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Messages for Naj
Dressing for Winter - 11/21/05

November 10

"We are having a very mild fall," said Dorge.

"I agree it was mild until around the seventh, but then it went to -18 C. (-1 F.). That seems cold for November."

"Early fall was very unusual, but 18 is warm."


"20 to 30 is more normal."

"When you say 20 or 30, you mean - 20 (C) or -30 (C) yes?" (-4 F. or -22F.)

"You will not see plus twenty for six months. At this time of year all temperatures are minus, so no need to say minus."

A Week Later

Olga dressed for November

"Is this all you have for winter?" said Olga looking at my London Fog trench coat.

"It's insulated," I said.

"Not enough," she said.

"When it gets cold I'll wear a parka," I said.

"I worry about your feet," she said.

Looking down at my slip-on footwear I had to agree.

"Speak to Yanzhima," said Olga. "Buryats know how to dress for the cold. They know furs."

"You know, I saw two girls today walking along eating ice cream cones."

"Russians like ice cream."

"It is 20 (- 4 F.)"

"The ice cream is 1 or 2 degrees I think. Maybe 5. It is much warmer and sweet. Would you like some?"

Next Day

Reindeer boot.

"Yanzhima, Olga said to talk to you about dressing for cold weather. She said Buryats know how to dress for the cold."

"Yes, we do. Dressing for January very easy," said Yanzhima.

"It is?"

"Many layers. Many furs. Cold no problem. November warm, then cold. Many problems. Clothes on, clothes off. Winter, many furs. Cold no problem. Your feet are a problem. These are winter boots. (said while showing me hers) Natural fur inside. Felt inside. No need heavy socks. Feet very warm. You need winter boots. Reindeer boots."

"They are very expensive. 4,800 rubles ($170)," I said.

That Evening

"What's the difference between winter in the Adirondacks and here?" said Darima, an owner of Sportland, Ulan Ude's version of Eastern Mountain Sports.

"Here it gets colder earlier and stays colder longer. We don't normally experience -20C. to -30C. (-4 F. - 22F.) in November. I think in both places it can get equally as cold, but our real cold weather doesn't last as long. Being warmer we get more snow."

Hat shopping.

Next Day

"You need a hat," said Dorge sporting a large dark Russian fur hat.

"Do you ever wear the ear flaps down?" I said, "Or do you keep them tied up all winter?"

"I do, yes," he said. "Some try to show they are strong and keep the flaps up. A few make it to January, but then theirs come down as well."

"40 degrees huh?"

"Yes, 40 degrees and ear flaps are down."

I admire his hat.

"You need boots. Get Russian made boots. Don't get the cheap Chinese boots," he said.

That Afternoon

"Aren't you cold?" said Inessa referring to my trench coat while we are riding back on the tramway from the Ulan Ude Children's Hospital.

"During the day it's fine. But if I know I'm going to be out after dark then I wear a parka. The temperature drops like a rock into the basement as soon as the sun sets," I said.

"Soon the temperature will stay in the basement," she said. "When will you get boots?"

"Olga spent a couple hours helping me look on Sunday," I said. "Everything was too small or too tight. She found socks and felts and made out great, but I haven't found anything yet."

"Go to Russian stores. They have big feet. Buryats have small feet. You want boots with real fur inside."

Naj's hot feet.

Bit Later

"I worry about your hands," said Erzhena.

Post Script

"How are your feet?" said Olga inspecting my new insulated made-in-Korea Alaska boots with their felt liners encasing my feet now swaddled in handmade socks knitted from one hundred percent goat wool.

"They are so warm they feel like they are buried in sand on a hot Miami Beach," I said. "I can't believe we found these at the first kiosk after the three hours we spent last Sunday."

"You still need a better jacket and a hat. Maybe some warmer pants."

"I think I'm fine in that department, maybe when it gets colder."

"This morning I put on my warm coat. I thought it was too heavy. But I am outside and I am warm. It no longer feels too heavy. I think it is better to start warm and be warm and not wait until you are cold to start thinking about how to get warm."

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