Winter Wrap-Up: Our Snowy Town

Everyone here says this winter has been exceptionally snowy.  For that, I’m actually glad.  Without snow, winter here seems to be very brown, gray, and somewhat gloomy.  A good snowfall, however, gives our town an austere charm and turns my daily walk to school into an arctic trek.

This February especially, snowfalls came one after the other, leaving us a good foot or two for weeks on end.  Narrow trails all over town were quickly stamped flat by lots of us walkers taking the path of least resistance.  The roads were pressed into glaciers.  Occasional days above freezing followed by more fresh powder crusted and stratified the undisturbed snow, so that at times you could walk on top of the “fresh” snow as though you were wearing snowshoes.  Getting around wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t really treacherous except for a few times when the trails melted on a warm day and then froze overnight.

We’re all ready for spring now, even though it means suffering through a few weeks of slush and mud.  The sky is sometimes blue, now, and the sun makes regular appearances again.  The bare brown earth is visible again, but I think some of these glaciers may stick around for a couple more months.

Setting Off
Emma's heading off to work.
Our Park
Our picturesque park.
Wide Path
We had a nice wide trail through the park after the first light snow.
Narrow Trail
The trail through the park got narrower when the snow got higher.
Central Heating
The central heating pipe that cuts through town is covered in icicles.
Roof Snowman
The lyceum students built a giant snowman on the cafeteria roof.
Our Door
The trail to our door.
Our neighbors clear a path to get the car out of the garage.
Fearless Marshrutka
Marshrutkas don't let a little snow and ice stop them. We're flagging one down to go the city for a day.
Dead Snowman
Our snowman on the soccer field was sadly knocked over before we could get a pic.

Winter Wrap-Up: Language Refresher

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!

Toilet Water
Umm...? Visiting Kyiv's Museum of Water with Ben and iea.
Sewer Rat
Alex gets cozy with the sewer rats.

In the kids' area of the museum, Alex finds himself trapped by our friendly guide.
Posing in front of Kyiv's Puppet Theater.

You know you're jealous of our incredibly awesome winter hats.
National Opera House
Attending a ballet at Kyiv's beautiful Opera House with fellow PCVs Jake and Alicia.
Iea hijacks a cute photo with our host-mom Natasha and puppy Belka.
Chernihiv Church
Alex relaxes on a bench in front of one of Chernihiv's beautiful churches. Would you say that's a lot of snow?
Emma plays with the cannons in the park.

Alex has a heart-to-heart with Ukraine's famous poet, Taras Shevchenko.
Ice Fishing
Look closely - a couple of guys are fishing through the thick ice on Chernihiv's river.
Funny Shapes
Emma studies the funny shapes someone made out of thick layers of snow/ice.
This church is built into the hill, under which is an extensive system of ancient catacombs. Monks lived here, either to seclude themselves and practice their faith, or to hide from those trying to rid the country of the church's influence.

Winter Wrap-Up: Kids on Sleds

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.

Winter Gear
This typically dressed Ukrainian kid was hanging outside our apartment on January 9th with Grandma. (FYI, the ground hasn't been clear since then, and even that was just a brief spell.)
Budapest Kid
The first time we really took note of kids on sleds was in Budapest. You can tell this kid's not in Ukraine because she can move her arms.
Funny Kid
While talking to Luda outside the Lyceum on voting day, this little gem was getting ready to go.
Funny Kid 2
Off he goes, down our town's main pedestrian drag.
Chernihiv Kid
In front of the skating rink in Chernihiv's downtown square, we caught sight of this little one enjoying a nice ride.
Since Chernihiv has some small hills, the kids actually got to ride down, instead of just being pulled around everywhere.
Hills 2
The hill beside one of Chernihiv's famous churches provided an afternoon of fun for these kids and families.
Lyceum Hill
The only hill in our town (covering two huge water basins behind the lyceum) attracts school kids in the winter, who don't need sleds to slide down the side.
Alex tries sliding down the ice patch left behind by the students. Unfortunately, he just doesn't quite exude the same amount of cute.