It’s well below freezing and the heat isn’t on more than a few hours every day in my building. It’s so cold I can see my breath in my kitchen. My bones hurt under my dry skin. My bottom lip is cracked down the middle. It looks like I’m wearing gothic makeup –a red line drawn on pale flesh. When I need to pee, I have to hover over my own toilet to avoid contact with the ice-cold seat, and my butt instantly goosebumps when I expose it. Every fifteen minutes, I make another pot of herbal tea to warm my insides. (But this also makes me need to pee.) At my computer, I wear four shirts and pairs of pants, a fleece robe, two pairs of socks, a scarf around my head, and fingerless gloves. My nose runs and my toes go numb. I can’t sleep, because my body temperature is low enough that the additional temperature drop would see to it I never woke up. So, I stay awake until 7am, until the sun begins to warm the world outside and three thick layers of down are enough to permit safe unconsciousness.
This is far from the worst winter I’ve been through, and I like to think it’s practice for future winters in some aid agency outpost in the Hindu Kush.