Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Three stories from Kharkiv

Late July: the days of packing.
It's been a month now since we've last had our own place. Nothing makes you feel college-age again like crashing with relatives ; ) I always forget how long it takes (and how awkward it is) to land somewhere and build up a new life. It is happening, though, and someday this will probably even seem like a brief intermission between completely different worlds. In the meantime, here are a few stories from the last world we inhabited.

By the way, if someone from the Ukrainian post office happens to read this, have you seen these boxes anywhere?

The New Tenant

Balcony/office corner. Hope the new tenant likes plants!
The landlady phoned a week before our move-out date. "Can you be around tonight?" she asked. "The realtor will come by with someone who wants to see the apartment." Sure enough, a few hours later came an eager knock and there stood the same eternally-excited estate agent who had shown us the place last year. Behind her was a willowy blonde in her early forties, the potential new tenant.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pictures from America

Proof of my old lady lifestyle- pretty much the only name tag with a real name instead of a twitter handle. 
Last weekend D convinced me to join him at TechFestNW, a two-day extravaganza for lovers of technology, utopian futures and long TED-style lectures. I think it's safe to say that he got a little more out of it although I sure enjoyed the walk down to the event.
Here's one of those homes-afloat that we dreamed of for about 5 seconds.
Afterwards, a long walk along the waterline showed off all the things that prove Portland merits a new calender of sights each year (and if you haven't seen this 3-min video yet, you should):
Looking for artwork and/or bongs? You've come to the right blanket.  Nearby signs included "You can't spell healTHCare without THC". (More about this on Wikipedia.)


Spot anything unusual here??
 That's right:

Whatever #FIATATSEA is (ack! twitter again!), I bet a lot of people want one after seeing this:

Anyway, this is not going to become a Portland blog- in fact, we're not even there at the moment. We've practically worn a groove traveling between the Pacific Northwest cities of Portland and Everett.

Guess how many trips?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kachka

Clipped newspaper articles and email messages had been arriving for months- a new Russian restaurant was preparing to open in Portland and my family was psyched.

My aunt's excitement was understandable, as she has studied the language for years and visited Mari Vanna, Russian Samovar, the Vodka Room, and other renowned Russki restaurants of New York. My parents' enthusiasm, not so much. Years ago D and I brought a bag of decidedly unspectacular frozen pelmeni from a local import store to share with them and I'm surprised they would give anything serving pelmeni a second chance after surviving that bag. Mysterious reasons aside, now that we're in Portland it was really nice to all meet up and have a little taste of the food that D and I had grown so used to.

Kachka bills itself as a dealer of vodka, zukuski, pelmeni, in other words standard fare for Kharkov but considered more of a luxury in this town. One hundred grams of Russian Standard (vodka) will set you back $12. That's a mindboggling sum to my Ukrainian-ized pocketbook (4 bottles of champagne! a whole bottle of imported high-end booze!) but it's a price preceded with "mere" or "only" in the US. And they're crazy if they think I'll pay 26 uah for some sunflower seeds, but no one else at the table batted an eye at that scandal.

Sticker shock aside, though, the food and drinks hit the spot.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Golden Gates of Kyiv

The Golden Gates of Kyiv. Sunday, July 27th, 2014.


Definitely a cool little spot to check out, even if you show up during a технологический перерыв (technological break) and don't make it inside the museum.

Yaroslav the Wise
Bet their wedding photos turned out great! : )

In other news, we've spent the past few weeks in Seattle and Portland, sorting through the debris of past lives. Eating borsch topped with Canadian-style sour cream, plov with a side of seaweed salad. Adjusting to a landscape of evergreen trees and wall-to-wall carpeting. Having to dredge the corners of our brains for long-unused words like "barkdust". Trying to think of this as the lazy days of summer and not a dead end. Remembering things like fudge and peas that can be eaten with the pods (just try that in Ukraine, I dare you) and that trash is a thing that actually can be sorted and recycled.

Riding the bus in Portland- where is everyone??

Ukraine is already a bit of a distant dream. The occasional thing still feels odd: am I really wearing shoes inside the house? is that air conditioner (read: dangerous сквозняк) blowing directly on us? an entire jar of crunchy peanut butter for only $2.99? a marina is a place for boats, not a woman's name? brick is a quaint addition instead of the solution to everything?

It's weird. Going to take a lot of reprogramming, I think.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Two cities, two rivers

Exactly fourteen days ago I was here, walking along the banks of the Dnieper river in Kyiv.

Full-on summer at last, the city's residents appeared eager to catch some rays on a long Sunday afternoon.


A former student and I decided to walk as far along the embankment as we dared in the heat.



From many angles, the world looked like nothing more than simple summertime: kids napping in strollers, cotton candy vendors, old men sitting among the trees with their fishing poles.


If you looked close enough, though, you could see traces of another kind of -time: harsh graffiti scrawled next to the colorful flowers, girls in blue-and-yellow miniskirts and dresses, violent scenes from Euromaidan painted on the sides of arcade game tents. Ads from a local language school featured Yanukovich's face and the words "He never studied English" spray painted up and down the sun-drenched sidewalks. But these things were easy to miss, for the day was so bright and everyone's faces were turned towards the warm waters of the Dnieper.





Now fast forward two weeks and 5,600 miles to summer on the riverbanks of another continent.



Thursday, August 7, 2014

The trip that wasn't (a cautionary tale for travelers)


Things started out normal the day we planned to leave Ukraine.

The usual up-all-night-frantic-cleaning-and-packing marathon (guess some things can never be grown out of!), the handing over of keys to the landlady around 5 AM, the lugging of bags down to a friend's waiting 1985 Moskvich. One other early bird... or rather, late drinker... stumbled past us with a cheery "Good morning!"; in short, all was well.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A small change of plans

Well, in reference to the previous post, you could say something went a little wrong.

Only one of us got to see the sights of The Big Apple (or two if you count the cat, who didn't seem to enjoy himself that much):





The other person ended up running around a different city for a while, which wasn't so bad considering she got to see this on a sunny afternoon: