Over the last few days many of the city’s outdoor bar and café areas are being packed up, put away, and “winter-proofed.”  The weather is routinely cold enough now that few people want to eat in semi-open air and the only people you see eating or dining outside now are the die-hard smokers.

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Outdoor café being dismantled

Not that it is especially cold.  There is definitely a bite in the air at night, but during the day the sun is usually still strong enough to take the edge off.  I wore a short sleeved shirt today (mainly because I am unable to wash the long-sleeved ones) and the first thing my Russian teacher asked me today was “aren’t you cold?” (in Russian of course, as I should know the word now – halodna).  I’d been walking fast to get to my lesson on time, in my thick jacket, so I was actually quite hot, so I told him this.  In Russian of course, and very nearly accurately! Nyet, ne halodna.  Ya zharka.  Nope – menya zharka.

At lunchtime I went home for a while and when I returned the sun was shining, I was hot again, so I took my jacket off and was walking down the street in my short sleeved shirt, with other people shuffling past me in thick coats, tightly wrapped scarves and winter hats.  I’m sure I got a few odd looks.  But it wasn’t machismo, I genuinely was too hot in my coat.  I brought a large selection of jumpers and sweaters with me to Volgograd and so far I haven’t really had occasion to use any of them.

I got some other news today, two new female teachers will be moving into my apartment in the next couple of weeks.  Of course this means I have to move out (booo!) and they are putting me in a place of my own up near the Voroshilovskiy office.  On the face of it, that will be much more convenient for Voroshilovskiy, but even if they switch all my lessons away from the central office, I still have to go there twice a week for my Russian lessons, and they just doubled the distance.  Perhaps it won’t matter, if the weather gets colder I will consider the cost of travelling everywhere by tram, trolleybus or marshrutka less of a luxury expense and more of a necessity to avoid unnecessary exposure to the elements.

I have had some conflicting reports of the coldness of Volgograd winters.  Everyone agrees that they used to be very cold indeed back in the day, and that temperatures can still get as low as -20.  But while some people talk of a long, cold winter, others say the coldest part barely lasts a week or so, there is minimal snow most of which turns to slush, and in recent years winters have been very noticeably milder here.  It seems global warming is conspicuously visible to Volgogradians.

Regardless, I finally bought my big bottle of Tabasco Sauce so that should keep my insides warm, at least.  And I can report my pop-up toaster is working fine, the rough-textured sliced bread I bought tastes lovely toasted with a dollop of marmalade.  I spread the love a bit today too, top of Ale’s wishlist has been a jar of peanut butter, something we have been unable to find in even the specialist import shops here.  And last night I was wandering around my local supermarket in Pyrimida and lo and behold, I spotted a shelf full of PB.  My first instinct was to take a picture and forward it to Ale with a tip where he could find it.  But a little further into the supermarket I realised this was not the way to play it, and went back and added a jar to my shopping.  I presented it to him in the Russian lesson this morning, and his face lit up with delight.  I think even our Russian teacher was impressed.  Ale couldn’t get out of there quickly enough in his rush to prepare his first peanut butter sandwich in a month.  I’m sure he will have enjoyed it!

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