Monday, January 14, 2013

From the kitchen window

I love looking out my kitchen window and watching the people go by. Maybe I should start a new blog devoted to the things I notice daily! :)

I love seeing the family interactions and the dogs loping along; everyone enjoying the snow.

But not everything that goes by is so cheery. Today I watched a frail, elderly woman inching along-in fact, I see a lot of people limping. This woman had one cane in each hand, and was moving along so very precariously. She wasn’t even really leaning on the canes, so I wasn’t sure if she was trying to do without, or if they weren’t working well in the snow, or what. There was also a little shopping bag dangling down, as though she was trying to make it to the store (almost wrote “magazine,” silly language switching). Can you imagine making this epic journey each time you needed a grocery item?

At one point while back in the U.S., I watched a show called "Little People" about people with dwarfism. They talked about what it was like to live in a a world designed for people of "normal" height. Imagine having everything be too tall and too high up for you.

I'm not saying it negates all those consequences, but....those people get a TV show. Here in Russia, you don't exactly get rewarded for having trouble getting around. You might get an "invalid" card that entitles you to something, I'm not sure what. In fact, I heard recently that all "invalids" need to confirm their status regularly, and that's even if they're amputees.

There are very few handicapped-accessible establishments in St. Petersburg. Okay, there are a few ramps. But often at the top and/or bottom of a ramp is a heavy door that is hard for a regular person (well, me) to open…let alone someone with a stroller or on crutches, etc. Either that or the ramp ends just a few inches from a wall, so there isn’t really a turning radius.

This has been relevant to us recently because of needing to use a rather hefty baby carriage to go anywhere with David. Not only can I not get OUT of our building on my own (flight of stairs plus two doors, one fairly heavy)….there are also two flights of stairs UP to the grocery store. (I’ve attempted it with David in a frontpack and it’s sort of manageable except for not being able to bend down and get things on the bottom shelf).

In trams and buses, there is sometimes a little nook where you're supposed to be able to stand with a stroller or cart, but people often ignore the signs and don't move to make room. It's the people who have kids themselves that usually make an effort...just like I can sympathize with pregnant women now, in the metro. And it was usually the middle-aged women who'd been raising children recently that would help me out. I still get kind of emotional now seeing pregnant women on public transportation. I remember those days, hanging on to the handrails for dear life, as the loudspeaker announced at every stop, "seats are reserved for pregnant women, the sick and elderly, and passengers with children." And my cheeks would burn with humiliation as I heard the words "pregnant women," yet all the seats were occupied by people with other things on their minds. Yep, so now I can sympathize with them, and I'm especially grateful whenever someone lends us a hand.

On a fun note: Recently I noticed a sign that Andrei had to explain for me. It said something to the effect of, “Pedestrian-accessible store.” I couldn’t figure out why they would need to put that sign up since I couldn’t picture a store that you couldn’t enter by using your own two feet, if you have them. Well, it turns out that some years ago there was a call to build more grocery stores in residential areas-ones you could get to without crossing a busy intersection, etc. And such stores put up a sign to show that they had followed orders. It is nice to have stores within walking distance, I admit.

To get back to the story, I watched this woman struggling along, and wished I could throw on my winter clothing in a flash and skip waiting the 10 minutes for the elevator to come to the 7th floor and hop down there and help her to wherever she needed to go. We talk of doing good deeds, like “helping an old lady across the street.” Well, sometimes it is a real need!


  1. I loved this little peak into your life in Russia. Sounds like you have some challenges getting around with a little one - I'm so happy we're no longer in our apartment which was three flights up with no elevator!

  2. That would be hard! I know some friends who live pretty high up with no elevator, but they're able to keep the strollers down on the first floor. Still, it would be hard with baby+groceries.

  3. My Moscow friends live on the fifth floor with no elevator - I think it must be healthy (but I wouldn't care for it).

    I noticed in Ivanovo that they were replacing the sidewalks downtown - making them very attractive, out of brickwork, but every twenty feet or so, there is a trough to take water from the store roofs to the street - not covered ones - an open ones... maybe 9 inches wide and six inches deep. I felt like I really needed to be paying full attention not to fall in them! Can't imagine that with a light covering of snow - or if you were vision impaired. And, of course there was the bridge there, which over our five years of trips got into more and more disrepair until the "weak spot" ended up as a LARGE hole where an entire wheelchair could have fallen through - to say nothing of people!

    My best advice regarding the stroller is to scrap the elegant heavy one and go with an umbrella stroller. Took me quite a while to realize that though it doesn't look as classy, it is SO much easier to negotiate and if I attach a selection of bags to the front and back (just looping them over the handles etc.) I have as much carrying power. They don't look as comfortable, but my littles have never balked at getting in there and going right to sleep.

    1. Funny. In our last apartment we lived on the 3rd floor and NEVER took the elevator. Before that I lived on the 5th floor and there wasn't one. Before that I lived on the 4th floor and ALWAYS used the elevator. Funny how you just sort of get into the habit of doing something.

      They are changing the water ducts or whatever they're called, throughout the whole city! The funny thing is that every time I move, the construction comes to that neighborhood! It's happened 3 times in a row now...3 or 4 winters of climbing over a little bridge to get out of my apartment complex. Yes, those holes are deep!

      The umbrella stroller idea has been mentioned to us. I think we will probably get one. They seem sort of flimsy in this weather but I have seen them out and about. David will be sitting up soon, so we'll think about it.

    2. They are flimsy, but here's the thing - you hit a big pile of snow, or a hole or something hard to negotiate, and you can just pick it up and lift it over - MUCH easier!

    3. Yeah, true. I suppose it is on our to-do list but seeing as how it has taken us 4 months to get the Internet installed in our apartment, it may take us a while...


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