This winter is one of the warmest so far, with barely enough snow to cover the ground. But it got cold today, with a low of – 15C, felt like – 20C.
I remember when I first came here, I had no idea what “cold” actually meant. The city I’m originally from in France is on the Atlantic coast, on the same longitude as Vancouver. It doesn’t really get any colder than 0C, but damn, it’s so wet. The region itself is known for its wetness. Wetness equal dampness. I remember, back in high school, leaving at 7:00 am to go to class. Bam, rain shower. Here you are, wet for the day, your shoes and clothes soaked, the cold slowly getting to your bones. French buildings are old and the heating system well past warranty date. Sitting by the heating coil wasn’t much help, as you would find yourself sweating but still soaked. I hated it.
I used to fear cold weather. I even wore gloves in Guatemala, in the highlands, and I was freezing in Equator. I’m not a big fan of cold. I was never really trained for it.
I first arrived in Canada in February. Call that a crash course! I exited Pearson airport wearing only a sweater and the wool jacket that I bought a few months earlier in the Peruvian highlands. I stood there, my passport in my hand, my breath floating into a tiny cloud above me. My face felt like it was peeling, anesthetised by the freezing wind. I was standing here, my muscles tense. Every wind gust, my muscles tensed as my pants were rubbing against my skin. It hurt. Canada’s dry biting cold. The country’s trademark.
I soon learned a lot about weather. Like when you get up in the morning, and see a clear sky and bright sun outside the kitchen window? In Canada, it means it’s freezing cold outside. When the sun reflects on the shiny sidewalk? Watch out: ice. See the yellow flashing light over there? It’s the snow truck. Do not get stuck behind it… Have to go somewhere tomorrow? Watch the weather channel, it’s accurate and you wouldn’t like to be stuck in a blizzard. The small stones everywhere on the ground? Sand grain. Kills your car, roads, your shoes and the bottom of your pants.
I learned to protect myself. To wear long socks. To have several layers of clothes on me. To cover every single inches of skin. I learned that I wouldn’t win the battle against the cold. That it’s sometimes better to stay indoors, sipping a warm tea, wrapped in the duvet.