It is 12 degrees Fahrenheit here in Northwest Oregon. But if you are an ex Peace Corps Volunteer to Russia, you know that all cold temperatures are measured in Celsius, if they are to make any sense at all, so it is -11 C. That’s Russia cold.
It brings back memories. Some, in fact, most are quite random.
So here goes.
As we walked to her friends house in -30 temps, my host mom, as we squeaked our way through the snow…
She: Do you hear that?
Me: Hear what?
She: (points to ground) The sound our foots make.
Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.
She: You will think of Russia when you hear that sound when you return home.
And indeed I do.
In our training time, a uniquely unhinged time in the lives of all the people in our group, the night before we left, we acquired some rinky-dink plastic bags and slid over the small shrubs in the snow down this somewhat large hill in Vladimir. It was dark and I think at least one person our group may have perhaps imbibed. The experience was such that as one stood at the bottom of the hill, one declared “Pass”, but once talked into doing it one time, enjoyed the speed at which we flew down and caught air on the bumps that almost busted our bums. It beat sitting inside and drinking tea in a foreign language (which we had been doing alot of).
Who can forget the feeling of the contents of their nose freezing? Or how to broach the issue of ice hanging off your friends face? Who can forget the way real hoarfrost looks in a path lined by trees?
Winter in Russia will help you learn immediately the importance of a hot breakfast. What you can get away with at home, a cup of coffee, an apple…it doesn’t cut it. You will be hungry, cold and stuck somewhere where there aren’t even vending machines, and misery will slowly come.
And then someone will want to celebrate something and they will put a shot of vodka in your hand, and you will be known as the world’s cheapest drunk as they usher you to teach a 5th grade class. Then you’ll really wish you ate your kasha. Not that this ever happened to me…
In Russia cold, you will learn the importance of a warm hat, and who could believe that the only thing that really does the trick is made of an animal.
You will know that -10 and warmer means two layers, -15 and colder means three. More than -30 and you shouldn’t be out very long if you can avoid it. In Siberia, they wait till -50 to close schools.
Conversations with my hostmom, Olga.
She: Have some tea, sit and have some tea.
Me: No, I am really not thirsty.
She: Tea is not for to drink, but for to communicate. Sit.
I will write more as they come back to me, but suffice it to say, after Russia for 2 years, going into a room of grannies you never met, stripping naked and then beating each other with sticks is just a thing you do to get by.