Sunday morning I woke up in a small farm house in the middle of the mountains at Bahia Murta, five hours south of Coyhaique on the mostly unpaved Carretera Austral. I was staying with friends of my family, on a lumpy mattress stuffed with wool. The lamb meat hanging outside the window was rock hard, and a sparkly white frost covered everything. I turned on the faucet and got nothing, as the pipes had frozen over night. Needless to say, winter suddenly arrived.
Back here in Coyhaique I am getting my first taste of constant cold. My classroom clocks in at a balmy 32 degrees Fahrenheit every morning, and even with the wood stove going I am lucky to break 40 by the end of the day. Everyone is preoccupied with obtaining wood, and conversations often turn to the price of wood or where it can be found in the campo. Every year Coyhaiqenos have to travel further outside of town to get wood, and this drives the prices higher and higher. For some people here, a month of wood costs almost an entire month´s salary. Maria Teresa tells me that many of my students go home to houses without fire, as their families can´t afford it. "Es complicado," they say.
Needless to say, winter has taken on a different meaning. I am trying to get the hang of getting up every three hours and adding wood to the fire, but I fail to get out of the warm bed all to often and have to endure getting dressed in the freezing cold morning. Perhaps less blankets on the bed would actually be a good thing. I teach my classes in full winter gear: long johns, pants, boots, three shirts under a sweater and a wool coat. My new classroom management problem is keeping the kids from crowding around the wood stove.
And so we wait for the first big snow, but winter is definitely here. All the reason to keep warm and dance more Chamamé...