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Published: January 24th 2008
Today it’s so cold it hurts. The temperature has plummeted to minus 25 degrees, making going outdoors - even walking from the car to the supermarket - feel like an Arctic expedition. The bitter air whips right through you, permeating every single bone and even taking your breath away. At its coldest, this weather means that if you threw a cup of water in the air, it would freeze by the time it hit the ground.
Yet at the same time, it’s like living in a winter wonderland - blue skies without a cloud in sight, snow-laden scenery and frozen lakes dotted with ice fishing huts and the odd car - yes, the lakes are so frozen solid that you can even drive on them.
The deep freeze means layers are essential - but trying telling this to the Toddler, who hates wearing clothes let alone being bundled up in gear you could ski in. He’s just about learnt that he’ll freeze if he doesn’t wear layers outside, but as soon as we get in the car, he sheds his coat, meaning a struggle ensues every time we get out. Attaching his mittens to his coat on a long
piece of elastic nearly resulted in strangulation, so now they dangle from his sleeves on elastic no longer than an inch and a half - but dangle is all they do. He won’t wear them, not yet understanding the frost bite warnings issued across the state.
In downtown Minneapolis, skyways link the buildings and car parks, like a rabbit warren in the sky, so shoppers can walk around without braving the elements, and workers can arrive at their desks with their fingers intact. Drive-thrus also make life a lot easier. Within a few miles of our home, I can go through a drive-thru Starbucks, bank and pharmacy. There’s even a drive-thru preschool, where you drive up, drop your child off and drive away.
In fact, I spend a lot of time in my car here, or should I say my SUV (sport utility vehicle - not that I do any sport, but at least it’s preparing me for my possible future role as a soccer mom). As snow is a way of life in Minnesota, the roads are really well maintained, with an army of snow plows appearing to clear away the latest blizzard - but there are
times when it feels like you’re driving on an ice rink. I try to remember my newly learnt winter driving skills and so far (touch wood) have only had one incident - I got stuck and had to be dug out by a nice man, not miles away or anything, but, embarrassingly, in our driveway.
Indoor activities abound here, which is just as well as it’s so frigid we’re being warned to stay indoors. Today we went to the Mall of America - a monster mall and America’s largest. There’s a whole theme park in the middle, a wedding chapel, post office and police station. Seven Yankee Stadiums would fit inside, and if you spent 10 minutes in every store, it would take you three and a half days to get round the mall. It’s not to everyone’s taste though. My mother didn’t much like the crazy commercialism and came away with just a pair of socks.
In just a couple of short months we’ll be leaving Minnesota behind and moving to Dubai, going from one extreme to the other - or as one friend put it, jumping out of the freezer and into the frying pan. By
the time we arrive in the Middle East, it won’t be too long before the seriously hot season kicks in, meaning going outdoors isn’t going to be an option for much of this year. The mind boggling task of sorting out all our clutter has begun; a friend came over yesterday to pick up some of Max’s stuff, except there was a slight problem with the ball pit outside - it had frozen to the ground and looks like it won’t budge till Spring.
I should point out that it’s not always this cold. There are plenty of winter days with higher temperatures - even as high as freezing, when it feels positively balmy. But when it does get this cold - and we’re forced to dress like a Russian - it’s a source of amazement to me that there’s a whole country north of us. Canadians, I take my woolly hat off to you.
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