ICE, ICE, BABY!

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Wolga, Samara, Russia

The slow awakening of nature fascinates me. I've never experienced spring like this. For three, maybe even four weeks, it didn't freeze during the day. There is still snow in the ditches and along the Volga beaches. There, the sand is visible now, and the last bits of thick ice linger on shore. On some afternoons I can imagine how beautiful summer will be. The ice pieces are still large in some parts of the beach. They are too heavy for the water to move them. The small waves of the river, not yet open for ships, splash softly against the ice and create little cavelike cliffs. They form a surprisingly solid ice roof that reaches out daringly over the river.

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THE WORLD IS A VILLAGE

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"Old Samara", Samara, Russia

If I am proficient in anything, then in "being abroad." Here in Samara, it's the fourth time that I live in a country where I don't speak the language. By now, I know the problems that I will have to face and how I can deal with them. I know the steps that I'll go through before I feel comfortable for the first time. Of course, the experience is different in every place, but often my coping mechanisms are the same. This emerging template gives me security in communicating my needs. I can suddenly tell where I am at and what I will be able to do in the end, most likely. That fascinates me.

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DANGEROUS RUSSIA

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Aprilstorm, Samara, Russia

Originally, I wanted to write about pancakes. But when I walked across the street this morning, I changed my mind.

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BENEATH THE SNOWCOVER

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Snow without end, Samara, Russia

People say there are only two seasons here in Samara: the summer and the winter. Spring and autumn are short, almost unnoticeable. Of course, this is only true if you think that winter lasts as long as snow is falling and summer as long as it doesn't rain. Of course in actuality, you can feel, see and smell both spring and autumn (I presume).

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THE VOLGA

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Overlooking the Volga from the city border, Samara, Russia

... is really wide in Samara. I first encounter her covered under a thick layer of ice. Crossing her is easy, and kind of the next best thing. So that's what we do. It takes an hour and a half before we arrive on the island, which lies before the second much narrower half of the stream. The road is patrolled daily and thus deemed secure. Although the snow is pressed where we walk, we sink up to our ankles. Only Ева (Jewa), the family dog, doesn't have any problems. She rolls around in the snow and tries to push her nose under the white blanket. The grey sky, the tiny snowflakes and cold wind don't put her off. The rest of the family has already pulled hats, gloves and scarves over the areas of skin exposed to the harsh winds. As we usually do what we set out to do, we walk silently to the island on the other side of the river. There, I see this year's first spotted woodpecker clunking away on the trunk of a birch. Here too, the spring stretches out its feelers defying the thick snow cover. The island is a paradise for hunters and ice-fishers, who we pass in considerable numbers. All are in camouflage clothes, equipped with army green backpacks, frequently pulling ice drills on stretches behind them. As we already observed the marshland and its inhabitants on the island, we decide to go back home and enjoy a hot cuppa instead of walking another hour or two to reach the other side. The way back would be long enough as it was.

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