Sunday, September 25, 2011

Snapshots of Ukrainian life, Part 2

At the little local “supermarket” there is a gigantic selection of alcohol. Funny labels always catch my eye: there is a brand of vodka with a label similar to Smirnoff's, sold in 4 varieties: PARTNER (probably for business meetings), PICNIC (what else would you bring to a picnic?), RELAX (of course), and TRAVEL. I am setting aside some of my first paycheck to buy these so that I can take pictures of them. There's oddly a 'no picture-taking' icon on the supermarket door, so.... okay. I remember finding funny vodka like this in Russia before- one was for drinking in the sauna (picture of a manly guy in a towel), one was for taking on hunting trips (picture of a guy hunting ducks), etc. They weren't comical pictures either- they appeared very serious tributes to the tradition of vodka. 

As far as I know, crosswalks do not exist in Kharkov. There is kind of a place to cross the street, and there is sometimes a functioning walk / don't walk sign that most people choose to disregard. Also, number one rule of Ukraine: Cars have the right of way. Not pedestrians. Ever. Remember this.

(Here's a public service announcement of sorts: it says "this guy didn't make it 20 meters to the crosswalk". However, like I said, being in the crosswalk- even with the green walk hand showing- doesn't mean people still won't try to run you over. Be careful out there!)

 What Americans think of as farmers markets (aka a quaint throwback to our early days, perhaps a once-a-week event in your town) are regular daily life here. You buy your fruits and veggies fresh from little old ladies on the metro stairs, or from robust looking, dark-haired women in the marketplace. In the next stall you can buy hammers and toilet paper. On the other side is a stall with shampoo and pots/pans and plastic hangers. Markets rule!

Speaking of buying fruits and veggies, in most grocery stores there is a very limited selection of fruits and veggies (probably because everyone goes to the market). Often what is offered in the grocery store comes wrapped up on a Styrofoam tray with a white printed price sticker on the outside, just like raw meat is sold in the US. Glad to know Americans aren't the only ones guilty of over-packaging food!

Life in Ukraine means that instead of a dishwasher and a microwave in your kitchen, you have a small washing machine. I thought it would be toughest to live without a dishwasher, but surprisingly it's actually the lack of a microwave that proves more challenging. I have tried several rather creative methods of reheating food on a gas stove. None of them succeeded.

D told me stories he heard growing up (from his parents) of how apartments literally explode in Ukraine after someone forgets to turn off the gas on the stove....and someone else flips on a light (spark from light bulb ignites the gas). He says this is a favorite murder method on detective tv shows here. I am now living in complete terror of my stove. (2012 update: Walking by two women on the street, I heard them discussing how this had happened nearby! Ack!)
This safety warning for kids is in the common area of our building

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