small mosquitoes found their way into the house, but only on the first floor and just in the bathroom. A couple of squirts of Raid and a tightly shut door and a couple of hours later I was sweeping up a couple hundred dead mosquitoes off the floor.
As quickly as it came – it went. At least for now. I made it through my first winter in Vietnam. The air has been warmer and dryer. Two days in row now I have had a dry towel. Next year I will buy a dehumidifier and heater. In the next few weeks it will turn hot again, and I will be longing for the cold, cold days of our short winter. Coming soon is monsoon season, I can hardly wait.