Exhaling Snow

It’s not the Polar Vortex Astana experienced in November (two weeks of subzero temperatures!), but it has been a bit chilly here. For at least the past two weeks we’ve been resting comfortably between around 18°F and -15°F, with most days in the single digits on both the positive and negative sides. This weekend, however, we dipped a bit deeper and enjoyed three days of -30°F. Experiencing nine Minnesota winters has prepared me for this at least. I actually don’t mind when it gets this cold—because really, after -10°F everything just feels cold. The best way to deal with it is to bundle up and embrace it.

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Reed and I were forced to leave the apartment on Friday for my swimsuit shopping expedition and to celebrate a friend’s birthday. We made a night of it. First stop, The Brewery for beer and dinner. My lamb kebabs were amazing! Even though there is too much meat for my liking in Kazakhstan, they really know how to cook it well!

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Feeling a bit full after dinner, I suggested we walk outside for a bit, after all, our destination was only a mile away. We posed for a selfie in front of my favorite looking shopping mall, the famous Khan Shatir, which is shaped like a yurt and changes color at night (this place calls for its own post!). My hand tightened after the twenty seconds it took to get my camera ready and photo snapped; the length of time I am able to endure exposure is how I know how cold it actually is, and this meant it was pretty darn cold.

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A large ice sculpture park was set up for Christmas on the block across from Khan Shatir. We’d been meaning to stop by at night because it is lit up and looks lovely, but we just hadn’t made time. And what better time to take in the sights than a windy night when it is -30°F? The sculptures were really large and pretty detailed. I love that lights were actually encased in the ice; it made everything glow like stained glass (by the way, City of St. Paul, you are going to have to step up your sculpture game because Astana’s are killing it!). We didn’t linger long, just long enough for me to snap a few photos, and realize my hands were super numb. It was at this point, despite the efforts of my long-johns, that I needed a respite from the cold. The penetrating wind makes all the difference.

Once we were back by a streetlight I noticed we were essentially exhaling snow. Reed’s hat was covered in little dusts of snow just above his eyebrows as was mine. My scarf, being wet from my breath as I exhaled, also turned icy. Luckily, there is another mall between Khan Shatir and our destination mall, so we popped in there to warm up briefly. The final leg of our walk went by a bit faster since we weren’t stopping to take in any sights and we were motivated to be out of the cold for a while. And of course, spending the rest of the evening celebrating a friend’s birthday while listening to a surprisingly good live band covering pop music warms the spirit!

Yes, it does get cold here, but there is something kind of thrilling about it too. It makes me laugh for sure. Every time I’m outside and it’s cold enough to essentially exhale snow, I can’t help but smile for the absurdity of it. It’s ridiculous and just absurd that I can live in a place that gets this cold, that I’m outside in it, and that I don’t mind it (as long as I’ve got enough layers on that is).

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