Don’t worry – we still have some more “Winter Wrap-Ups” to post, but I wanted to let you know that SPRING IS HERE!! After a long weekend in the eastern part of the country, we arrived back home Sunday to find the rest of the snow GONE! The temperatures have been in the 50s for the past two weeks, although still chilly at night. Sunday was also the beginning of daylight savings time in Ukraine, so it’s light out from before 7am to after 7pm. It’s like the town has been awakened: people are out and about all day long, enjoying the weather and getting to work!
So, what does it mean when spring comes to Ukraine? Spring cleaning, of course! First of all, everyone is cleaning indoors in preparation for Easter, which will be celebrated April 4th. Secondly, everyone is cleaning outdoors! Individuals in their own yards and town maintenance workers in the parks and streets. They are raking up dead leaves and trash from their yards and the park. They are cutting down trees. They are tilling their gardens in preparation for planting. And at the end of the day, they make small (sometimes large) piles of dead yard waste and trash and burn it. That was something I noticed when we first came to Ukraine – the smell of all this smoke. At that time it was annoying to breath it in all the time, but I don’t mind it this go-round. It’s become a sign of spring to me: we’re getting rid of all the dead stuff and trash and preparing for a fresh, new year!
This time of year can also get pretty dusty, if it doesn’t rain. The snow is gone, the ground has dried, yards and fields are cleared, and only a few flowers are starting to push up through the dirt. But, again, I don’t mind! So long as it’s not snow, ice, or mud that I have to trudge through to get to school every day, it’s all good!
April first marks the anniversary of our arrival in Ukraine! It’s hard to believe, but we’ve experienced a whole year here – we know what each season brings; we know what to expect. Obviously anything can still happen, but it’s nice to be in somewhat familiar territory. Now, for comparison: a few pics of our backyard through the 3 seasons we’ve experienced while living in our town.
One fun thing we did at the end of January was attend a Peace Corps “language refresher.” It was a 4-day long Russian language training with other PCVs from our group and the previous group in the northeastern city of Chernihiv. We managed to make a 9 day trip out of it, including a weekend in Kyiv with our cluster-mates, a visit with our host family, and another weekend seeing the sites in Chernihiv. The biggest problem was that we wound up doing all this during the coldest week of the year; the high temperatures averaged around 0〫F! Nonetheless, we had lots of fun with our friends and really enjoyed exploring a new city. The training itself was really helpful, and, of course, we always have a good time with other PCVs!
Spring finally appears to be on its way (although we still have inches of snow and ice on the ground in places), the sun shines brighter and longer each day (the vernal equinox is tomorrow!), and everyone’s spirits are slowly lifting in anticipation of warmer weather (anything above 40 is considered warm these days). So, it’s time to get you caught up on winter in Ukraine.
First in our Winter Wrap-Up series: Ukrainian kids. We have come to the conclusion that kids in Ukraine are the cutest beings on the planet. Ukrainian parents don’t let the winter stop them from taking a stroll with the kids. If the temperature drops below 60, they just stuff their children into enormous coats, hats with ears, and baby carriages with enough padding to protect the kid from a 7-story drop. Picture Ralphie’s brother Randy in A Christmas Story, and you have the right image. These kids can barely manage to waddle along next to their parents, so out come the sleds. Words cannot convey the appropriate amount of cuteness, so please sit back and enjoy our pictures.