Friday, April 13, 2012

The weekend, Part 2

Gena, another friend of D's, invited us on a city tour on Saturday afternoon. This was massively exciting news since he has wheels. I've only been inside a car 2 or 3 times here and the city is definitely different when viewed from a car. Gena turned out to be a great tour guide- he knew something about everything!

We started with a drive through downtown.
Kharkov mural


Then we parked near the hippodrome and walked around the outside of it. Briefly around the inside too, until we got hustled out.

The hippodrome is only a short walk from Gorky Park, a large park near a movie theater and lots of name brand shops. Gorky Park is undergoing massive construction right now. Everything is ripped up and covered in debris. The deadline? Euro 2012, 2 months and counting! It looks like they have a long way to go in just 60 days.... but as we all know, there's nothing Ukrainians love more than remodeling :P
[If you're interested, I've stashed a couple more photos over on Facebook.] 
The goal
The reality
After bidding farewell to Gena at Pizza Felice, I went home to tidy up the apartment before my friend Tanya arrived for dinner.
We had a good time hanging out, eating pizza, and watching the new Холостяк 2 (the Bachelor 2). Yes, it's true, this time the guy doesn't speak Russian so everyone wears earpieces and uses translators. It's pretty funny for a dating show!
Our spread for dinner
There continues to be a problem with my front door. When leaving for the metro to meet Tanya, I couldn't even get the door to close. I got so frustrated at that point that I thought "to hell with it!" and left it open. We don't have much stuff to steal anyways, and there's still another main door that we share with the neighbor that does lock. When it was time for Tanya to leave, she was able to force the inner door closed behind us. This was, conversationally-speaking, a fortuitous move.

When I returned to the apartment I could hear commotion going on in the outer area we share with the neighbor. Upon opening the door I found the little entryway filled with a man and his wife who had been visiting the neighbors. They assumed I'd come to do the same, and waved me toward the neighbors' with a "Туда, да?"
I replied "нет, сюда" and pointed at my closed door.

The man and his wife left but the neighbors hung around their door frame, watching me try all kinds of maneuvers to open the door. Finally they'd seen enough and actually started offering advice / commiserating. They said that every foreigner who'd lived here had this same problem and offered the landlord's phone number. This was pretty cool since the school I work for is completely not interested in contacting the landlord. I think they must be afraid of him. Anyways..... that's when it got surreal. I'd met the neighbors briefly back in September and they seemed pretty skeptical of me. This time, however, they started asking a bunch of questions and then invited me in their home. It's true that Slavic peoples are famous for their hospitality, once you get across some kind of invisible barrier, but I had never expected the opportunity to cross the barrier with these neighbors.

They'd just finished a big dinner celebrating the mom's birthday and had a table still laden with food. Although the invitation was ostensibly for tea, a plate soon came out and on it went several kinds of mayonnaise salads. One was- get this- a fish salad called "turtle". It is a testament to my time in Ukraine and the amount of wine I'd had earlier with Tanya that I was able to eat that much mayonnaise, more then I've ever had in my life! People also get gregarious when they drink, which may have something to do with me getting invited in their home in the first place. The mom appointed me as her drinking partner. "What do you want- cognac, rum, wine, champagne?" "No thanks, nothing really." "Okay, champagne! Let's toast!" And thus the invitation for tea ended up being long enough for numerous toasts, various mayonnaise salads, sausage, 2 glasses of champagne, a glass of homemade juice, homemade cake, and a cup of black tea. Ukraine :) You've got to love it!


  1. Nice pictures- I especially love seeing the dinner photos! I think you're eating better than I did. I found it really hard to get good quality fresh produce. I've heard it's easier in the summer, with all the local fruit, etc, but I didn't have much luck during the winter months.

    It'll also be interesting to see how Euro 2012 plays out. I recently saw a petition circulating on facebook railing against the extermination of all the stray dogs in urban centres in Ukraine. I have mixed feelings about that, because after my initial misgivings about the roaming stray dogs, I kind of started to like them. Most of them are used to different people coming and going so they're pretty well socialized. Nice pooches, overall. Still, I'm sure there are probably occasional issues with disease/rabies, etc. Most football fans from Western Europe probably won't have a positive reaction to packs of stray pooches roaming about.

    Will you still be in Ukraine during Euro 2012?

    1. Also: above mentioned Facebook petition argued that instead of destroying the dogs they should all be neutered and adopted. Incredibly improbable solution, given the large amount of resources it would take to spay and neuter and ensure adoption of all the stray dogs (of which there are many). Then again, people get pretty upset over animal rights issues. Especially cute animals. Just look at the Canadian seal hunt. I maintain that no one would have a care in the world if the seals weren't big doe-eyed cuties. Can you imagine if seals were actually hideous, scaly little monsters skittering around on the ice? I'm betting the complaints about the seal hunt would be few.

      Wow, okay, it's late and I just went on a long tangent. I'll stop blowing up your comments section now. :P

    2. Yeah, we try really hard to eat healthy. The fridge contains a frightening amount of veggies after a trip to the market. It's just- like you've mentioned before- a lot of work to prepare everything with the kitchen appliances on hand. Someday we hope to own a microwave!

      I do hope to be here for Euro 2012. Not because I like soccer, but just because I like Ukraine. There's a stray cat pack and a stray dog pack in my neighborhood. People take care of the cats- old women come feed them regularly and I think the dogs just scavenge. One time we tried to adopt our favorite cat (very noble, we'd named him Chairman Meow) but he preferred life on the street. It is cruel to exterminate animals like Chairman Meow or the neighborhood dogs... I hope Ukraine can find another solution but it does seem unlikely, you're right.