A few days ago, we had some considerable snowfall in Montreal. It came down pretty hard and didn't let up for nearly three days. I probably ended up shoveling 4 or 5 normal snowfalls worth of snow, some light, some heavy.
As the first real snowstorm of the season, it was enough to shut down most schools and non-essential services. While this didn't affect me directly very much since I can work from home, the indirect effect turned out to be that I ran into lots of my neighbors who I hadn't seen in ages, shoveling the fronts of our homes together.
My Dad came out to shovel too (against my stern recommendations that he doesn't force his back). We must've been out there for about an hour or so, shoveling our own walk, driveway, and the side of the street where my car was literally completely buried underneath a snowbank... not to mention helping out neighbors with their own shoveling.
Most of my local friends take advantage of winter to complain about the cold, the wet shoes, the difficult driving, and finally, often head down south. To them I usually say dress warm, get some boots, take the subway, and head up to Mont Tremblant for a winter wonderland weekend. Winter is one of my favorite seasons (it's definitely in my top 4).
Of course, I'm writing this from Medellin, Colombia, and there is no snow here for hundreds of miles, I'd guess. The weather is remarkably consistent all year round, hot enough but not uncomfortably hot. This is what I imagine most would consider perfect or near-perfect weather.
I was guilty as anyone else of having preconceived (and ill-conceived) notions about how Colombia and Medellin really were. I half-expected to find the Medellin we used to read and watch about in the 80s and 90s, replete with murders, kidnappings, paramilitaries and rebels chasing each other down side roads. Instead, I found a city full of life, art and music. Botero's statues and paintings jump out at you from wherever. The overcrowded subway doesn't confront you with angry sighs when you're sandwiched against an elderly lady and a group of students, but instead with a sympathetic smile and sometimes even laughter. A short older lady was holding on to her granddaughter because she couldn't reach the handrail up at the top of the subway car, which I could barely reach. She jokingly said that she wished she was as tall as me (Any country where I'm considered tall is automatically placed onto my A-list).
Even though initial impressions weren't overwhelmingly positive (Jose Maria Cordova airport is one big clusterfuck), as soon as I made my way to the hotel, rudely woke David up, and collapsed on the bed (I had a hellish 7 hour layover in Miami), things started looking up.
Two essentials, food and beer, are ridiculously cheap. Well, mostly - eating out won't often run you more than $3 to $5 for a good meal and a drink. Beer varies from $0.40 to maybe $0.75. On the other hand, grocery shopping isn't very cheap. It's generally more expensive to do your own groceries than it is to just eat out. Using the clean, efficient subway is also less than a dollar. Taxis are generally cheap. except from the airport to the city which is about a 45 minute ride.
After a much needed rest at the hotel - I had a 36 hour sleepless streak, and was experiencing a very rare bout of homesickeness, for reasons I won't go into here - we met up with some of David's friends at the bus terminal and headed up to Sante Fe de Antioquia, a charming little colonial town where they were holding a local film festival. Some of the short films and documentaries were surprisingly well-made, and we had a nice weekend lazing around in the heat and eating all kinds of great food... the only downside to the food was an odd and unfortunate propensity to covering everything - including burritos - in piña sauce. That's pineapple sauce. On beef burritos. Pineapple jam. Well that was one problem, and the other was the total lack of banana ice cream. I only eat one flavor of ice cream and it's banana. It's the only flavor that matters.
I returned to Medellin unfulfilled.
Anyways, a couple more nights at Hotel Nutibara were in order so we could complete our apartment hunt, which was long and arduous but very fruitful in the end, as we literally stumbled upon a beautiful 5th floor flat in one of the nicest parts of town. I was always in a good mood since I got here, but finally settling into a place to call our own definitely make me relax enough to be able to start getting back to work.
Future posts will include more info on how to use a crosswalk in Medellin (spoiler: pedestrians don't have right of way, especially at stop signs), the abundance of lingerie shops, and - probably in a related thread - the proportion of the female population under 16 years old with breast enchancements. No, I'm not kidding.