Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July Weather in Chile

Everything you read might make you think there is perfect weather in Chile. And it's nice but not perfect. First of all it's just WRONG that July is winter. The seasons are nearly exactly opposite. Mid-summer in the US is mid-winter in Chile. There are four distinct seasons here, unlike some tropical areas in South America. It is a Mediterranean climate here in the central area (and the climate in Chile can vary within mere miles) and the summers are very hot and nearly without rain. It's humid so it feels even hotter. After 1 pm in the summer, no more yard work but time to move inside to read or take a nap. As the evening gets cool, outside we go again. Lunch here is the big meal of the day, eaten at around 2 pm. Clever Chileans. It used to be(and still is in smaller towns) that everything closed at lunchtime for hours, perhaps the entire afternoon. or maybe until the next day. But even on the hottest summer days, the evenings are cool. We live in a classically built Chilean house-the structure is of massive brick and cement walls. The reason is clear now-the humidity rots and molds any wood structure. And the house is nice and cool in summer. The walls take in the cool of the nights and keep it cool all day-no air conditioning needed. Unfortunately, this same structure means it's darn cold in the winter.

Fall here is gorgeous. There are maple trees everywhere turning red and the days are warm and sunny. My biggest problem with fall is what it's always been-it is is clear that winter is coming! But fall is the time to plant many things-before the rains. You can't plant much in the heat of summer for the plants will wilt and die even with heavy watering. But plant just before the rains and watch things thrive!

Plants and flowers seed themselves freely here. The snapdragons(perritos) went to seed in mid summer and came back and then repeated the feat again. Many become a brand new variety of different colors-a miracle of cross pollination I suppose. My small Chilena friend's latest English phrase is "look at that!" and that's what I want to say-"Look at that! That flower is yellow and the others are pink!" Ah, the geraniums are still alive on the patio. In the Spring, Summer and Fall, there are many gardening miracles. And many grow in the winter-the palm trees set against the snow topped Andes. The ganzania daisies(at least cousins) continue to bloom on sunny days. And there are sunny days. Sunshine follows rain.

But now it is winter. Winters are damp and cold for the most part. Reading by the wood stove is highly recommended. I don't know anyone with central heating. Perhaps a gas heater in the central part of the house but really...we have a wood stove in the main living area and a portable propane heater in the bedroom. Many don't bother, many places are hardly heated. It is the "norm" to wear three or four layers of clothes. It is common for people to wear coats in the house. Soles on shoes are thick for good reason. People walk a lot and tile floors are cold! I was so cold the first winter-and then I learned. On cold days, I wear long underwear. The more stylish women wear pantyhose but...as a gringa, I'm forgiven for my strange ways. Two pair of socks always. And I'm not cold. Here's the funny thing, many Chilean women dress surprisely sexy(well, that is pretty latin) even in winter. I'm glad to be old enough to prefer comfort over level of sexiness!

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