A Tale of Two Winters

November 20, 2013 1:04 pm

Ever since I moved to Cape Town in April, viagra dosage I’ve been a one-person South African Tourism PR campaign, there bombarding people with nonstop Instaspam of all the highlights of this picture-perfect country. Whenever anyone back home asks me what it’s like living here, look I devolve into a sputtering mess of clichés: “It’s amazing,” has been my go-to refrain. “I love it.” For a writer, you think I’d be more evocative.

cpt highlights

What’s not to love?

Then some people dig a bit deeper. “Come on, Sarah, you can’t like everything,” they implore. “Is there anything you aren’t happy about?”

So I’ve decided it’s time to go on the record and come clean. No, everything about my life in Cape Town has not been perfect. There’s one thing that’s been getting me down, though it seems to have subsided for now.

The truth is, having two winters this year really sucked.

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A lovely mid-June hailstorm in the Bo-Kaap neighborhood.

My advice for anyone plotting a transhemispheric migration would simply be: plan wisely. You’re likely to repeat a season once you move, and if you’re at all smart (i.e., if you’re not me), you’ll move at the end of summer, so you get a bonus warm season while all your compatriots suffer through winter.

I did not follow this guideline; I overlooked the fact that I’d be moving straight to the end of South African fall. And when I got here, it wasn’t so bad — my first month was all mild, sunny days. “Winter? What winter!” I scoffed, feeling like I’d hit the weather jackpot and moved to San Diego-like climes. I’ve got Canada, Boston, New York City, and — the pièce de résistance — one snowy year in Syracuse under my belt. A few days of clouds, drizzle, and sub-70-degree temps would be a breeze, I figured.

Soon enough, that breeze turned into hurricane-like gale winds, with near-freezing temps and torrential downpours thrown in for fun. I’m not just talking about one or two days of rainshowers, mind you. Cape Town winters are known for endless sheets of horizontal rains, the kinds that will pummel you into a soggy mound of hair and clothes, then blow away your umbrella and knock you face-first into a puddle. They will douse you so thoroughly you’ll soon wish you saved yourself 20 minutes in the shower and just brought your loofah and bath gel outside with you.

And you know how when you’re stuck in a sudden downpour or a bitterly cold day, and you can take solace in the knowledge that you’ll be home soon enough to defrost instantly? Not so much. The second shocker for me came in the rude awakening that my new countrymen are not so big on central heating. So while the cold temperatures are consistently far far chillier in New York than they are here, I’d wager that Capetonian winters are worse because for a four-month spread from June through October, you feel like you may NEVER BE WARM AGAIN.


How I spent most of my winter. Yes, I gained a few pounds.

I came to befriend all sorts of archaic objects that I didn’t realize still existed, and till now had only read about in historical fiction or seen in old movies: gas heaters, electric blankets, hot-water bottles, wood-burning stoves. Anyone who FaceTimed with me during this period noted that I was always wearing my black puffy winter jacket — the one that’s meant for outdoor use — in my study. Leaving the shower was a mission, but one that was usually expedited when I used up all the hot water. I may have complained about winters in the U.S. aplenty, but at least I was always able to dress warmly to go out, then strip down to next-to-nothing if I so pleased when I got home. Here, I spent those months bundled up beyond recognition, and still couldn’t stop shivering.


At least I have cute disco-slippers.

Sure, I’m luckier than some — I escaped to balmy Durban twice, had a sweltering-hot Moroccan interlude at the height of the wet season in August, and spent the last bit of winter in a summery New York followed by two weeks in Hawaii and San Diego — so I did get some respite from the cold. But I’m here to admit that no, everything about Cape Town has not been all fabulous food and fun times (though there were plenty of rainbows after the showers), and to confess that many of the beautiful shots I posted on my Instagram feed during that period were dispatched with chattering teeth and trembling fingers. So you’ll excuse the typos.

But now, for the next six months, I can pretend it never happened, and enjoy Cape Town in its most glorious season (barring our freak monsoon this past weekend — here’s hoping that was just a phase?). Summer is here, folks, so to everyone back home: don’t be too upset if you’re stuck at home in a blizzard and log on to see my gorgeous pics of the beach — how do you think I felt when I huddled into my electric blanket and looked at your shots from the Hamptons? I survived two back-to-back winters, and now it’s my turn to bask in the sun. Lord knows I’ve earned it.


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