Sunday, January 3, 2010

The View from the 9th Floor of Bits of Siberian Domesticity 1/3/10

The View from the 9th Floor of Bits of Siberian Domesticity 
Weather Clear and Cold
Temp--minus 20F (132C) Wind--Calm

From our 9th floor apartment windows we see a lot of Siberian Domesticity and daily life. As I am shaving or getting dressed, I like to look out of our bedroom window and observe life below. Sometimes looking out is a little difficult with Jack Frost's artwork on the window, but I can usually make out what's going on.

One thing that I have noticed about mothers year round is that they often take their babies out for a ride in a pram (baby buggy) during the afternoons or mornings. It is sort of like walking the dog. I presume that this is for fresh air, although with the amount of blankets and snow suites they put on these kids, it is unlikely they get much air at all. Nevertheless, these moms, or the occasional babushka, are dedicated to this practice. I have seen them out for "air" when it is -25F. That's dedication.

Another scene of domesticity was seen one Saturday as I was doing the wash. I heard some muffled thumps out in the back of our building.
Thinking that there was some building project in progress, I looked out the window and "what did I see . . .", there was a heavy metal frame embedded upright in the ground, over which a man had draped a carpet for beating the dirt out of it. This scene could have occurred in any Russian city at any time during the year, but at -20F it seems a little incongruous, but there it is, with the man, presumably the husband, beating a rug under the supervision of a woman, presumably his wife, who occasionally moved closer to say something to him when his ardor for rug beating waned. Most of the time she stayed out of range in case he missed the rug.

A couple of days ago I heard some fireworks in the back and tried to look out those same windows in the "Cabo" room (for you newbies, that is our enclosed porch that gets very hot in the summer like Cabo San Lucas) and as I came into the porch from the extra bedroom where the wash was hanging, the window instantly iced up to the extent that I could not wipe it off. After using my Metro card to scrape off the ice, my breath and body heat created more ice and I never could see out of the window. I took this picture the next day and it was OK until I got close to the window and then the same thing happened.

Even in the cold, life just has to go on. If you live where it is winter 6 months of the year, the people just cannot afford to let it impact what they are doing. Garbage gets picked up, weddings take place, the puppies get fed, the dog gets walked, shopping gets done, little girls dress up with sparklers in the hair, and people have to walk from place to place because most people don't have wheels. I watched what looked like an older (50) lady turn the corner from our street onto the side street and slip on the ice. She scrambled to her feet and just kept walking.

Speaking of walking, Russians rush. I have made a very scientific observation about Russian walking and have found that most walk at about 100 to 120 steps per minute, whereas a good hiking walk is 60-70 steps per minute. I am not sure if they are just in a hurry or if there is some other motive, but they move fast, they move hard, and they move without interest in others. It's like the one with the most energy gets the right-of-way.

I watched a woman in the store, who was ahead of us at the cashier, take her change, pick up her two bags, whirl around and charge off at almost a dead run without even noticing the people around her who gave way so as not to be crushed. If we are leaving the building and I hear the outside door open, I step aside of the interior door (there are three doors, the outside steel one and two interior wooden ones to keep out the cold) and avoid being trampled by whomever is coming through the entry. They don't look, they don't hesitate, and they don't apologize. Get out of the way or pay the consequences.

These are a tough people for a tough place and they don't apologize for it, although, I am often asked what I think of Siberia. Even on New Year's day, as we came into our building we were met by a man coming out of the outside door in a T-shirt and shorts. He welcomed us into the building, wished us a "S Novim Godam" (Happy New Year) and then wanted to talk. He was obviously very drunk, but he wanted to try out his English on us and we conversed for a couple of minutes that ended in, "How do you like Siberia", to which we always answer that we love Siberia.

Every day is an adventure and every day it seems colder than the last, even though the thermometer may read the same or a little higher. It is just plain cold. Any exposed flesh is subject to frost bite and you learn to protect yourself. We are grateful to be here to serve the missionaries and the Lord in this frozen land.

What a country.


Trisha said...

Life must go on. It is a hard concept for some. I know I have had to learn this one. I may have learned it sooner, by watching and understanding those wonderful siberian women. Thanks for the insight.

lelia said...

Here in South Dakota the lawn mower is put away for the winter and replaced by a snow blower. While winters are a little shorter here (4 - 5 months) it can be just as cold. All temps under zero are just plain cold and when it gets that cold the temp gage doesn't matter. Cold is cold and it has been -25 this past week. Think about it, -25 plus 70 degrees in Los Angeles makes it 95 degrees colder in South Dakota or Siberia, take you pick! However, everyone here has cars so walking is minimal. It is easy to take blessings and modern conveniece for granted. C & D next year you will probably have nostalgic moments for the fridged zones, but maybe only nostalgia! Your blogs are a delight to read, I am so glad to have been there and have a first hand knowledge of your experience. Love and prayers to you both.

Bob Steed said...

Doug - Do they walk at the same pace year-round? Or is it just like this during the winter time?

Carol said...

Even though the temps are very cold here in Idaho I am finding myself freezing as I read your posts about the weather. I trully hope that you are all keeping warm and staying happy. I too enjoy your posts and I enjoyed hearing about how you all spent your Christmas eve and Christmas day. I know that Sister Gneiting told us on the phone how much she enjoyed and appreciated coming to your house for such a yummy meal and enjoyable evening. Thank you for all you do to help those Siberian Missionarys feel loved and taken care of.

Shannon said...

Yes, I agree with Trish, one must go on. Its a good reminder to not wait- for the weather to warm up, snow to clear, or whatever. Just move forward!

Janell Frangel said...

And I thought I was cold this morning when I didn't where my slippers to go get clean clothes out of the dryer this morning! Boy was I wrong! I am so happy to take the moment to see your sweet faces, you are working so hard!