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).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Ukrainian DENTIST!!! Ahhhh!!!!!

I just saw a Ukrainian dental surgeon. And it's only 10:30 AM!
Pharmacy booty: Catafast, Cifran, and Dr. Reddy's Cetrin
Although I much prefer to ignore problems like this and just hope they go away, last night's frantic midnight Googling of "pain in back teeth" (and that terrible scene in Castaway, you know what I'm talking about!) convinced me to wake up early today and see the dentist. D and I, like naive Americans, assumed that we'd see a receptionist this morning and at best be able to schedule an appointment for tomorrow.

Haha. Ha.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

“Smoking had come to be an important punctuation mark...

...in the long sentence of a day on the road.”
- F. Scott Fitzgerald

If anything were to make me smoke, it'd be either a) this cool quote or b) living in Ukraine.

But a) no and b) close, but no cigar (haha).

Smoking is so present in everyday life here that it's impossible to miss. Office workers take smoke breaks, smokers light up in the "smoking section" of coffee shops (conveniently located right next to the non-smoking area, ahem, Coffee Life!), cigarettes are sold everywhere- kiosks, grocery stores, by shady men in trench coats on the street corner. If you go shopping at the central market you'll walk by these men- "cigarettes!" they whisper to you, "from Russia! from Poland!"
Yesterday I was waiting at the crosswalk when an ambulance slowly drove past, preparing to make a turn. Inside were two medics, one at the wheel, the other smoking a cigarette with the window rolled up.

Кафе Ной

If you were in downtown Kharkov on Friday night and saw a boisterous group of 10 women and 3 men... it was probably us! My work organized a night out at Кафе Ной to celebrate our company's anniversary. Every single female Ukrainian colleague showed up in heels and a skirt. Every American colleague?- in jeans :p
Ukrainian colleagues in downtown Kharkov
Ной is Russian for Noah (of the ark-building fame). Google research showed the impressive and ark-shaped Restaurant Noah, but this is not where we went (although after viewing their website, I'd like to go there sometime!). Instead we gathered at a pleasant small cafe near the Radianska McDonalds, Cafe Noah.

Looks like the wedding banquet room!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Snapshots of Ukrainian Life, Part 12

Fresh fish for sale at the Freedom Square farmers' market. Yep, the fish are swimming around inside this water tank until you stop by and order tonight's dinner!

  • The first wave of the fall flu/cold hit Kharkov recently. D, his coworkers, and many of my students were out for a couple of days. Then one of my friends fell ill this week... but she said it was from eating a cold watermelon last week! I'd better add that to my list of new ways to fall ill, right between ice cubes in soda and sitting under the air conditioner.
  • And when you do get sick from that smoothie, be careful how you sneeze. If you're in Ukraine, do it like a local by saying up-chee instead of the American a-choo. My students laugh and laugh at this, like English-speakers are a bunch of weirdos, but really, up-chee? Who's the weirdo? :p
  • Fall also means that- when the weather's good- everywhere you go is covered in a coat of autumn's beauty. Check out Facebook for more photos.
Cable cars in Gorky Park
Саржин Яр. As we walked through here I heard a little girl proudly reciting a story in English to her grandparent...and in good English too! So like a bolt of lighting I appeared next to her and said "You speak English very well!" She just stared at me, open-mouthed, then quickly shut her mouth and stared at the ground. Her older companion smiled shyly.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Along the Lopan

Ой, the weather this week has really been something! Drizzly rain, constant fog... stereotypical London weather! It feels like I'm constantly out stomping around in it, going from class to class. Home isn't much warmer, as the city hasn't turned the heat on yet, so I'm going to put on an extra sweater and reminisce over these pictures taken in sunnier times.

"Good morning!"

Friday, October 12, 2012

And the Great Experiment continues...

Thank you, dear readers, for all the support as this Great Experiment began. You helped me greatly in those chaotic early days! Now, as a 7-day veteran of these circumstances, I'd like to think that things are going slightly smoother.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

2012 Food Prices in Ukraine

This is the Ukrainian grivna.
Happy Sweet Sixteen, Ukrainian grivna! (1996 - present)
Also known as hryvnya, hryvnia, гривні, гривня, грн., or uah (plural griven - гривень) (*phew!*), it's worth approximately 12 US cents as of October 2012. The grivna was originally a currency used way back in the Kievan Rus... and surprise, surprise, who could that be on the front of the bill? None other than Vladimir the Great, a grand prince of Kiev way back in the Kievan Rus!
He's totally rocking that hat!
Born to a king and a housekeeper, Wikipedia claims that Saint Vlad had 800 concubines. Eventually he began to search for a suitable religion for his country. He called before him representatives of many religions. The story goes that he seriously considered Islam after hearing of plural wives... until he learned that wine would be forbidden! Жить без вина мы не можем, ибо на Руси все веселие и удовольствие бывает в подпитии, or thou canst not live lacking wine, for all happiness and pleasure in Rus depend upon it. At the end of the story he ended up picking Orthodoxy and he forced his lands to be thus baptized. And look, hey!, the majority are still Orthodox! : ) Anyways, the currency of modern Ukraine is also called grivna so I suppose it's only suitable to have his face on the front.

The fastest way to calculate prices between Ukrainian griven and US dollars in your head?

8 uah = 1 usd

It's not accurate to the cent, but it's close enough. Memorize that and you'll be able to calculate prices fairly easily (as long as the exchange rate is stable!)

How much can you expect to spend on food in Ukraine?
Let's see....
Meet cat, our buckwheat quality assurance specialist
For 8 uah you can pick up a kilogram of gretchka, a tasty traditional food. That's right, only 1 buck! It's prepared like rice and takes about 20 minutes to cook. Eat it for breakfast with sugar, for lunch with ketchup and sausage, or throw it in a soup. It's also known as a health/diet food.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Great Experiment

Great? Yeah, it could mean super fantastically awesome. But let's also remember the other meaning-

ambitious, long-term, something requiring notable effort or dedication. Possibly catastrophic.

It's not unusual for generations of Ukrainians to live together in one household. Parents, children, grandparents, all coexisting in one small apartment. This tends to be out of necessity and habit rather than choice. Now we too get to try out this traditional lifestyle.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Election propaganda in Ukraine

Eat pineapples!
Dine on grouse!
Your final day is close, bourgeois!
(poem by Vladimir Mayakovskiy, a Soviet poet)

Election time is drawing near here in Ukraine and the streets are filled with politics. Just like any red-blooded capitalist I'm especially fascinated by the Ukrainian Communist Party slogans.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

How to pack for Ukraine

Packing for Ukraine? Full of trepidation about what to bring? If you'll have access to a larger-size city for shopping runs, read through this list carefully. I'm a big fan of the travel light / Tim Ferriss' B.I.T. (buy it there) method, so I've asked some other expats for their regrets and surprises and put together this hopefully space-saving anti-packing list.

For a teaching supplies list, check out the EFL anti-packing list.