Thursday, January 18, 2007

Let’s talk about the weather

“If you don’t know what to say, just talk about the weather”. I have been told that this is true for all cultures, regardless other differences. Is this true also in Cape Verde, known as a country with, shall we say, limited seasonal changes? It appears so.

When we arrived in August, the weather was very hot and humid, in fact rather horrible for a Northerner like me. Not at all as pleasant as the guidebooks said. Clearly disturbed by the heat, and being a newcomer and a total stranger to most people I met, I often used this classical strategy to “break the ice” (if it hadn’t already melted in the heat, that is). And it actually struck me that people seemed to be just as enthusiastic to talk about the weather here in Cape Verde as in Scandinavia. Mind you: that is tough competition indeed, because Swedes just love to talk about the weather – usually because they hope that it will change.

And maybe it will. In fact, it appears to be already happening. Not because of chatting, but due to the burning of fossil fuels.

I just learnt that several large trees have fallen at our summer house estate, due to a really great storm. Trees normally don’t fall very easily in Sweden, but the same thing happened only two years ago. At that time it was described as the worst storm in 35 years, but apparently it only took two years to occur again.

Moreover, reports from Sweden tell us that it is the warmest winter in ages. No snow, only rain, lots of rain. A friend told me that one of the Swedish ski resorts, offering this weird concept of “snow guarantee”, had to manufacture tons of snow superficially and fly it to the slopes by helicopter! I found it quite bizarre, but maybe we will have to get used to these kinds of absurdities as a consequence of climate change.

Climate change appears to be affecting Cape Verde as well. Even the Cape Verdeans were complaining about the heat during the rainy season, stating that it was hotter than in many years. We were also told that some of the rainfalls (like the one that flooded our house and basement) were unusually heavy. Of course, many welcomed the increased precipitation, as water come in very limited supplies here.

But that was some months ago. Since December, the weather in Cape Verde is just perfect. 25 degrees in the shade, dry cool winds, clear sight, no more rain. Nobody - including me – talks about the weather any more, simply because there is nothing to complain about. Good news is no news, I guess.

This makes me a little nervous however. I will obviously not get any weather-chatting practice for a while. What if I loose this important ability, which I learnt to master so well after 30 years of cultural education in Sweden? It would mean that I have nothing to talk about when I come back…

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