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Cold Crash Course


Fuck­ing cold.

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.


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