Garm ice ramps!

When I was growing up there was an expression I heard often during the colder, snowier winters we used to have:  “It’s a sheet of ice out there!”  Yesterday this phrase came back to me as I made the walk down the Garm hill to the market.  It was if someone had intentionally coated as much of the roads, sidewalks and stairs with ice as possible.  Not just a thin coating of ice, but thick, wavy ice that comes from many feet packing snow which then freezes and refreezes.  Attempts had been made in some places to throw down dirt to give a bit more traction, but by yesterday the dirt had been absorbed into the ice, leaving it a dark brown color and just as treacherous.  One of my favorite parts of Garm in the wintertime is the stairs in the bazaar.  Defying any shred of common sense, no one bothers to clear the snow from the narrow steps.  After the snow has been pounded into ice, the result is closer to an ice ramp with cement ridges than to a staircase.  In a testament to human adaptability, the people of Garm seem to have learned how to negotiate such hazards without serious falls – in fact I was more than a little surprised to not see myself or anyone else take a fall, though I came close several times..

The subzero temperatures continue, with overnight lows down around – 25 C (- 13 F).  Our drivers and guards have been constantly battling to keep the water pipes open, using kerosene blow torches and pots of boiling water.  It’s a huge problem for everyone in town –  I have heard that about 75% of the homes in Garm are having problems with frozen pipes.

Not just the water and roads are freezing.  In the market, it is amazing to see entire shops full of frozen mineral water, vegetable oil, and dishwashing liquid.  Back in my kitchen, I thought leaving things inside the refrigerator would keep them from freezing but even that has not worked.  All is frozen except the beer…


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