Letter from the dorm: Chills and thrills of icy winter

Letter from the dorm: Chills and thrills of icy winter


The icy view from Talise Tsai's home in Markham, Ontario, Canada.
The icy view from Talise Tsai's home in Markham, Ontario, Canada.
Photo: Talise Tsai
My Christmas was definitely white. It was celebrated after an ice storm that left more than 220,000 people without power or electricity.

I've been in Canada for little more than a year, but already I've lived through what Toronto's Mayor Rob Ford and Anthony Haines, chief executive of the electricity distribution company, Toronto Hydro, called "the biggest ice storm in Toronto's history".

As I write this, many days after the storm hit, lots of people are still without electricity. The centre of Toronto has been the hardest hit. Some major streets were closed for safety reasons because large chunks of ice were falling from buildings. Also, trees and branches had collapsed, breaking power lines.

"Warming" centres were opened for people who had no heat, and community centres stayed open so people could take hot showers or charge their phones.

The church service on Sunday, December 22, was cancelled because of the storm. My family had invited relatives over for the day. We were busy making handicrafts when the lights, cooker and heating all stopped working.

It was only about 5pm, but it was totally dark outside. Luckily we keep candles and spare torches in our basement. Everyone was surprised by the power cut, but I was secretly excited - it would be great to eat dinner in the dark!

Some of our neighbours were not well-prepared and had to shine their car lights through the windows of their homes so they could see; others drove off to restaurants or a temporary refuge. Without electricity for cooking and heating, we all went to my aunt's home, where we used her gas stove. It wasn't a disappointing experience at all; we spent the evening chatting, playing games and eating delicious food. There were five families together, and no one was distracted by their phones, computer, or anything else.

We all had a giant sleepover in the living room beside the fireplace that night. Everyone was happy that the surprise ice storm had provided us with the best Christmas gift - family time!

We got back our power within 24 hours, but many others were not so lucky.

My mother was thrilled about the time we spent together. Now she wants do it every year - so that we switch off the Wi-Fi and phones - and have a candlelit dinner! (Hopefully, we'll still have heat!)


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