Sunday, November 27, 2011

Told you I wasn't making this up!

Normal Ukrainian Footwear: Exhibit A. Because what else would you wear to hang out at the mall? Sveta's got style!

down for the count...but recovering

Arbidol. Pricey, but this is the best thing to take if you're starting to get sick. Got to take it within the first 24-48 hours though!
Came down with an icky cold, which is giving me a chance to evaluate Ukraine's pharmaceutical industry and drug stores. Here's a hint:
Strepsils (Стрепсилс). Good stuff.
This appears to work...if you wait like 4 hours!
Pharmasitron: looks a little sketchy when you open the package but wow, it's effective!
I was kind of excited to check out the drug stores, thinking "I bet they have some really good stuff here!" But I was mistaken. They may have some good stuff, but it's hard to get past the guardians of the sacred shelves. In fact, it was rather like this conversation about pizza.
Me: Do you have any Pharmasitron?
Pharmacist: Here.
Me: Will this help me sleep? (Это помогает спать?)
Pharmacist: looks at me like I'm an idiot. It's cold medicine.
Me. If I take it in the morning, will I feel sleepy? (Если я принимаю это утром, буду я сонная?)
Pharmacist: gives me the same look. It's cold medicine.
Me: sigh. Okay. I'll take it.
what an average Ukrainian pharmacy looks like

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Мужчина на кухне

Who says men can't cook? Behold the efforts of D:

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear readers,

Happy Thanksgiving!!!! I hope you are all having a wonderful time with family and friends. I am thankful for your support and encouragement on this blog. Your comments and ideas make this a worthwhile endeavor.

I'm also very thankful for having this opportunity to experience Ukraine. Last Thanksgiving the possibility of moving overseas seemed so remote. Denis had been through round after round of interviews with Russian companies, none of which wanted to hire an American (although they seemed content to put him through the interview process just for their own amusement). After another loooong dark Alaskan winter we seized this chance to come to Ukraine and never looked back. We are very thankful for the hospitality of all the friends we have made here and look forward to spending more time with them. We are also very thankful to our friends and family stateside, who are always in our hearts.

Wherever you are and whoever you're with, enjoy this day and take a moment to count your blessings!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Out and About in Kharkov II- bowling!

You can't miss the place at night- it's one giant neon sign!
Bowling at Holiday! (Check the website for address and prices. Also, I'd recommend making a reservation if you're going there in the evening or on the weekend.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

ку ка ри ку (That's what a rooster says in Russian)

During one of my classes the topic of animal sounds came up. As you're probably aware, animals don't necessarily make the same sounds in different languages. For example, in English a rooster says cock-a-doodle-do which Russian speakers find freakin' hilarious, since the Russian equivalent is ku-ka-re-ku. Pigs- English: oink, oink. Russian: huru, huru. Dogs- English woof, woof (big dog) or arf, arf (little dog). Russian: gavf, gavf. But the one sound that really got me- the hedgehog.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The November Blues

The newest additions to the cupboard (tea & chocolate)....
I've been down in the dumps lately. The clock is ticking down on my 90-days in the country, and I don't have a solution yet except overstaying.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Out and About in Kharkov, Adventure 1: AVEK gallery

In Kharkov? Got a couple of free hours?

There's a small gallery/museum hidden away near Independence Square. Take the metro to Independence Square, then walk in the direction away from the giant Lenin statue. When you hit the street, turn left. Look for this pro-Ukraine clothing's hard to miss.
If you hadn't guessed, the colors of the Ukrainian flag are blue and yellow.
Even the shoes. Love it!

Turn into the alley by the blue & yellow clothes store. You'll notice this beautiful (and very large!) globe.

This is a map of Kharkov.
Here's the alley....look closely and you'll see the clothing shop in the alley and a hulking dark globe. You might even see a bride and groom like I did : ) I think they were going into the jewelry shop.

McDonalds in Ukraine

Watch. When you see the crowd, you will understand exactly what I mean :p

BTW, this is not my video. You can find it on YouTube under "McDonalds in Kyiv, Ukraine". Yesterday afternoon. 1 PM. A woman pulls out a McDonalds hamburger on the metro. A cheeseburger actually, and it looks plain, just the way I prefer. There something insidious and tempting about McDonalds.....We're conditioned like Pavlov's dogs. I can go for three months without thinking about it once and then the moment I see an ad the thought plants itself in my head and within 24-48 hours, just like the flu, the symptoms are undeniable. I must eventually break down and go. In my defense, though, my immune system is pretty good. I've been here 3 months and this is only the 2nd time I've had a meal there. Let's see- the last time I wrote about McDonalds, we talked about how there can be up to 7 cashiers to take your order, and about how you stand at the front by the cash register and wait for your food while the people behind you either shout orders over your shoulder or shove up next to you. Some new observations:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Nighttime in Kharkov (a plumbing poem)

Twas nighttime in Kharkov, and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Denis was napping, all snug in his bed,
While visions of orange juice danced in his head.
After 8 hours of cold-you do the math,
I had just settled in for a lovely warm bath.

When there in the kitchen there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bath to see what was the matter.
Away to the sink I flew like a flash,
And a geyser of water erupted with a crash.

Although the city was covered in new-fallen snow
scalding hot water was beginning to flow
over the counter and onto the floor
the ocean of water continued to pour.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The MOST AWESOME photo ever

(For the runner-up to Most Awesome Photo Ever, click here.)

A walk in the park

Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand- and melting like a snowflake. - Marie Beyon Ray

The break week is almost over, and it was sweet, sweet, sweet. What did I do? Why, laze around, of course! What did you expect- something more noble? :p This week was perfect after all the rushing about of last semester. And I'm really excited to start teaching again, especially since I have a heads up of what to expect this time. I'll be teaching a new (for me) business course this time, based on an American-reality TV show. Seriously, is there anyone here better suited than I for this task? I think not! This means as part of my class prep I watch the reality TV show too, yeah. (Now I just need to find a Russian/Ukrainian teacher who will teach me based on episodes of the Ukrainian reality show Холостяк.) D is not very thrilled: "I hate that show! And you know whatever you watch, I end up watching too." Poor D!
I've been waiting a long time to use this picture in my blog!
So, I'm psyched for that class to get rolling. It's an advanced course and while I like learners of all levels, it's especially pleasant to work with the more fluent speakers. I'll be teaching a full load of other courses too, more "regular" classes. And I heard there are two new teachers.....ah, fresh blood. I can't wait to meet them.

Anyways, one lazy afternoon this week we took a walk to the forest/park. Please join us-

Do you have one of these in your city?
Yes, I am still stealthily photographing weddings.

More Metro !

23rd of August metro station:

Sportivna metro station:

Xolodna Gora metro station:

Snapshots of Ukrainian Life, Part 5

Finally bought a vacuum cleaner-
SO excited

Arghhh to Ahhhh....

Sorry, readers. I kicked myself a thousand times for not bringing a camera!!!!! Hopefully my words can paint the evening for you.

Let's pick up from the last entry.....

I called my dear co-teacher and begged off from meeting the students. I'm so sneaky like that. Anyways,we met up at a bar near Independence Square but, being Saturday night, it was packed and we couldn't get a table. We took the metro one stop to another restaurant. It was, of course, fantastically decorated- two stories tall with a spiral staircase and there was practically a freakin' fresco on the ceiling!- and well-lit, techno music was playing, and a lot of the men and women present looked like supermodels. The restaurant was busy but not packed. We waited for someone to seat us. And waited. And waited. Finally D cornered a waiter and he told us to seat ourselves. So we sat. And waited. And waited. And waited. After 30 minutes D (who has gotten over his culture shock, by the way, and is putting his "Ukrainian" face on more often) took action. He got up, strolled into the kitchen to the waiter area. I swear to God this was the actual conversation, word for word:
D: "Do we need to bring our own food to this restaurant or something?"
Waitress: "Have you even been to a restaurant where you're allowed to bring your own food?"
D: "Well, then give us some menus so we can order!"
So he came back with menus and we waited. And waited. And waited another 30 minutes for a waiter. No waiter. I even did my secret trick, 99% guaranteed to get the attention of any Ukrainian waiter. (secret trick: crumple up a napkin and leave it on the table. Ukrainian waiters hate this. They can sense a crumpled napkin from two rooms away. They usually show up immediately to glare at you and take the napkin away.)

Saturday, November 5, 2011


SO annoying...... another teacher and I made plans to hang out tonight, which I was really looking forward to until a phone call 5 minutes ago with the news that he'd invited along some students (surely female and surely young). Look, I like all my students but hanging out with them outside of class is another story. When I'm hanging out I want to turn off "teacher mode" and relax. And I want to have a normal conversation, not a conversation at the level of the worst English speaker present. There's a time and a place for my students and it's not at a bar at 8 PM on a Saturday night. It makes me feel like I'm working for free.

I know this makes me the oddity since all the other teachers love to hang out with students outside of class, but I suspect if I was an unmarried 35 year old man, hell yeah I'd like to hang out with a 19 year old girl and drink beer. But I'm not. So I don't. And don't think I'm anti-"friends with the locals" because that's not it. I have my Ukrainian friends that I didn't meet through work and I prefer it that way. Out of all the students I've had so far, there have been a couple that I could possibly have a real friendship with but those aren't the young flirty ones who will probably be at the bar tonight. Arghhh....

Friday, November 4, 2011

Getting Around Kharkov

Clothes sizing and customer service aside, have I told you how awesome Kharkov is? What a city!!!!
Пiвденний вокзал (English: southern train station). September 2011.
The park in front of Пiвденний вокзал. Again, September. The landscape is a bit more barren nowadays.
A government building bordering the park & train station.
It gets even better..... check out the inside of the train station-
Does your local train station look this fancy? Didn't think so!
Did I mention the pigeons? They're everywhere!
More stunning architecture!...yet, sadly, don't expect the (pay) restrooms to look this nice. Because they don't. You have been warned.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Shopping war stories

You've probably heard the stories about Ukrainian women being amazingly beautiful and kind and domestic and feminine and educated and blah blah blah. It really is true. But I don't care about any of that. When I think of Ukrainian women, I think "Thanks a lot, stork ladies!"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ice Cream in Ukraine & GMO

On the streets of Kiev, "fresh Ukrainian ice cream"!
 People in Ukraine seem to love ice cream. I remember it was sold on the streets of Russia year-round, even when it was -20 F outside. Is it the same here or do people limit their obsession to the summertime? One point in favor of ice cream in the summer: air conditioning is very limited and being exposed to a draft (ie, door and window open at the same time, called сквозняк [skvoznyak] and deserving of an entirely separate blog post) is viewed as a deadly risk, so what better way to cool off than with ice cream?
"Stop drug users" "Eskimo" "with poppy seed and sesame"
This is from a local supermarket. If the ice cream isn't labeled as "death by chocolate" (and most Ukrainian ice cream isn't, it's all fruit-based) I can usually resist, but this intrigued me. The ice cream itself was really tasty (speaking of poppy seed, I'd never eaten many until arriving in this country!) but can someone please explain to me the meaning of the marijuana leaves?

Also, if you can make out the ГМО on the upper-right of this ice cream wrapper, that stands for "not genetically modified food". Practically all food here is labeled Без ГМО. I remember teaching a class on nutrition in Alaska, and some students from Ukraine stumped us by asking about non-GMO food in America. I honestly had no idea, nor did any of the other instructors, and we all considered ourselves pretty food-conscious people (high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, etc). Granted, this was 2 years ago, but it just didn't seem to be something most Americans worried about / were aware of. The Ukrainians were very concerned about it and I remember thinking "what's the big deal?" I guess if you're coming from a country where all non-GMO food is clearly labeled, mysterious American products possibly created by scientists in a lab might be a cause for concern. What do you think, my fellow Americans? Are you concerned about genetically modified food? Do you see this kind of information nowadays on food packaging?

Break Update

Newest additions to the tea collection: Russian Earl Grey, Peach Mango (black tea), and raspberry (black tea). Mmmm...
The end of the semester for me! The flowers were from a student, the soup was from Denis, and the vodka...well, that was from me :p How can you resist picnic-intended vodka? Because I don't know about you, but that's the first thing I think of when I think "picnic" (jk!, only in Russia, maybe) Anyways, I taught 6 hours, came home and had D's delicious potato soup, and celebrated the end of the semester by...sleeping from 8 PM to 8 AM. Exciting!
Uh, yes, I went back to the zoo again. Guilty as charged.
Kind of a wintery day at the zoo....

A truly Ukrainian shopping trip. 2 loaves of bread, a packet of garlic-flavored ketchup, beer. lime-flavored beer, and a bottle of vodka (that was for the Halloween party)
Yeah, said Halloween party! In a very Soviet-style kitchen. These were our costumes. No one "got" them. (Dark clothes + a shot glass = a shot in the dark. Black clothes + an envelope = blackmail.) A fascinating globe D found is also featured in this photo; the earth-shaped globe consisted of nothing but the country of Ukraine. Apparently all the geography I learned in school is wrong. Anyways, the party was Halloween in theory (great decorations and the occasional devil horns or witch hat) thanks to the superhuman efforts of one of my co-teachers, but the party mainly consisted of playing "Mafia", the greatest party game ever according to most Ukrainians. I can't say I'm crazy about this game but if you give me a cup of "Halloween punch", sure, I'll sit still long enough to play it. Walking home, I said "D, what is it about this game? Why are people so fanatical about its merits and greatness?" He turned to me, shocked "Because it's awesome! It's a game of psychology in which you try to delve into the psyches of the other players and observe their body language and unconscious gestures!" Uh okay, whatever happened to good old-fashioned truth or dare? :p We Americans are so uncouth! But beer-pong gives us good coordination.....
In short, I'm 2 days into the break, still 5 glorious days to go!!!