Michigan has SNOW and COLD WEATHER and WIND.
It seems as though a general assumption in Russia is that no one has weather like they do. Being from Michigan, I understand that this is far from true. Ironically it’s practically spring In Michigan right now and I must explain to my students that this winter is quite an anomaly, thus feeling like a huge hypocrite.
That being said, I have about had it up to HERE with questions regarding weather. I mean my purpose here is to enlighten local Russians about American culture, which I suppose includes American weather. But in all honestly I cannot wait until winter is over and I can move onto a new set of vocabulary and forget these horrible phrases like: как тебе наша погода? (how do you find our weather?) or замерзла? (are you frozen?) почему ты так легко одевалась? (why have you dressed so lightly?) ты болешь?! (are you sick?!?) On the other hand, I’ve been able to use great phrase; like when people ask me how I am, I respond: Я сосулька (I’m an icicle). Or: моя комната морозилка (my room’s a freezer). They love this.
And it’s true! My room could possibly be about 20 degrees (F). The other day I finally realized that the real problem was the empty room next to me, to which I have zero access and which I know is letting in ghastly amounts of cold air. My friend brilliantly suggested that I close the door between my room and the entryway, logically keeping out more cold air than if it was open. This has helped, but makes it extremely cold and disgruntling to use the bathroom, shower, or even make tea. The other morning I brushed my teeth with hot water and heard the water crack the ice in my drain.
This cold weather has definitely changed the city. One would assume that a city would be ready for this weather and adequately prepared for its arrival. However, as it has reached the -20s this past week, most of the schools in Astrakhan have been closed in what they call a “quarantine”. Administrators literally walk through the school counting heads, and if there are too few students, they just close. Supposedly there hasn’t been a year without a quarantine since some of my colleagues started and it always comes in the beginning of February. As the semester just started on Monday, what’s the point of starting if you know that the next week a quarantine will take place? It makes about as much sense as American universities starting four days before labor day and then giving students four days off. Had I known a more timely arrival of this quarantine I could have taken a second month off.
Outside the schools, the city has pretty much turned into a provincial village. The sun sets about 5:45 pm right now and although I love these days that have normal substance and sun, by 6:30 there are so few cars on the road you could count them; marshrutkas stop early; and pedestrians are slim to none. Everyone orders taxis because they don’t want to wait for a marshrutka. The snow doesn’t help the situation either so the taxi prices have gone up from $3 to $4.50. Taxi drivers even know some of their passengers’ names.
Yesterday was supposedly -36 celsius (at -40 it evens out). I stepped outside and wondered who was taking these temperatures. It was great out! Really, its simply the numbers that intimidate you and taunt you while you lay in your wam bed. My обогреватель (space heater; also another Russian word – and item – I can’t wait to throw in the trash) also decided that -36 was too intimidating and decided to stop working. I almost cried myself to sleep last night, scared of freezing while in slumber, when he suddenly accustomed himself to the cold and turned back on!