Being an expat, new continents with different climates might be a part of your daily life. Before moving to places like Newfoundland, Brazil, Texas and Alaska I had an idea of how it would be – but, as it turned out, I couldn’t be more wrong!
Our first expat assignment brought us to St. John’s, Newfoundland. People I knew teased me before we moved with phrases like: -Oh you’re going to live right where the Titanic went down, and the only thing I could picture in my head was icebergs surrounded by a cold, grey ocean.-Hah-hah, I thought, it couldn’t be that bad. But it was. We came in spring and the snow wouldn’t stop falling. I had a little baby and couldn’t get out for a walk with the stroller as they didn’t even clear the sidewalks for snow.Stuck in a small, dusty apartment waiting for our house to get finished, I grew kind of impatient and angry. However, this was nothing compared to the following winter! After Christmas we had blizzards almost every weekend. It was so regular that people said: –Oh, it’s a blizzard outside, then it must be Saturday.
Of course my husband was travelling every time the storms passed by and I learned how to use the snow blower with the baby call in the window. And I did really fine as long as I was in shelter of the snow banks. Yet, I felt more like Mary Poppins when the 90 km/h wind gusts tried to blow me away while I was clinging to the handles of the snow blower. The season’s last blizzard hit us hard in mid April! Worst winter since 1874 – 6,5 meters of snow altogether.
Rio de Janeiro & Texas
The next assignment was to warm and welcoming Brazil. We arrived in the Brazilian summer, January, with just shorts and t-shirts in our suitcases, but how wrong we were. It rained and rained and the draught through the terrace doors made the curtains blow into the living room in a 90 degrees angle. While waiting for the summer holiday to end and schools to start, my daughter and I sat crumbled together on a small loveseat, under a thread worn baby blanket, freezing while watching kids’ television in Portuguese.
If we turned off the air condition, the tile floors would be wet and slippery, too dangerous to walk on. –This is the rainiest summer we can ever remember, people said. Even during the Carnival it rained cats and dogs.
The next time we moved to Brazil however, the weather was more like we expected, but then we suddenly moved to Texas in one week’s notice. February was cold and rainy, and we had a big flood that took several lives. On television we could see people being rescued from their homes with boats and helicopters. Luckily our new residence was situated in a dry spot!
In December we got hazard warnings once again, it was going to snow – and they had not had snow in Houston for about 100 years. The kids were sent home from school and we had a five cm layer of wet snow on our lawns. Luckily for our Texan neighbor kids that we Norwegians could teach them how to make snow men!
The following summer the weather gods stroke again, and gave us more than 38 degrees Celsius for more than 33 days in a row. My Nordic, blond haired and fair skinned daughter even got a heat stroke! The only thing we could do was to drag ourselves from air condition to air condition. Even the pool was too hot to use. The big shopping malls dropped their indoor temperatures to 16 degrees to attract more people. We took the heat wave with relatively high spirits, since we were about to move to Alaska!
The last frontier
Anchorage welcomed us with the greatest North American fall you could ever imagine, sunshine every day from August till the end of October. The Texans had warned us about the harsh climate, but we just laughed. How uninformed could people be, we said to each other, and remember we’re Norwegian!
But how long was Adam in Paradise? In January it really started to snow and the temperature dropped like a stone. We had the coldest January ever measured, one more record beaten. But it didn’t stop there. It snowed and snowed. We were close to breaking the record in March, and said. –Hell yes. Just let it snow so we can set a new record. The weather gods listened and we ended up with 3,6 meters in total.
Come spring, come summer. However, the first snow fell already on September 29th and it snowed until May 17th, which gave us a 232 days long snow season breaking the record from 1982! In November we went far north in Alaska, to Point Hope and were hit by an arctic hurricane category 3 and were evacuated together with the Natives.
Is it really possible to be chased by the weather gods like this? When we were heading home to Norway for our summer holiday, our friends said: –Please do not come and visit. We’ve had lousy summers for the last five years and we really do want a nice and warm summer, so please stay away even if we’ll miss you. However, we defied their prayers and got the warmest summer in many years.
Have we finally beaten the curse of the weather gods? (To be continued..?)
Text and photos by Heidi Nesttun-Sunde, April 2014