Sunday, January 18, 2009

Frozen Nose Hairs 1/21/09

Frozen Nose Hairs

Light snow
Temp -28c
Wind calm

Richard Winkle, the Sacramento Temple President, told the story of his only experience in Novosibirsk and I am living that same experience. He came to Novo some years ago because his lumber company was considering some business here. When he got off the plane and walked to the terminal, a common experience in Russia, his nose hairs froze and he knew this was a cold place.

Several days recently, and today in particular, I experience the same thing. The moisture in your nose actually freezes and the hairs get stiff and feel like they are stuck together like you have a nose full of hardening Elmer's glue, right President Winkle? It is a very strange feeling, but becomes common place during the winter. What a subject for a blog, right? My daughter, Shannon, says that that is not peculiar to Siberia. She had the same experience in Rexburg while going to Ricks College in eastern Idaho.

Living in a cold place needs some getting used to and some special precautions. First, there is the clothing. I am still wearing my regular dress shoes that I got at Larry's Comfort Shoes. I thought I'd lose my lunch when he told me the price. They have stayed comfortable and dry so far but I need to wear an extra pair of socks for the cold. I had never paid $300 for a pair of shoes in my life, but I must say that they have been the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn; hence the name I suppose.

On those shoes I wear Yak Traks. This is a rubber-band lattice work with steel wound around each strand like a spring. The tension of the rubber keeps them on your shoes and the steel springs give you traction on the snow and ice. They are a life-saver. We call them "shoe chains", the pedometric (I'm surprised that spell-check didn't argue with that one) equivalent of tire chains. I can walk on ice with the confidence of a Yak; hence the name I suppose.

Next come the Silks. These are long-johns made of pure sink and they are amazingly warm AND light weight. I forget that I have them on except when I use the restroom or get undressed. The former situation can cause one some anxious delay, but the latter is without incident. (I can't think of a way to use that ending phrase again; pity)

My suits are beginning to show the wear of daily use. Some time ago and I decided to keep the 3-piece for Sunday and alternate the other two. Then during the heavy cold I saw that the cuffs of one pair of pants were showing some wear and decided to sacrifice that one suit to the Siberian gods of winter and replace it at a local "Men's Warehouse" type store called Senar's where they often have suits at loss-leader prices ($25-$50). By now the cuffs are worn through at the heel, probably because my pants are too big now with the 30 lbs. I've lost and they drag on the snow and get worn between the shoe-chains and ice.

I am not the only one to lose weight on this mission. Most of the elders look like they are wearing their fathers' suits, and most can get two fingers in between the shirt collar and the neck. Especially Elder Worthen. They tell me he lost over 80 lbs. and his clothes look like it. I took this picture one day of the gathers around his waist bunched up by his belt. I'll see if I can find that one. I'm not sure if this weight loss is due to lower caloric intake or caloric incineration. Nevertheless, it is pandemic in the mission except for the sisters. I cannot tell if they have lost weight because their clothes are loose to begin with. I'll leave that to others.

Next comes the coat. The heavy, woolen coats are called dublonka or palto. Mine weighs 10-12 lbs and is too warm to wear indoors. I also have a leather one that is totally impervious to wind and it is lined with the wool of the sheep it is made of. It is a little shorter than the wool one and I have yet to wear it in the deep winter.

The scarf is important to wrap around your face and act as a gasket to keep body heat inside the dublonka and the cold air out. When you wrap it high, it also keeps your breath trapped near your face to keep your nose and lip from getting frost-bite; a real hazard here. Two problems are the condensation of moisture from your breath through the scarf' first it makes icicles in the scarf; and second it fogs the glasses, which then freezes and you can't clean them until you get into a warm place.

Finally there is the ushanka, or shopka, that is usually made of some kind of fur. Mine is marmot, a cousin to a squirrel. After my years of defending my almond tree against the local squirrel population, it does my heart good to think that one of them is warming my gray head. The flaps on the hat can be pulled down to cover the ears and it is very effective but not all that attractive as you can see from my picture. Function before fashion. Even women wear the fur hats and the hair styles accommodate the hat. Sister Simmons has an Arctic Fox hat similar to this one, but so far she has refused to wear. I hope Sara will like it.

Speaking of Sister Simmons, she is healing exceptionally fast. All of her cuts were closed and healing within a week and they are undetectable. Her left arm is the only thing still bothering her, but even that is better than 75% now.

She enjoys the office elders and often has a laugh with them. Here, before her dive into the men's room wall, she enjoyed a laugh with Elder Watson. He had given her his phone when someone called with a question that she could answer better than he. After the call, as she tried to hand the phone back, it slipped out of her hand and in a knee-jerk reaction, she extended her foot to keep it from hitting the floor and instead of catching it with that foot she kicked it and it separated into multiple pieces all over the office floor. When they started to laugh semi-hysterically, I came around the corner from my spacious cell and caught these pictures of pure joy at this little misstep. For those of you with deep concerns for all living things, Elder Watson reassembled the phone without incident and all is well with it. No phone was killed in this incident.

We find humor and even joy in the daily little things that occur. In this place filled with grey, it is necessary to fill your corner of it with light and color from within yourself. There is fun to be had. There is joy to be experienced. There is beauty to be found and treasured even in the smoke filled sky with its endless succession of clouds. God gives us beauty to brighten out days and warm our nights.
What a country.


Trisha said...

Sara loves the hat. She keeps asking for one of her own. Glad all is well with the healing. We keep praying. Glad there is sunshine in your soul.

Shannon Simmons said...

love ya! I know one of those squirrels made it from our backyard to russia...didnt you see the painted tail?