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My Second Winter in Canada

Updated on February 9, 2014

Sunrise in Brandon, Manitoba

Winter Sunrise - February 2014
Winter Sunrise - February 2014 | Source

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.

Snow blankets my car - easier to brush it off than to scrape ice!
Snow blankets my car - easier to brush it off than to scrape ice! | Source

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!

Source

Day-Light Uplift Technologies 10,000 Lux Sad Lamp

Source

Going South

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

Cozy Kitty

Mr. Hobbes cozy and warm on my bed
Mr. Hobbes cozy and warm on my bed | Source

Keeping warm.

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.

Sunset in Brandon - Nov. 2013

Enclosed patio on account of Brandon City Bylaws for animals and Mr. Hobbes' passion for exploring
Enclosed patio on account of Brandon City Bylaws for animals and Mr. Hobbes' passion for exploring | Source

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    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Nothing looks colder and more defeated than a red sun low on the horizon in the winter. This reminds me of my Iowa days, although forty below was seldom seen there.

      Well written, because I felt a chill just reading this!

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 3 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      WillStarr: Thanks so much for your comments... I have not seen Iowa, but can just imagine it from your comment! When I first arrived here, it was really hard to imagine temperatures in the minus 40's or minus 50's. Now, I don't need to imagine!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You sure picked one of the coldest spots in Canada to live. I'm in Ontario and it's almost as bad but not quite. I'd much rather spend my winters in Vancouver but ..... This has been the coldest winter with the most snow I've ever seen in my 56 years. Welcome to Canada :) May spring arrive soon.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 3 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Susan, lovely to hear from another Canadian. Yep, news reports have been saying that this winter has broken some records here. Thanks so much for the warm welcome and your comments. I hope that one day I might see more of Canada - have not travelled through this beautiful country at all. MAY SPRING ARRIVE VERY SOON! :D

    • profile image

      Jane Arden 3 years ago

      Look at that beautiful winter sunrise. I dont mind the cold coming from the UK. YET, I know that Canada is an entirely different ball game. Cant imagine -40. I feel that is unbearable. Thank goodness its such a beautiful place with breathtaking views.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 3 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Jane Arden: I was in London in August 2007 and the weather was glorious! I have not experienced winter there but would love to see. I must admit, -40 is too difficult to imagine and I could only wonder at it. Now that I have experienced it, I am none to keen to experience it again! Lovely to have your input - thank you. :)

    • profile image

      Nancy Daugherty 3 years ago

      I enjoyed your story! And it reminded me of my first winters up in fairbanks Alaska. I did wonder if you have experienced the northern lights ? I could always tell when they were going to be good because my cat would romp around the house in the wee hours at night like a kitten, letting me know to look up to see them.

      Dense ice fog where the lights are pulled straight up from the head lights and house lights ?

      I had chickadees that stayed year round and I was able to feed the birds all year, right next to the windows. And have you knottiest how sound travels in the crisp frigid air, hearing people talk easily as if they were close by ? Also I remember laying in bed hearing the house "popping" I could always tell it was in the extremes -50 before getting out of bed. How the dry snow looks like glitter & sparkled as each step crunched as I walked to the car. I was in Fbk Ak for 30+ years and about the time you were moving to the frigid claimants, I was moving out. So I have enjoyed reading and keeping up with your post.

      Have you tried throwing a hot cup of coffee up in the air to see it turn to powder before you in a puff of snow @ -50 ? When the ski was clear & sunny the temps would drop because it did not have the warm cloud cover.

      I love your writing and truly love reading you post. Wishing you so much happiness dearest Suelynn :)

    • Suelynn profile image
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      Suelynn 3 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Nancy Daugherty,

      Thank you for your post, loved reading it. :) That's a long time to live in a frigid climate - how do you feel having moved to other climes? I often wonder how birds even survive in frigid temps and would love to offer food to any I might see. Nope, have not yet tried throwing hot liquid into the air to see it puff away.... apparently the actual temperature has to reach -24 before it will do that. Thanks so much for your lovely comments, Nancy. Wishing you all the happiness in the world too. :D

    • profile image

      Nancy Daugherty 3 years ago

      I am truly enjoying the warm climate here in Blane WA! We only had one 24hr snow day. I truly love Alaska but I do not miss the waiting 8 months for 3 months of warm weather. As I got more "mature" it seemed much harder shoveling snow and keeping up with the winter life there. ;)

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 3 years ago from South Africa

      Oh, I will never survive a winter in Canada. I love South Africa's climate(s), although I do regard the vandalists, criminals and incompetent politicians in the same light as extreme and dangerous climates. Thanks for sharing, Sue :)

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 3 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Nancy: I can't say I blame you one bit! I have always wanted to see Alaska... maybe one day! I am most fortunate that I don't need to shovel snow... I am in an apartment and it's taken care of. :D

      Martie Coetser: I couldn't agree more about South African weather and the remainder of your comment! I am so glad you enjoyed the hub and thank you so much for responding. :)))))))

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Every area has its own unique beauty, it sounds like you have adapted well from a warmer climate to a colder one. Experiencing a colder than usual winter here, I have decided the key is in the clothing...but I don't know what to do about the driving! Thanks!

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 3 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Rebecca Mealey: It seems as though winter has thrown her cloak far and wide this season! Is it possible for you to purchase a portable seat cover that you can plug in when you drive and it heats up your back and seat? I know they have them here but you need to be wary that you don't leave it plugged in when not in use, as it could be a fire hazard....

    • georgescifo profile image

      georgescifo 3 years ago from India

      Canada is a wonderful place worth visiting and the winter in Canada is sure to provide a memorable experience for all.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 3 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Georgescifo: Without a doubt! My eyes have been opened to all the winter sports - I never used to be interested in the winter Olympics! I guess it pretty much depends upon our life experiences Eh? :)

    • georgescifo profile image

      georgescifo 3 years ago from India

      You are absolutely right Suelynn!!

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 3 years ago from Orange, Texas

      What a great hub! I really enjoyed it. You took me right to Canada and I'm a Texas girl myself. I don't know that I would adapt as well as you have, but I would like to get out of the Texas hot summers - at least for awhile! Well done and voted up!

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 3 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Howdy, Ann1Az2: Thank you so much for saying... the Texas summers are so long and somewhat too sweaty for me (on the Gulf)... but wouldn't it be great if we could get a balanced taste of each! Please say HOWDY to Texas for me! I sure do appreciate your vote. :D

    • profile image

      manxi 3 years ago

      What a great article SueLynn,. your descriptive powers never fail to amaze me!

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 3 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Manxi: What a lovely comment, and thank you for that. :D

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I would certainly love to see what you have for winter animals out in the country.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 3 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Aviannovice: So lovely to see you! I wish I could write a hub about that, but the winter is so severe, I don't see ANY wildlife or birdlife for quite a few months. I miss seeing other living creatures. Sigh! Roll on spring...

    • profile image

      Puregold24 3 years ago

      I always love reading your stories Suelynn. You make everything come alive, your descriptions are so good. I really admire you for your great attitude in adapting to a very harsh climate. Roll on spring is right, it can't come too soon!! xoxo Denise

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 3 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Puregold24: You are such a honey, Denise! Thank you for these wonderful comments - you made my day! It takes one to know one. :D Love to you, too. xoxox

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Hi Suelynn,

      This was a very interesting hub to read on winters from a newcomer to Canada. Well, I actually started enjoying winters after I got our dog and I started hiking with him (i.e. from 2011).

      I have found a very good trick to beat winters. Instead of going south for vacationing and becoming a snowbird, I travel to a colder part for two weeks or so (doing dog sledding). The thing is, you enjoy for about first 5 days, feel ok for the next 5, and it gets really pathetic toward the end of vacations with all the energy level sapped up. So when I return to Toronto region, even though it is still ice cold winters here, the temperatures feel balmy hahaha.

      Btw, great winter friendly hub from someone coming from South Africa.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 3 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi there, Suhail: Good to "see" you again. It's been a long hiatus!

      Your strategy is a good one and clever too. I, however, am totally unlikely to take my cat (Mr. Hobbes) to the even colder climes of Canada for even a day!!! This, after standing at the pump and putting gas into my car (it was almost empty - OOOPS), with a minus 50 wind chill about to take off my ear (hood of jacket kept whipping down) ! Aaarrrggghhh! Your last comment was totally FEEELGOOOD and THANK YOU for your vote of confidence. It's good when I feel that 5 degrees C is "QUITE WARM!"

      I laughed when I read your last line. Thanks for your lovely feedback, Suhail, I think I have acclimatized quite quickly (especially after the heat and humidity of Texas, although I must admit that the summer here got quite a bit hotter than I expected!) Now, I am trying to lose the weight that I seem to have packed on whilst hibernating! ERK! ;)

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Suelynn,

      If you ask my wife what is the best season she likes in Canada, she says summer time in winters and winter times in summers. I believe the scorching hot summers and bone chilling winters of our country are the reason for her oxymoron answer and she agrees lol.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 2 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Suhail and Doggie,

      This makes PERFECT sense to me now, after two years in Manitoba. It would not have made sense to me before that! Good oxymoron. :) Just found your comment now, I have not been on HP for ages! Good to "see" you. :D

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