Growing up in the US and Canada, cold was almost exclusively in context to the weather or temperature outside of homes or buildings. “Boy, it’s cold out!” I might say as I entered someone’s house. Or, “I wonder if it will stay cold like this all week.” Spoiled Westerner that I am, I believed that the temperature inside a house was something that could (and should!) be adjusted with a quick turn of the thermostat. “I’m cold, let’s turn up the heat,” I would say to Thomas when we owned our house in Bellingham. This said even when I sometimes wasn’t wearing warm clothes. Why would I put on another layer of clothes when I could just up the heat and get warm solely from the temperature of our home’s air?
Now that we are living in a Moroccan home, in the winter, I have a completely different experience of being cold. Particularly being cold while INSIDE of buildings. Like most Moroccan buildings, our home does not have central or baseboard heating, and most days we can see our breath when we are inside. Although I owned a fleece jacket in the States, I never really appreciated fleece before. Same with wool socks—they were nice to have back home, but I now understand that they are a brilliant invention. In addition to the weather shifting my perception of various fabrics, the cold has also helped me become an expert on layering clothes for warmth. Style as a motivator for how I dress has been replaced by functionality. I recall my father once telling me, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” I now fully live out this adage. Want to keep your legs warm while sitting in the living room of your Moroccan home? Start by putting on a pair of fleece tights, then add a pair of cotton leggings, then put on jeans or corduroy pants. And then cover your lap with a wool blanket.
While I manage to keep most of myself warm most of the time, I had less success this week with keeping my hands warm, and earlier this week I developed chilblains on my fingers. Before being struck by chilblains I had not heard of this old-fashioned sounding condition, which occurs due to prolonged exposure to cold. Now having experienced them I can report that in addition to sounding fantastically archaic they are also fantastically uncomfortable–my fingers were covered with itchy, swollen bumps. Thankfully, the Peace Corps Medical Office staff provided good suggestions for how to remedy the condition, and my sore hands have improved greatly by using hydrocortisone cream, wearing gloves inside, and holding my hands in front of a space heater whenever I have a few free moments.
So, to wrap up this homage to the Moroccan winter, I will say that life here continues to provide me with new knowledge and experiences. The challenges I encounter each day are making me stronger and more resilient, and as each week passes I become more capable of living well in this amazing country.