The streets of St. Petersburg have transformed into an outdoor banya, except with no snow to cool down in. And I feel like I’m slowly losing my mind as I stew in a pool sweat and mosquitoes inside a stuffy classroom. Russia’s experiencing one of the worst heatwaves in decades — the locals have rechristened the country as Africa. it’s not terrible, in the sense that it hasn’t reached over 100 (at least, in Petersburg, it hasn’t), but keep in mind that it rarely gets this hot. (In other areas, such as Siberia, Moscow, and southern Russia, it gets over 40 C in the shadows.) But it’s terrible in the sense that Russians escape the heat by swimming…and drinking. Unfortunately, in the reverse order. In the past week, there have been over 200 deaths from drinking and drowning. The heat’s also destroyed an absurd amount of crops. Russia’s in a state of emergency, since the heat wave doesn’t look like it’s about to end.
I would consider this a health crisis — with no end in sight, Russians are still going to take to the beach and arm themselves with alcohol. It’s fun to drink, and it’s even more fun to drink on the beach, so why not? But it’s difficult to gauge how much one is drinking, especially in the tortuous heat. I’m sure that Russians have been drinking and swimming for centuries, but the heat has never been this bad. They just don’t realize how quickly they’re dehydrating and that they’re replenishing themselves with 40 proof alcohol. In June, 1200 people died from drowning, and I can only imagine that the numbers are going to be significantly higher by the end of July.
What’s the solution going to be? Tell Russians to stop drinking? That’s sure as hell not going to happen. Raise the price of vodka again is a possibility, but that would probably just mean that more Russians would turn to good old-fashioned samogon — moonshine. I don’t know. All I know is it’s going to be pretty devastating if the weather doesn’t cool down soon.
Instead of drinking vodka, Russians should just gorge on ice cream. I think it's a good compromise.
As I was walking home from my oral proficiency exam today, I happened to pass by a shawarma (or known as shaverma here in Petersburg) kiosk and its alluring, spicy meat smell enticed me to go closer and take a look. Shawarma is notorious in Russia, or at least in Petersburg, for being the perfect drunk food. It’s meaty, it’s somewhat spicy (I guess, I’ve never actually tried shawarma here), and it’s basically the only thing you can get at 4:30 in the morning — they’re usually sold in 24 hour “cafes” or kiosks.
yay food poisoning!
I was, in an understatement, hungry. I felt as if there was a black hole in my stomach and if a stray animal had walked by, I probably would have chased after it with a fork. However, after taking a close look at this particular kiosk’s offerings, I quickly decided to go with my better judgment and not eat the shawarma it had to sell. Call me an unadventurous bore, but the sight of a Central Asian man carving off hunks of pinkish-grey-brown meat from a shapeless skewer just doesn’t do it for me. I also have a phobia of tainted meat — my last run in with bad meat left me not only with my head hung over the toilet but also in terrible delirium (I seriously thought I had to build the Czech Republic from the ground up. I foggily remember crying to my host mom that I had to build the Czech Republic or else there would be no country. She thought I was going to die.)
Also, one of my friends pointed out something particularly disturbing/hilarious to me. While we were in Sochi, there were an obscene amount of stray cats, but not a lot of shawarma stands. However, in Moscow, there are absolutely no stray cats and a ton of shawarma stands. There is a definite correlation between stray cats and shawarma stands. Coincidence? I think not.
Shawarma -- a dangerous thing.
Here’s a nice little tidbit for you all: last year, some homeless people sold body parts to a local kebab house. Russia doesn’t really care about consumer safety. As long as it’s somewhat tasty, right?
The snowpocalypse/snowmageddon/Judge-snow-ment day that has obliterated the Mid-Atlantic has caught Russia’s attention. Are they sympathetic and understanding of DC’s plight? Of course not. In fact, they’re reveling in the Mid-Atlantic’s suffering, inability to combat with snow, and overreaction.
Russia, I wholeheartedly concur. A week off from school? Mobs of people raiding grocery stores and sucking them bone-dry? Even a call-to-arms?! Puhhh-leeeease. This is pathetic. DC and the Mid-Atlantic, I have one thing to say: Grow a pair (of snowplows).
However, for all the laughing that Moscow and St. Petersburg is doing, they could stop their chortling for a bit and clean up some of the snow, and perhaps do a better job of removing icicles. By the afternoon, the snow pileup on the sidewalk has become a nauseating, grey-brown slush that somehow manages to splatter all over the bottoms of jeans. Enormous ice masses envelop the slippery sidewalk, and people push each other out of the way to weave and navigate through the ice hurdles. It’s a pain.
St. Petersburg: Tundra-licious
Walking to class (in heels, because I’m trying to be Russian) is a game that involves constantly changing strategy, with the main goal being not falling on your face while looking composed and collected. It’s much harder than it looks, and I don’t know how all the match-thin Russian women pull it off. I always end up looking sweaty, haggard, and clearly disgruntled, and they walk around looking like runway models, hair billowing in the wind.