My first winter here in Moscow was a huge shock to my system. As I grew up in sunny South-Africa I have never experienced cold like this before and was definitely not prepared.
When the cold of October arrived my co-workers asked me if I have enough warm clothes for the coming winter, I told them I was ready for winter and pointed out that I have 2 lovely warm coats that I bought in England. My co-teachers just laughed at this and said that they meant for winter not for autumn.
By the time November arrived I understood what they meant, the colder it got the more afraid I got of what lay ahead. I thought to myself, if I’m already freezing to death in -15 how the hell am I going to survive -35 degrees?
My first experience of -27 degree weather was quite comical. The wind was blowing outside and you could see that it was a cold day but I felt confident that I could wrap up warm enough.
I got dressed in 2 warm vests, a long sleeved top, 2 sweaters, a jacket and then over all this put on a warm coat. I had on stockings and jeans over them, thermal socks and even some fur lined boots that I bought the previous weekend.
I put on a warm hat, folded my coat’s collar up and wrapped a scarf around so that in the end only my eyes and nose stuck out. I felt that now I was ready to brave the Russian cold.
I looked and moved like the Oros man (the South-African version of the Michelin man) and got into the lift with one of my neighbours, they just stared at me, said something in Russian and laughed all the way down. Secretly I was hoping that he commented on how cold it was today but I suspect he might have said something about me looking like an idiot dressed up like that and that it’s not even that cold outside.
The sidewalk was covered in ice so I did my penguin shuffle, where I hardly lift my feet and move forward with small shuffles and my arms straight out to the side so that I can balance. An old lady of about 70 sped past me with her shopping but did turn and laughed at me before speeding along again.
By the time I reached the metro my eyes were watering from the cold wind, my nose felt frozen and ice had formed where I was breathing against my scarf.
Inside the metro another old lady of like 70 gave me a very funny look before actually sitting down next to me. Before we got of at our stop the little lady took a bottle of vodka out of her bag and took a couple of big swigs. Couldn’t believe that someone would drink clean vodka at 9am!! But I totally understood why as I headed back out into the cold, she was probably still warm and not feeling like an ice cube after 2 minutes outside.
Back outside the penguin shuffle continued. I was so wrapped up that I couldn’t even turn my head, so before I could cross the road I had to turn my whole frozen body left and right before continuing. As I was shuffling my way down the street a car stopped in front of me, with great difficulty I shuffled around the car, the car then drove on and stopped in front of me again. I looked up and inside the car sat one of my students looking as if he is having a laughing fit.
He said that he saw someone dressed up like an Eskimo and walking like a penguin and just assumed that it would be me.
I never knew that in -27 degrees ice actually forms on your eyelashes and by the time we got to the class I looked like a raccoon with my mascara running down my face.
Never thought I would actually reach that point where I wish it was -10 again!!