My Second Winter in Canada
Sunrise in Brandon, Manitoba
To ski or not to ski?
Living in Canada, I have a brand new appreciation for the Winter Olympics and have the TV switched on while brave souls race down dangerous mountain slopes as they compete to win downhill skiing. Shortly after my arrival in these snowy climes, I went for a skiing lesson at the Asessippi ski resort. After hiring all the necessary ski equipment and a skiing lesson, I gingerly ventured out onto the bunny slope. While alternately removing my glove to retrieve a tissue to wipe my cold and dripping nose, then returning soggy tissue to my pocket and donning said glove again, I attempted to learn how to get off the escalator at the top of the run and ski down the slope without losing control and careering over the edge. Well, suffice it to say that my fifty-something-year-old knees objected greatly and out of fear of injuring myself so I could no longer work, I would throw my body onto the snow when I felt like I could not stop! If only I had tried this maybe twenty years ago, I think I would have enjoyed it greatly, as I always loved speed, and if truth be told, still do!
Frigid temperatures require cars to be plugged in.
Plug your car in!
The Canadian winter is not for the faint-hearted, but I will say that with technology such that it is, people are well insulated from the cold. This winter began in full force in November and is still extremely cold as I sit here and write this in February. There will be at least two more months of winter here – it lasts about six months and eventually gets one down. For those of you who have no inkling about how the weather impacts on folk, here are some examples.
I am seriously impressed that cars can run when temperatures outside reach minus 40s C and with a wind chill factor, top minus 50 - hard to imagine, eh? MINUS 50 DEGREES CELSIUS! Cars get plugged in so that the engine will not freeze over and after brushing off snow, or scraping ice from the windows, one can get that puppy running and be on one’s way! A lesson I have learned is NOT to take the car to a car wash during these frigid temperatures. I did so without thinking and discovered that the doors can freeze shut, one cannot open the windows and getting the car to start is also a challenge! Hmph! I am now wiser, albeit somewhat embarrassed – an honest mistake!
When I first arrived here, I was mystified to see cars with their engine running and no-one inside. One of my best purchases was a command start. With command start, I press the button on my remote while still inside my abode, and after five or so minutes, get to my car which has had a chance to begin warming up. Make no mistake, getting into the vehicle is like opening the fridge, but after a few minutes with the heater on inside and the seat warming up (YES, my car has a seat that heats, WOOHOOO!) the chill is taken off and one’s body can begin to relax again.
Geese fly south for the winter months.
All wrapped up for the cold!
Day-Light Uplift Technologies 10,000 Lux Sad Lamp
My other happy purchases were a down-filled jacket from L.L. Bean (not displayed in this photo) and ski pants, which when worn over my scrubs, keep me snug and warm when traipsing to the car and back, not to mention gloves, hats, scarves and warm underwear! Jackets here should have hoods which extend past your face to protect your skin effectively from the wind. Some big brand names of winter wear are The North Face, Columbia, Helly Hansen, Ripzone, Under Armour and more! Technology for active wear is phenomenal.
Brandon is not a big city like Toronto, and we have no underground that keeps us out of the elements. In Manitoba, we brave the weather and deal with it on an ongoing basis. I have no covered parking and get to my car, unplug and remove the electrical cord, brush or scrape off snow or ice and get into the car and wait for it to warm up. Upon arrival at the hospital, plug in again and walk across the car park being careful not to slip on black ice, and get safely into the building. Roads are kept clear by being plowed constantly and sand being sprinkled over the surface. The winter is long here, and sunlight is celebrated when the sun shows its face, as blue skies are not as frequent as white or gray skies that meet the horizon and continue on the landscape in various forms of ice and snow. It is very quiet here as birds are no longer seen until it begins to warm up. When I noticed the birds migrating south, I cried out: “Come back, come back!” and was surprised to feel a tear slide down my cheek!
My Texas cat, Mr. Hobbes, goes to sit by the patio door every day in hope that it has warmed up outside. We are both suffering from cabin fever and want to wallow in sunshine. For those who acquire SAD (seasonal affective disorder), it definitely helps to buy a Day-Light lamp. Mr. Hobbes doesn’t believe me when I tell him how cold it is outside, so I open the door for him to peek out. He puts his nose out hoping he will feel warmth, then coughs, splutters and sneezes as the cold air reaches his lungs. I don’t keep that door open long. Mr. Hobbes is wondering what the HECK happened to Texas!
Mr. Hobbes' new toy
Another happy purchase I made was an electric fireplace. Even though it is simply a heater, the facsimile of flames jumping syncs in to all my memories of a fireplace that we had when I was a child, and I am comforted. If I want to hear flames crackling, YouTube happily provides many such examples. The combined effect helps me to feel warm and cozy. Needless to say, homes are well insulated and have heating so one does not even wear winter clothes indoors. The heating in this apartment makes the air very dry so I purchased a humidifier which helps one’s nasal passages from drying out too much. Upon choosing furniture and bedding for my apartment, I deliberately chose warm colours which I find very uplifting in a six-month long bleak landscape. Many a Manitoban has recommended that I have a glass of wine when I get home, and although I find it odd to drink alone, I must admit that a glass of red wine with dinner is a comfort indeed, although I do prefer to drink when I am with company instead.
As a lover of the arts, I frequently attend the symphony, the ballet and the opera (whenever these performances are available), and I am always amazed at how people dress. You would not think the temperatures were so extreme when folk remove their outerwear and display their normal dressy outfits that one would ordinarily see in a place with a far less extreme climate. Go figure! When I shopped for heavier weight clothing, those fabrics were not to be found. Back in the day in South Africa, when I was a child, I clearly remember the winter weight of fabrics such as corduroy or even denim! I scratch my head and wonder why these things are not available hereabouts - most odd!
I am aware that experiencing my second Canadian winter, I have acclimatized and begun to feel somewhat like a Canuck. When I look back at my journey through this life, I am quite amazed that this sensitive South African gal has handled American life in the great, hot, state of Texas and is now dealing well with the severity of the weather in the great white North. The wonder of various forms of precipitation continue to fascinate me and I am glad that snow sparkles and is beautiful, ice commands respect and hoar frost reminds me of a frozen fairyland. I will, however, be extremely glad to see summer arrive – although the season is short here, it is really beautiful. Canadian summer will be the subject of my next hub.