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THE human body is amazing. When placed in a new environment, it pays attention to the changes it’s going through, retains a memory of these changes and then adapts to the best of its ability.

This has been a rather strange summer here in New Zealand.

It has been cooler than I thought it would be, with the temperature ranging from 11 to 18 degrees Celsius.

Not exactly freezing, but not what one imagines summer to be.

But a week after arriving, the days no longer seem as chilly anymore. Not exactly summer, but unlike seven days ago, I am now comfortable in a t-shirt, even when the wind blows. My body has learnt to adapt.

Getting accustomed to 11 degrees is not a big deal, though.

On my first visit to China, I whooped with joy when I saw that it would be a balmy two degrees on the weather forecast.

It was winter; we had seen below zero temperatures for a week and for the first time in days there was no minus sign for Xi’an.

You know it’s time to start getting worried when two degrees Celcius is your definition of a lovely day.

Humanity has always learnt to adapt to extreme situations.

The coldest place on earth is Vostok Station in Antarctica, which recorded the lowest temperature on Earth at -89.2 degrees Celsius in July 1983 and has an average of -42 degrees in the “warm” season (November-March).

Conditions are unimaginably harsh, and yet there are actually people living at Vostok, a research station founded by the Soviet Union in 1957.

The coldest inhabited place is Oymyakon in Russia, which once hit a low of -91.2 degrees in 1993, making the days I spent in Beijing and Xi’an seem like a joke.

Unlike Vostok Station that only has researchers, this small town is inhabited by ordinary people living everyday lives — there are schools, playgrounds, shops, a bank and post office.

If you’re planning to visit, you’re in luck — there’s an airport in Oymyakon that operates in the warmer months, while tours run from the nearby city of Yakutsk (Don’t forget to send me an email if you do go).

Like the severe cold, living in extreme heat can be equally oppressive.

The hottest place on record is California’s Death Valley, where the mercury has been known to hit a high of 56.7 degrees Celsius.

The hottest temperature I have ever experienced was 40 degrees in Africa’s Namib desert, and that was hot enough for me.

The hottest inhabited place in the world lies in Dallol, in northern Ethiopia.

Here, daytime temperatures can hit 46 degrees, but Dallol is different from other hot spots in that the heat does not only come from the sun above.

This part of Ethiopia is volcanic, so heat also rises from under the surface from hot springs, steaming gas vents and boiling acid pools.

In spite of the cruel environment, the Dallol is home to the nomadic Afar tribesmen, known for their savage nature.

At times, however, challenges come from within and not from around us.

In November 2007, exchange student Christoph Rehage decided that he would walk from Beijing, China, to his hometown in Bad Nennhorf, Germany, as a 26th birthday present to himself.

Rehage did not complete his walk to Germany, but when he stopped walking upon reaching Xinjiang a year after he started, he had already covered more than 4,000km.

Conditions were harsh and cruel, and he faced may obstacles along the way.

Rehage’s famous “one photo a day” time-lapse video of his trek across China went viral soon after he released it.

The video shows his incredible transformation over the 12 months, with the varied landscapes he passed through as the backdrop for each photo.

I guess what I’m saying here is this — no matter how severe the environment or harsh the living conditions, mankind has learnt to adapt and survive as best as it can.

Mankind is probably the only living creature that has learnt to adapt in any environment on earth.

The human body is a masterpiece, no doubt, but it needs the human spirit and will to survive.

It is the human spirit that gives the body the strength it needs, whether it is putting up with a mind-numbing -91.2 degrees in Russia or a scorching 46 degrees in Ethiopia.

Anis Ibrahim
Anis Ibrahim

* When she’s not thinking about social media, watching movies or travelling, Anis writes at ‘Five Foot Traveller’

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