Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Зелений гай in winter

After several days of staying indoors and staring at the computer screen, Tanya comes to the rescue and drags me outdoors.

You may remember Tanya as the heroine of Зелений гай and the ☭ metro stop. She's still an English teacher, still living in Proletarska, and still a very good friend. Today we retrace our steps from that earlier adventure, but the heavy layer of winter everywhere makes it almost a new and unexplored land.

Circus truck. A small circus tent is set up nearby.
I love coming out here because I find a totally different Kharkov. All the pretension and glamour and Roman architecture of the city center vanish.
Lost: German Shepard. A child is suffering.
Others are enjoying the trails too: mothers and grandmothers with strollers, teenagers bundled up against the cold, devoted pet owners. When our skin begins to tingle with numbness, we cut through the back of the park towards the warmth of Tanya's apartment.
"It's not far", she says as we wander this back road. And then she adds (I think?) a joke: "Oh, by the way, I heard there's a prison back here..."
Snowmobilers zoom by. A paintball park appears on the left, silent and empty, a colorful ad for the "Poligon-X Paintball Club" tacked to a bulletin board inside, a ubiquitous BMW abandoned near the entrance.
Finally we near the main road. Before we leave the park, Tanya points out a gigantic mansion- two car garage, several satellite dishes- hidden behind tall brick walls. "They say someone in the police lives here", she tells me. "This person just cut down trees to build inside the park."
Now we walk along a slippery sidewalk. A woman pushing a twin-size baby stroller marches ahead of us. The apartment complexes around us were built several decades ago. They're now so old that they're almost stylish- check out the tiny colored tiles on the side of this building:
Since many of the apartments lack balconies, the residents have to improvise:
For those who own a small apartment, cats are a popular pet choice and it's not uncommon to stumble across someone's cat as he sneaks off on a secret errand.
And then, inside! Warm air! Dry floor! We shed our boots and jackets inside Tanya's entryway. Although Tanya is a young teacher, she lives in a building that originally housed factory workers. Each worker was given a small apartment consisting of one main room, a cozy entryway (you can stretch out your arms and touch all the walls), a bathroom, and a balcony. There's a shared kitchen at the end of the hallway. Tanya wants to someday leave this modest apartment and hallway community of neighbors who aren't afraid to come knocking. To me, it's like an experience of authenticity and I probably drive her crazy with constant refrains of it's so different! and holy cow! look at that!

There are no other neighbors in the kitchen at the moment. We slip in, dump a bag of пельмени (dumplings) in a pot of boiling water, and stand at the stove for several minutes, waiting for the пельмени to finish cooking and float to the top of the pot. Meanwhile, there's a lot to see: for Tanya it's old uninteresting things but for me it's new. There's a string of someone's dried fish strung up above the refrigerator. A large mesh sack of onions is propped up in the corner. Under the table, kilos and kilos of potatoes have been covered with a heavy blanket. The kitchen, incidentally, is squeaky clean. The three stovetops are spotless. Near the multiple sinks are a mop, buckets, and scraps of cloth for scrubbing.

We hurry from the kitchen back to Tanya's room with the dumplings. Tanya pulls out butter, sour cream, sunflower oil, all of it homemade from the village. Grated beet and a marinated cabbage salad made by her mom join the offerings. As a final touch Tanya pulls out a plastic bottle repurposed to hold her husband's homemade wine. It is a perfect meal, complemented by the episode of давай поженимся (Let's Get Married!) that we stream off of Channel 1 Russia.

Wow, I can definitely tolerate a little more winter if it's going to be like this! : )

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