They said it was winter here. They said it would be cold. I consulted the Almanac and decided that a South American winter would be right up my alley—70 degrees, partly cloudy with the occasional afternoon shower followed by breezy, clear nights. I packed accordingly...might have been a mistake. I’m COLD! Every day I wear at least two [usually three] shirts, my shorts are still pristinely folded on the shelf while the one jacket I brought has been zipped up around me 24/7, and my favorite spot on campus is a stool 2 feet from the little fire pit. To be fair, Saturday and Sunday…and Tuesday, were absolutely beautiful. But on the whole, it has been surprisingly like winter at home, sans the snow perhaps, but I feel just as cold.
A short conversation the other day around said fire brazier illustrates a bit of a pretty profound realization I had the other day. Here’s a lose translation:
Javier: It’s cold, yes? SJ: Yes, it’s pretty cold. Javier: It’s cold where you come from too, though, right? SJ: Definitely. We have snow for almost 6 months of the year. Javier: Ugh! I would hate that. …long pause… You must have REALLY warm clothes.
It took me a few minutes to process that enough to realize that no, we actually don’t wear really warm clothes in the winter, we just sleep in heated houses, drive heated cars, eat in heated restaurants, work in heated offices, and study in heated schools. Sometimes the gap between first and third worlds is more deep than wide. The implications of living a temperature-controlled life had never occurred to my friend. I’m not even sure he knows what heating or air-conditioning is. Similarly, it never occurred to me that my experience with and understanding of something as fundamental as “cold” could be so different from that of another human being. On the surface, it was a rather elementary conversation about, of all things, the weather.