Cold air stings my face. I think about conversations we have with taxi drivers about the most cliche of subjects, the weather. Is it not the topic that makes us all scoff? But when you’re from a different hemisphere, the weather becomes interesting.
We hear people in Peru talk of how cold it is outside, and it makes us smile. I think of our winters at home where the streets are coated with layers of snow and it’s difficult to crawl out of bed.
I find the Peruvian winter, at least in Lima, like the colder months of autumn—minus pumpkin spice fever. It’s a pleasant time when you can walk around with a scarf and think of carving pumpkins…but you don’t see any.
It’s disconcerting to feel this temperature and not see a pumpkin patch. You don’t think about such details at home, things so mundane as a pile of fat pumpkins in front of the grocery store.
Friends, you learn unexpected when you travel; apparently, pumpkins are a bigger part of my life than I thought.
When we describe winter at home, people smile and seem to give thanks they do not live somewhere so frosty. It’s as if, all of a sudden, the weather isn’t so cold.
They then ask where we live. Idaho, we respond, to confusion. Where is that? Did you say Ohio? Iowa? Where is Idaho? It’s up northwest. Is it near Arizona? Is it near Canada? Yes, it’s near Canada.
Sometimes, after these vague directions, the person gets an idea of where we are. Sometimes they remember having heard of Idaho at some point. Most of the time we leave the taxi feeling like tourists from Wonderland or Oz.
The taxi driver zooms away picturing us as living in a place like Monet’s Snow at Argenteuil. Sometimes Boise does look like that.
Traveling, you learn that the weather isn’t simple after all. What Peru lacks in snow is made up for with humidity. The hostel where we’ve been staying for three weeks is next to the ocean; if you open the window and lean outside, you smell it.
We breathe in seawater, and though it does not feel terribly cold on the outside, the body becomes cold. I had bronchitis the first week here. At home, I have never had such a bad cold, even in years when the snow has been terrifying. Perhaps it’s not impossible, but it’s never happened to me.
Travel helps you learn about the place where you live; you unearth gems of your tradition, habits you didn’t know had gotten under your skin, like choosing pumpkins when the weather is cool. Life is a painting, and you have to look for the contrasts.