The sun shone on Chisinau yesterday for what seems like the first time in weeks. For a week and a half after D returned from Ukraine, the city had been pummeled by a cold front that dumped several feet of snow on the Moldovan capital.
Many of D’s Moldovan colleagues rejoiced that real winter has finally arrived. D is not sure this is cause for celebration. The thermometer read 15 degrees below zero this afternoon, and it was surely colder at night. That -15˚C is warmer than the same temperature in Fahrenheit is not much consolation either. With the sun shining on the pure white snow, it is beautiful outside, but too cold to stay outdoors for long — especially since D’s broken thumb makes it impossible for him to put on gloves.
Twice this week the Embassy authorized early dismissal from work because the snow fell too fast for the city to respond. Prior to our arrival in Chisinau colleagues warned us to be careful in the winter because roads don’t get cleared as thoroughly here as they do in the States. Thus far, D has been pleasantly surprised on this score. While navigating the uncleared side streets can be treacherous, most major streets and roadways in the center have been plowed and are navigable. D has seen some municipal workers clearing sidewalks as well, though for the most part it appears that it’s every man for himself, with everyone shoveling their own piece of pavement. Of course, there are also some streets where the pedestrians walk alongside the cars, but those streets likely didn’t have sidewalks in the first place.
Our neighborhood, located on the edge of the city, does not seem to get as much love from the tractor-plows as the city center, however, and the steep street that leads down to our house went uncleared for much of the week. With only one fully functional hand, D has been in no shape to pick up a shovel either, so he simply watched as our yard, driveway, and staircase got buried in the quickly accumulating powder. He used his feet to clear a narrow path up from the gate to the front door and to sweep enough snow off the stairs to make them usable, repeating the procedure multiple times throughout the week as more and more snow fell.
At the outset, D worried that he would get cabin fever after being shut in by the snow, but that hasn’t happened. Last night he went out to celebrate the Chinese New Year with some friends and the previous weekend he had friends over to play dominos, but for the most part he’s been content to bundle up indoors and watch movies, breaking up the routine with the spectacle of Emmie digging around in the snow.