The Visa Collector

A blog about travelling with a Filipino passport, and life overseas

4th season encounters: A surreal walk to work

Posted by VisaC on January 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I travel a lot for work, and my company has a fair number of offices in cities that receive their share of snow. So it was really only a matter of time before I was sent to a snow-bound office.

One of the projects to which I am assigned is based in Kanata, Canada — a suburb of Ottawa. I travel there periodically, and half-expected that this would be the place where I’d eventually have to walk through a field of white. Although I am fascinated by snow, I do not look forward to driving in it. So thus far, I’ve been careful to plan my travels ahead, or before, any possibility of “black ice”. As of writing my efforts have been successful.

Then came a trip to Munich . . . a week before Christmas.

It was only my second visit to Germany. My first, back in 2004, had been in summer so this was going to be a completely different visit. I touched base with colleagues at our Munich office well in advance of the trip, and they all reported that the most I needed to worry about was cold rain, since it never really snowed that early. But as luck would have it, Munich went through an unusually cold winter in 2010. So I was greeted by the following.

The part of this trip that will be most memorable, is arguably the part that everyone else around me probably felt was the most mundane: the walk to work. Anyone who’s grown up with snow will, in all likelihood, have sloshed through snow more times than they care to remember. But for a tropical person who hadn’t put together a snowball till earlier in the year . . . this was still coool (figuratively). Check out an older blog post about winter: Encounters with the fourth season.

The hotel was a mere 10 minutes from the office, so getting a taxi was absurd. So everyday that week, I walked the path shown below.

I can only imagine how odd I must have looked to the folks driving by: a grown man stopping by plants along the path, taking off his gloves, and then scooping the soft literally powdery ice off the tops of leaves. When faced with fleeting opportunities, curiosity trumps awkwardness . . . as well as the feeling of “freezer burn”.

With fields of powder white visible from our office window all week, two words eventually formed in my head “snow” + “angel”. Hook or by crook I was going to make one before I turned 40. After taking pointers from incredulous friends about snow-patch selection and the “proper” technique for angel fabrication . . . voila!

My coldest evening ever happened while at the Munich Christmas markets, on the last night of my visit: -9C (15.8F). It was a mercury value to which my Canadian friends (who’ve been openly plotting to send me on a one-way trip to Manitoba in January to get me over my cold-weather curiosity), simply shook their heads. Mild weather for folks accustomed to -40C weather . . . but still a first for me.

The unexpected discovery of the evening was how cold could actually make you lose facial sensation. It felt like dental anesthesia, and actually added a level of difficulty to speaking. You don’t see that in the movies.

Here are a few other things that Hollywood doesn’t show that I found on this trip:

– Snow “cakes” everything. Shoes, mud guards, road surfaces, etc. The stuff forms a substantial layer on everything. You can’t easily scrape the stuff off the pavement to see the asphalt.

– Stores can get very wet and messy as patrons walk in from the cold with their snow-covered boots. Leaving tracks and even pools of water as they move about.

– You can still sweat in -9C if you exert yourself and you’re bound up like a burrito

The warmth of good camaraderie trumps cold

Many thanks to the locals that added the many highlights on this trip. You know who you are.

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