Monday, March 10, 2014

Cold Chicago in February

By Esther Nakkazi
Sun and Snow

On 11th February, I flew to Chicago from Kampala to attend two conferences; the Kavli Foundation on the Future of Science Journalism symposium, also sponsored by World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) 17 – 19 February 2014. And the annual Association of American Advancement of Science (AAAS) 13-17 February.

It was from the hot sun to the cold with snow. It was also on one of these days in Chicago that I experienced the first snow storm in my entire life. But the cold was almost unbearable.

I still keep wondering (I am visiting friends at Michigan State University now): is it better to live with the sun like I do in Kampala or to live with the cold and snow like in Chicago and Michigan? By the way with both instances you almost keep indoors except that with the sun you can at least be outside in shade.

In Kampala the temperatures were soaring when I left (up to 38). To demonstrate it let me tell you what exactly happens. If you park your car outside, when you open it a gush of hot not warm air engulfs and almost chokes you. So you need about 5 minutes with all the doors open to cool it down. But even here during the winter you on the engine before you ride your car.

In Uganda, when you do laundry, -we wash with our hands and dry clothes in the sun- you could as well wash a dirty dress and wear it again after 15 minutes or less.

Or if you sleep under a treated mosquito net to prevent malaria like I do, you can hardly sleep under it at night. While the mosquitos would be buzzing around you the heat would make you uncomfortable under the mosquito net. It is a real balancing act.

Typically, in Kampala when I step out of my house, the blaze of the sun hits my eyes and I start sweating. In Michigan now, when I step out of the apartment, -which I rarely do-my body shivers because of the cold. My eyes hit the snow up to as far as they can go and I just see that whole mountain of snow swallowing me. I shiver.

My American friends had warned me that February was one of the worst months to travel to Chicago but I did not have much of a choice. I was not the conference organizer. I actually came in earlier, prior to the AAAS conference, which was held at the Hyatt Regency. I was staying at the cheap ($40 per day) Hostel International thinking I would look around Chicago. I underestimated the cold. It one time was minus 20.

The conference on science journalism, which enabled me to talk about the status of science journalism in Africa, had some of the smartest science journalists from prestigious science publications around the world. I really learnt so much.

I am still wondering, is it easier to live in the hot sun like in Kampala or the cold like in Michigan? I still do not know! Either way, I love it that I can compare the two experiences.

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