I live in a winter wonderland. Seriously, people. No joke. Here, let me show you.
And it’s still autumn. Winter hasn’t started yet. For the past couple of weeks, the temperature has been in the low negative single digits, like around -9˚C. As has been happening since the first week I got here, the temperature falls every week. As of today, it’s officially in the high teens; it bottomed out at -19˚C this morning and before this week is out, we’ll be in the negative low twenties. And it’s still autumn!!!
We had our first snowfall during the night of September 29th. That was a Friday night. I went to bed at my usual time and it was cold but clear. When I woke up the next morning, I glanced out the window and saw that the world had changed overnight; there was a light covering of snow on everything. Unfortunately, I hadn’t seen the snow actually falling but that was rectified soon enough. Later in the afternoon while I was in class, it started snowing again. I actually stopped teaching when I noticed and said, “Look! It’s snowing!” The look on the kids’ faces was like, “Yeah? So?” I didn’t care that they didn’t care. I loved it!
In the month since it started snowing, it feels as if it has snowed at least half the time. From what I’ve noticed, we’ve had a few different types of snowfall. We’ve had softly falling snow, much like you’d have a light drizzle of rain. We’ve had sudden snow showers that come up fast and blow out quickly. I was delightfully caught in one of those the week after it started snowing. We’ve even had what I would call snow downpours, where it falls fairly heavily for a few hours. I haven’t yet experienced a snow storm but I imagine it’s just a matter of time. In fact, I’ve come to realise that snow is like kind of like rain, except cold and not immediately wet.
To be honest, when I first arrived in Yakutsk, I didn’t find anything particularly beautiful about it. It was kind of dusty and pretty industrial looking. It’s amazing how snow has changed that. There’s no dust anywhere now and everything has a sort of movie-magic look to it when it’s snowing. Even the slightly run-down looking building behind my school has a poetically distressed look as the snow falls around it, like the next Tolstoy might be living in a loft over there, even now producing a masterpiece to share with the world, inspired by the beauty just outside the window. Cheesy? I don’t care. That’s the type of beauty I’m seeing all around me.
By mid-October the lake behind my building was frozen, creating another beautiful element in the landscape. Unfortunately, they won’t open it for ice skating until nearer to spring. That’s because, although it’s frozen now, it’s not frozen all the way through and a bunch of people skating on it at this time would end in disaster. And by the time it’s frozen all the way through enough that it would be safe to skate, it will be too cold for people to be skating out there. So until spring I must wait in order to go skating on the lake.
I also wanted to run out and build a snowman when it started snowing for real but my colleagues told me that they wait until February or March to do that, when the snow is sticky. Right now, it’s light and dry.
Last Tuesday morning dawned cloudy and I thought for sure it would be a snowy day, like the day before had been. But by mid-morning the sun was out in full force and blinding everyone. I gave up hope for snow. I shouldn’t have. By mid-afternoon it was cloudy again and when I happened to look out a window, we were having a downpour. Honestly, I almost ditched my afternoon classes to run outside and just stand around in it. But I didn’t. I did the responsible thing and conducted my classes but I did pop out for a couple of minutes just to soak it in. Enchanting – that’s the only word I have for it.
Meanwhile, my adjustment to the cold has been easy. I’ve come to believe that God made me warm-blooded or something because, so far, I’ve taken to the climate like a duck to water. The heaters are all working and I freely confess that I’ve been cracking my windows when I’m getting ready to go in the mornings. Don’t be horrified! Remember that it’s all central heating, so the buildings are toasty. That includes my apartment. And because we have to get dressed in all of our layers before we go out, it’s easy to get overheated. Up to now, when I’m walking out my apartment door I’m wearing my regular clothes plus my jacket, scarf and hat. I put my gloves on (if I’m wearing them that day) while I walk down the steps. It’s a relief when I get outside. As of today, since the temperature has plummeted again, I’ve busted out my heavy coat and soon I’ll add my thermal under things every day plus my ski pants. My scarf, hat and gloves are already standard.
So yes, when I’m getting ready in the mornings, I crack my kitchen and bedroom windows, otherwise, I’d be a sweating, miserable mess by the time I left for school. I even keep my classroom windows cracked at school, or else the children and I would expire from heatstroke. The only time I keep them tightly closed is when I have my very little kids.
Speaking of clothes, I’ve now officially busted out my first snow boots. When I say, “first,” I mean my first ever-in-life proper boots, as well as the first of the two pairs that I have, the other of which will get busted out when the real deep freeze of winter comes.
It’s funny how life changes from one year to the next. Last year at this time, I was sweltering through Indonesia’s rainy season and wondering what was in store for me when I left there. Just a few months ago, I was frustratedly trying to find my next step, with not a clue as to where God would take me and what He had in store for me. Now, I know what the crunch of freshly fallen snow under my feet feels like. I know how beautiful and pristine it looks as it’s falling. I know how icy it can be when it’s a day old. And I love it all. Thank God for second chances.