The coldness of winter is now a reality and my mornings see me desperately clinging to my blanket and wishing that I never have to leave from its warm embrace. Having recently visited my friend Bill down in Kagoshima where I spent a glorious three years teaching, I was shocked at just how disparate the temperature was between there and Nagano. Kagoshima of course also gets far colder than Cape Town but it has minimal snowfall and fewer days where you wake up to find yourself frozen solid. Nagano though is a whole different ballgame. The winters here start early and just keep on freezing you until the start of April. Add to that the constant snowfall that makes driving or walking an exercise in looking as goofy as possible, and you can see why I am not the happiest when winter arrives. Probably my biggest gripe with winter in Nagano though is that schools use kerosene stove heaters to warm the staff rooms and classrooms. This means that the air is usually thick with the heavy smell of burnt kerosene fumes. The heaters also tend to vary between giving off no heat whatsoever and mimicking hellfire, which means that it’s very possible to find yourself alternating between sweating in your office and then walking into a passage outside your office that is twenty degrees colder. It’s no wonder that students get flu in droves here. Anyway, enough of my winter grumbling. I truly feel like an old man now shouting at youngsters to get off his lawn and bemoaning the changing of the seasons. Hopefully my next post will be far more positive!