Despite us still getting some fluffy snow falling in the evenings, the spingtime thaw is rapidly taking hold in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. The mountains of snow which lined the streets are slowly receding, and in many places the tarmac surface of a road or pavement can be seen for the first time in months.
Like the winter, the thaw period is a time which most Russians want to be over quickly. Bereft of any kind of drainage system, the melting snow first forms a brown slush which lies ankle-deep on every pavement, and later turns to lakes of dirty water which straddle entire roads and covers a car in filth within minutes. Drivers care little for pedestrians and don’t make any efforts to avoid soaking them with a puddle, meaning those on foot have to walk the pavements alongside the buildings, thus risking a large chunk of melting ice falling on their heads an killing them, as happened to an unfortunate man in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk a week or two back.
The roads, although not as slippery, get much worse once the snow and ice melts. The snow serves to fill in the potholes and smooth the uneveness of the roads in the winter months, making the driving a lot less bumpy. As of last week, enormous craters large enough to swallow a hippo have started to appear in the roadways, many filled with thick, brown mud, and you once again have to weave back and forth across the carriageways trying to find the smoothest route through. In Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, simply driving to work can result in you winning the Camel Trophy.
Few Sakhalin islanders outside of the ski-resort owners can be hoping this thaw gets drawn out by more snow. Most of us are hoping the sun comes up and gets rid of the brown filth in record time, leaving the city engulfed in clouds of dust and gigantic mutant mosquitos.