spring

Prologue

I tried to write this blog entry about leaving winter behind and welcoming spring, but this is nothing like the spring I know. For so many years, spring to me has meant the first blossoms on the magnolia trees at St. Leonard’s Church and Peace Garden in Boston’s North End. It meant throwing the windows open, welcoming in that change in the air. It meant being able to walk home from work: Comm Ave through the Boston Commons, if I wanted some quiet time, or Newbury St and Faneuil Hall if I wanted to people-watch. A few years ago it meant watching my high school classmate run in the big race: in my boisterous excitement, my camera lens only caught the pavement as I tried to snap his photo while holding my homemade sign. Last year it meant finally(!) getting to ride Hubway again.

Since arriving in my permanent site 8 months ago, I’ve nurtured this tie to my hometown with Matty in the Morning podcasts and Robert B. Parker Spencer novels. I haven’t romanticized living in Boston, though. I remember the day I understood what my big sis was talking about when she visited us in San Diego and said how nice it was that people walking down the street said “hello” and looked you in the eye, after I’d moved back to Boston and that didn’t happen. They all let their guard down when the Sox won the Series in ’04—strangers high-fiving and giving hugs—but it didn’t last. I well remember the day I tripped going up the escalator at Ruggles Station, completely ignored by my fellow rush-hour commuters. The people irked me, but I never held this against the city.

This time next year, I’ll be doing what my M22 site-mates are doing now: making preparations for Close of Service. I honestly don’t know where I will end up. Coming into the Peace Corps meant a chance to start over, twice, and this wasn’t lost on me during the application stage. Before I was even officially invited to serve, I looked forward to my post-Peace Corps life, with two years’ experience living and working abroad, and what kind of growth that could mean for me, personally, and where, literally, that could take me. There’s a chance I won’t go back to Boston for good, but Boston will always be my home.

And now, back to the blog: The Winter that wasn’t

I promised an update when “real” winter came… but it never did, not to my aimag, anyway. Now this may seem strange to those of you who recall my frozen toes that didn’t defrost for 3 months, but I’ll remind you that that incident occurred in UB. So, winter—as I feared it to be—definitely came to UB. And I’ve seen photographic evidence among my PCV friends, whose frozen eyelashes and beards left no doubt, that winter definitely came to other parts of Mongolia. But here in the Southwestern aimag of Govi-Altai, we’re well into spring now and aside from a few days here and there during January and February, I never felt that the regular negative temps (in both C and F) were unbearable.

Spring here sort of seems to me like winter-in-reverse: during November and December, I kept waiting for the deluge of snow, but there was never more than an inch or two at a time, and it often melted by the end of the day. (A curious observation is that our snow, when it comes, generally comes overnight.) During March and April, what winter we did have kept asserting itself in fits and starts, but by then its attempts weren’t worrisome. I haven’t worn my Mongolian winter boots since sometime in March, and though I haven’t packed away my winter coat, it wasn’t needed for most of April. This has all fluctuated, of course; there was a day at the end of March that was pleasant enough for just my Boston hoodie, and there were a few snow days in April.

I was mentally preparing for the heat in my apartment to be turned off in March. It would have been unpleasant, for sure, but nothing like waking up in a ger in winter when your overnight fire has long since burned out; I wouldn’t have felt justified in complaining. The heat burned on into April, though, and I was back to opening my window to let in some fresh air, whenever the wind was calm enough to not bring the dust inside. Over the last few weeks, I’ve adopted a new trick: leaving the apartment door open. Since that outer room has no heat, the cooler air wafts in, but there’s no wind and therefore no dust. Now it’s early May, and the heat is STILL on, with outside temps in the 50s/60s F.

The mountains here are back to brown with just patches of snow taunting the sun, but I’ve seen patches of green grass crop up in unexpected places that makes me smile. So, naturally, that’s what I’m looking toward.

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3 Responses to spring

  1. Priscilla A. Arsenault says:

    Very interesting, didn’t realize you didn’t get tons of snow this winter and since you’re in Mongolia and you did get frozen toes, I’ve pictured you waking up some mornings facing 2-3 feet of snowfall, especially since WE got so much this winter including once or twice over a foot at a time! Given the chance, maybe I actually would’ve traded winters w/you (never thought I’d say that!). Because I’ve seen pictures (thx for posting so many, they’re great), I know there aren’t tons of trees, plants, flowers and yards sprouting w/buds for Spring, but is there any vegetation going on, giving hints of Spring? Hints of color? Do people have indoor plants? We finally feel like Spring has sprung, just this week we’ve had a bunch of full, sunny days w/temps in the low 60s, one day hitting 70-71′! There’s been a consistent breeze/wind so it’s def not summer-like, but sitting in the car, w/the sun coming thru the windshield and no breeze, that’s when I can feel and imagine Summer on its way, my fav season! Love you, miss you!

    • eelevol says:

      I’m sure it’s summer now for you! I wanted to say that there are trees here, just none in my part of town. Many saplings (I think they will be trees) were planted in May and the greenery is wonderful. I hope they take root and make it through their first winter.
      And yes, people absolutely have indoor plants and flowers. You can see some of them in the office photos (on the stairs, in the windows). Frozen toes aside, I’m not sure I would have wanted a snowier winter over the cold winter… and it surprises me to say that, too!

  2. Ally says:

    Sounds beautiful! As far as your future and where the end of this part of life’s journey will take you–that will be exciting to watch. I often wonder…can someone just go back to how it was…after so much of their life has been touched and changed. Thank you for letting us be part of it. Blessings all over your beautiful head! Forever, -Ally

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