The first scooter was noticed two weeks ago. Then a poster saying that walking over the ice is dangerous and prohibited replaced “don’t smoke drunk in bed” on the city’s main square by the T-34 tank on a pedestal. A few days ago I saw the first mosquito by the spring that supplies drinking water to us miserable wretches who get only sulphur-smelling stuff from the tap. And yesterday it was the true sign of spring – the first babushka by the apartment block entrance, an iconic small-town image during the warm season.
At this point I can confidently conclude that winter here is easier to take than in Moscow, 1200 miles south. Real darkness is no more than a month although one may wish for more sunlight from the end of October to about the beginning of March. The saving grace is clean white snow that reflects light. Unlike in Moscow, where the authorities are obsessed with removing every trace of snow or turning it into slush, here they tolerate a permanent snow layer on roads. Once you get used to it driving over ice and snow is not really an issue, and saves a bunch on tires. All in all, the place is entirely livable on just about every parameter, including things beyond bare practicalities and necessities. If not for the current patriotic frenzy I would consider the possibility of declaring myself content if not happy. But my compatriot’s current surge of enthusiasm gets on my nerves. And even making a living as a humble English tutor does not help. Yesterday one of my clients, a pillar of society type business lady, declared that English originated from Russian, and Slavs/Russians where the original inhabitants of Britain. And a charming store-keeper wears “American is the enemy, and Internet is the source of all evil” on his sleeve.