Sunday, June 24, 2012

Money: 500 grivna

Do you remember the children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Yeah, today was like that.
I went to sleep with gum in my mouth, and now there’s gum in my hair. And when I got out of bed this morning, I tripped on the skateboard, and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running. And I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I'll spare you most of the details, but it involved sleeping four hours and then operating as a zombie for the next four as the sleeping pill wore off. It involved working. On a Sunday. It involved a rushed and awkward encounter with the neighbors. And three, no, four separate and unsuccessful attempts to find a working xerox machine before class started. And the school mixing up my schedule and my boss lighting firecrackers in the office and me being late for the first class and walking into a classroom of new students on the wrong foot. And a fight with D to top it all off : (

But at least this showed up in my pay envelope at the end of the day: 500 grivna, or about $62 USD.
Сковорода means frying pan in Russian
This man's name is Григорий Сковорода, or Grigory Frying Pan. Oops, I mean Grigory Skovoroda. He was a Ukrainian philosopher, composer, and traveling poet of the 1700s, back when Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire.

Skovoroda was born in the same region as one of my favorite present-day Ukrainian artists and absolute favorite drag character: Verka Serduchka. One day this performer will get his own entry on my blog but not today, for today is Skovoroda's day.
Sorry, Verka Serduchka and entourage, we'll come back to you later. I wonder what a man from the 18th century would have thought of you.
According to Wikipedia, after years of wandering the country and thinking deep thoughts, Skovoroda dug his own grave and arranged for the tombstone to read The world tried to catch me, but didn't succeed.

For those interested, further info can be found on these websites:
Welcome to Ukraine (cool quote from this article: When the governor of Kharkiv once asked Skovoroda what, in his opinion, was the main thing that the Bible taught, Skovoroda replied, “It teaches the true things about the heart. Cook books teach us how to satisfy the stomach; books on hunting teach us how to hunt beasts; books on fashion teach us how to look fashionable, and the Bible teaches us how to make our hearts noble.”)
Encyclopedia of Ukraine
Skovoroda Online Database
Skovoroda on Facebook, yo. Who is not on Facebook these days?

The back of the 500 grivna note displays the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, henceforth abbreviated to NaUKMA.
Ukrainian: Національний університет «Києво-Могилянська академія» (НаУКМА).  Motto: Tempus fugit, Academia sempiterna.
NaUKMA is a very prestigious and very small university in Kiev that offers instruction in Ukrainian and English. It consistently ranks as one of the best universities in Ukraine. One of their alumni is none other than Skovoroda himself.

Interesting things to note:
  • The university has a turtle. New students hold the turtle for luck.
  • The building shown on the bill is the Mazepa building.
  • Students and teachers here were involved in the Orange Revolution of 2004. 
  • The first version of NaUKMA opened its doors to students in 1615.
  • The school has a free basic Ukrainian online course.
  • If anyone would like to grant me several thousand dollars in the name of education, I'd love to attend the "post-Soviet society" summer courses or even plain old Ukrainian studies summer school. Just sayin' :p
  • And most importantly, the tasty Вареничная Победа (Soviet-themed restaurant that we visited in May) is next to the NaUKMA campus.
Meanwhile, what do you know about these other Ukrainian denominations?
10 and 20 grivna
50 grivna
100 grivna

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