I was sitting in my favourite café enjoying a hot cappuccino the other morning and I was dressed for the hawk. In the ‘hood, ‘da hawk is slang for ‘the absolute winter cold’ - Not just that usual, low thermometer chill; I mean the kind of ice-wind-blowin’, eye-waterin’, bone-chillin’, shiverin’ cold. If we say ‘da hawk is out, we mean, we are seriously cold.
As I was saying…
I was dressed for the hawk wearing heavy tights, a cotton slip under my long woollen silk-lined skirt, a thermal underwear top under my long-sleeved blouse, a thick denim jacket, a light cotton scarf tightly wrapped around my throat, a head wrap about the crown of my head and covering my ears, and a fleece-lined throw over my shoulders. I wore black pumps as well. My hang-out café, of course, has no heat and is lined in glass walls, which gives a great view, but is devastatingly cold in the winter time. Each time the door opens for customers, you shoot them dirty looks until they get in and close the door behind them.
There I sat, early in the morning, all bundled up and across from me was a lady (a tourist) wearing drab shorts, with bare legs, open-toed sandals (and red toe nail polish) and a thin olive coloured hoodie. And she appeared to be comfortably reading the day’s newspaper and sipping her tea. She was even sitting by the door, acting like nothing was strange!
I could barely concentrate on reading my own paper wondering how in the world that woman wasn’t freezing.
There was just no way on the earth, in the dawn of a cold winter Windhoek morning that she wasn’t cold. Shorts? Really? I watched her every move to see if I could spot her shiver. No such luck.
That lady in her shorts and sandals must be from someplace where winter is serious business. She must have been visiting Namibia from Iceland or the North Pole, someplace like that. For people living in frigid climates, they laugh at our Windhoek winters.
But, what about me? I was born in raised in Washington, DC where the snow can pile up and the hawk is a permanent winter resident. And yet, I shiver down to my toes on Windhoek winter mornings and evenings. I remember my tourism industry days when I was camping or in a desert resort in the winter. I nearly died of cold. Maybe I’ve been living in Africa too long and my body lost its winter memory?
Winter cold is no joke. I see people wearing towels around their heads or over shoulders with their jackets and regular clothing underneath. It is THAT cold in the mornings and at night.
Due to the high electricity tariffs, I cannot afford to regularly run heaters in the house and for safety reasons I only use gas heaters only a few hours each night. Recently, a snafu with power turned off the geyser overnight and I literally cried as I suffered through a cold shower the next morning.
Norman-the-cat stops fighting George-the-kitten long enough so they can burrow themselves under my blankets at night as even their winter fur coats are not enough for real warmth. My Labradors, Artemis and Ajax entwine themselves on the camping mats and doggie blankets on the kitchen balcony outside to keep warm overnight.
There is no doubt that winter is truly here. The hawk is already out and we are already freezing our butts off (except the lady wearing shorts in the café).