Thursday, April 1, 2010

Winter is Reluctant to Let Go of Novosibirsk

Winter is Reluctant to Let Go of Novosibirsk
Weather -- overcast, light wind, warming
Temp -- plus 36F Wind -- 3-5 mph

April first and the melt is on; again. Here I am in my winter duds, wearing my scarf "Siberian Style" with my fur collar around my neck and my shapka down to my eyebrows. 

In mid-March the temperature got up to the mid 40's and everything began to get soft and/or melt. That lasted 4 days, enough to get a good melt started. Then it snowed for 4 days and then the temperature dropped into the 20's and whatever was melted froze into a solid sheet of ice. Novosibirsk became a huge ice skating rink with people slippin' and slidin' from площадь Ленинa (Ploshad Lenina) Lenin Plaza at the city center to площадь Марксa (Ploshad Marksa) Plaza Marx at the left bank Metro terminus.

It stayed that way for a week or so and then we hit the 30's and the ice began to get really slick with a sheen of water on it. Then last week the snow came again and we were back to the high 20's. Finally this week we have had 3 days of high 30's and the water is flowing again. Below is our office driveway with the ice partially melted (about a foot thick) and the water flowing from beneath it.

It is interesting to contemplate the various things that have been contributed to the water that now splashes from passing cars and collects in puddles that you must traverse on the way to and from. Surely it contains the auto component, the dog component, the trash component, the human component, and whatever is actually seeping up from the ground as it mixes with the flowing surface water.

 The trash component is huge. All winter stuff accumulates around the neighborhood and is then buried with snow that becomes encased in ice and remains out of sight until the melt. As the ice recedes and the waters flow, the hidden becomes known and what was not picked up last fall or winter now becomes a project. The snow removal department and the ice chippers do a very good job keeping the major thoroughfares clear and as the snow stops falling and the main roads are passable, they start on the smaller roads and even  parking lots. One morning last week we awoke to the sounds of a snowplow breaking up the ice in our parking lot and moving it into piles. You always know when the weather has been clear, the machinery gets closer to home.

Another contemplation is the question of, "where does it all go?" The storm-drain system is full of the sand they spread on the ice for traction and as Sister Woodhouse can attest, it is full of a lot of trash as well. You remember that she was the one who stepped into an open storm drain one night while leaving our house on her way with Sister Boggs and a recent convert, Anya, to English Club. There WAS enough room for her to go down past her waist, but I can see the trash piled up in there to stop the water. So where does it go? There is no sign that it flows in any systematic way to the river. The drains don't work. Closer to the office we DID see several sink holes that formed last spring and there was significant water flowing underground there to create quite a hole. The ground must be saturated pretty quickly, and evaporation is a little slow; a mystery.

When you are little and the snow gets icy, it is hard to find a place to play outside. Here a mother and toddler are trying to get some outside time and it's tough finding something to dig in or slide down. Having a young child in an apartment is like having a large dog. They both need to get outside during the day and just run around. It surely strains a mother's patience to have such an "animal" on the loose in a 800 sq. ft. apartment.

Here the water has melted and frozen again. This can be really dangerous for us older folk. We don't bounce like the young ones and we hit with a thud. The only time I have fallen (knock on wood) during our whole mission was as we were coming down the stairs from the hill upon which is the Zolani Kulola building (green roof) where the 1st and 2nd branches meet. The stairs have two sets of about 30 steps that end at street level. Then you make a 90 degree turn to the right and walk about 200 feet to the Metro entry. As we turned the corner ( the only time I wasn't wearing my shoe chains) I slipped on the ice on a little incline and took out Sister Cindy like a 7-10 pin split (bowling term) and we both went down in a heap. Fortunately, 5-6 of the YSA girls were with us and got us on our feet. I cracked a rib on Sister Cindy's bag that I had on my right shoulder, but otherwise we survived.

When the melt is in full sway, this is what we have in several spots along our route from home to the office. Some creative Russian has laid some pallets against the fence and they stay there all year just for the month or so that we have the spring flood. Why not?

If you aren't fast enough getting across the street or watching carefully you get some of that interesting water on your nice clean пальто (palto) and I'm sure it will eat a hole in it before I get home.

But for Russians, and particularly Siberians, any hint of sun and thaw is time for a bar-b-q and shish-kebab is the order of the day. They call it шашлык (sashlik and it is usually beef and veggies on a steel rod cooked over coals. Very ethnic.

The melt is what the Siberians hate almost as much as the winter. The good thing about winter is that it is not so messy. The bad thing is that it's "DARN COLD". The bad thing about the melt is the mess. The good thing is that summer is coming and there is hope for a time to thaw out and rest up for the next winter.

Finally, I just love this picture. It is Elder Wilson and Elder Baird in front of their передняя дверь (front door) that did not close all the way during the winter. The moist air from the building's interior leaked out all winter and formed ice crystals on the under-side of their entry awning as you see here. You can just imagine what the melt will do to that.

Winter is brutal; the melt is just a last reminder that man is nothing in the face of nature. We can prepare for it and even endure it, but we cannot control it. Once the melt is past we will enjoy five months of reasonable weather and freedom.

For our missionaries, this begins the time when they can contact people on the street and have a hope that they will stop and listen. It is hard to concentrate on a gospel message at -37F.

The melt is also the reason that Siberian Russians take off their shoes when they come into a house or apartment and they always head straight for the bathroom to wash their hands. This is a dirty place and you have to have these traditions, habits, to keep any semblance of cleanliness.

What a country.


Anonymous said...

Nice to see your wonderful stories - Russia won't be the same without you, hard to imagine you leaving this month! Godspeed! Let us know if you need anything!
Julie @ the Embassy in Moscow

Trisha said...

Ok dad, I tought about this one and here is my deep thought. The snow and the melt is like Satan. He tries to cover up how bad things really are, but with truth always comes out and you see it for with it really is. How was that for a thought.