February 2006

Hello All! Sorry it has been so long since we have written, but the buses were shut down while the weather was so cold just in case they broke down in the middle of nowhere and people froze to death. We figured that was reasonable. Although I must say my first shower in two months was pretty much the best moment in my entire life. At least that is what it felt like at the time. Now I think the best moment in my life might be having some fajitas and a margarita. All in good time.

It's not really that cold anymore, but it was in January. We only had 7 days of school. School gets cancelled about -30 Fahrenheit.

Your Frostbite Guide

0 C = 32 F (Freezing)

-10 C = 15 F (Warm. Balmy. Bermuda shorts and fruity cocktails.)

-20 C = -5 F (It's finally cold. But with all of our fur it's not that bad. School is still warm. You can still touch stuff outside but laundry freezes in about 15 minutes.)

-25 C = -13 F (Two pairs of pants. Extra shirt.)

-30 C = -22 F (You can't touch metal outside with your bare hands. You can still go outside if you have to but it's not real fun. Water vapor in air freezes instantly.)

-35 C = -31 F (Things start to hurt. Exposed skin is a no-no. Can't really touch anything outside with bare skin. If you had to go anywhere you want three pair of pants, thermals. You carry around things that are on fire to keep from freezing. Ok, so that's just a baby exaggeration.)

-40 C = -40 F (It's not cold anymore, it's an experience. It starts to hurt, and nearly instantly. You can't go outside, you just can't. Your nostrils freeze, which is a very strange sensation I assure you. We're not just talking nose hair. The outside door handle freezes on the INSIDE. Also keep in mind outside air temperature = toilet paper temperature. Ouch.)

The coldest it got was -42 C. It was colder than -20 nearly every day.

Kazakh Tailgate

The other weekend we set out to enjoy the great outdoors. It was -10 so we wore T-shirts. We went out to a lake to go driving. Yeah. Lake + driving. The following conversation ensued as we drove out onto the lake in a 6-ton SUV.

Me: I didn't know you could drive on a lake.
Driver: Well, it seems like it.
Me: Is it safe?
Driver: Ah, 50-50.
Amy: I'm scared.
Driver: I'm scared too.

Actually as it turned out the ice was like 15 feet thick, you could have landed a 747 on it. They were just having a little joke on us. Interesting side note: they use frozen rivers to drive semi trucks on in the winter because they're more reliable than the roads.

So anyway, what you do once you're on the lake is you tie a wooden sled to the car and drive all around the lake. It's just as fun as it sounds. I'm sure the danger was minimal. Really.

Then we drove out into the mountains and had a cook-out with shashlyk (sha- shleek - like kebabs with mutton or pork) near a mountain that looks like a witch's head. The story goes that the witch was so nasty to the townspeople (ate their children or something) that they turned her into a rock..We danced Russian dances to keep warm and drank just a little liquid cheer.

THEN we drove out to Lake Jessabai for dinner. At 11pm. We sang a lot.

We got home at 1am and had banya. Went to bed about 5am. It was a really great time; I didn't know you could have that much fun outside when it was so cold out.

Amy and Jack