Nothing changes in Russia, or so it seems. But when change does occur, it happens quickly. Three weeks ago, the temperature in the mornings on the way to work was about 12 or 13 degrees Celcius. Two weeks ago it was about 8 or 9. Last week it was 4 or 5. This week it is between 1 and 3 degrees when I start my car in the morning. The trees, which two weeks ago were a deep, dark green have started changing to all manner or reds, yellows, and oranges. The trees, like the people, know what is coming, and are powerless to stop it. The summer is definitely over, autumn is well established, and winter is on its way.
I have now been in Sakhalin for over a year, and I can enter the ranks of those who bore newcomers to death with tales beginning “Last winter…” and “When I first arrived…”. Anyway, ahem, when I first arrived it was autumn and we had to wait until early November before the authorities switched on the district heating that everyone relies upon to keep warm. This year, the authorities have excelled themselves and on 1st October the heating came on across the whole town. What’s more, the power cuts and water shut-offs which plagued us so much last autumn have barely occurred. Everyone is thinking it, some are whispering it, but nobody dares say out it loud lest they tempt fate, but: Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is getting modern!! The authorities are getting their act together!! Not so drainage wise. Last week we had a few days of torrential rain, and the streets filled with puddles upon which Sakhalin Energy’s environmental team carried out feasibility studies to examine the option of relocating pacific grey whales distressed by their pipelines in the Sea of Okhotsk.
Pausing for a second, I seem to have been rambling somewhat. Where was I? That’s right, the approaching winter. It is noticeably colder this autumn than last, and everyone has become an amateur meteorologist by confidentally predicting that this winter will be a harsh one. I’m saying the same thing, but really I haven’t got a clue. All I know is that I now see everyone wearing increasingly heavy jackets on the streets in the mornings and evenings (midday is still warmed by a very bright sun), and I am glad our heating is on.