Wednesday, February 16, 2011
The 365 days of shorts.
My first year of teaching in Nome, I noticed a strange phenomenon. Every morning when the bus pulled up to school a large portion of the kids would disembark wearing nothing more than a t-shirt and basketball shorts. Well, I thought to myself, it is September, and although there was frost on the ground this morning, and the temperature is below freezing, it will warm up to at least the 40's by the end of the school day. No need for a jacket yet, right?
No need for a jacket, EVER is more like it. As fall turned into winter, and the mercury slid lower and lower in the thermometer, those same kids kept showing up in t-shirts and shorts. December rolled around, and brought blizzards and I thought for sure the jackets would come out. Nope. Many kids upgraded to a hoodie, but some still came in t-shirts. And in February, when the weather turned clear and negative thirty, many of the kids replaced their shorts with blue jeans. But still, a hoodie and blue jeans at -30 degrees? When I would ask them, "Aren't you cold?" (Because sometimes they looked cold) They would just shrug and give me a half-smile, or say, "Shucks Ms. Prosser! We don't get cold, we're Eskimos!" Then there was this kid named Kyle. The jr. high staff crowned him "King of the 365 Days of Shorts" a very prestigious title indeed. That kid wore shorts and skate shoes with ankle socks to school every single day of that year...and he wasn't even an Eskimo. Shucks! Then Kyle moved to California. Sometimes I imagine him walking to school in 60 degree weather in shorts and a t-shirt and just sweating it out... but that brings me to my point today.
People acclimate. Even me. I notice it when I leave Nome. We were down in Anchorage for Christmas this year, and while the thermometer read zero, I was walking around in my hoodie and blue jeans, laughing at all the people bundled up in bulky down jackets and Sorrels. Zero degrees is warm if there is no wind and all you are doing is walking from your car into the Fred Myers. Last week it got down to -30 here. If the wind moves even a little bit, which it almost always does in Nome, that is cold. I walked to work and wore my down jacket and face mask, because it was cold. But this week it has warmed back up to 14 degrees, and can you guess who was out shoveling the porch in cotton pajama pants and a hoodie yesterday? That's right, yours truly. Even so, I don't think I will be contending for the 365 days of shorts championship any time soon, I'm just not (as the kids here would put it) "real hardcore native" enough. But then again, neither was Kyle.