Canadian Expat Mom

Getting Fresh in France

They say never forget where you came from- don’t change who you are.

I know that I grew up on the icy, cold, Canadian Shield; but I can’t help it…I’ve changed.

I’m currently living in West Africa, four degrees from the equator, and before that, I lived on the island of Borneo, in Indonesia, one degree from the equator. I’m told the human body adapts to weather, and one’s blood thins, but I sure don’t handle the heat like a local. In Congo I see people wearing zipped up jackets and hats(or toques if you’re Canadian) when the temperature dips to a ‘crisp’ 25°C because that’s considered a bit cool here. I’m not there yet. I still sweat profusely most days and anything above 38°C has me hiding inside, hugging the air conditioning unit.

But something must have shifted along the way. The freezing -20 temperatures that I grew up in seem but a cold and distant memory. I tell stories of Canadian winter air that actually hurts your face, about how my hair used to freeze into icicles in high school as I’d walk to school with wet hair from the shower, and I recall being at a Christmas party where we ran out of ice for the rum and eggnog, so we put the ice cube trays on the deck and almost instantly had a full supply.

My kids have never experienced that kind of cold, and our trip back to France(as far south in France as you can go, I might add) proved just how unaccustomed they were to my old friend Jack Frost.It started when we changed planes in Paris and we had to take the airport bus to Terminal 2G. When the sliding doors of the airport opened, my kids actually started screaming when the wall of cold air hit them in the face.

“It’s freezing!!” they cried in voices that suggested something really bad might happen to them if they went outside. And then I realized that they hadn’t felt cold like that in years, if ever. To put it into perspective, ‘years’ in the lifespan of my three-year-old was beyond her memory. She really didn’t know what was happening to her normally sweaty little body.  She didn’t know what being cold felt like. Too much Disney had clearly left her in fear of turning into a frozen statue like Anna in Frozen.Next came the drive home from the airport. Trying to fit into car seats in big puffy jackets was also a first for these kids. The whining as they tried to move their arms through the seat belts, constricted in winter jackets, made the experience painful for everyone.

Had their been snow, this may have balanced out the pain of the “freezing” cold temperature(8 degrees) but the lack of white fluff falling from the sky made the weather less magical than they’d hoped.

The next hurdle: going pee. That’s right. New to the experience of being cold, when our youngest, the threenager, let her little bum hit the seat, she hit the roof.

“I can’t!” she told me, making it clear this was not going to be up for negotiation. “C’est froid.”

So, like any mother about to loose her mind from the complaining around her, I did what I had to do to make everyone happy…I warmed up the toilet seat myself.

This was not in the job description! (But she was right; it was cold.)

After trying to put on a brave face, I finally gave up and simply joined them, because I didn’t disagree. I too had become acclimatized to living beside the equator.
“It’s freezing in here!” I said to my husband over the phone as I cranked the heat up to 28°C, suddenly realizing the sound of my voice and my words echoed my daughters’.

He reminded me I was from Northern Ontario and suggested I put a sweater on. But I was already wearing one; and I had the hood up! My body, and apparently my kid’s bodies, didn’t know what was going on!

I toughed it out for another day and when I couldn’t take it anymore, I started a fire(in the fireplace, just to be clear…because no matter how much I watched the fireplace channel, it wasn’t helping) and it’s safe to say that that fire kept going for nearly the entire month we were in France.

We eventually warmed up and enjoyed the holidays, but after struggling with winter jackets in car seats, and cold bums on the toilet seat for a good portion of the holidays I was sure the girls would be happy to get back to the warm weather waiting in Congo. And frankly, I was too!

“Are you glad to be back where it’s nice and warm and you don’t have to wear a jacket?” I asked my oldest daughter as we walked to school on her first day back.

“Ya…but I’m sweating.”

One thought on “Getting Fresh in France

  1. Claude

    Fall in love with discomfort, fall in love with the grind; then it will be bliss 24/7! Not the man-made irritations, but with the harsh beauty of Nature. What can it throw at me that I can endure? Perception is reality!

    I had those frozen moments in France growing up, I loved it! That fire in the ‘atre’ sure looks good:) [Sorry, I can’t find my ‘accent circonflexe].

    I also love running in Death Valley, California.

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