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My Experiments with Snow

"What you hear and what you see are two different things", I happened to read this somewhere and as a matter of fact it was proved right. It was in the winter of '98 when I first encountered this! My maiden trip abroad to England was filled with adventures. One such was my encounter with snow!! I know how it gets in your heart especially if you are from the South - when most time of the year you are fighting the heat.

At first in Stoke-on-Trent, I was trying very hard to cope with the weather. The sun hardly came out and the temperature never rose above 8 degrees. During this time, the hotel manager once told me that it could even snow - as per some weather report. I first ignored because, I was used to 'not believing' the weather forecasts. But, when my husband reminded me that I was in England, my expectations rose. The next day, almost everyone was 'worried' about the snow and I was wondering why they had to worry because, it was a matter of delight. I told someone that I was very excited about the snow, and the person asked me if I had ever experienced snow. To this, when I answered in negative, he was surprised and gave a look that almost translated to - 'can't believe you have not seen even snow'- and before he left he gave a 'knowing nod'. This got me more curious and I kept thinking - well, why should people worry about snow. I decided later that people who don't see snow very often worry about it and worry about driving in snow, walking, talking almost everything!!

The next morning, when I woke up, I looked out of the window and I was watching the first snow!!! Pure white flakes, falling deliciously down and delicately forming layers!! It had already formed a few inches and I saw that almost everything was covered in white and in fact, the day looked much brighter!! There was hardly anyone in the street and I thought why on earth would people sit inside when it is actually snowing!! We went out and tried to walk on the streets and my heart ached because I was spoiling the beautifully layered snow-flakes with my footprints. I didn't find it very cold and I could almost dig into the snow and throw and play games. But, I wanted more snow - enough to make a huge snowman. After a few hours, it stopped and my dreams of making a snowman, never really took off.

A few months later, in Clermont-Ferrand, it snowed. But, this time, I could feel the snow, right outside my house, because, I now had a small sit out. My husband and I walked in the snow with an umbrella and saw all the children playing with snow. - delicious white snow being dug out by small kids to make snowballs and snow foot balls. It was great. Also, now, I could make a small snowman and he really looked cute.

But, little did I know at that time, that my adventures with snow had just begun.

After a few months I was in Almaty where almost every day of the winter was welcomed by snow. It was there that I actually learnt a lot about snow. I had to walk, run and almost live with snow through out the winter. The first time it snowed, I was happy. I walked in the snow and slipped and tripped and I just could not get my balance right. It was then that I realized (for the first time) that walking in the snow was an art. I had to learn to walk!! As awkward as it may seem, it was tough too. At that time, I had to walk in my sneakers as I didn't have boots but two days later, I went shopping for shoes. These special shoes were expensive and I had no choice but to buy because if I had to walk and live in that country I had to walk in boots. I now tried to walk but still I had great difficulty. Now, I needed to be coached to walk in these shoes and especially in the snow!

My first "sole" adventure with these shoes came when I had to take the garbage to the garbage bin. Almaty has colonies and each colony has an area for garbage where you dispose them. It was just two minutes walk. At first I thought that I would not need any special attire to go to the garbage bin. But the moment I set my feet out, I froze and my legs pained so much that I had to get back to "dress up" to go to the garbage bin!!! I wore my thermals, a good cap and gloves and then my good shoe!!! I found it ridiculous that I was doing all this just to go to throw garbage! A little later, as I walked towards the garbage area, I kept slipping and my feet would not stand in the ground. It had only snowed the previous night and the day actually looked clear but, it was freezing and also I could not stand in one place. I took a little less than half hour to get to the garbage and back.

I was embarrassed as kids looked amusingly at me while they walked with so much ease. The ground was so slippery that mothers were pulling small wooden boards on which babies sat. This worked like a pram and it was fascinating to see so much activity. Older kids were playing like they would on a ski rink. It was so much fun but for my faltering walk, everything looked good.

Actually, Almaty sees snow almost every second day but when it doesn't, the temperature drops so much that the snow becomes ice over night. And with the little bit of sunlight every day break, the top most layer of ice melts leaving a more slippery ground and making matters worse for me. The art of walking I learnt after a lot of time but I could never master it. I still slipped in slopes or even on an even ground when there is too much ice! Actually you need to put the complete foot and not the heel first while walking. Over a period of time you automatically learn to carry the heavy boots and walk. Therefore, a lot of attention needs to be paid to the area where you propose to place your foot while walking. However, you also need to watch out for any falling snow (from the roof tops or trees - when sun melts them so much that they no longer stay on the roof and slip down!!)

It is normal for the people of Almaty to walk on ice, and lead quite a normal life - like shopping, disco dancing or anything. The nights are long with the evenings getting dark by 5.30pm. Sometimes, in the evening SMOG settles in and makes visibility worse. SMOG is a combination of smoke (vehicle fumes) and fog and it makes the air dense. This is the worst time, when temperature is freezing and the air also becomes difficult to breathe.

All said, I am told that there are different qualities of snow. Almaty snow, I am told is not so pure (I don't understand this as I find snow to be pure anyway) because it is not so dense. This was explained to me by making a snowball. First you press the snow and make a small lump and you keep rolling the ball in the snow, and after sometime, this snowball becomes a big one as the snow sticks to it easily. This was not so easy in Almaty, so, it is supposed to be just 'OK snow'. Well, snow to me is just pure white so, I like it anyway (except when it becomes ice and makes it worse for me to walk). It is definitely beautiful as long you watch it falling outside your kitchen window.

Like all experiments, you are supposed to grow wiser after each attempt. My experiments with snow - like walking, running, making balls and many more - have just remained an experience and I don't think, I have mastered the art of knowing, understanding snow. All I know is that snow is so pure that it reflects even light and snow capped mountains is just great to look at. Well, snow or no snow but Nature always is intriguing.

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