Ozone o Ozone… wherefore art thou Chilean Ozone Layer?!
Fun in the summer sun ain’t all it’s cracked up to be… as I “sorely” discover yet once again!
2010 kicked off calmly enough, family-style with the in-laws at our house: dinner, hugs all around at midnight, a bit of the Valparaíso fireworks on TV, and off they went. We usually visit friends afterward, but this year, after all the traveling we’ve done in the past few weeks (more about that to come), we decided to just kick back, stay in, and head to the beach the next morning.
Just let me say that for all that I miss a traditional white Christmas, I have to admit that I really do love a nice southern hemisphere summer-time New Years!
So off we went at midday on a beautiful January 1, tooling down the highway, windows open, breeze blowing, sun shining… and completely oblivious to those mean-spirited UV nasties beating down on my unsuspecting, unprotected, wintry-white arm. Shortly after arriving at the beach, my tingling arm warned me that I was going to regret my hour-long carefree, bare-armed jaunt. Any doubts were cast aside 12 hours later when my arm turned that shade of red that is highly desirable in ripe watermelons—but not so much on body parts. I’m no wimp when it comes to sunburns (too much experience), but this really zapped my zip and made me want to kick my own backside for being so dumb.
I should know better. I DO know better. The sun is not my friend. I learned that the hard way many years ago as a freckle-faced, red-headed, fair-skinned young teen trying to keep up the tanning pace with my Italian-Native American beach buddy. While she effortlessly toasted up an ever-deepening golden tan, I just got frecklier and redder, redder, redder. Even developed some kind of allergy to the sun that turned me into a great believer in long-sleeved shirts and generous applications of the strongest sunscreen available.
Oh, I’ve had my involuntary lapses over the years, most notably in Chile, where the sun is particularly sneaky and entirely unforgiving. Cool Pacific breezes trick you into forgetting the sun is summer-hot and UV-loaded. Midday strolls through springtime vineyards can turn short-haired gringa winewriters into literal rednecks in no time (experience speaking).
I remember a Miami-born-&-bred Cuban-American friend who refused to join the filtro-fest as the rest of us repeatedly slathered on the sunscreen at the beach one February (peak summer), because “I’ve spent my whole life in the sun”—even though the local morenos (dark skinned folks) in the group tried to warn him. And man did he repent and lament for the rest of the weekend!
Blame it on the anemic ozone layer; blame it on the proximity of the sun at this particular latitude; blame it on whatever you like, but do, and I mean DO, take the Chilean sun seriously.
So now that school’s out, surf’s up, sun’s out… Stock up on sun screen and:
Happy Summer Chile!