Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Snow Days

Recently, I've combatted a bit of a split reaction when it comes to reading my friends' Facebook status updates about, of all things, snow days.  Typically when my friends post about an unexpected snow day, it's done with all the finess capable of multiple explanation points and those weird sideways smiley faces.  Of course, I too cherish those memories of turning on the radio early in the morning, waiting calmly and collectedly for "District 20" to be announced, then exploding in a power jump herkie so emotive that sleeping in is no longer possible.  But now that I live in the land of snow, I find myself torn when reading about my friends' good fortune.  It's not that I miss the snow - no, quite the opposite.  From December to April of any given year there is more snow on the ground one day in Moscow than the accumulated 10 years of my childhood in Denver, Colorado.  The problem then?  Russia doesn't do "snow days."  

"Wait, wait, you're telling me that in America, you actually cancel school because there's some snow on the ground?"  I can just hear that mocking tone of my Russian friends now.  "If we canceled school every time we got hit with a snow storm, we'd be in school well into our 60's."  I swallow my pride with every snowflake:  planes take off and land, buses run on their normal schedules skidding in and out of bus stops, pedestrians go about their everyday life... life does not stop here for snow.  The very idea is laughable.  So the problem?  Naturally, I miss the occasional snow day.  I miss simply taking time to stop, grab a sled, and drink hot cocoa every hour on the hour as required by Colorado law (section 4, paragraph 6 of state ordinances) on snow days.  I feel somewhat jilted when my friends get a day of bliss for a level of snowfall we in Moscow probably got in the last few minutes it's taken me to write this blog.  I'm jealous, naturally.  But I'm also proud.  "You call that snow?"  I find myself saying to my computer screen as I enlarge my friends' pathetic pictures of their cars decorated with white powder.  I can almost make out the form of your car - it's not a snow storm until you can no longer distinguish a parking lot from an apartment building.  I laugh at your snow day, the Russian side of me calls out!  Maybe I'll look at your pictures the next time I need to explain to my friends here what a "dusting of snow" looks like.  

Thus you probably discern the dilemma.  Now that I'm too good for snow days, it's awfully hard to reconcile this pagne of envy that creeps over me when I read how much my friends heart snow days on a random Wednesday morning.  So, take your snow days, Colorado, this post is for you.  But know that on the other side of the world, we're going about our daily lives, turning up our noses at your sledding hills, and laughing at your cocoa (albeit with tears in our eyes.)



Monday, February 13, 2012

Temperature Index

I've noticed that one of the quirks of living here in Russia is that I've somewhat acclimated to the celsius temperature scale.  I say somewhat because it seems that I've managed to retain my knowledge of fahrenheit in regards to warmer temperatures, but when it gets cold, I switch to celsius.  Moreover, I've developed my own associations of what these temperatures feel like.  For example, 70 degrees fahrenheit feels like a shorts and t-shirt run down the Boulder Creek Trail complete with sunglasses, chirping birds, and a babbling creek beside you.  As I'm realizing right now as I type this, my colder associations are not nearly as picturesque, but useful nonetheless:

0 C (32 F) - Pre-winter or "cool" some might say.  This doesn't feel quite like cold so you can get by with your fall jacket in this kind of weather, but don't forget your hat!  You should have started wearing a hat 10 degrees ago at least!

-10 C (14 F) - Now we're talking!  This is an ideal Russian winter temperature.  Cold enough to get your blood moving, but warm enough to run without a face-mask.  

-15 C (5 F) - Not too different from -10, except we tend to get a lot of snow in this range, so it's typically a beautiful time to be outside.

-20 C (-4 F) - Anything colder than -20 and the schools here close for the day - not necessarily a snow day, but a cold day.  I definitely slip on the long johns for travel in the city and layer up (facemask included) for a quick - I do mean quick - run in the park.  This temperature is primarily marked by this odd, subtle eye/headache which creeps on you the longer you're outside.  You realize that your eyeballs are actually freezing and the ache is coming from your body's attempt to keep them warm and functional.

-25 C (-13 F) - Stingy!  This is a stingy kind of cold that takes your breath away immediately upon stepping outside.  It's difficult to talk while you're walking without coughing because of the sting of breathing in the air.  Also, you experience that strange sensation when all of your nose hair freezes the minute you step outside.  Pull a scarf over your face while you walk, it's a big help for keeping the sting at bay.  These are the days when Dan most frequently reminds me his face would be so much warmer were he allowed to grow his beard back.

-30 C (-22 F) - Any kind of moisture immediately crystalizes in this temperature.  You can tell by the white, frosty tips on passer-by's hair, scarves, hats, etc., from just breathing as they walk along.  Apart from a bit of difficulty breathing as your lungs acclimate to the frozen air, it's really not that bad.

-35 C (-31 F) - Although we rarely reach this low in Moscow, it's daily life in Siberian winter.  Dan would like to remind our readers that as the temperatures continue to drop, they still maintain the effects of the previous temperatures, just colder.  He also has the following advice for -35:  STAY AT HOME AND DRINK TEA!

-40 C (-40 F) -  As the two scales meet at -40, you're approaching temperatures in which celsius is actually colder than fahrenheit.  At this point, you need to plan your time outside so as to avoid frostbite.  As public transportation still works reliably, make sure there are at least a few "emergency warming points" along your route just in case your bus is late and you need to run inside somewhere to keep with the 10 minute rule (don't be outside with any exposed skin for more than 10 minutes.)  Dan has memories of feeling his crunchy nose upon returning home, realizing the 10 minute rule should really be more of a 5 minute rule.

-45 C (-49 F) - Yes, this temperature does exist.  

-50 C (-58 F) - This is a low for Siberia even.  At this point, you get on-line as fast as you can and look at the cheapest ticket to "somewhere warmer" (ie almost anywhere else in the world.)  Then you realize that air travel would necessitate going outside to get on a bus to the airport.  No deal.  Now... for more tea and kudos to the concept of working from home...