Snow. Cold. Winter. All are words many Canadians dislike hearing and a season they dread even more.
I’m not fond of winter. I don’t like chattering teeth, stiff fingers and messy roads. I don’t enjoy piling on layers of clothing, hat hair, and a runny nose. More than anything, I really can’t stand wading through deep snow, tripping, and ending up with chunks of it on my face and inside my coat.
I’m a summer person. I was born in July, and many of my favourite memories took place in the time between school years. I used to think I wanted to live somewhere it was summer all year round.
I left for Argentina in March 2011. March, as any Albertan knows, is the worst month of the year. It’s a month that should be warmer but isn’t, and a month when flowers should be emerging, but are instead covered by a thick blanket of stubborn snow.
It was during a March like this that I hopped on a plane for the long flight to Buenos Aires. I was looking forward to exchanging it for a subtropical climate.
Argentina is on the other side of the equator, and their seasons are the opposite of ours. I arrived near the end of their summer. Temperatures hung around the high 20’s, magnified several times by the surrounding buildings and number of people on the streets.
Mar del Plata, the seaside city where I lived, was much cooler. The city’s wide beaches were packed every day with people tempted by the breeze off the water.
As summer left, so did the crowds. The waves crashed onto empty beaches, and many businesses closed up. The weather, in my opinion, was still warm. I didn’t wear a jacket very often.
Many locals didn’t seem to think the weather was still warm. Throughout fall and into winter (with a daily high around 10˚C), they wore jackets, gloves, and hats. I saw runners with a scarf pulled across their nose and mouth. They stared at my light jacket.
I celebrated my birthday in winter for the first time. If I were home, it would have seemed a particularly cold and rainy July day, uncommon but not unheard of.
As I realized my birthday was not a cold summer day, but actually in the middle of winter, I thought that Mar del Plata residents don’t get to experience winter the way I do in Canada.
They don’t get to sit by a fire, wood or gas, as fat, fluffy snowflakes fall outside. They don’t get to go tobogganing as children down a snowy slope. They don’t get to go skating on a frozen lake.
The cherished Canadian ideal of a “white Christmas” doesn’t exist there. They go to the beach on Christmas Day.
While I think winter is a tad overeager in Canada, with snow falling in October every year without fail, it’s difficult for me to imagine a year without it. While I grumble about the cold, the coats, and the snow, it’s as much a part of my yearly routine as a too-short summer.
I will not welcome the snow until November. I will hold onto my fall jacket as long as the leaves cling onto the trees. However, winter and cooler temperatures are an important part of the year, and not just because they help us appreciate the warmth of summer.