Sunday, March 24, 2013

In the time of mud- wait, I mean snow

After a fleeting caress from the pleasant kind of spring weather, rain clouds rolled in and obliterated the blue skies and hopeful feelings of the days before. My mood echoes the weather; it rises when I wake to dust motes floating in rays of sunlight, it falls when the atmosphere closes in on the city like a wet lump of wool. Eager anticipation one moment, apathy the next. 
Sometimes I feel like Oblomov, the character from Ivan Goncharov's novel who literally spent 100 pages lying about in bed. Other times ideas run wild through my head, and by the time I've written one, three others have already taken flight. Is this some kind of seasonal fever? Is anyone else floundering about in bits and spurts as well?

 A student asked me to describe a typical day. I was stumped. It's either a beautiful and empty day (this is rare) or a day that needs far more than the limited hours the planet allots. Teaching fills a good part of the week. Then there's the occasional “our deadline is in 5 minutes!” translating/proofreading work. The clips of an almost-finished casting video for a tv show demand to be organized and rendered. And I long constantly to blog- I'd write so many entries that it would probably scare you away! D is working two jobs now and will be stepping into a new role involving management at his FT job. He's also long overdue for a trip to Crimea to negotiate the beauracatic maze that will allow us to finally open a bank account here. It seems like as soon as we accomplish one task, there are immediately five new ones to replace it.

The latest task has been trying to reconnect (internet-wise) to the outer world. Our internet has been down an entire week. At first it could just be politely considered “a change of pace”, but after finding myself in a frenzy at Coffee Life (mis)calculating rates for a translating gig as the baristas are sweeping up, determined to close early... well, let's just say I didn't get that job. I do completely own up to being a budding internet addict but it's also essential for work, even if only to schedule lessons with private students or teach on Skype. A solid 24 hours of rain left me desperate for at least a fix of Facebook. The local cafes offering internet sometimes save the day, sometimes surprise us with no connection only after we've settled in and bought our tea.
At last, after a generous dose of “Are you sure the router is turned on?” and “Why don't you try rebooting the computer?”, our internet provider pinpointed a break in the cable outside that precariously climbs the bricks up to the roof. The technician reluctantly agreed to come over and install a new indoor cable.
Hopefully the extra 50 uah we slipped him made up for the hassle of getting around town in this terrible, terrible weather, for as of sometime last night all that rain turned to snow. Wet, heavy snow, the kind that falls in clumps off the roof, almost knocking the camera out of your hand as you lean out the window to take a picture.
about 8:30 AM
Of course, this is nothing like what has hit Kiev. Kiev is now absolutely buried in snow. Something like 50 cm (almost 20 inches) covered the streets in just one day. A state of emergency was announced on Saturday. The city council declared that tomorrow (Monday) be a snow day for all workers except those in the medical and snow-clearing spheres. For a post from Kiev with lots of great photos (and a super-cute doggie!!!), check out Living in the City Center.

My friend O, a PhD engineering student from Iraq, joined us for tea today. He always brings us a bag of black tea from Baghdad when he visits his homeland. I like to add fresh mint while the leaves are steeping....mmmmm! On the way to meet him, I found some beauty in the return of winter.
balconies in the snow
I see another period of death-by-falling-icicle awaits us
O greets me at the metro stop. "Hi! Katherine! Really, very glad to see you! How are you!" He's always uber-courteous. Today he's in a heavy tan jacket and no hat. His ears are red from the snow and wind. "O, where's your hat?!" I scold him as we walk up the street. He tells me about his brother, who lives in Kiev. "He says there is a problem with bread, that the trucks can't get through the streets and the line for bread is an hour long." (More on stuff like that on Andrea's Blizzard Chronicles.)
The streets are eerily empty for a weekend. Those who have ventured outside walk briskly, heads down, boots crunching through the wet snow.
This is downtown Kharkov- deserted! It's -12 C (10 F).
Drama theater on the left, shopping mall on the right
Spring fashion- perhaps it's a bit overly optimistic to have this on display?
The lettering on the window reads: New Collection Spring/Summer
We encounter one of the вахтаs on the way home. She puts down her snow shovel and comes over to us as we approach the building. "Who is this? An Arab? A university student, huh?" She proceeds to reel off a list of all the deans and professors who have ever lived in this area while he looks at me helplessly. Eventually there is a tiny opening in the conversation and we slip through and hurry inside to thaw our frozen limbs.

The tea is delicious. The three of us use it to wash down бутерброды (open-faced sandwiches), green grapes, and extra-dark bubble chocolate. Eventually, it's time to go back and brave the weather again. At the metro stop D and I part ways with O and spend 30 freezing minutes wandering around with a camera.
Empty park
Am soooo happy to not be driving in this!

When we get back the вахта is there again. Now she's bundled up in a purple and turquoise coat, a navy blue hat with a matching fur trim, black pants, black boots, and a knotted red scarf around her waist. She's carrying two snow shovels and- last I heard- getting paid "a pittance" to do this work. In her sixties, I've never seen her without her pink lipstick, heavy mascara, and rouged cheeks. "Hey, when is your family coming to visit?!"

"Haha, my parents? Probably never!" I laugh back. (Mom, if you're reading this, it's really not that far!)

"But your brother, he's coming soon, right? Hmmm. We need to find him a nice Ukrainian bride. And I think I know just the girl..."

With that hint of mystery, I'll bid you farewell, my readers, because the internet is back on and I have a lot of surfing to catch up on : ) Stay warm!

(And to my brother, in the unlikely case that you read this, don't worry. I promise that a visit to Ukraine won't mean the end of your bachelor days... but I wouldn't mind a cool Ukrainian sister-in-law to swap clothes with...)


  1. Thank you for your internet addiction and your love of blogging. You capture your life poetically, honestly and with humor. I love the pictures and feel your pain. I thought we had it. Now it feels as far away as it did back a few months ago.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, itinerant yak. The sun is back out today in Kharkov so hopefully you're getting the same treatment up there in Kiev!