All posts authored by Santino Zhakata
Discussing the weather is one of the easiest ways of starting small talk in Sweden. I learnt. So I will start mine by highlighting how much I love the fall, or autumn. It is a time of colourful shades of red, orange and yellow leaves.
From the golden leaf carpeted ground to the golden bright leafy trees complementing the sun, autumn colours are quite magnificent. Today on my way way to dropping my kids at day care, while enjoying the bright coloured fallen leaves, I noticed it...right there infant of me, oh no! A sign...that the winter is coming and the autumn fading away. The sign I mean is the sight of the first flakes of snow that had fallen on fallen leaves.
It makes me chuckle to think that in Game of thrones, the north was most associated with the coming of winter, in Norrland (loosely translated to North land), in Sweden where I live, the coming of winter is equally dreaded, by me, who lived permanently in Southern Africa till I was 30. Having been used to winters which had +17°C as average temperature, it was a shock to move to the north of Sweden where temperatures easily sink lower than -10°C. Now, after 6 years living there, I still dread the winter, but not because of the cold apparently. More than the cold, I dread the darkness. The sun disappears and becomes a stranger.
For a dark-skinned man like me, even a sunny day in North Sweden is not enough to satisfy my need for vitamin D.
So what do I do to stop me from feeling constantly tired and depressed- (some of the effects of Vitamin D deficiency), I take a Vitamin D tablet everyday. I mean everyday, I feel like someone who is terminally ill.
Anyway, I admit, the darkness is the worst part of winter. Here up north, while the summers are spectacular with the midnight sun shinning almost 24 hours of the day, the winter is equally amazing with "day-time" darkness. On days that I go to work, it is pitch dark when I go to work around 7: 00-8: 00 in the morning and it is equally dark when I stop working 16.00. If I happen to be indoors during the tiny 30 or so minutes during the afternoon when it gets lighter (mark that I say lighter, not light), I would have a 24 hour long night. People who live here up north are very innovative and can make the dark gloomy days look lovely by putting up lights and decorations once it starts getting dark (starting with colourful lights on walls, balconies and in the gardens. Christmas themed decorations come more towards Christmas). The snow plays a big role also in lighting up the place, like a white canvas reflecting light between the earth and the heavens.
So, there it is, contrary to feeling cold during the winter, my biggest dread is the darkness and the town resembles a ghost town with abandoned streets. One of my first realisations was that the +17°C winter in Mutare where I grew up feels colder than the -17°C in Lycksele. How? Through a combination of winter suited clothing and efficient indoor heating systems. Most public places are indoor, including bus stations etc and they are well heated, with indoor temperatures ranging around +21°C or so. Since the cold is intense outside, my clothes are well suited for outdoors, thick skinned winter boots; wind and snow proof clothes (jackets and cover pants); long johns- which made me laugh in the first days because they reminded me of the wild west and old western films; leather gloves with lamb wool lining; woollen hats, woollen scarfs etc. I still overdress and find myself sweating at times even when it´s freezing cold.
As can be expected, the north is well prepared for the toughest snow-filled and freezing winters than the southern cities. Here, streets and roads are shovelled round the clock , in proportion to the fallen snow and sand and gravel are laid on all slippery and icy spots. I can talk on and on about winter, but I have to get back to the real reason why I made this post, to signal the coming of winter. Today, the first signs I saw that the fall is fading and making way to winter, reminded me that I need to suck in the golden colours of autumn while they still last. So I will make a few posts hailing autumn before the winter comes.
© Santino Zhakata 2011
I am Santino Zhakata, born in Zimbabwe, living in Sweden. I do a lot of writing, photography , blogging and website creation for fun and for profit. My fields of expertise include teaching and tutoring English via distance or face to face. I also specialise in communication for development. Welcome to my blog, feel free to share your thoughts.