Thursday, December 27, 2012

Odessa at 21 degrees F

Holy Trinity Cathedral
 Yet again we ended up in Odessa thanks to someone's generosity. This time credit goes to D's work. While my company offers pay-your-own-way corporate parties at local restaurants, D's employers lavishly splurged on train tickets and lodging so that everyone could visit Odessa for one massive blow-out party.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Very Champagne Christmas is Coming

The holidays are coming and that means drinking.

Well, to be honest, almost any season in Ukraine means drinking, but the festivity, bustle, and camaraderie surrounding the holidays cause many people to go above and beyond the average call of duty.

The supermarket has an overflow of champagne bottles already. They've been tossed in giant bins, displayed next to enticing sale prices. There's even a brand sold in a blank bottle with a pen so that you can draw on your own design and slogan. Next to the champagne, the hard alcohol gift sets are on display. Gift sets range from the pricey honey pepper vodka + shotglasses or Baileys + shotglasses to the ceramic-pistol-filled-with-vodka for 95 uah.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Victory Square in the snow

Unlike Kiev and its poor denizens (Kiev buried under snow), here in Kharkov we just had our first notable snowfall. Roofs are now a stark white and sidewalks are a dirty grey. The tireless metro ladies are constantly stooped over, sweeping the icy steps of the entrance clear with their little bundles of straw. The snow continues to flirt with us, either coyly lurking in the clouds or flitting down for short periods.

Last night we strolled through Victory Park. Except for two other young couples, the park was deserted. Only footprints in the snow proved that we were still downtown.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Площа Повстання 2: Winter Fashion, the Yeast Factory, and more

Welcome to Yakira Street

It's -6 C at the moment (21 F) and the weather forecast is predicting snow for the rest of this week. The small children of Kharkov have been parading around in snowsuits for almost two months and now the rest of us are beginning to follow suit. Tall heeled boots and шубы (fur coats) are everywhere, as are fur hats the actual size of beavers!
Waiting for the tram
Probably the slowest but cheapest form of transportation in town

Undaunted (but bundled up), we recently went on a lengthy exploration of Yakira steet. Perhaps it's just the time of year, but this part of town seems almost untouched by 2012. It feels more like the 1970s. Take a look-

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Площа Повстання 1: The Horse Market

Welcome to Kharkov's Конный рынок (Horse market)!

You're at least 100 years too late to actually buy a horse here, but there are still plenty of other things for sale.

We discovered this place

Saturday, December 8, 2012

8 months in Ukraine, revisited

I don't know how this has happened, but another 8 months have flown by after making that phone call back in March... bringing us to a grand total of 16 months in Ukraine.


That sounds so long! Almost enough time to get an associates degree or have two babies! But I'm glad I chose Ukraine for this period of time instead of more education or starting a family. I think it will prove just as rewarding in the long run.

The past 8 months have been very different from the previous 8. Remember Кто не рискует, тот не пьет шампанское from June? Since then I've been trying a ton of new things. 
This summer I did a weekly English Game Night with another teacher.

Blogging, as you can probably tell, has become more than just a hobby. It's become a lifestyle and I love it.

I started volunteering with a local social service agency this fall, offering English to its employees weekly and hanging out with the children once or twice a month.

D and I have begun work on a website to help others learn Russian. We started from scratch but it's coming along pretty well. Just have a couple more things to do before it's ready to be shared with all of you!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Care Package

Reading a lot of blogs about life in Ukraine means reading a lot of Peace Corps volunteer blogs. Reading a lot of PCV blogs means reading again and again about one of the best things that can happen to you while living abroad: getting a care package.

What does it feel like, I thought to myself, to get a box full of good stuff from home? Rebecca in England has dropped several cards in the mail, Macedonian-American Vesna occasionally sends handmade crafts, but so far no one had sent us a grab-bag of Americana, the kind of stuff that makes you a little homesick.

Then my boss called me on Sunday with excitement in her voice. "Katherine!!" she whispered, "you've got mail! A big envelope!" and with that, my first care package had arrived : )
minus the cat, of course

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Ват из ит, Pepsi version

Pepsi's new ad campaign in Ukraine: half real Ukrainian, half English words written in Ukrainian.
"Sharing (шерiнг) was always sharing, Pepsi Cola is with me"
"A street party (стрiтпатi) was always a street party, Pepsi Cola is with me"

Pizza Колдун

There's a little restaurant near the train station that I like to visit every so often- Pizza Колдун.

Here you'll find a tiny two-room joint squeezed in between a beauty shop and a meat market. They serve piping hot pizzas to the tune of 50-60 uah a pop. I like the atmosphere and the design. Unfortunately the mood is sometimes ruined by a heavy cloud of cigarette smoke. Please, please Ukraine- pass/enforce an anti-indoor-smoking law! Done! But... people still smoke in there :p

Sick of pizza? There are plenty of other places to eat near the Kharkov train station. Try:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Art of City, City of Art

Kharkov has been gloomy lately. A heavy fog slowly erases the city, brick by brick.

regular day

Yesterday I went out in search of color...

...and found it!
Welcome to Art of City.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I'm dreaming of a White Christmas

It snowed on Saturday night! Does that mean that it's okay to start thinking about Christmas? True to tradition, I've already started putting out the decorations.

Thank you, смайлмаркет, for your cheap imported goods!

Christmas is still pretty far off if you want to celebrate it like a local. The winter holidays here start on New Year's Eve (check out last year's celebrations!), then Christmas falls on January 7th and Old New Year wraps up the season on January 14th. As for December 25th, well, that's just another work day. After the crushing disappointment of having to take finals on December 25th in Siberia I never again expected anything special on that particular day. Hearing a simple "Merry Christmas" from a thoughtful student is about as exciting as it can get.

Dear readers, do you have any special holiday plans? Are you planning to travel? D's company is having a big party in Odessa at the end of next month. We're planning to hop on the train and attend. It's a costume party, though, and I have no ideas. The last time we wore costumes in Ukraine we failed miserably. So, remaining costume ideas: Blackmail. A shot in the dark. ???? Please advise!

In the meantime-
кит doesn't appear to be too excited about the holiday season, probably because he's on Santa's naughty list

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Giving thanks по-украински

With a couple of minor modifications, it's fairly easy to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving feast in Ukraine!

Step 1: Instead of battling the crowds for that last box of stuffing on Wednesday night, you can relax and head to the grocery store two hours before your guests arrive. This will, of course, be on Friday night since Thursday is a regular work day (or night, in my case).

Step 2: Rumors of turkeys are everywhere but the actual bird is much harder to find, so just pick up some roasted chicken. Roasted chicken also has the benefit of being fairly cheap- 25 uah ($3 US) per bird. In fact, the total grocery bill was under $50... for 7 people!

Step 3: Since Ukrainians are excellent cooks, be sure to take others up on their offers to bring a salad/side dish/pie. You won't regret it. Also, if you know any, Peace Corps Volunteers have access to highly-sought-after goods from abroad like gravy mix packets.
homemade pumpkin pie

Friday, November 23, 2012

Gone but Not Forgotten

One of my favourite things about living in Ukraine is catching a glimpse of the footprints of the past.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Mythical Dream Job and Moving On

I need to find an English school for tomorrow. I need a new dream.
Everyone that I started with is gone. They've drifted away, gone home, moved on. One guy is managing an AmeriCorps team in Florida. Another left to teach for a youth camp in France. The American woman returned to the US to study psychology and Russian, and began dating a new man. The Ukrainian testing director politely resigned to take care of her newborn baby. Two friends got fired. Another colleague just dropped off the face of the planet without a word to anyone. I guess these are the usual happy endings at your average ESL school.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

That's not right

I've always been suspicious of those open containers of bulk goods in the supermarket. Rice, flour, sugar, cookies, gretchka, all just sitting uncovered in a big box, waiting for a consumer to scoop some up in a bag, weigh it, slap on a price tag, and take it home. How do you stop dirt and icky things from getting in? I mean, I've seen birds flying around in the supermarket! What if they snack on the food or, worse, begin aerial bombardment?

And then, the remodel started.
Now I definitely don't trust the uncovered bulk products.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Studying Spanish in Kharkov

What do you think about studying a foreign language?
How about studying two? 
What about living in one foreign country and studying another foreign language that's not even spoken in that country?


Sunday, November 4, 2012


I'd been planning to do some sightseeing this weekend with a classmate but was instead waylaid by a cold. I guess I'll be a good blogger and catch up with another ongoing topic- food!


All over Kharkov you'll find little kiosks with the кулиничи sign. Usually there will be a small crowd inside: hungry students standing at the counter while they finish their lunch-on-the-run, morose men nursing cups of coffee, office workers buying bread on their way home. These кулиничи kiosks are on practically every street corner. Start walking in any direction- by the time you lose sight of the closest kiosk, another one will have appeared. I spent last winter addicted to their chocolate frosted cookies; it would have been easier to resist if I didn't have to walk by their display windows every day on the way home :p
We stop at кулиничи often to buy bread and sweets but don't eat there much, as there's just standing room and the menu is limited to bread-based goods. (Exception: bought a pizza and desert thingy to snack on in the forest last fall.) There is more of a cafe on Pushkinska Street with real seating. The front is another buy-to-go kiosk (across the street from Pizza Felice) but if you walk behind the building, you'll discover an actual sit-down place that offers inexpensive ciabatta sandwiches and soups.

Кулиничи, it turns out, is a local bread factory located in Kharkov's outskirts. Despite only having been around since 1995, their website claims that more than 200,000 people buy their products daily.

Час поїсти

Next up, one of my fav kinds of restaurants- the столовая! This local cafeteria, час поїсти, is clean, upscale, and next to the Pushkinska metro station. I've even been able to sneak in here to use the restrooms, which is a huge coup here in Ukraine.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Where are all the Ukrainian scientists?

This is metro station Наукова.

Наукова is Ukrainian for research and this station pays tribute to the best of the best.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

На Кухне: First recipes of fall

In case you'd forgotten, we recently enjoyed a fortnight of authentic Ukrainian meals cooked by D's mom. Now we're back to cooking on our own. Here's a brief listing of what's appeared in the kitchen.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

6 Things You Probably Didn't Know about the Elections in Ukraine

Tomorrow Ukrainians will head to the polls to vote in the parliamentary elections. For news, check out Kyiv Post or Ukrainian Election 2012. For random, non-political observations from a foreigner, continue reading!

1) This elementary school is going to be used as a polling place here in Kharkov.

Hall lights are turned off at night (надо экономить! one must economize!) so please forgive me for the quality of these pictures. Posters for all candidates had been laid out on tables, perhaps to be hung on the walls in time for voting.

2) The three standard facial expressions for candidates:

Left: angry
Middle: threatening and/or sullen
Right: mellow

3) Many of the candidates are photographed wearing beautiful and traditional Ukrainian tops (see man in right picture).