And the snow kept coming down.
By Monday’s Beregszasz trip, there was enough snow on the ground to render the bus 20 minutes late. I walked through Oreo-Blizzard-looking snow to get to Monday’s classes at the Gymnazium, glad for warm boots to keep off the slush. A note about boots, though. I was under the delusion that, when the snow poured from the sky, women would do away with their 3 inch, faux leather, knee-high boots and opt for something more practical. The accessory is now more present than ever. Sidewalks do not get shoveled or salted here, folks; you walk on packed-down snow and ice. I was afraid of tripping down the isle as a bridesmaid. Ukrainian women must have balance akin to that of super-heroes.
That evening I was slipping and sliding down the main road in the village of Bádaló, but this was entirely on purpose. Fellow English teacher Éva had invited me to her house that evening, and after dinner we went for a walk in the new snow outside. I joined Sáni, Éva, and their daughter Petra, all of us with more layers than a cake; the heavy snow clouds did nothing to insulate us from the cold.
Four-year-old Petra and I got her sled from the porch. A few weeks ago, I had never seen a sled in Transcarpathia, not until the first hint of snow. It was then that I learned how young, Transcarpthian mothers stay so thin. From first snow-fall to first thaw, they pull their young children everywhere on small sleds. Some of them are homemade from wood scraps, some of are colorful, store-bought metal, some are padded with blankets and others have no back-rests, but the sleds themselves are ubiquitous. The afore-mentioned state of the sidewalks is likely the reason – I can’t imagine carrying or leading toddlers across the frozen, slick tundra that is the Transcarpathian sidewalk. Most people skip the sidewalks altogether and opt for the street. It isn’t plowed either, but faulty gutters and dripping icicles haven’t increased it’s iciness.
That’s where we were Monday evening – the middle of the road, Petra in her sled, gliding behind Sáni, and Éva and I running and skidding on the ice as if skating. Éva had a score to settle; it’s Hungarian tradition for a man to wash a woman’s face with the first snow to guarantee her continued beauty. Éva had received such a face-washing from Sáni, so we all survived a few volleys of snowballs.
We passed children sliding down the street in their boots and one boy sledding on his stomach. Of course Petra had to try that arrangement. Her laughter was contagious, and we giggled all the way past the school and the church and half the village. Sáni led us to the Bádaló dyke, and we climbed up the steep embankment; I got snow in my boots. Éva pointed out the Tisza to me – it flows all the way up here before bending into Hungary. If I ever had an entire day at my disposal, I could, in theory, step onto the dyke in Péterfalva and walk until I reached Bádaló.
We finished our walk on the top of the dyke, and I discovered I have deplorable night vision when it comes to walking atop a narrow, snow-covered strip of land. When arrived back at the house – wet-footed and rosy-cheeked – we brushed off our pants with a broom and brewed some tea. And Petra cried because we were all too cold to help her build a snowman.