And the infamous winter has finally come!
Naturally we had reasons to be scared of it - at last, coming from a tropical country, temperatures below freezing are quite scary, let alone the fact that they stand way below zero! This past week has been especially harsh on us, with the wind chill reaching -35ºC, which means frost bite can claim a toe or a finger in about 10 minutes of skin exposure to the cold. Impressive, eh?
It all started before Christmas, with the arrival of an ice storm, which is nothing but rain falling onto really cold surfaces and freezing upon contact. A thick layer of ice rapidly formed on electric wires, tree branches and pretty much anything out there. Not able to resist the weight, branches and even trees broke down, rupturing wires and bringing down the electric power supply to more than 300,000 families all over GTA.
We were lucky, in perspective, we spent about 40 hours without any power or water. This means, in Canada, that there is no heating, there is no cooking and, naturally, there is no bathing. Fortunately it was pretty cold outside and we manage to salvage some of our groceries by putting them outside in the balcony in a bucket full of ice/snow that I got from the street. Pretty wild, huh?
So I guess it was the welcoming start we got from winter. And, this week, the cold season has again shown us its claws. We saw the coldest yet for this time of the year in many many years' time. Lots of snow, lots of bitter wind, lots of facebook posts sharing all of this with whomever is not experiencing all of this firsthand.
How are we coping? Well, even though it is freezing cold outside, houses, buses, subways, schools, public buildings, you name it, these places are all warm. Providing patrons with heating is guaranteed by the law and, here, the law is pretty much followed. That said, it is only cold when you are outside and, frankly, you won't be getting that much outside.
However, if you do choose to be out on the streets, well, there are clothes. Clothes here are made so that they insulate the warmth of you body and prevent the wind from penetrating. Boots are waterproof - now I understand why they need to be so - and also insulated. There is no walking around without a beanie and a good pair of gloves. Clothes from Brazil could never get anyone very far under these weather conditions, so if you are coming around this season, well, bring, of course, sweaters and jumpers and leggings and wool pants, but know that you will have to do some shopping around here.
A good place to shop for cheap, temporary and effective winter gear is VALUE VILLAGE, which is a second hand store. I know some people dread the thought of wearing anything someone else might have had on their bodies, but we are talking about palliative measures, we are talking about outer coats, we are talking about saving a few hundreds of dollars right upon arrival.
Sil and I arrived here in march, and it was still pretty cold - not like it is now, obviously, but still, -13ºC was pretty ruthless for newbies like ourselves. And it snowed. And we were so unprepared! So we had to buy better coats, leggings, we had to make it until temperatures would finally rise.
Like I said, we were newbies, we had no idea of what was good, bad, effective or simply a waste. The best thing we did was to buy second hand items. They were cheap enough so we could buy a couple each, and we were able to "test-drive" what kind of coats we liked best. Now, before winter really started, we bought our coats, new ones, we made an investment in them. But at least we knew what to look for, what was better and what was worse.
Perhaps next winter we will be looking into purchasing new coats, and they will probably be even better than the ones we have right now, but, then, my friends, they will be very educated choices, not crazy spending of dollars we had better keep during our first few months in a new country. New immigrants cannot afford to waste money, new immigrants cannot afford to shop around, aimlessly. New immigrants need to brace themselves and prepare for months of drought, because, even though they may or may not happen, we have to be ready for it all.
So, winter, well, it is bitter, it is freezing and it is long, but it is not the beast we were afraid of. Still, we'd better not underestimate its prowess and bundle up! =)
Happy winter, folks!