As I ponder the heat today, and the glut of "Global Warming" alarmist rhetoric that pours from the lips of everyone trying to win an election lately, It sends me back to my mission in Canada for my church. I remember landing at the Halifax airport in February 1995. When I walked outside to go to the cars that were waiting to take us to where we were staying for the night, I was hit by a blast of air so cold it sucked the breath right out of me. I grew up with 4 seasons and was accustomed to winter weather, but this was a different kind of cold. It was a dark, almost evil cold. It was described to me by a Newfoundlander as a "Lazy" cold, instead going around you it just went right through you.
The next day I wondered what I had gotten myself into as prepared for my flight to my first area... further North... in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. The next morning held a lot of surprises for me. I returned to the airport and boarded a plane I wasn't completely confident would make it to Newfoundland. The plane was a twin prop passenger plane I am convinced was held together internally with duct tape and bailing wire and I'm sure if I knew anymore about planes and what signs of metal fatigue looked like I would have run screaming the other direction. It held about 25 people and the everyone else managed to get to all of the seats closest to the emergency exits. I ended up jammed in the back corner by the bathroom, but I was grateful that at least I didn't have to fight chickens and goats for a seat. Soon after boarding the engines screamed (and then coughed a little) into life and we were off over the frozen North Atlantic.
Up until this time I was completely unaware that the ocean could freeze. All those science classes had me convinced salt water didn't freeze, but in reality it just doesn't freeze until it gets really, really, really, cold. I looked out of the window to the sea of ice below, and would occasionally catch glimpses of open black water which was surrounded by seals. I Began praying in earnest when the wind kicked up and the plane began behaving like a yo-yo. I didn't want to try to survive off of seal meat in the unlikely event I survived the crash.
When we landed in Newfoundland I had never been so happy to have my feet on the ground and I didn't even care that it was going to be cold... until I got outside. The drive to my apartment was even more terrifying than the flight. The roads were covered in over a foot of snow and that is only because they plowed earlier in the day. We slid back and forth all the way until we got to the neighborhood streets and then we were stuck between two sheer walls of snow so steep and narrow that we would have to pull into driveways if we met an oncoming car. The following picture isn't mine but it is exactly what it looked like.
This was only the beginning of the difficulties that the cold and snow brought in Corner Brook. Soon, after settling in, I began to experience a virtual cornucopia of snow and cold related experiences I still have nightmares about. I will list some of them below.
1. We lived at the top of a very steep hill, and everyday when we drove (and by drove I mean slid) down this hill we would have to do an "emergency brake" turn at the end of the hill because the street turned into a one way coming up the hill at that point. If we didn't turn that way the weight of the car and the preponderance of ice would pull us down the wrong way for at least a block.
2. I arrived in Corner Brook in February and winter was in full swing. In fact the winters were so long there that the people would say that they only had two seasons, winter and 2 months of bad ski-doing (snowmobiling). I had never seen the place without snow. A family we would visit had a car parked in their driveway and it came as quite a surprise to see a full size station wagon emerge from their driveway in the spring.
3. The picture at the very top looks exactly like what happened to us one morning we went to open the door and were surprised to see several feet of snow in the way. We finally got outside and discovered our car buried in snow, once we got it off we then had to somehow crack off and remove the 1/4 inch of ice that coated the car. (That was a long day).
4. In Newfoundland the locals often have doors that enter on the second story, and many times there are no stairs leading to them. These doors, known colloquially as Mother-in-law doors, are used when the snow is too high to get in the first floor (unfortunately we lived in a basement apartment). The usage of these doors leads to another funny story, since I had never seen the place without snow, I was unaware I was walking across several feet of snow sometimes to enter these houses. One day I decided to head out across a snow covered lawn, and the snow crust broke beneath me and I dropped into a "me" shaped pit up to my armpits with my coat splayed out around me on the snow. My missionary companion was laughing so hard he couldn't help, it took me about 20 minutes to dig myself out and crawl back onto the snow top to get out.
5. Before Newfoundland, I never knew cold could do the same thing to your skin that a bad sunburn could. We were out one evening in -40 degree weather (it is the same in F and C at that temp.) and I was bundled up from head to toe. The only bit of skin I had showing was about and inch of my cheeks (no not those cheeks) between my scarf and the bottom of the glasses I wore at the time. When I got home my cheeks were itching like crazy and when they started to blister and peel I thought I was a leper or something. It turns out it was frost nip, and just short of frostbite it took several weeks for my face to feel normal again.
Despite the incredibly long winter that brought about both these dangerous and humorous hardships, I grew to love Newfoundland. Maybe being stuck with each other during the frigid winter months helped the people there to develop the friendly attitude and giving nature they all seemed to have. I definitely don't miss the cold, but I would love to visit there again. Next time, I''ll make sure to go during the bad ski-doing weather.