Wednesday, January 09, 2013

What they don't tell you about winter.

When I lived in Edinburgh I came home for Christmas.
This happened.
It's winter! Like, really winter. The light dustings of snow are no more; they have been replace with massive chunks of extremely solid snow that are beneath layers of crusty ice. Today marked two intense winter activities: the return to work after Christmas vacation and the first super cold day. Well, not super cold, but cold.

This time of year I always feel for the international students on campus. Not the students from, for example, Sweden or other winter countries, but the ones from the Middle East, Caribbean, or warm Asian countries. Did anyone provide them with a winter fact sheet before the students made the decision to attend UPEI? Not a fact sheet with things like "snow is flakes of crystalline water", but the actual important bits of information.

Two back stories as I'm pretty sure most of you are sitting in Canada, or have been through real winters at some point.

When I was living in Edinburgh I shared an office with, among many others, a woman from Australia. One day it started haling outside and she got excited and cheered, "It's snowing!" Lack of experience with snow made her error understandable. Note to the unwinterized: if it's not windy and the snow is hurting you as it falls, it's actually hale or ice pellets.

Story two was told to me in Edinburgh. I played lacrosse and softball with someone who was from the UK but had mostly grown up in other countries. The first time she saw snow falling from the sky she became super excited and ran outside - without shoes. In all she ever heard about snow, no one had ever mentioned to her that snow was cold and wet.

Sometimes winter seems endless.

So now, potential international students in warm countries who are thinking about attending a post-secondary institution in this great country, I offer you truths about winter that people will forget to tell you.

[With car] It will take longer to get anywhere.
If you are lucky enough to have a car while fulfilling your educational dreams at a Canadian post-secondary institution, you need to buy a special hand broom brush thing to sweep the snow off your car. It sounds magical and Cinderella like, doesn't it? Well, remember the shitty life Cinderella actually lead prior to losing a shoe and being lucky enough that no one else in the entire kingdom had the same size feet as her? You need the special broomy-brush thing to clean the snow off your car. That sounds light and fluffy and wondering, doesn't it? Except only one of five snowfalls will be light and fluffy and wonderful. Those mostly take place in December and March, maybe April, occasionally May. Sometimes the snow will be wet and sticky, in which case the brush becomes relatively useless. In this case it is much more efficient, and fun, to just climb on top of your car and slide off.

You will also spend 15 minutes scraping crusty snow and ice off your car, only to get inside and be disappointed. Since you don't want to waste gas, you hadn't started your car yet. Now you have to scrape ice of the windows on the inside of your car too. Then your boyfriend will comment about how shitty and drafty your windows are and sigh dramatically. You will point to his car in the next parking spot, which looks like it was parked at Target Antarctica for the last three years. Eventually you'll learn how to angle your car in the best position so the sun can at least melt a little bit of it - provided it is sunny.

[On foot] It will take longer to get anywhere.
You might be thinking, "Oh, that's fine about the car, I'll just walk instead."


Well, you can, but make sure you have the proper footware. Ladies, most "winter" boots that are being sold at Aldo, etc., aren't really waterproof. They often don't have good grip. Sometimes they have four-inch heels. Walking somewhere is not the time to be beautiful, it is the time to be practical. Sidewalks are plowed here, but there is not enough foot traffic/weight to really pack down the snow. You will be required to dance around boulders that cover the sidewalk, wondering if you are on a snowy version of the moon.
Shovelling is a good cardiovascular activity
and helps build forearm strength.

Your clothes suck.
Just because it looks like a winter coat, doesn't mean it is.

Just because they're pants, doesn't mean they're warm. (Read: almost all female pants. I cannot comment on man pants.)

Those wee knit gloves that cost $1.00 are useful in temperatures of 5C or warmer only. (I have cold, delicate hands.)

Static electricity.
Surprise! You are a science experiment. Zap your friends! Be scared to touch things! Feel that spark with your lover - literally! Have a hair raising (!) experience!

But there are fun parts too!
Now for the better parts of winter. You see, I wrote the above one evening when I was cold and had "suffered" through the work day in shivers. Today is less cold, thus my heart is less cold. The weird, fun parts of winter include icy eyelashes, ascending piles of snow to cross a too-high fence, blankets being accepted as clothing, wooly socks with minimal friction that turn your hallway into sliding fun, storm days, red wine (I can't seem to get my head around red wine being a summer drink), and it being easier to spot dog poop thus reducing the possibly of unintentional pooh-on-shoe annoyance.

Two and a half months until spring! I'll wait until then to tell you spring secrets (sneak preview: it smells funny when it's muddy).

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