Living in the Land of “No Seasons”

Posted on 29/11/2012

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This is the second time I’ve lived in Colombia. The second time I’ve lived in a world of “no seasons.” Because of Colombia’s latitude and longitude (in other words–it’s closeness to the equator) there is VERY little, if any, change in temperature throughout the year. Yes, there are all sorts of temperatures to be found in Colombia from the freezing peaks of la Sierra Nevada to the boiling temperatures of la Guajira and the rainforest humidity found in Leiticia to the temperate, Spring-like temperatures of Medellín, and the somewhat cooler zones of Boyacá and Cundinamarca. In fact, Colombia has so many climate zones that it is the most bio-diverse country in the world!

Valle de Cocora, Salento

Now, that being said, the temperature in a specific place doesn’t really change. In other words, in Bogotá the temperature during the day generally falls in the 60s (Farenheit) and in Barranquilla in the 90s  (Farenheit). At night, as in most places, the temperature falls a bit, but nothing too extreme and certainly nothing that will make you feel as though the season has changed. The fact that there is no real change in temperature means there are not really any “seasons” (in the traditional United States sense of the term). Yes, Colombians harp a lot about the dry and rainy seasons, and on the coast you’ll hear people talk about “las brisas del diciembre” (the winds of December), but those do not fit in my definition of seasons.

Parque Gallineral, San Gil, Santander

Before moving to Bogotá in 2008, I had never really thought about what it would be like to live without seasons. Seasons had always been part of my life and I enjoyed them. I loved looking forward to summer time when I was all bundled up in the winter–I couldn’t wait for a trip to the beach or a day at the pool; In summer, I couldn’t wait for fall to see the leaves change colors and eat some of my dad’s amazing chili to warm me up on a cooler day. So, when I moved to Bogotá, I hadn’t really put a lot of thought into what it was going to be like to not have seasons.

Palomino, la Guajira/Magdalena

In the beginning (I arrived in January 2008), I didn’t really notice it a lot. Yes, it was “warm” for January, but it was still cool; I was still wearing sweatshirts, sweaters, and jeans. Come February, I still hadn’t thought too much about it. However, come May/June, a weird feeling came over me. As I perused through pictures on Facebook and talked to family back home, I realized people were enjoying the end of spring and beginning of summer. How was it, then, that I was still stuck in a fall/winter climate? To me, it seemed as if time had left me behind, while the rest of the world kept moving along… The sun came up, and the sun went down, but the season never changed. However, before this “frozen in time” feeling could completely consume me, I was backpacking through Colombia and then on a plane back to Birmingham, Alabama in August 2008, to resume my undergraduate studies at the University of Alabama. After arriving back in the States, I didn’t dwell too much on the fact that the “season” never changed while I was in Bogotá.

mountains in Bogotá, as seen from la Casa de la Moneda

However, now that I have been living in Barranquilla, Colombia for almost a year and half, I have done a good deal of contemplating the idea of “no seasons,” and my fair share of living in an eternal summer. Again, at first, I didn’t really think too much about not having seasons. Having recently spent a year in a rather cold part of England (Leeds), I was happy to be living in a warm, coastal city. It was nice to be able to walk outside with your hair wet, to take a weekend trip to the beach, and to see the sun on a daily basis. Even so, after about 5-6 months of summertime, I began to feel the effects of “no seasons.” It’s a weird feeling–hard to describe in words. As I said before, I almost feel as if I am frozen in time. The change aspect–the movement of things that you feel when the seasons come and go is absent here. It’s hard to believe and to conceptualize changes happening in other parts of the world. It almost feels unreal as people back home tell you how cold it’s getting or how much so-and-so has grown or how the blueberries in season are so wonderful. You feel disconnected from this change that was once so much a part of your life. And, this effects you.

Mayapo, la Guajira

I’ve talked to several of my foreign friends and co-workers here in Colombia about this feeling produced in people from countries with strong seasons who are now living in the land of “no seasons.” One co-worker told me this is why he thinks most foreigners only last about 5 years here on the coast. With other people we’ve talked about how it makes you antsy after a while;  you feel like you need to get up and go somewhere–change your scenery–do something that will make you feel a “change,” even if it is only for a fleeting moment. Another co-worker said he thought this sensation of “no change” was dangerous, that it could, perhaps, slow down your personal and/or professional growth and development. He referenced the “motivation” you get when there are seasons–you feel pressured to do things by the changing of the seasons. You hear people say, “I’ve got to do this before winter comes,” or “We’ve got to plan this out before summer,” etc… Seasons are often times an impulse to get things done, to be productive. The fear that sometimes comes with living with no seasons then, is, will you one day wake up and realize 10, 15 years have gone by in the blink of an eye and nothing has changed? Do you even realize anymore that real change is happening?

lookout over Medellín

Of course this is all ramblings coming from a gringa (a foreigner of European descent). Colombians will most definitely think and feel differently in relation to the absence or existence of  “seasons.” Some Colombians have tried to convince me that it’s better to not have seasons. My favorite reason is: You save money on clothes. Since you live in one “season” all the time, you don’t need a new wardrobe every 3-4 months :)

Regardless,  adjusting to not having seasons has been a challenge at times. It’s a unique sensation. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but it’s different. I’ve found that, for me, traveling frequently helps keep me from getting to antsy. The nice thing about all the climate zones in Colombia is that you only have to travel a very short distance to be in a different “season.” Weekend escapes to Medellín make me feel like it’s April, trips to Bogotá make me feel like it’s November (fall turning into winter), and taking a day trip to the beach makes me feel like I am on a summer vacation. A change in scenery takes away some of the anxiety I sometimes feel from not having seasons–even taking a trip to close coastal towns and cities makes me feel like “time is marching on.”

view from la Periquera, Villa de Leyva

one of several waterfalls in the la Periquera, Villa de Leyva

This is just another example of how living abroad makes you contemplate things you’d never have thought about otherwise…

What do you think about not having seasons? Could you handle it?

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Posted in: Colombia, Travels