Sunday, August 29, 2010

Shopping for Winter Clothes

Most of Ukraine is on approximately the same latitude as the border between the United States and Canada, so I've got to prepare myself for snowy winters around 20 degrees Fahrenheit (with probably about a 20 degree standard deviation, depending on which part of Ukraine that I am assigned to). Since I've been in Atlanta for the last 4 years and my parents currently reside in California, my winter outerwear primarily consists of a black pea coat that I got for Christmas my freshman year of college, jeans, rain boots, and sometimes my Ugg boots. So the next two clothing items on my Packing List that I need to acquire are a winter jacket and warm and waterproof boots.

I ordered the North Face Brooklyn jacket online in "Graphite Gray", it looks like it will be about knee length on me and reliably waterproof and it is insulated with down. I have no prior experience purchasing winter coats so hopefully this will be sufficient to keep me warm in Ukraine. I'm very excited about the furry hood, I love hooded jackets and will most definitely pretend to be an eskimo. I wonder if the locals would believe that I'm actually an eskimo... just kidding.

Most of the Peace Corps' recommended packing lists for Ukraine have wavered on the subject of bringing boots from the United States or purchasing them there. I decided that since I wear size 6 and most Europeans tend to have larger feet than I do (I expect that they will all be like a foot taller than me), I don't want to gamble on being able to buy boots there. I will be arriving in Ukraine in late September, and it might already be snowing by the time that I get there. So I ordered the North Face Nuptse boots in black, they are knee high and waterproof. According to the specs online, these boots are also insulated with down and have some sort of grippy outer sole on the bottom.

Since they don't quite look attractive enough for me to teach class in, I will probably be changing shoes inside the classroom. The reviews of this boot are generally good though, so I'm confident that these boots will keep me from losing any toes. I wonder what kind of footwear local Ukrainian women wear to teach in, so far I have heard that they are generally very fashionable and love stilettos. But there is no way that I will be able to stand in stilettos for like 8 hours, I love wearing heels but my feet start complaining after like 30 minutes haha.

Current PCVs serving in Ukraine have mentioned that they do not salt or sand down the roads and sidewalks in Ukraine, so that is why they recommend something like Yak Trax ice gripper things for your shoes to help you walk around safely during the winter. The Yak Trax Pro that I ordered off of Amazon came in the mail, and they are quite... interesting. They are basically made to hook over the bottom of boots and shoes to add traction on ice and snow and come with a velcro strap that goes over the top of your shoe (to ensure that the bottom portion stayes latched onto the shoe). The Yak Trax design uses steel coils wrapped around rubber, and kind of reminds me of putting chains on snow tires. The reviews online for the Yak Trax are mixed but overall I think that they will come in handy, for I have pretty much zero experience walking on ice and I would like to avoid any complications from slipping and falling on icy sidewalks.

When I pulled them out of the box, I was a little confused since they were folded up into an intimidating pyramid and appeared to be tangled. But they were not actually tangled, just folded up for more efficient storage and they hooked onto the bottoms of my shoes just fine. I was worried that the small size would be too big for my shoes since I wear a 6 and the small is supposed to fit sizes 6.5-10.

On a very nerdy side note, that is a huge size range and essentially should have just been labeled one-size-fits-all. Unless of course, you wear a women's size 10.5-12.5, then you should order a medium. And if you wear a women's size 13-15, then you should order a large. Interesting strategy from the marketing and operations departments of Yax Trax, since they just sized their product with large ranges instead of splitting it up into a male and female oriented product size then they can reduce the amount of customization and consolidate their raw materials.

My mom also took me to REI last weekend and I got a few pairs of Smart Wool socks and a set of black Patagonia Capilene base layer. Thats apparently what they call their long underwear. The material for those is very lightweight and seems relatively sturdy, which will be good if I have to wear it often during the winter and wash it by hand. I'm a little confused about how I am supposed to wear that with business clothing though, since it is long sleeved and my blouses and professional shirts that I'm bringing are either 3/4 sleeved or short sleeved. I don't really like long sleeve blouses since the wrist cuff always seems to get in the way. Hmm.

Anyways, I'm excited about the winter clothes that I have ordered online and can't wait to get them in the mail. They are supposed to ship within 2-4 weeks of the order processing date, but if they don't get here soon then I will start freaking out... I leave for Ukraine in just 4 weeks!


Tammela said...

Smart Wool socks are the BEST! I have like 10 pairs...most of which I will be bringing to Ukraine. I've also been wondering what kind of shoes Ukrainian women wear to teach in, b/c I'm not a heel-wearer either. I'm bringing one pair of pumps and two pairs of flats.

dzawacki said...

I hope you were joking about the snow by the time you get there. If 20 degrees Fahrenheit truly is the average winter temp, I'm excited. Wisconsin averages around 10 degrees Fahrenheit each winter.

Linda Monroe said...

I found your blog while doing a google search on winter coats for the Ukraine. My daughter just got her final acceptance and is going to teach English in the Ukraine with the peace corp. She leaves in Sept 2011. It looks like you embarked on this adventure last fall. We are starting our shopping and I'm curious to know how you like the things you got. Would you do anything differently? I am planning on getting Sarah a down coat and a good pair of teaching shoes (Beautifeel brand.) She is also size 6. I would love to hear your insights before we buy.

Jing said...

Hi Linda,
I actually LOVE my winter coat, I kind of wish that I had bought the longer one but the mid-thigh length one still works well here. The secret inside pocket works well for my passport and the furry hood and belt help the jacket blend in well here. I live really far in Eastern Ukraine though, so some of my friends in the western parts and Crimea don't need such heavy winter coats as I do (it gets to -35 degree weather!). I would NOT recommend those boots that I posted, I ended up buying 2 pairs of winter boots here - one with a heel for school and one without a heel for walking and those have served me fine so far. Good luck to your daughter and maybe I'll have the chance to meet her over here sometime!

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