Went for a walk, frozen eyelashes, Ottawa, February 2015

It’s been consistently cold since we came back. I get it, it’s February, and I don’t expect temperatures in the teens, but -10°C, -15°C, hell, -30°C is just way too cold. I hate it. I can’t even convince myself that it’s going to get better (yeah, in weeks…), that I should embrace this aspect of life in Canada, that snow is beautiful, that we are lucky to have clear blue skies every now and then.

It’s cold and it sucks. I’m sorry, it’s true.

I had this conversation over and over again when travelling. “Lucky you, in Canada it’s not as hot and humid as here!” “Nope, it’s muy frio.” “Cold is better than hot.” “Sorry… but no, it’s not.”

I get it, some people don’t like the heat, the humidity, and the burning hot sun shining above. Some people have sensitive skin, eyes, whatever. But I think the cold hurts and damages your body more than the heat. Sure, you can pass out from heat exhaustion. But you can die from the cold, it’s called hypothermia. You can get frostbite. You get sick more easily. Your muscles hurt because you are constantly shivering or bracing against the wind. Your skin is dry, and your hands and your face are burning.

“Put some cream on your hands!” Feng reminds me when he sees how dry they are. “I am! Doesn’t do any good!”

I’m not built for the cold. My body can’t take it.

Every time you step out, even for a few minutes, you need to put on your boots, gloves, scarf, jacket and hat. And take everything off when you step inside and repeat this all day long. It’s tiresome.

No wonder I keep on losing a glove here and there in the process.

Ideally, you’d stay indoors. I have to admit that our heating systems are efficient. I’m almost never cold when I’m at home, in a store or in any indoor public place—the exception may be movie theatres, where I often find the temperature chilly, and I’m not the only one considering the number of people who keep their jacket or sweater on.

Sure, I’d stay indoors for a day or two. But for weeks, for months? I mean, it’s not like minus-way-too-cold is an exception here. It’s the rule for days and days from December to April. What am I supposed to do? Hibernate?

Maybe I should. That’s what people seem to do, anyway. Stores aren’t busy and the streets are empty. There is a reason why people enjoy living in big houses, why they spend money on home improvement projects, and why a finished basement is synonymous with heaven. People need a place to hide.

But I don’t like to hide indoors. I love being outside. I love walking to Starbucks to grab a coffee and take a break, I enjoy walking to the supermarket to do my daily grocery shopping (and get fresh produce!). I feel free outside. And don’t remind me that if I didn’t smoke, I wouldn’t step out every now and then…

The roads are white with snow and salt, the snowbanks are tall and the sidewalks are icy. There is nobody in the street but the occasional commuter waiting for the bus, a guy walking his dog, and a woman running to the community mailbox with the key in her hand—sorry, her glove. It’s depressing.

Every single day, I have to remind myself it won’t last forever. I hope so, anyway.

The cold affects my mood, affects my life—our lives. It’s difficult to go out, and get around, everything has to be planned.

I feel trapped.

This is torture.

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  1. Dan February 22, 2015 at 3:02 am

    Sorry to read you feel trapped Juliette. I guess Vancouver and, even better, Victoria have much milder weather.

    1. Zhu February 22, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      Yes, I think the weather over there is more similar to the kind of winter I had when growing up in France, i.e. damp and rainy. 🙁

  2. I Say Oui February 22, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    I’m like you– I have to go outside. Even when it’s cold, I need to at least take a 10-minute walk to get some air and feel free. When the weather is nice, I stay outside as long as possible. It’s hard when it’s raining hard or extremely cold because like you said, we go stir crazy.

    1. Zhu February 22, 2015 at 9:17 pm

      Yes! Oh, rain is tough too. I can walk if it’s just a bit of rain, but in Ottawa, when it rains, it pours. I think I spent last summer soaked.

  3. Martin Penwald February 22, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    It is cold in the plains too. I spend 3 hours yesterday outside to prepare a trailer and unfroze its brakes (alcohol works well. Alcohol is a solution for everything. « Patron ! La même chose ! » ). I resort to put these fucking shitty evil tires chains to have enough traction to finally move the trailer. By -23°C. Joy.

    Curiously, even if yesterday between Paynton and Lloydminster it was as low as -32°C, today in Edmonton it is almost canicular, with -4°C.

    1. Zhu February 22, 2015 at 9:21 pm

      I can’t even imagine working outside when it’s that cold. Your hands must hurt like hell, even with gloves! Do you have a good heating system at least when you drive?

      Yesterday felt warm, it was -15C and snowy. It’s just the contrast compared to the days before!

      1. Martin Penwald February 23, 2015 at 4:12 pm

        Driving is not a problem, the heat of the engine is enough to heat the cab. And for the night, I have a bunk heater which works well (I have trouble to adjust the heat output, so sometime, by -20°C, I have to open the small hatch on the side to avoid being too hot).
        The main problem working outside, especially manipulating securement chains and straps, is the cold hand. It is not the cold by itself but the fact that ice melt and water go through the gloves, even big insulated gloves. The most efficient solution is to use small wool gloves under work gloves. And if it is really really cold, put a pair a latex gloves under the wool gloves, to prevent water to touch the skin.
        However, it is still cold after a moment.

        By the way, driving by -20 °or 30° on a road is easier than when temperature goes up at -5° or 0°, because if there is snow or ice on the road, it is less slippery : slipping occurs when the superficial layer of ice melt due to pressure (of a shoe or a tire) and create a tiny layer of water. When it is very cold, it is more difficult for the top layer of ice to melt, so there is less risk of slip.
        The worst case being a quick warming up (2 or 3°) after an episode of strong cold : the road is still very cold by thermal inertia, and a little rain froze instantly on the road, and is topped by a layer of water (5 minutes to do the 100 meters between my truck to the restrooms du to sliperyness).

        1. Zhu February 23, 2015 at 10:15 pm

          I can’t imagine having to use your hand outside for important tasks and for long periods of time. I can barely hold my cigarette…

          Yeah, I can see that about the driving conditions. We, car users, feel it too. I hate when roads are slushy and I’d rather have 10 cm of snow than 2 cm of slippery shit.

          1. Martin Penwald February 24, 2015 at 7:07 pm

            Maybe the good period to stop smoking 🙂

          2. Zhu February 24, 2015 at 10:02 pm

            What?? No! Winter misery, smoke it away!

  4. Holly February 23, 2015 at 8:59 am

    I am the same as you Zhu 🙁 I feel bad to complain about it – it is Canada after all, but we are 5 days away from March and it is already turning into spring in the UK and here it is another -30 day. This is the very worst time of year for me. I know it doesn’t feel like it – but it is a matter of weeks now before it warms up a little and soon we will be sunbathing once more!

    1. Zhu February 23, 2015 at 10:10 pm

      I hear you… I actually read it twice when you said March was around the corner… it’s true, it really doesn’t feel like it!

      1. Martin Penwald February 24, 2015 at 7:05 pm

        Semantically speaking, winter ends the end of March. And Canadian winters are cold. So, still one month of -20° ! \o/

        1. Zhu February 24, 2015 at 10:01 pm

          Winter ends on my birthday, March 21. Nom de Dieu!

  5. Christiane February 23, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    This snow and wind chill is pure torture ! I have to keep reminding myself that i moved here because of my love for my hubby lol ! I want sun and heat !! No more wearing too many layers!!

    1. Zhu February 23, 2015 at 10:10 pm

      I hear you!

  6. Lynn February 23, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    This winter has been way worse than usual, but even on a “better” year I often wonder why we live here. We came for the job (at Nortel, that no longer exists), and now here we are suffering through six months of winter each year. I guess we have a life here, and the more you invest in a house, friends, kids’ schooling, the harder it gets to move. But still: WHY? Sometimes it seems like Ottawa wasn’t meant to support human life!

    1. Zhu February 23, 2015 at 10:17 pm

      … and we are not even that North! When I see people living in Northern (insert province here), I feel sorry for them. I can’t help thinking “why don’t they just move!”

      Fun fact: I live right beside a (the?) former Nortel campus. I think they were shutting down when I first came to Ottawa in 2002.

  7. Pingback: Suburbia, the Forest and Snow

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