Saturday, August 6, 2011

I’m not sure what you do with food in your country, but here in Ukraine it’s customary to eat it.

A cool Peace Corps Volunteer was kind enough to post this on her blog- it's a fictional letter from a Ukrainian host family to a new Peace Corps Volunteer.
(Side note: there are a lot of Peace Corps Volunteers in Ukraine, and when they first arrive they live briefly with a host family to acclimate and learn the language.) (Other side note: I'm not involved with the Peace Corps in any way....but it seems like a cool organization.)

I was LOL when I was reading this letter....  so true! I've heard these exact sentences so many times from D's parents!

Here are my top 5 favorites:

#1) Please take better care of your reproductive organs. You exercise vigorously and sit on cold surfaces with abandon, and then have the audacity to believe your ovaries will function a decade from now, when you say you might finally be ready to have a baby.

#2) Please have special doctors measure your stomach. YOU DO NOT EAT ENOUGH. “Oh, I can’t eat another bite,” you say. “My stomach is telling me to stop, it’s bothering me, it’s upset.” Your stomach has more emotions than a pubescent teenager. Tell me, what is your stomach upset about? I think it’s upset because you don’t give it enough food. Of course it will be mad at you if you only eat soup, potatoes, and a little piece of meat for dinner. Listen to your stomach and eat more food.

#3) Please gain at least ten pounds during your stay with us, or we will feel shame.

#4) Here’s how it works: You drink cold water, your body gets colder, you get a cold, you die.

#5) If it’s cold outside, we may serve you an alcoholic beverage with your breakfast. You need to drink it, or else you will become chilled on your walk to work, get sick, and possibly die. (See #4) You say you feel conspicuous walking around intoxicated so early in the morning, but lots of people do it!

I haven't actually had #5 happen to me yet (a morning drink), but it wouldn't surprise me if it did. There are a lot of superstitions around cold. Cold beverages are a big no-no in Russia and Ukraine. It drives me nuts to drink room-temperature soda! Also, last time I was in Ukraine, fans and air-conditioning during hot weather were seen as a health risk. As is not wearing slippers on your feet at home- expect to get scolded big time for that! And like #1 says, women aren't supposed to sit directly on cold surfaces (like concrete). Even D gets worried when I do that. I used to just laugh all these things off, but then....Russians and Ukrainians have been around for a long time and I suspect there may be at least a little truth behind some of these things. I try to take them more seriously nowadays. Except hell no, I'm not giving up drinking smoothies!

Another thing I've noticed is the practice of сухомятка, a dry meal, a meal eaten without a beverage....need to do more research on this.

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