Saturday, June 28, 2008

Psychedelic onion gringa

When I was about 10, I went through a phase in which I would lock myself in my room and act out scenes from the musical Les Miserables. Never mind that all the prostitution, political rebellion and religious subtext went way over my beret-topped head.

I wasn't the only musical theater buff in my family. My talent was never worthy of a venue outside my bedroom, but my sister is a damn good singer and actress, so good that she's currently considering a career on the stage. My mom has always been eager to belt along to Broadway hits, too.

So, as you might imagine, we got a little giddy whenever major touring musicals came through Minneapolis. We enjoyed them all but were a little weirded out by Cats; I suspect it may have had to do with the furry unitards.

Perhaps I would have been more sympathetic to the pirouetting felines had I known that I would one day be wearing something disturbingly similar.

That's right. I'm currently wearing a polyester dancer's top tucked into polyester leggings. Neither garment is furry, but still.

Fortunately, nobody would know this from looking at me. On top of my synthetic body suit, I'm wearing jeans, two long-sleeved shirts, a sweater, a sweatshirt and a fleece jacket. Nope, I'm not going ice fishing. I'm sitting in my room.

I've been cold for about two months straight now. Contrary to popular North American belief, not every Spanish-speaking country is sweltering year-round. In reality, winter temperatures in Santiago can dip below freezing. It even snowed here last year.

"But wait, aren't you from Minnesota?" someone demands every time I utter a "brrrr." I am indeed. And it gets A LOT colder in my beloved Land of Lakes than it does here in Santiago. The thing about Minnesota cold, though, is that it's usually temporary. Unless you're engaging in some kind of extended outdoor activity, you can generally expect yourself to be freezing only as long as it takes you to get to the nearest car or building. Because they're heated.

Here in Santiago, on the other hand, most buildings--at least most of those I've been to--lack central heating. When I went to the bank a few weeks ago, for example, all the tellers were wearing winter parkas over their uniforms to keep warm.

My office and my apartment are similarly heatless. My roommates and I don't even have a portable gas heater like the ones many Chileans use to heat indoor spaces during the winter. This last situation, obviously, is no one's fault but our own.

The result: Santiago's winter chill is virtually inescapable until you climb into bed at night. Since I was brilliant and forgot all my warmest sweaters in my closet in Minneapolis, this means that every morning, I pile on layer after layer of whatever I can find. Needless to say, this has led to some very questionable color combinations. Today, for example, I'm sporting maroon, sky blue, purple, and floral print. HOT.

Fashion faux paus are not the only peril presented by Santiago winters. The fact that most houses aren't heated means that it's frequently colder inside than outside, which, in turn, means that one runs the risk of overdressing.

To illustrate, I biked to Parque Quinta Normal this afternoon to watch a friend play tennis. Before I left, I piled on six layers and a scarf for good measure. Once I'd set off, though, it quickly became apparent that it was a much nicer day than the frigid temperatures inside my apartment had led me to believe. By the time I arrived at the park--not a particularly long ride--I was sweating.

In other words, I'm pretty sure the Chilean winter has it out for me. Only three more months to go...


Maeskizzle said...


For this winter, I bought a calientaalmohada at Almacenes Paris. It's like a calientacamas, except way smaller. Basically its a small heating pad. Te lo encargo. It's great because it's really efficient. When it's real cold, I plug it in and throw it against my back or under my legs and sit with it for an hour or two. But luckily, our apartment is small and faces North, so it only gets cold at night. We can sunshine all day long.

Juan K Peña said...

Poor you!

Hahaha! Don't you think that you have lost your ability to adapt to cold temperatures after being in Quito for a long time? ´
Maybe, you should consider getting a boyfriend. I think that it is a good way to keep yourself warm ;)

Jean Valjean said...

Jean Valjean and the chain gang say:

Warm up, warm up.
Don't freeze in the cold weather.
Warm up, warm up.
Go buy a heavy sweater...

Leigh said...

@ maeskizzle: Good suggestion...I'll look into it. I'm also thinking of getting a guatero, both because I've heard they're effective and because I like saying "guatero."

@ juan k: Unfortunately, they don't sell those at the markets here!

@ jean valjean: Back to work, 24601.

Tamsin said...

3 months?? I thought it gets better in August???

Leigh said...

tamsin, i hope you're right!