Although I haven’t yet talked about it, I’ve been out and about a bit over the past few weeks. It’s been a series of small outings, not worth writing about on their own. But together, they’re worth talking about.
First off, I went ice skating three weeks ago. For the first time ever. I mean to say, this was my first time skating on anything. I’ve never skateboarded or rollerbladed in my life, much less ice skated. The closest I’ve come to ice skating is standing by the rink at Rockefeller Centre last December then at the rink in Central Park last January. And both times nothing was happening on the ice because they were closed!
So imagine my absolute delight when someone suggested that a group go ice skating at the local rink. Now, this being Yakutia and all bodies of water, including the lake behind where I live, being frozen, it would be totally reasonable for you to assume that we would just go skating outside on one of them, right? Nope, can’t do that yet. First of all, the water is frozen enough that people can walk across it but it’s not frozen through enough yet that a whole lot of people can go skating on it without incurring a disaster. Second of all, by the time it is safely frozen enough some time in December or January, it will be too cold for outdoor skating. So to the rink we went three weeks ago Sunday.
There were about eight or nine of us. We had tickets to spend an hour on the ice starting at noon so those of us who didn’t have our own skates (I live in a place where people have their own ice skates!!!! Just like they have regular shoes!!!!) collected those we had paid to rent. Because my feet are so large, I had to get a men’s size, which I’m told affected the lack of ease with which I took to the ice. But more on that in a minute.
After I strapped on my skates in the waiting area, I was surprised to find that I could actually just walk around in them. After a couple of minutes, it was time for those of us with a noon ice time to get on it so that’s what we did. By my very poor estimation skills, I think there were about fifty people on the ice during that hour, including a couple of little girls who are clearly on a professional ice skating track, and some young boys doing hockey drills. There were also very little kids – between four and six years old, I’d say – skating around using small support structures that look like mini-goals.
My companions took off across the ice, gliding around and having fun. I decided to watch for a bit before trying it out. Soon enough, a couple of them urged me onto the ice and tried to teach me a thing or two about ice skating, for example, how to glide and how to stop. But, as I said, my skates were men’s skates, which are designed differently from women’s skates, so my feet wouldn’t do what their feet were doing. Also, I’m super awkward at anything even vaguely resembling a sport. So I was like Bambi learning to walk. Disastrous, people! But so much fun!
I went out on the ice three times and fell twice. Most of the time, I was glided around by my colleagues, one holding my right arm and the other holding my left – they were so sweet and kept urging me to try again and they would help me. In the hour we were there, I spent maybe fifteen minutes on the ice but I just managed to get a glimpse of what a joy it could be to skate with enough confidence to just let go and glide. So I’m going to try my best to get to that state.
Another outing I’ve been on in recent weeks is dinner with two of my foreign work colleagues. They’re both women who happen to be from the same country, although they didn’t know each other before they got here. We had been out shopping together at the Chinese market on the edge of town a couple of weeks before and had decided to get together for dinner. One of them had a big leg of lamb that she wanted to roast but her oven wasn’t working so we decided that she’d bring the lamb and roast it in the other lady’s oven and we’ve make an evening of it. It was agreed for a week ago Saturday evening. We were supposed to meet at 7 pm but we had a late meeting at school and didn’t end up being able to go until about 8:30 pm. And the lamb was frozen solid. So we had to defrost it in the microwave for thirty minutes or so then pop it in the oven for another hour and a half.
It was about 11 pm before we actually ate the lamb with garlic potatoes but meanwhile, we nibbled on cheese and olives and nuts and black bread and sipped an Argentinean red wine and a Georgian white. The conversation flowed and we shared about ourselves things that we hadn’t had the opportunity to share before. By the time I left at 1 am to walk back to my place just across the road, I was happy that I hadn’t followed my first antisocial inclination to cry off the evening because of the lateness of when we got started and the stuffy nose that was plaguing me. In fact, I’m looking forward to repeating the experience in the coming winter months when we can’t stay outdoors for long.
More outings to tell you about! But I’ll save them for next time.