When I was little we lived in New York State where snow was pretty common.
The day it snowed in Mexico City most of my friends had never seen it before. Of course they had seen it on the tops of far away mountains, but falling from the sky on top of them was something new. The snow was heavy and the trees were not expecting it either. Many broke under the weight. It was all so odd. It was January 1967 and we got two inches. It has not snowed in Mexico City since then.
It was six years before I saw snow again. I was living in Nigeria and going to boarding school in Switzerland. For some reason I had no winter clothes. I had sweaters and a coat but no warm socks or snow pants. So when I went skiing for the first time, I had on my blue jeans and a sweatshirt. By the end of the day my pants were soaking wet and I thought I would freeze to death.
After college in California I went to Denver for a while and then to Minnesota. That was where I learned about snow. Snow would pile up along the street. The fire hydrants had to have tall flags attached to them so they could be found in winter. One year we had back to back snow storms and it took all my strength to push my door open against the snow. Talk about claustrophobia.
I left Minnesota in 1989 and by 1993, I was in Moscow, Russia. Moscow is the same latitude as Perryville, Alaska, and Copenhagen and Glasgow. It is pretty far north. In winter it snows constantly. As I remember it snowed almost every day and it was very dark and dreary. There were two things that struck me. It wasn’t as cold as Minnesota. There was no wind coming off the prairie like you got in the Midwest of the US. Even if the temperature dipped well below zero, it never felt as cold.
The other thing that struck me was the snow never accumulated. After living in Minnesota and seeing mountains of snow everywhere, I wondered what happened to all the snow that constantly fell. It took me a couple of years to figure it out. The Russians had a truck that looked like a lobster called the snegopogruzchiki KO-206M. It was a purely Soviet invention. You can see it in action here:
Late at night these trucks would troll the streets and scoop up the snow placing it on a conveyor belt that carried the snow to a dump truck behind the lobster truck. They would then take the snow outside the city and dump it.
This meant Moscow was usually covered in a very light layer of snow that quickly turned to slush and mud during the day and froze at night. It was unpleasant to look at and could be treacherous. I slipped on the ice regularly.
In all the years I lived in Minnesota I don’t remember the office ever being closed or even schools being closed. People just trudged on as best they could. I would get stuck on my way to work and somebody would come along and push me out. It was what people did. We were all in the same boat… snowboat.
Of course, they had snowplows in Minnesota.
In Moscow I never owned a car and the metro always ran so I don’t think it even occurred to anybody to close anything.
Living in the DC area has been an education. My son’s school closes regularly for snow. Even a threat of snow will close many schools. Our recent snowfall was enough to close my office, which rarely happens. But now with all this modern technology, we don’t get the day off. We can work from home! Yay!
Unfortunately when you have a teenager running around the house cheering for the Russian Olympic hockey team, it makes it difficult to concentrate….
How do you spend your snow days?
Kathleen Gamble was born and raised overseas and has traveled extensively. She has a BA in Spanish and has worked in publishing, printing, desktop publishing, translating, and purchasing. She also designs and creates her own needlepoint. She started journaling at a young age and her memoir, Expat Alien, came out of those early journals. Over the years she has edited and produced an American Women’s Organization cookbook in Moscow, Russia, and several newsletters. Her first book, Expat Alien, was published in 2012 and she recently published a cookbook, 52 Food Fridays, both available on Amazon.com. You can also follow her blog at ExpatAlien.com.