Before I moved to Cape Town in July of 2002, I was warned about how cold it could get there in winter. Since the northern and southern hemispheres have opposite seasons, I was told that July would be the coldest (and wettest) month in the Cape.

How cold can it get? I thought to myself. I mean … it’s Africa. I’m from Michigan. They don’t even know what cold means.

I packed a lightweight windbreaker, one hooded sweatshirt and a couple of long-sleeve shirts for my six months in Africa, and was sure I’d be fine.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. My arrogance and naïveté were painfully obvious.

It was cold.

As in, I could see my breath in my bedroom. That is just plain wrong.

The thing is, buildings in South Africa don’t have central heating. No furnaces. No thermostats.

Just space heaters and the occasional wood fireplace.

And that first July happened to be particularly rainy. I would pull into the parking lot of my apartment building and have to get out of my little Jetta to manually open the garage door, get back in the car to pull it into the garage, then stand in the bone-chilling wind and rain some more to yank the garage door closed before running across the parking lot to the main entrance, and it. was. freezing.

Eventually my flatmate took me shopping so I could buy a sweater. I hadn’t even been there long enough to know where I could get one.

At night I would sleep with a t-shirt, a long-sleeve shirt, a hooded sweatshirt and, like, four blankets and still my nose felt like ice.

I never dreamed Africa could be so cold.


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This is Day 6 of 31 Days of Life in South Africa.  Each post in this series has been written in five minutes, as part of 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes.  Check out the other bloggers taking part in the same challenge by clicking here.

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9 thoughts on “africa: how cold can it get? {day 6 :: know}

  1. I would not have expected the weather to be so cold, either! I like sleeping in a cool room but yeah, not THAT cold! Glad you had a friend to take you shopping for a sweater!

  2. You make it sound dreadfull! But prefer it to USA where every move between indoors & outdoors was a shock!
    Seeing obviously cold weather outside & being warm enough for short sleeves indoors is just wrong!
    I guess its about what you’re used to… But my 6 mo of US winter were quite an adjustment compared to the Cape here. I also needed to buy clothes soon after landing… My problem was that I had lots of layers, the bottom ones too warm, & too many above to remove everytime I entered a building.

  3. I made this exact same mistake! I moved to Africa July 5th, and my first night, I laid in my bed, wrapped in every blanket I had, shivering uncontrollable. I was almost in tears, and I just remember saying to myself, “Why in the WORLD did I come HERE??” I was so ready to go back home, except I knew the bus ride from Rustenburg to Joburg would be COLD!

    News flash: Africa IS cold!! I tell basically everyone that now. 🙂

  4. I moved to Kenya at the end of July and found myself at more than 6,000 feet altitude in misty hills and tea fields….freezing! I remember one night wearing leggings, sweatpants, two shirts and a sweatshirt and using every blanket I could find! One of our roommates moved out and we split up her blankets. When she came back to visit, she wrongfully assumed she’d get them back! (Ok…I gave her one.)

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