10.22.2008

Kyiv First 100 Days: Air

I have been pleasantly surprised that the air hasn't been as yicky as I remember. Maybe it has to do with not living in a super industrial and mining city.

David is a sucker for the smell of baking bricks bread from the bread store he passes on his way to work. OK, I'll admit that that smell is nice. (The bread? Another post.)

Henry, of course, is always smelling things in the air. But mostly they are figments of his imagination, like pancakes or bubblegum. (Wishful thinking.)

We do pass the occasional sewer smell wafting its way across the street, or the odor of some...interesting...cuisine from an Armenian "restaurant" that we frequently pass. And most of the population seems to love them some cigarettes. But other than that, our olfactory senses and respiratory passages are hardly ever assaulted here in Kyiv.

There has only been one time, really, when smells and air quality were questionable to me, and that was when someone was burning a pile of leaves and trash somewhere near our house. (Bonfires are totally OK in the city. Awesome.) The blue smoke coincided with a car backfiring out front and our kitchen window being open, so for several hours, Calvin thought the car had caused the pollution. He kept saying, "Man! They need to get that car fixed! And they shouldn't drive it by people's houses!"

The air temperature is a whole other discussion:

It rained for the first two weeks we lived here. And it was cold. That was good for the morale.

Then it got unseasonably warm for a week or so. Then it felt like autumn had really set in and it was quite chilly. Then it was warm again...You get the idea. None of this is particularly important or even much different from Colorado or Virginia or the town where you live, in autumn.

The difference here is that the heating of buildings is controlled by the city government. And they have this brilliant "tradition" that the heat is never turned on until October 15th. So everyone wears their coats indoors and deals with it.

This year, since it was quite cold at the end of September, the city said they would turn the heat on early, because they are so kind.

Then, on the eve of turning the city heat on came the warm spell. So they said, "Just kidding. October 15th it is."

Then it was cold again, but to avoid another practical joke on the people of Kyiv, and to appear that they are only thinking about the energy crisis, they said, "Here's the deal: When the average daily high (not low!) temperature is 8 degrees (celsius), we will turn the city heat on."

Alrightie then.

So October 15th came and went and parts of the city are still waiting for heat.

The church building we meet in was colder inside than it was outside on Sunday.

Luckily, our apartment is equipped with an independent heating and cooling system in addition to the city-connected radiators, so we can adjust our indoor living temp as desired. It's just remarkably inefficient. The government thinking is that if they let people independently control the heat in their homes, they will use so much more energy. When in reality, there are days in the winter that the heat is so warm that people are opening their windows to cool down their places. (And there are careless Americans like us who run additional heaters when needed instead of waiting for the omniscient city government to warm us up.)

I mostly just find it humorous that not just the city goverenment, but most individuals, are attached to the calendar for determining how they will act. The calendar says it is time for cooler weather, so you are supposed to begin wearing coats and hats (and bundle your poor small children within and inch of their lives, like the little brother on A Christmas Story, I'm not even exaggerating), no matter what the barometer says. Don't even chance getting one bit chilly. Ever. October comes and it means bundle up, even if it is a bit of an Indian summer October, or even if a light jacket or a pullover sweater will do.

I do appreciate that there are so many helpful women on the street who will tell me that my baby's hood fell off. (yeah - he pulled it off. eighty times.) Or that your sleeping boy in the stroller needs a blanket on him because he is sweating (huh?) and will catch cold sleeping outside like that.

But I'm mostly just happy that in the spring when the air outside is warm again, I can run my independent air conditioner while the furnaces are going full blast, waiting for the calendar to say the right date for offical turn-off. (I'm wagering that in spring the energy crisis doesn't matter that much to city officials. Go by the calendar. All trains must run on time.)

1 comment:

The Preschool Teacher said...

Wow that's insane