(All opinions and descriptions of life in Ukraine contained herein are mine. I do not, nor am I qualified to,
express the official opinions of the Peace Corps or the U.S. Government.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Frozen Puddles

I looked out the window at around 2:30 pm wondering if I should wear an extra layer to soccer training today or not...? I ran the tips of my fingers over the window pane. I immediately felt a stabbing pain from the cold go down into fingers and through my wrist. I smartly decided to throw on my fleece- which usually makes me uncomfortably hot, but I knew today was an exception.

I locked my door and headed out of my building at approximately 2:45 pm, looking at my phone to see if I had time to stop by the store and grab a small baguette to munch on for after practice (I always get hungry afterwards and want some sort of snack). I decided against it, considering it takes about 15 minutes to get to the stadium, and I like dressing with the rest of the team if possible.

The moment I stepped out onto the frozen street my breath froze, my eyes began to water, and my knees began to tremble. It was freezing: literally. I pulled my hoody strings tight around my beanie, and shoved my gloved hands into my jacket pockets. I decided to begin running immediately. I usually wait until I get to the road where there is no ice, but today was an exception.

As I ran, I noticed the intricate patterns of the frozen ice on the surface of the puddles. They looked like jigsaw pieces welded together with frozen water. I wished I had my camera, but decided to mentally photograph instead as I jogged through the frozen art gallery.

It was especially silent for this time of day. Usually there are babushka's sitting out front of the buildings yelling something at each other. They usually hush to look at me as I jog by, and as soon as I pass, I can hear them chatter something about "Amerikanetz". But today, it was an exception.

I could hear my heart beating loudly in my chest, my breath heaved out in white, cloudy bursts with every stride I took. I felt like a dragon spurting white flames.

The water hung from tree branches; gravity stopped by temperature. The beads of icicles clung to the thin twigs on small trees, making them look like heads of Q-Tips.

Up ahead, I saw a big puddle ahead and decided I would dare and skate across it. As I neared it I sped up. Leaping into the air, I threw all my weight on my front foot, and prayed the ice was thick enough to hold me from breaking through it. I was fortunate, and skidded smoothly for about 5-6 feet clear across it.

I arrived at the stadium at 5 'til 3, my nose burning, my eyes tearing, my ears ringing, my heart racing. I could feel the stabbing dryness in my throat. The stadium was even more silent than outside of my apartment building. The grass was coated with a thick layer of frost. It looked like a giant cake.

I noticed the rubber pitch we play on was also dotted with small, frozen puddles. I wondered if coach Grigory would still allow us to play today. I grinned, thinking of the fun it would be if we did play.

And play we did. I almost died on several occasions. The first time contesting a 50-50 ball, I sprinted quickly and caught the side of my foot on the puddle and did the splits. The second time, I pivoted on a puddle and my whole right side of my body moved while my left kept turning... I was lucky to come out of it with no sprained ankles or even a fractured skull.

One kid, Vlad almost killed himself on the goal post running to cross a ball, he ran into the biggest puddle of them all and started slide toward the goal post, and was lucky enough to be able to navigate past the post and into the net.

Oh, how I love playing "football" in Ukraine. We play on a little rubber pitch that could kill you, but we play with joy and love, and each pass is as if it were in the World Cup. The love of this sport was shown at a great level today amidst the frozen puddles. A day that I will never forget- I'd like to dub it "Soccer skating".

1 comment:

  1. I think, everything in Ukraine is like "on a little rubber pitch that could kill you", but we do (try to do) everything like "if it were in the World Cup";)