winter worries & hog harvests

i’m cold.

this is how i’ll try to not start the next 3 months worth of blog posts. but really it’s the main thing on my mind right now. it’s cold outside and cold inside (though definitely not to the same extent). it didn’t get this cold this early last year. i’ve really been feeling the quickly dropping temperatures in my little hobbit house. so much so that i tacket a heavy blanket to the open doorframe leading to my room, in hopes that i can keep that one room warm. it’s worked for the most part. but now my other room is just freezing. i guess you can’t win ’em all.

i finally gained some warmth back in my hands with a bowl of hot borscht, three layers of clothes, a monkey hat, hoodie, and my portable heater wrapped around my legs. i’m not sure if i’m becoming more of a baby this year? if it’s really just miserable outside? or if it’s the fact that i was spoiled by living in a newly renovated boarding house last winter? one that had new window and a 3 minute commute to work. i don’t think i felt REALLY cold in my old house or school (traveling is another thing). but now i have a 35 minute one way walk to school, live in an older house with leaky windows and doors, and have neither a shower or hot water heater. so i guess i’m getting my real dose of winter now. i suppose i’ll just have to get used to wearing every clothing item i own all at once and at all times.

being cold in my house, and just knowing that the outside is even colder, really makes me never want to leave. ever. i’ll just stay curled up in my bed, hands wrapped around a mug of hot tea, and snuggle against my radiator. it takes quite the motivational push to go out for a run. i’ve been having quite the mental struggle deciding whether or not i’ll travel around ukraine/romania this winter break. on one hand i think, ‘you should GO! it’ll be great to see friends. when will you get another chance to see romania?’. and then on the other, cold fearing side, i say ‘ummm, yea, i just can’t travel in the cold’.

my friends worry that i’ll go crazy if i stay at site with 2 weeks of nothing to do. but ehhhh, i’m pretty darn good at entraining myself so that’s really not a worry of mine. though getting moderate-hypothermia (again), losing fingers and toes (hasn’t happened…yet), and freezing to death are. i really don’t think i was this big of a baby last ukrainian winter. hell, i decided to travel during the coldest of the COLDEST freezes (with temperatures around -25*F. yea, idiot plan).

i never made it to my destination (no, no, i’m not writing this from heaven), but i did suffer from moderate-hypothermia (you’re probably thinking not that story again) but i think what i went through instilled enough fear in myself to never try anything like that again. it’s engrained in my mind now — a knee jerking survival reaction (that somehow didn’t fire the first time). just enough fear to where i now have anxiety regarding any travel in the dark winter times and cold temperatures.

i know my friends don’t understand. heck, maybe anyone that reads this won’t. they reassure me that i’d be fine, things wouldn’t get that bad, but i can’t help but think they could. i don’t know if they understand just how afraid i am of that happening again unless they too experienced it. last winter from long exposure to the freezing cold my brain slowed, my speech slurred, my body and muscles refused to function normally. i felt my body slowly shutting down and i honsetly thought i was going to drop dead in the dark train station parking lot before long. of course i didn’t, but it was too close of a call.

the cold here isn’t something to be taken lightly. recently ukrainian authorities declared 37 cold related deaths, and this is only for the month of december. i can’t imagine trying to survive a ukrainian winter without a home and warmth. some villages have lost power due to winter storms, but mine thankfully hasn’t been one of them. i really have no right to complain. at all. things could always be much worse.

i just got an email from peace corps advising us not to travel since there have been severe winds and snow fall causing power outages and stranded buses. winter traveling means hours on an icebox bus or icebox train to only get to an ice box train station with no heat. so no thanks. i think i’ll stay put (peace corps fear tactics worked again!) but really, i’ll probably change my mind 20 more times. so who knows what i’ll do. but let’s just say if i do in fact leave my house, i’ll be surprised.

i have ventured out now and then, however reluctantly. last weekend the volunteers in the city and my new site mate/neighbor all gathered for a ‘drunk brunch’ of mimosas, bloody mary’s, ukrainian salads, our own homemade bagels with real cream cheese, and a few rounds of scattegories. it was quite a lot of fun and oh so carbo-lishish…even if sarah, my new neighbor, and i froze our butts off on the way back to the village.

the next day i miraculously woke up and ran despite the frightening windchill (somehow i’m not too afraid of winter running) and then later showed sarah around the village. the wind was just a jerk and made my village tour a little less enjoyable. when we finally made it back sarah came over to start making borscht with me. though after only just opening my door my landlord/host dad excitedly invited me to come see them slaughter the pig.

needless to say we hesitated a little, unsure if we wanted watch the actual killing, but it turns out it was just recently killed. so we headed back out to the cold, to my backyard and found a stiff big bellied and a man with a blow torch. some might not understand why i’d ever want to see something like that, but i found it interesting and a part of life, not to mention something i’ve never (or probably would ever) see in america. so the first time sarah comes to visit my house this is what we did. oh, village life.

we watched them torch the hair off the skin, splash it with hot water, cover with blankets for 5 mintues, and then scrape off the charr. it was a long process, longer than i thought it would take. my landlord’s ‘just 2 minutes, 2 minutes’ was more like 20. i was kind of hoping to see how they’d carve it but we were just too cold and had to go inside. poor sarah had to put her hands on the radiators to warm up. but as we cooked the borscht my kitchen, along with our fingers and toes, began to heat up. a bowl of hot borscht at the end of a cold windy day was heaven.

i headed to school on monday with a coat smelling of burnt pig skin/hair and faint traces of borscht (i decided to call it ‘village perfume’). it’s foreign language week at school which means lots of open lessons (lessons observed by the school principal), presentations, rehearsals, and the oh so anticipated concert. i’ve been busy preparing materials, helping with technological things, and ‘perfecting’ the carol santa claus is coming to town with my english club. all of this hasn’t left much time for things, such as that mound of laundry.

even though i think i got the washing machine to work, i’m still highly skeptical of it. so tonight i have some clothes soaking, waiting to be washed. but really i have no desire to stick my hands in that cold water. no, no, no. maybe i’ll just let them soak for a little longer…like uhhh maybe until spring.

pig torchin'

sarah watchin the pig torchin’

who knew frozen blood is so pretty?

who knew frozen blood would be so pretty? (don’t worry they didn’t kill it with the hatchet)

all clean and ready to make salo

all clean and ready to make salo

(leaky?) water tank in my village

(leaky?) water tank in my village

(leaky?) water tank in my village

(leaky?) water tank in my village

two of my 6th formers at school

two of my 6th formers at school

sliding around between classes

sliding around between classes

frost on the windows of the school gym

frost on the windows of the school gym



4 thoughts on “winter worries & hog harvests

  1. Great post! You make your readers feel cold too, brr :p We’ve had heating problems in our apartment this winter but they sound like nothing compared to your cold rooms. It’s really hard to find energy to do anything, though, when you’re cold all the time, indoors and out. I hope your village gets some warmer weather soon!

    Also, the pictures of the pig are totally awesome. People had described the process of making salo to me but I couldn’t actually picture the beginning stages of it until now. Thanks for posting them!

    • thanks katherine!! i’m hoping for a heat wave, but i think i might be waiting a while ; ) also i’m glad you like the photos! i was so worried that people might hate me for that. i found it fascinating!

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