Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sept 24th

Scored a couple English language newspapers today! Yes!! After reading them, I want to use some clippings in the TOEFL class but must be careful, as not all the English is grammatically correct.

Ukraine just consolidated the number of visas they offer from 18 (types) to 3. I'm not sure if the visa I arrived here on is still valid. Oh Ukraine, please don't kick me out so soon! This is an incredible life over here, so different and so fun. 99% of the time I wake up and look forward to a new day here in Kharkov. I really, really, really want D and I to be able to spend some time here as residents, not just as 90 day tourists. Also, you now have to prove you have sufficient funds before they'll let you in the country. 

Taught an extra class on Thursday after another teacher fell ill.... total of 5 classes. My first class started at 9:30 AM across town (45 min on metro) and my final class ended at 10:05 PM. That was quite a day! I was in power-save mode for most of the day. Had about 15 minutes to prep for the sick teacher's 2-hour-long class, a level I'd never taught before. The students, of course, were skeptical when I first walked in, but they warmed up and even stuck around to compliment me at the end. That was nice!

On Thursday, Timur and I went out and about-
The Opera House
Park across the street from the opera house
A wedding! The bride and groom are by the fountain. Check out the decorated car in the foreground. That's party- I mean, part- of the wedding tradition here. Drive around in a procession of decked out cars, honk loudly, and stop and take pictures at all the famous monuments. Pretty cool, huh?
Schevhenko Park
Schevhenko Park
A statue of Schevhenko, the famous poet.
Kharkov has amazing architecture. Imagine this on the roof of your apartment building!
My amazing tour guide for the day!
...and then we went to.....
THE ZOO! I love the zoo!!!! Kharkov has a nice zoo's fairly large, there are beer stands, and it's only $3.50 to get in. There's none of this “let's put the animals in fancy million-dollar habitats” but still, their cages aren't as depressing as the zoos in Nicaragua (literally concrete cells, like a prisoner cell).

The animals were all incredibly active. The first animal we saw- a small chimpanzee- was up against the bars performing tricks and trying to catch peanuts in her mouth. Yes, that's right, you can feed the animals! You can buy apples to toss to the elephants, bread for the foxes, etc. There were black bears and roaring angry brown bears and a gigantic polar bear. There were hippos, including the largest hippo I've ever seen in my life. It was feeding time- the zookeeper tossed half a cantaloupe in the beast's mouth! Could you put half a cantaloupe in your mouth? I didn't think so :P .... There were wolves, lots of birds, hyenas, monkeys, elephants, coyotes, a fierce mottled jaguar, lions, tigers and an enormous, waddling raccoon. The last zoo I was in was the Anchorage zoo, which is filled with Alaskan animals for the tourists. This zoo was way better. D, we are so coming here every week!
Timur meets the llama
The freaky lioness who almost eats me 5 months later in February 2012. I should have seen it in her eyes in this photo.
The Hippo House
Hahaha, I could watch this all day!
Afterward, Timur and I met up with EC.
Wow, this building is from 1886! Incredible! There's practically nothing left standing from 1886 in Alaska,
I guess this is a Hebrew restaurant? But check out the sphinx, yo.
Downtown Kharkov.
There's a story about this church...something about the bell tower being higher than the bell tower of a VIP church in some other city, so this church couldn't be used?
Oh the hunt for dinner.
We hit up Pizza Maranello first, where it was discovered that EC felt himself coming down with a cold. There's only one cure for that, I said! (Seriously, it does work sometimes. Don't laugh at me. The Russians have been around a lot longer than certain other nationalities, so give them some credit!) Guided by Timur, we went to another restaurant with a bar and two tables of honest-to-God mafia. I'd better not talk about it any more than that. Ahem. Anyways, we got a table in the opposite corner, ordered a nice bottle of vodka and lots of закуски, snacks that go with drinking.
A discussion on how to ask for the bill in Russian :P

We started off with a couple toasts to Kharkov and the coming months and international friendship, and a long evening followed that. There are rules to drinking here and it's considered impolite to break them, so in order to educate you, valued reader:
  • an empty bottle of alcohol must be put on the floor, not back on the table
  • if you are pouring a drink, the glass must be on the table. Don't pick it up and hold it while you pour
  • all shots must be accompanied by toasts. People take turns making toasts, so always have something prepared when it's your turn!
Makes us look like sloppy and lazy drinkers in the US, doesn't it? There's something nice and communal about toasting- it makes it more of a shared experience instead of a solitary one.

Today was spent cleaning (apartment is actually pretty nice. It was just buried under a layer of grime) and lesson-planning (am seriously only the English teacher in Ukraine to spend 5 hours lesson planning on a Saturday night). Back to another week of teaching tomorrow....


  1. Let me amend something:
    1. Putting the empty alco bottle back on the table is OK if you're in restaurant
    2. If it's not convenient to have the glass on the table while filling it, one can just put it on their open hand (like on a small tray)
    3. Well, for wine drinking it's OK to make three rounds of toasts and then just drink at your pace.
    4. There're some traditions for toasts (in general):
    4.1. The first toast is usually is said by the eldest or the most authoritative person at the table
    4.2. Between the first and the second toast the pause should not be long. "Are we here just for munching?!"
    4.3. Third toast is for women - their beauty, their love, and their patience :) Men drink standing.
    4.N. The last toast:
    4.N.a. (in case a party for some family event) Hosts toast for guests, a 'thank you' toast.
    4.N.b. (in case of vodka party between close friends)
    'Off-the-go' toast ('На посошок') - party ends.

    And what are the drinking traditions are in your state?

  2. Ah, Timur mentioned 4.2, that we should not wait long for the second toast.
    I know of "На посошок".... Denis' uncle taught me that one when we visited Crimea. In English it translates as "one for the road."
    I like 4.3- men toast standing that round. I'll enforce that one in the future :p

    In Alaska, drinking traditions? Hmmmm.... I can't even think of any American drinking rituals. Maybe buying a round- if something good happens to you, you are supposed to buy a round of drinks for your friends, or perhaps, everyone in the bar. "This round's on me." Also, there's chugging- drinking as much as you can as quickly as possible. Two guys will challenge each other to see who can drink a glass of beer the fastest. Doesn't sound very cultured, does it? There's also Happy Hour, where bars serve cheap food and drinks to try to attract customers. That's all I can think of....nothing specifically Alaska! In Alaska, people just drink a lot, period.