Sunday, September 30, 2012

Easy Russian 3: the letters Ф and л

(If you can't hear the audio files, click on the title to view the entire post in a new tab) 

I'm going to teach you a new letter.


Looks kind of weird, right? Don't worry, it's not. It's f.

ф = F
F = Ф

It almost looks like a football or a football field.

Try these easy ф words-
кофе = coffee
кафе = cafe 
факс = fax
факт = fact 
фета = feta cheese
фото = photo

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Paragliding in Ukraine

My friend Pasha found a Ukrainian paragliding school on Ukraine's Groupon page. I don't know if I was more surprised to find out about the paragliding or simply that Ukraine has Groupon! :p You may remember our hero Pasha from the Easter picnic. After discovering this paragliding opportunity he quickly put his superior picnic-planning skills to work and gathered up all the usual suspects for a Saturday afternoon outing.


Yesterday my email account got hacked. True, my password policy was way behind the times; nowadays you're advised to use numbers and symbols and here I was, still using an actual dictionary word! D said that's probably how they got in, pitting an algorithm that could test dictionary words against my email address. He sat me down and gave me the lecture and now (I hope) I'm much better defended against such attacks. But it brought to mind a couple of things I'd noticed/heard earlier this month.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Gorky Park and Саржин Яр

Gorky Park is a gigantic city park here in Kharkov. It had been under construction pretty much since I arrived to the city last year. Rumor had it that the remodeled park was to open by June's EURO 2012 tournament but the soccer championship came and went... and a big tree-cutting scandal was the only news from the park.

Where's my park? is probably what this little boy is thinking.

But fear not, intrepid readers, for the work has finished at last and the entire park is again open to all! The park officially reopened on August 23rd (city day) after a visit from Viktor Yanukovich, President of Ukraine. About 80,000 people showed up that first weekend, especially since all the rides were free on opening day. If you're intrigued by the idea of 80,000 visitors in just a couple of days, check out this 3 minute video on the city's website. It's also a great way to see what the locals look like (not supermodels, not drunks, simply regular people) and hear their thoughts, albeit in Russian: "Now there are no problems with the bathrooms (as there had been before.)" "We feel like real Europeans." And for more, read the impressions of a Peace Corps volunteer who visited the park on opening day.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Is it art?

Behind ХАТОБ, the Kharkov State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, lies a landscape not of elegant costumes and evening orchestras but rather of unpaid teenage labor under the cover of night.
Like ballet, also done for the love of art!
This is a fantastic spot. Just ignore the smell of urine and think of it as the city's free open-air museum.


All day long my stomach has been tied up in knots. It's the first week of the new semester and it feels like everything is up in the air. I've been trying to design a cool fall schedule but there's a downside to such lifestyle design: waiting to see what actually happens.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Art on the city streets

Kharkov street art

На кухне: End of The Cooking Season

It's back to work in a couple of days, and that spells certain doom for the hours of meal planning and preparation that were enjoyed over the past several weeks. Here's a round up of what I've tried (recipes linked!):

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Perfect Ukrainian Toilet

Oh, black tea. Your caffeinated kick lures me over to the electric kettle every morning, but it's thanks to you that I found myself shelling out 2.50 grivna and peeing over an odoriferous pit in the train station this morning. It's not easy to do that while trying to hold the broken stall door closed with your other hand and at the same time clutch the little scrap of toilet paper that you've been given. In fact, the whole situation reminded me of this email I got last year...

Sept 2011.
My email to D.
"At 10 AM this morning Myroslava came from the airport with a new arrival, this neurotic east-coaster who hadn't slept in about 30 hours. Instead of getting sleepier as the day wore on, he got more and more wound up, until he was like a New Yorker on Crack (NYoC for short) by the end of the day. [For brevity, I've edited out a long story about NYoC's first encounter with the toilets in an elementary school. Suffice to say, he went in the men's room confidently, having studied abroad for a while near Moscow, and promptly ran out in shock.]"

Sept 2011.
D's response.
"I enjoyed your story about NYoC vs Ukrainian toilets. Send him my regards and tell him that one of those days he will encounter the "PUT" (Perfect Ukrainian Toilet).

Usually it is hard to encounter the PUT but sometimes the heavenly bodies align just right and an unfortunate person steps through the portal that leads to the "Perfect Ukrainian Toilet".

Monday, September 10, 2012

Date Night

There were so many things going on this weekend- Friday kicked off with a huge village ярмарка (fair) in Freedom Square and a nearby языковая ярмарка (language fair) representing about 10 of the city's language schools. On Saturday D and I spent the day apart; technology and psychology classes for him, a picnic and watching friends paraglide for me. On Sunday we did our big weekly shopping endeavor- buy food at the outdoor market and grocery store, lug it home (uphill!) by foot. I picked up this beautiful bouquet at the market and almost had to leave it trapped in a cubby at the grocery store. While shopping, the key to the cubby detached and got lost somewhere in the store. I wasn't sure if we should approach the security guys about this- surely they'd charge us a fine for losing the key, and the flowers only cost 10 grivna. We ended up telling them what happened. They just shrugged and without a word slowly meandered over to the cubbies and popped the lock. No штраф (fine)!
my flowers, safely at home!
Then we pulled out our nice clothes and got dressed up for one of the few 100% American double dates we've gone on here. I guess we're all truly grown-ups now, because everyone willingly agreed to go to the ballet :p I'd never been to a performance in Kharkov before, despite the many Skyped entreaties of my parents. The Texan husband had picked up tickets for One Thousand and One Nights and we all met on the steps of the mighty Kharkov State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater.

Friday, September 7, 2012

How to spend 30 uah

Let's talk about awesome. Let's talk about the Kharkov zoo.

First off, you can get through the gates for just



In fact, if you show up in the winter around 4 or 5 PM, they'll even let you in for less than 30 uah. I like this. Until moving to Ukraine I'd only gotten to the zoo twice in the past 8 years. With an average winter temperature of -20F/-28C, Fairbanks, Alaska obviously has no zoo. When we moved down to Anchorage we visited The Alaska Zoo once. It cost the equivalent of 100 uah and to see what?- moose?! No, thank you. I still remember nearly getting trampled once by a mother and her twins on a bike path. Another winter everyone lived in terror of a large moose who was always lurked down in parking lot of our building. We never went back to The Alaska Zoo because it housed mostly animals that literally hung out in backyards or frequently disrupted traffic. (The other zoo trip? Honolulu, Hawaii. Totally recommend. But that's neither here nor there...)

So 30 uah will get you in the door but it's good to bring an extra handful of small bills for all the extras: beer, cotton candy, and корм (animal food). Yes, that's right, you can feed the animals! The non bite-your-head-off kind, at least.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ват из ит?

I'm supposed to be studying right now, but it's way more fun to make a list of these novelty words.

грин кард
лифтинг (on a skin care product)
експрес сервис


It seems that everywhere you look these days in Ukraine you see English words spelled out in Cyrillic letters-

Saturday, September 1, 2012

На кухне: Summer Recipes

Make them quick, before summer ends! ; )
Lenin Avenue Billboard: Okroshka season is open! 10 kinds!
Okroshka (окрошка) is a cold Russian soup. It's super easy to make and is perfect for hot weather. As you can see in the picture above, the weather isn't really hot here anymore but I still was eager to try making it after finding a simple recipe on Red Star to Lone Star.