Let it ... snow?

27 July 2006
4:55 PM

Yesterday was freezing cold. It rained, and rained, and rained. Since Chile shuts down when it rains, we stayed in the house and tried to fight the cold. We baked banana bread, cooked up a pot of minestrone, and made some mulled wine. I’m not sure that I can adequately convey the coldness with the temperature alone. If I said, for example, that it was 40°F, you would probably say, “40°—that’s nothing! Why in (your preferred cold place) we routinely hit 20 below zero!” In response, I pose this question: is it the same temperature inside your house as outside? If your answer is no, as I assume it is, that is the reason that you are not convinced. Many times here in Chile, the temperature outside is the temperature inside. Houses do not provide much refuge from the cold.

In the early evening, I went to Los Andes to use the internet. There’s nothing to take your mind off the cold like an internet cafe, especially an internet cafe that has a space heater. When I left my computer in the internet cafe I looked out the window to see giant white flakes falling. Outside in the plaza, people walked around with Pez dispenser heads, looking upward in awe and taking pictures. The flakes melted in the streets, but piled up on cars and park benches. As I chatted with a Chilean, I asked when was the last time it has snowed like this in the valley. I had been told that it didn’t happen. Oh, around 1985. Really? Yeah, he told me. Pretty sure it was ‘85. Since that was the year my sister was born, that struck me as a relatively long time ago.

My friend Nick Kolman-Mandle, who is working with WorldTeach in Concepción, and I made our way back to the house. There we rested for awhile while we waited for the power to go out. It wasn’t expected, though also not unexpected. When it happened, I decided to brush my teeth and go to bed. Call me old, but at 9:30pm, I was cold, tired, and bored. There’s only so much you can do in a candle-lit house. I assured Nick that the surrounding mountains look breath-taking after a winter storm. Seeing them would be worth enduring this cold night. I crossed my fingers and hoped that was right.

Before I went to bed I made some pretty incredible discoveries. For example, I had been alternating between two pairs of long underwear. It turns out that I can actually wear both pairs at the same time for double the warmth. My sleeping bag, glorious down that it is, is a refuge, and when paired with a stocking cap it eliminates any pretense of cold. Fear not, dear reader: I passed the night cozy and warm, though my house was decidedly not.

The only real problem came the next morning. Though there are some differences between Chile and the U.S., this problem is common enough both here and there: sometimes it’s too cold to get out of bed. Eventually we braved the day to lend a hand at the soup kitchen and visit the nursing home. We were, as I had hoped, rewarded with the spectacularly snow-capped mountains surrounding my house. I had never seen the snowline descend so far in the past rains.

Mountains post-storm

The story ends well, I think. To make up for the cold in the last few days, the weather today is sunny and warm. And just in case it gets temperamental, I’m wearing three shirts, a sweater, a scarf, and jacket. You can never be too sure with this Chilean weather.