Tag Archives: weather

Signs of Summer

This is how I can tell that it’s summer in the city:

1. There are ice cream stands and kvas stands wherever you go. Consequently the “no ice cream” signs on doors of shops actually seem necessary.

2. Whole sections of the freezer aisle in the supermarket, which previously held frozen vegetables and some ice cream, are now entirely ice cream. Only ice cream. The vegetables and frozen meat have been demoted and devalued in order to make way for ice cream.

3. I feel compelled to freeze most of my food before eating it. Yogurt goes in the freezer. Frozen bananas? Check. After schlepping around feeling myself melting away I only want to eat frozen things.

4. Areas in public places that have been piles of dirt and snow for months turn into really nice flowerbeds overnight. (Or during lunchtime. I was sitting on a bench in one of the parks a few days ago, waiting for a friend, when I found myself in the middle of the planting process. When I came back after lunch the whole section of the park had been planted.)

5. The fountains in the parks work.

6. Wherever you look there are teenagers making out.

7. There are people biking and rollerblading around the city.

8. Wooden walkways appear out of nowhere because it’s time to start to start doing summer ремонт on the buildings and you gotta protect your pedestrians.

9. Everyone is happy all the time and no one wants to do any work. (Noticeable decrease in class attendance, but really I can’t blame anyone. I was the same.)

The bad signs of summer, which are so few that they don’t even get a real list: the pollution is pretty intense, especially when it’s in the 70s and higher, and I’ve also heard quite a bit about what I think are ticks or other mite-type of insects. I took a really long rambling walk through the city yesterday, and found some pretty buildings that I hadn’t seen before in some neighborhoods I hadn’t visited, but when I got back to my place I had a major pollution headache. As for the ticks, some of the teachers were talking about how they just appear out of nowhere, for example after walks through the center of the city. I don’t know if they’re actually ticks. But still. Any insect that makes people think that they need to go to the health clinic after finding one is a bad insect, ain’t no friend of mine.

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Let’s Get Rambling

Yesterday was Easter. All of you at home are thinking “Duh Molly! We know!” But this year Orthodox and (what is the correct adjective here – “normal” / “regular”) Catholic/Protestant Easter were on the same day! It’s crazy. In honor of Easter I did some Easter egg dying on Friday night with my friends.

On Saturday night also went for a walk with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Since it was the night before the holiday, and the day had been really warm and beautiful, there were lots of people wandering around. Older couples, little kids with their parents, teens, everyone was out. When we wandered by one of churches in the city, three little girls came running up to us. “Take a calendar please! Happy Easter! Take a calendar!” We of course took the calendars and thanked them. Later I noticed that they were with some women wearing work vests for United Russia, aka Russia’s Major Political Party (Putin’s Party! to put it another way). Sure enough, on closer inspection not only does the calendar show a heartfelt wish to Voronezhians (that is definitely not a word) and lists all the major church holidays and fasting periods, it also clearly displays the United Russia emblem. This is all well and good. I love calendars, especially free ones given to me by adorable little Russian children. It does make me think about separation of church and state here and whether or not it exists. My students have told me it does, I think it doesn’t. I don’t see how it can, or at the very least not in the U.S. sense of the concept. Anyways it was one of those things that first surprised me, and then made me feel a little silly that I was even surprised. Oh Russia, you got me again! If ya dig.

Other than that: it’s hot. There was no spring. It’s supposed to get up to 70 F today. I don’t understand why or how women are expected to wear stockings in this weather. I’m already mentally prepared for a barelegged California summer. After 40 minutes in an un-airconditioned bus in the middle of the day I thought I was going to pass out. Does it get humid here? I hope not. Clearly I am only built for temperate climates.

In other news: in some of my classes we’ve been talking about food (and I didn’t even pick the topic – SHOCKING) and some of my students were talking about how much they love kefir. As long as I can remember I have hated kefir. According to Wikipedia, source of all knowledge, kefir is a fermented milk drink. Imagine buttermilk, or really thick sour milk that is a little fizzy. Not so appetizing huh? Anyways today I gave it a second chance, and found some that was only 1% fat, and I actually liked it. I like kefir. It’s a confession that I never thought I would make.

Zippers Continued

When the serious-looking lady at the shoe repair store asked me if it would be alright to pick up my boot tomorrow, I agreed as long as it would be ready in the morning.  “Is 11:00 alright?” she asked. I agreed and trudged back home, if you remember.

So imagine this morning: I wake up at 9:45 with a class to teach at 1:25. This should be a nice relaxed morning. But somehow it’s too relaxed, and by the time I’m ready to go anywhere it’s 12:00. Great, I think, that’s just enough time for me to hop over to the shoe repair store, pick up my hopefully fixed boot, come back home, change my shoes, and go off to work. When I actually get to the store, it’s 12:25 and the window that has my boot is on break from 12:00-1:00.

Damn you, технологический перерыв! I’ll briefly explain: for most businesses it is common for specific windows (imagine at a bank) to have scheduled breaks during the working day. This is called, literally, “technological break” and is not connected to technology in any way or form (sometimes it’s called a technical break, but it’s the same thing). It’s just to give the workers a break I guess…but I don’t know.  I’m wary of the whole concept. My previous experiences with the перерыв have been alternatively frustrating or entertaining: for example, standing in a line to buy train tickets and realizing that there are only 15 more minutes before the break starts and this window closes – will I make it or not? Same goes for the bank. Today, however, I was not amused.

I thought for a few minutes about my plan of attack. I quickly ruled out the option of going to work in my unlined autumn heels. After a ten-minute walk to the shoe store my feet were already frozen. I decided to go back home, get the things I needed for work and my other boot, and return to the store exactly at 1:00 to retrieve the broken boot, changing shoes at the shoe repair store and heading off to work.  This is the kind of stuff that happens to me all the time: I mess up or don’t pay attention somehow, and then I end up having to make extra trips or waste little bits of time to make sure that everything works out.

So, after carefully trudging back home (no slips or falls! hooray!) and briefly warming up my feet and grabbing my teaching materials, I trudged back to the store and happily collected my boot, complete with a shiny new zipper.  Although it was a little awkward to manage changing my shoes in the store – imagine me sitting in my sleeping-bag-coat managing zippers with frozen hands and not having any place for my massive purse – I was so happy when I stepped back outside in my true winter boots. You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, as Joni told us, and I definitely did not appreciate what a wonder my black boots are until they were ripped, however briefly, from my frozen little hands. They have traction! They have toasty lining! They prevent me from falling on my face all the time! They make winter livable.  Here’s to you, boots. I am very happy to have you back.

 

PS: As one of my readers so aptly pointed out, I forgot to mention yesterday that the word for zipper in Russian “молния” literally means lightning.  Gives a whole new meaning to “examine your zipper,” huh? Hehe.

The Dangerous Life

I know many people back home are worried that Russia is a dangerous place, especially with the recent attacks at Domodedovo.  Living in Voronezh, however, I usually feel quite safe.  My friends always make sure to walk me back to my apartment at night, for example,  and I’ve never felt unsafe the way I sometimes did walking around late at night in New Haven.  As the winter wears on, I have started to feel unsafe in ways that I would not have expected.

1. Treacherous Icewalks. I know that this isn’t anything new, but this week has been especially bad because we had a few warm days when everything turned into slush before the weather got really cold again and all the slush turned into ice.  It’s much harder to walk on uneven ice-covered sidewalks than I imagined. It requires complete concentration (for me at least, novice).  Eyes remain on the ground two feet in front of me.  Preferred method is reminiscent of a penguin waddle.

2. Icicles, also known as Hanging Daggers of Death. Ok, to be honest, I thought that the whole icicles-falling-and-injuring-people was a bit of an urban legend.  Something Russians liked to tell foreigners, to show how extreme winter is here. So I used my brain, googled the words “icicle death Voronezh” in Russian, and OH MY GOD A WOMAN DIED LAST YEAR WHEN SHE WAS IMPALED BY AN ICICLE.  On the next street over from where I live.  This is so terrible and tragic, she was walking with her pregnant daughter when an icicle fell and mortally wounded her.  Someone else was seriously injured last month when an icicle fell on his head “with the speed of a bullet from a gun”.  Now I’m extra paranoid and trying to look out (up?) all the time for falling ice and I can’t walk under or near buildings.

It takes me twice as long to get anywhere, with all the ice-shuffling and icicle-watching.

3. Falling Ice Blocks. In order to prevent death-by-icicle, most buildings have janitors or people who will go on the roof and basically chop the ice off.  This is good. Except for when you’re walking on the sidewalk and suddenly all around you these huge blocks of ice are falling like bombs.  If you’re not part of the problem, you’re part of another problem.

4. Car Crashes. Unrelated, but when two of my friends were walking me back to my place on Monday, we were waiting to cross the street when an accident happened right in front of us.  In fact, the light had changed and it was our turn to go when a car accelerated through the intersection, running its red light, and smashed into an oncoming car. Ok, so this isn’t as big of a deal, except that if we had started crossing the street when the light changed, either we would have been much closer to the accident or the crazy driver would have crashed into us instead of the other car.  AHH.  Clearly this isn’t Russia and winter-specific; I’ve seen more than my share of accidents and near-accidents driving on the freeways in L.A.  For some reason, though, the screeching brakes and awful sound of impact still freaks me out.

 

Those are the main ones.  Don’t worry though, I will be fine.  I am extra vigilant.  As my friend’s dad told me, “Look at the ground, look up, when you’re on the street always be careful.  You can rest once you’re in your apartment.”

Unless…no I’ll leave the Dante’s Peak water story for another day.

In case I hadn’t made it abundantly clear

Dad: So, is there snow on the ground?
Molly: (guffaws) Yes. It usually snows every night and sometimes during the day.
Dad: Does it get sunny though?
Molly: No. I haven’t seen the sun since…don’t know. Can’t remember.

So I guess that there’s some confusion as to whether or not there really is winter, and snow, here in Voronezh. I know there’s all this snowmageddon, snowpocalypse stuff in the U.S. right now, I understand it’s hard.

Other things I understand
– I can’t remember the last day that it didn’t snow at all
– this winter is unseasonably warm in Voronezh
– this is a sign of the actual apocalypse, which everyone here reminds me is in 2012
– Russian winter Voronezh < Russian winter everywhere else (in terms of intensity, how painful it is for your face when you go outside, etc etc, I have a very mild case of the winters)
– when it’s cold my hibernation instincts appear (ex: insatiable need to eat lots of sweets and then take a nap in my cave/apartment)
– my blog’s main themes are food and weather, leading some to believe that my life is also mainly concerned with food and weather

Don’t worry, things will become more exciting soon, and I’ll try to stop talking about the weather and my eating habits. Though I will say that right now we’re having rainy snow and that I had delicious soba with sauteed mushrooms and soy sauce for dinner.

Overheard in Voronezh

Pensioner to his wife, as they exit into the street from the market: “I just don’t like it when it’s this warm in December.”

(For reference, it was somewhere in the teens, Fahrenheit.)

So much to do, so little time…

So, briefly:

1. I continue to forget how to speak in English correctly.  The trickiest thing is probably prepositions.  I’m misusing them all over the place.  And just losing my feel for the English language in general.  Linguistic intuition, where are you?

2. I still can’t believe how cold it was last week.  Luckily I took my mom’s advice (when are moms ever wrong?) (rhetorical question) and went ahead and bought a really fantastically warm coat even after it warmed up a little.  I’m sure it’s going to get cold again, or even colder, but now I’m ready and even looking forward to it a little.

3.  It’s already December?? I’ve been here for 95 days.. or 13 weeks and 4 days if you prefer.  Don’t worry, I used a website counter thing to do that, I didn’t count the days myself.

4.  Christmas is just around the corner – two weeks from tomorrow I’ll be on my way to Moscow and then to CA.  So SO so much to do before then.

At times like this I like to refer to Edna St. V. M.  This seems especially appropriate for how I’m feeling these days (aged, aged, aged):

Grown Up (1920)

Was it for this I uttered prayers/And sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs/ That now, domestic as a plate/I should retire at half-past eight?

 

And 1920 makes Edna only 28 years old.. so I guess this how it goes..