It is winter in Australia, a comfortable 20 degrees celcius outside and yet I can’t stop feeling nostalgic about my life in Winterland.
For almost my entire life, I lived in the tropics. I lived in a weather that never dropped below 15 degrees celcius, and even this low would be extreme conditions. My body was made for warm weather. My brain was made for it too. My skin feels warm, especially my feet and hands. I was always warm and cozy in my bed. Until one day, I moved to Winterland…
I was 23 years old and winter was coming. It was not tropical winter when it rains and you feel this terribly cold in 15 degrees celcius. We are talking here about minus 15 degrees. My first experience in this temperature: coldsores. Second experience after I recoverd from coldsores: a virus that knocked me out for 2 weeks. In Winterland I came to realize how weak my body is. On top of that, no sun. Not for a week. Not for two weeks. For months. If I saw a little circle of blue sky in the gray clouds, I would sing Hallelujah.
My mind also became cloudy. And the worst of all, I couldn’t feel my feet. I am normally tanned, but in Winterland, I became purple. My lips, my nose, my hands and feet became literally purple with a pinch of green. I looked like a big eggplant or Barney the dinosour. Solution: hot water heaters inside of my gloves and socks. Once my Winterfriends – to show me the temperature outside – poured boiling water into a pot, went outside, through it into the air and snow came out of it. Maaagic. So let’s imagine that Wintermen took this hot girl outside, threw her to the air and a snowball came out of her. That snowball was me.
There was nothing funnier than going to work in Winterland. You are ready at 7am and it is still dark. You put on your big fat boots, but before that of course: one layer of warm underpants, second layer of underpants and then proper pants, a breathable shirt, fancy sweater for work, fat sweater on top, and a winterjacket, scarf, hat, thick socks, gloves and don’t forget about warm underwear! And with all that armor – commonly known as the onion method – you take your weapons: a plastic ice scraper on one hand and on the other, a shovel. You walk in a half a meter of snow to your car. You are late to work already and then there is 5 meters of snow to shovel before you can move your car and go. Done. Now the windscreen. 10 minutes of scraping the ice from the most important parts of the windscreen to see properly. I made it. All together: 30 minutes of work. That was my normal start to the day. One morning I drove out and went to the nearest gas station to fill my tank. There was a man in the gas station telling me to scrape the ice from my windscreen better. I didn’t want to go out to the minus 15 degrees, so I said no. He kept insisting. I kept insisting. What a weird situation, what a weird guy, I thought. I was late to work. He eventually took his own ice scraper and started to clean my windscreen. When the screen was getting clearer and clearer, I noticed the guy was in a police uniform. Oops, so embarrasing. Thanks Mr. policeman. I was such an exotic girl in Winterland, that even policemen cleaned things for me… for free and without a ticket (yes, you need your windscreen fully visible according to law). Before going to Winterland, I never thought that my kind was exotic until I noticed how people stared at me when I was walking in Winterland’s streets, especially when they asked if I went to solarium to get my tan and painted my hair black. I was once told that my hair feels like horse hair. To this day, I don’t know if it was a compliment…
The most precious time of the day was when I was coming back home and took a hot tea and wrapped myself in a blanket. But this didn’t mean, of course, that I didn’t Do Things.
I discoverd skiing and ski touring. I loved it, especially ski touring, because my Winterfriends and I would go into the wild. No skiing lifts, just mountains, forest, snow and ourselves. We would take all our equipment in our backpacks. Nice goodies, hot tea in a thermos and whisky with honey to keep us warm. Skiing in snow powder created crazy levels of adrenalin. Once there was too much of this adrenalin, I couldn’t breath on top of the mountain. Just like that. My Winterfriends were frightened and went to call a rescue team. A snow scooter took me on a signal. When I opened my eyes, I saw that I am in a mountain clinic with 5 hot and tall rescuers. One was holding my hands, the other one was touching my chest, the other one my feet. Am I in heaaaven? I was not. I hear on the background: “Prepare the defibrillator”. After an adrenalin shot, I immediately fully woke up. My Winterfriend tells me: “Laura, no worries, the helicopter is coming to pick you up”. How cool was that. The hot Winterguys carried me wrapped in a thermal foil on a stretcher to the helicopter, in the mean time random Winterfans took pictures of the situation, and on the helicopter I hear the doctor asking: “Excuse me, can I take a selfie with you.” My one day of fame! He could only see my eyes, my purple nose, my purple lips and brown face contrasting with the white landscape. That was enough for a selfie. Brilliant.
That adventure didn’t stop me though from skiing or doing other winter activities. Skiing, ice skating, building iglos in spring, snow fights, saunas and jacuzzi parties, bonfires, driving snow tractors, getting stuck with the car in the snow without a shovel in hand. All good freezing memories.
I remember having the skiis in my hands 3000 meters above the sea level. I could see the other mountain peaks covered in snow. I felt that I was on the peak of the world. Who would say that a tropical girl would end up there?
But I must say, one of the best things about winter in Winterland was food and drinks. Winterland has this hot wine mixed with herbs that is so addictive. Oh, or warm honey vodka or a pure vodka shot with a pickled herring afterward. The fish kills the strong taste of vodka. I know it sounds gross but trust me, fish is the thing. Drinking hot drinks with friends in cafes, for hours and hours and hours, was just priceless. When it comes to food: barbequed smoked mountain cheese with cranberry marmelade on top, soups with fermented flour, fermented cucumbers, fermented cabbage (everything was fermented), pig fat, sausages… These were foods that I would never ever have eaten, but in Winterland, these foods are eaten for a reason. So anything that kept me warm was more than welcomed.
Now I am sitting again in the winter, but this time in Australia, and it’s 20 degrees outside. And the one thing I am dreaming about: putting my skiis back on and going for another helicopter ride.
Dedicated to Iga, Andzej, Maja, Grzes, Marta, Magda, Maciej, Ola, Thomasz, Marzena, Paulina, Falco, Adam, Ksenia, Karolina, Lukasz Fajferek, Lukasz Lula, and to my favourite Winterman Kuba. Thanks for helping me survive it!