I thought I was getting used to the cold—but that was only because it hadn’t gotten cold yet. Probably still isn’t really cold. I’m just a pansy.
After my день здоровья (Tennis! Sauna! Swimming! Sauna!) on Saturday, I thought I’d take a night to myself. Pull out my Wall-E solar panel and recharge my batteries. Catch up on the Big Bang Theory, drink tea, and watch Hocus Pocus. Sleep.
I thought wrong. Around nine, I was invited to go play billiards—and a la Yes Man, I hardly ever turn down an invitation these days. Billiards was fun, despite my utter lack of talent. I’m always meeting new people, it seems, and everyone I meet is wonderful. Even the random guy wearing an “I❤ NYC” shirt who approached us during our game to ask if we were foreigners turned out to be very nice. Billiards turned into a karaoke club outing, which eventually turned into freezing on the street waiting for a taxi to drive us home. Turns out I was the first foreigner this taxi driver had ever driven. Changing lives.
Sunday, I went with some friends to Ivolginsky Datsan, located over 20 km outside of town. It was -13 degrees Celsius (14 Fahrenheit) when I left my apartment. I was wearing my Mongolian socks, my new winter-approved boots, my touque (here, generally referred to as забавная шапочка), huge fluffy scarf, Grinch gloves, and my American Winter Coat—but I was not prepared for the cold. Over the next few hours (spent mostly outside), I slowly froze to death. I thought all the tea and pozzy in the world wouldn’t make me warm. (Again, though, I thought wrong: tea and pozzy can mend all wrongs)
Ivolginsky Datsan is gorgeous. Smack-dab in the middle of the steppe, surrounded by mountains and village and nothingness, this is the heart of Buddhism in Russia. If you google Ulan-Ude, this is one of the top-3 things it tells you to see. I would have liked to have taken some kind of tour or stopped to read some signs, but I will have plenty of time for that next time around. This time, I just basked in the glory and splendor of it all. And so should you.
After that, frozen, frozen, frozen Arielle never wanted to leave her warm apartment ever again. But that was not to be, of course. I had tickets to go to the Russian Drama Theater with one of my students that evening. We saw Pigmillion. It was great, and I understood most of it. Really takes me back to my first days in SWSEEL when I couldn’t understand a word of anything. Now I can see plays and carry on hours of Russian conversation, no sweat. Progress! And you know what NEVER gets old? When people tell me how good my Russian is. Never gets old.
I woke up on Monday with a runny nose and sore throat—my first Siberian cold. Time to try out the medicinal powers of honey in my tea! And raspberries, apparently.