By Kate Hopper

October 19, 2015


On the hottest days in San Vicente, I sit on the front porch of my host family’s house, sweat dripping from under my arms, dust turning to mud on my salt-streaked legs. I watch the heat shimmer up from the dirt road, dissolving into blue sky. On these days, I long for snow, hunger after the numbing cold of January in Minnesota.

The only way I know how to reprimand the heat here is to imagine myself deep in the north woods, zipped into a down jacket, my feet snug in furry boots. There I traipse through fresh snow, following my own footprints, shadowy and blue. Above me, naked tree branches wear thick sleeves of white. Flurries spin around me. If I stop my trek, I can hear the flakes fall; the freezing air fizzes with their descent. I open my mouth to the sky, let them melt on my tongue, trying to capture winter.

I have attempted to explain “below zero” to my Costa Rican family, translating my native Fahrenheit to their Celsius. “It hurts to breathe,” I say. “Cars don’t start. Ice covers the roads. It’s dangerous to drive.” I search my mind for examples that will make them understand cold, frigid cold, but I fail each time. Perhaps, like the heat here, that kind of cold has to be felt to be understood.


Photo "Frosted Chrysanthemum" provided by Montegregina, via creative commons license.

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