It’s cold in Ukraine.
It is cold enough that many of the village and primary schools are cancelling classes because it is too cold for students to walk to school.
It is cold enough that many of the parents of my friends’ students (they have an English language school) called on Saturday morning to say they did not think the children would make it to school because it was too cold (however, it seems it was not too cold outside for them to cancel a sledding outing on Sunday!).
It is cold enough that I am wearing two and three layers under my coat – tights, silk long underwear, trousers. Silk long underwear, turtleneck, sweater. Sock liners and wool socks. Glove liners and mittens (though I managed to lose my ultra warm pair of mittens last winter, after using them for more than ten years in MN). I also have come to appreciate the silly looking but warm fur hats with the ear flaps, though I do not have one and do not plan to invest in one.
Ironically, the same people who wear those fur hats also do not wear gloves. I don’t get it.
Minus 20 Celcius translates to minus 4 Farenheit. I was previously misinformed that once it hits minus 20, the two become the same. Either way, we passed by “cold” weather a while ago and are now firmly in “damn cold” territory.
Basically, I am not happy about it. I find myself longing to stay at home in front of my space heater, eating pasta or buckwheat, or perhaps some chocolate. This is a quick recipe for gaining weight, but I cannot help not wanting to go walking around and waiting for the crowded marshrutka in weather like this. It is on these days that I think, “I wasn’t supposed to be here – I was supposed to be in Africa where it is warm all the time”.
Sounds strange, I know – people always say “but you lived in the Midwest for so long”. I always reply that the fact that I lived in the Midwest does not mean I LIKE cold weather – as a matter of fact, I have always hated it. And here I am, in similar weather, but without the central heating, insulation, skyways, and other things to make dealing with it easier. Ah well.
I recently learned that in Kirovograd there is some sort of city ordinance that requires private businesses to clear the sidewalk in front of their business. However, it seems that they are not required to clear the whole thing – as I walk along the sidewalk I run into a small clear patch in front of a business’ door, then it is back to the ice a few feet later. Makes for interesting walking.
That is another challenge right now – simply walking. I am able to do so because of my boots. They are kind of ugly. They are black, big, heavy, 1200 gram thinsulate, waterproof. In short, they are made for hunting (I bought them at an “outdoor outfitter” in MN). But they are warm and I am able to walk on ice in them (not without ever slipping, but only slight) and I manage to tread like a kitty across the most slippery of the ice (that without any salt or sand on it). My boots may not be pretty, but I cannot imagine wearing the high-heeled, non-insulated boots I see women here wearing. I also find it amusing when I walk across the square and see the little divets that the high-heeled boots leave. It is amazing that Ukrainian women don’t end up on their butts more often.
On the other hand, I went with a group of women to a sauna the other day – we had two hours to go in the sauna, use body and face scrub, and socialize. It was one of the women’s birthday so of course there was cognac (I also drank plenty of water) and chocolate. After we left the sauna one of my friends wanted to walk all the way back to her house, stopping at the store for things to make dinner. I told her she was crazy. We ended up walking the whole way anyway, and somehow, it did not feel so cold – was it that the temperature was warmer, or was it the warming effect of the sauna and the cognac?
The evening was topped off by dinner and champagne (well, it WAS a birthday celebration). It is always a bit of an ego boost to eat with any group of people associated with A – I make a very simple but very popular potato dish and usually some sort of vegetables – this time it was frozen broccoli that I steamed and then I tossed feta through it – ta da! It got many raves and the women asked me for the “recipe” for it. Peace Corps Goal Number Two being met!
I am otherwise finding myself torn – I realize that I still have four months of service left and am trying to finish up some projects and continue with others (such as a new round of guest lectures this semester). However, at the same time, I have an eye on what is next. I have never been the person who only wanted to do ONE thing in her life, and had a “plan” and worked to that plan. I have always been a person who thinks of myself as seizing opportunities with which I am presented. This has not always worked out in my favor, but ultimately I still like to think that flexibility means I can react with more fluidity to unexpected challenges. And what is coming next is certainly a challenge, even if it is not unexpected.