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Cold Weather Crash Course in Canada

Fuck­ing cold.

This win­ter is apparently one of the warmest with barely enough snow to cover the ground. But it got cold today—temperatures of -15C, real feel of -20C.

I had no idea what “cold” actu­ally meant when I first came to Canada.

My hometown 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 damp in the winter. I remember walking to school at 7 a.m. and getting soaked on the way, cold slowly get­ting to my bones. French buildings are old, even indoors it feels damp.

I don’t like cold weather. I even wore gloves in Guatemala, in the high­lands, and I was freez­ing in Equa­tor. I’m just not trained for it.

I landed 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, numb because of the freez­ing wind, pants rub­bing against my skin. It hurt. Canada’s dry bit­ing cold. The country’s trademark.

I learned a lot about the weather in Canada. Let’s say you get up in the morn­ing and see a clear sunny sky out­side… well, in Canada, it means it’s freez­ing cold. When the sun reflects on the shiny side­walk? Watch out, ice. See the yel­low flash­ing light over there? It’s the snow truck, don’t get stuck behind it… Have to go some­where tomor­row? Check the weather chan­nel, forecasts are usually accu­rate, postpone if bliz­zard is on the way. These small stones on the ground? Road salt. Kills your car, roads, your shoes and pants hems.

I learned to pro­tect myself. To wear long socks, sev­eral lay­ers of clothing. To cover every sin­gle inch 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 into a blanket.

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