This evening my son heard gurgling noises coming out of the radiator.
"What's that strange sound, dad?" he shouted. I rushed down down the stairs and listened. Water was trickling through the pipes and into the radiator. I knew what this meant: the heat would finally come on. An hour later, the radiators were nice and warm, fueled by inefficient, Soviet-built, coal-burning power plants. We were all incredibly happy.
Although it's only September, we've been freezing for the last few weeks. I've been sleeping in clothes and I no longer kick my kids out of bed: I'm grateful for their body heat. This Monday, they missed the school bus because the battery in our kitchen clock was too cold to kick out its full 1.5 volts, causing it to lose about five minutes over the weekend. And we stopped putting leftover food away at night, since the entire house was like a big, walk-in refrigerator.
In Mongolia, homes and buildings do not have their own heating. Heat and hot water are produced by power plants and distributed by insulated pipes throughout the city. It goes on every year on September 15th, and will go off on May 15th next year. We have eight months of heat to look forward to. And, of course, eight months of cold weather and horrific pollution.
Besides the lack of heat, we haven't had hot water in nearly two weeks. But today, in spurts of red, it came back on. My wife was in the kitchen at the time. She cried out with joy. If we had had a bottle of anything, we would have opened it to celebrate.
The forecast for this Saturday is a mixture of rain and snow. Lucky us. But at least we have heat.