Whenever winter comes around, the tropical girl in me questions my sanity in moving here. Of all the things I considered before moving to another continent, the climate was not at the very top of the list. It really should’ve been. I knew nothing, Jon Snow.
This is why it took me a while to finally watch Frozen. That movie is a crock. There is no way one can have that much fun in the middle of a blizzard dressed in a gossamer gown. Disney is lying to us all!
Freshly fallen snow looks awesome. It looks exactly like a Christmas card. But a Christmas card doesn’t show you how it looks when the snow turns to dirty slush and forms big pools of icy water when it melts. It doesn’t tell you that these pools then refreeze overnight, turning your front porch into a giant ice slick just waiting for you to slip and break a hip.
Winter isn’t just virgin white snow drifts and big fat snowflakes falling gently to land on your face. It’s not building snowmen in meadows pretending its Parson Brown holding make believe nuptials.
Winter is sub-zero temperatures with the windchill at -32C. It’s stepping outside, taking a deep breath and feeling your snot solidify in seconds. (If you pinch your nose closed, your nostrils can stay fused.) It’s a day so frigid, after about ten minutes everything that’s exposed starts to go numb and if you keep at it long enough it’ll start to feel like your skin is burning. It’s no longer feeling your face. Or your knees. It’s fingers so stiff they could snap off and ears that go from tingling lightly to flat-out pain. It’s the completely bonkers acceptance that -5C “isn’t so bad, after all.” Of course anyone living in Saskatoon or Winnipeg for starters, will scoff and tell me to stop being such a baby about a measly -32C. They don’t call this country the Great White North for nothing.
Before you think this kind of thing only happens in a snowstorm, think again. It can happen while the sun is shining brightly in a cloudless blue sky. If you took a picture, it would look like a perfect summer day.
Living in a tropical country left me sadly unprepared. Being totally fresh off the boat, my first winter was spent in completely inappropriate outfits. I had no layers. I sometimes wore dress (!) boots with heels so high, you could touch God. I eschewed hats and earmuffs. Boy, was I miserable. After that very unfortunate first winter, I am now past caring about the vagaries of looking good. I now look like the Michelin man. And I sometimes wear three layers of socks. There’s only so much fashion you can rock in wintertime if you want to live.
It’s the kind of thing that has to be experienced to be believed. Because I spent most of my life in the Philippines where the only major thing we really have to watch out for are typhoons and the occasional errant flying GI sheet, I had no clue what I was in for. (Not to discount how deadly these things can be, but we’ve got an early advance warning system and it’s relatively easy to stay in a safe place or get to higher ground as long as you’re not being an obstinate dolt.)
We are currently in the thick of winter, and there’s roughly three more months of this crazy weather to get through. I remember the stories my father enthusiastically told me about winter: the main thing he was always going on about was being able to see his breath. And playing in the snow. I guess I didn’t inherit that enthusiasm from him because every time it comes around I bundle up and pray for death. Or summer, whichever comes first.