Monday, January 28, 2013

How To Avoid Coffee Life

Let's talk coffee shops!

If you've spent much time in Ukraine's urban areas, you've undoubtedly stumbled across one (or ten or twenty) Coffee Life coffee shops. Coffee Life is to Ukraine what Starbucks is to the rest of the world. "There's coffee in our blood!" proclaims the back of the baristas' t-shirts. And in fact, there may be; last year Kyiv Post reported Ukraine as having the highest growth rate of coffee-drinking in the world.
look familiar, anyone?
 All foreigners end up at the Coffee Life chain sooner or later. It's a beacon of familiarity amongst the jumble of pawn shops, babushkas, and marshrutkas. Take a look at this page and tell me- how could you not get hooked? First off, there's the English prevalence: English menus, English logo and branding, even weekly Mafia games in English (free for native speakers). Then there's the free wifi, book exchange, drink specials, croissants, fancy desserts, lounge music, and 36 locations across the country. It's a franchise, so you can even open your own branch for around 1 million uah.

Going back to that question- how could you not love this place? By playing Scrabble there every week for 17 months, that's how!
I loved Coffee Life in the beginning- so upscale, so calming, so convenient- but eventually the monotony and the high prices got to me. Last week I dropped 33 uah on a mulled wine (original price around 25 uah but extra for a cinnamon stick and honey... but, uh, aren't those integral parts of mulled wine?) which, after they forgot my order and I had to wait ages for, tasted like a fish had just finished swimming in it. Luckily, there are plenty of other places to get a cup of tea here in Kharkov.

Friday, January 25, 2013

January recap

Crazy crazy crazy. That's what my private life has been recently. It's hard to wrap my head around all the stuff- all the change, all the productive chaos- that's going on. The best I can do for the moment is attempt to give you the abbreviated version of January 2013.
Here we go!


During our impromptu "Meet Downtown Kharkov" tour with the new teachers, we passed this deserted play area in Shevchenko Park. Creepy, eh?
Yeah, 5 new teachers are here!!!!! So exciting to meet all of them!!!! And despite the shockingly low historical precedent, 3 of them are WOMEN!!! One of whom immediately noted "Hmmm, I noticed that there are many more men than women in this field. I wonder why that is?" Haha, you'll soon find out, I'm sure : ) Anyways, it's a nice change of pace to experience all the hustle, bustle, and drama of wireless router set-ups and apartment hunts again.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Today's the day to get your sins washed away!

Hundreds of people gathered this morning at саржин яр to plunge into icy waters and receive the blessing of an Orthodox priest.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Площа Повстання 3: The Metalist Stadium

There's one more major attraction near Площа Повстання. We've covered the Horse Market, the yeast factory, and the giant stone head, but the real reason most people come to this part of town is the Metalist Stadium.
If you're a football (er, soccer) fan, then you already know that Metalist is the name of one of the professional teams here in Kharkov. Metalist has been around since the 1920s and currently is a mix of Ukrainians, Argentinians, and Brazilians. My Texan friend (the one with the beautiful new apartment, video домофон, and bathroom sauna) lived in the same building as one of the players.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Soviet art for children

Did you know that next week (Monday, January 21st, 2013, to be precise) marks the 89th anniversary of Lenin's death?
Last fall I stumbled across the book shown above as well as a Soviet art book for children. The art book was called изобразительное искусство 1-3 (Fine Art 1-3) and it had been published in the late 1970s. I thought it would be interesting to share these pictures with you!

Drawing about The Glory of the Soviet Army!

Every February 23th the Soviet people celebrate the birthday of the Soviet Army.

Look carefully at the drawing on this page, which will help you create a composition about The Glory of the Soviet Army! Pay attention to the design of the military equipment. It's best to sketch the design while looking at a toy.

Holiday greetings towards our army or the dates 1918-1982 may be added to the images of tanks, rockets, and planes. Write the words in print.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Зелений гай in winter

After several days of staying indoors and staring at the computer screen, Tanya comes to the rescue and drags me outdoors.

You may remember Tanya as the heroine of Зелений гай and the ☭ metro stop. She's still an English teacher, still living in Proletarska, and still a very good friend. Today we retrace our steps from that earlier adventure, but the heavy layer of winter everywhere makes it almost a new and unexplored land.

Monday, January 7, 2013

More business lunches

2013 has gotten off to a strong start for us. You know those two resolutions that everyone always has? Spend less money and go on a diet? Well, I can promise you that so far we've been sticking to it!

Of course, this is not out of a noble quest for betterment. This is simply because we ran out of money. My school shut down for the holiday season and December pay won't be issued until the new classes start. D's company also had a holiday break and with it, a break from paychecks. Our last paychecks quickly dwindled down to nothing. First came the holiday gatherings and parties. Then came our new phones (more on that later). And the final blow was my recent obscene laziness. Usually I plan out meals in advance, send D off to work with a lunch, all that good stuff.
But for the last week and a half, if not at a holiday-something-or-other, I was probably watching inspirational and educational videos emailed by friends (like this one). (If you actually clicked, I do apologize :P ) There was no energy for cooking and since we both were at home, we ended up spending the last of our cash at {cough, cough} McDonalds and on mid-day business lunches.

Not that I regret it. You remember that I love business lunches, right?

Here was one of my favorites. It's from Mafia, the Italian side of the Italian/Japanese chain that we visited for an earlier sushi business lunch. The food was okay, small portions and nothing that special for the rather high price, but check this out- you can order it online! And it was delivered in cool black boxes with reusable containers.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Farewell to 2012

Last year we rang in New Year's Eve in Simferopol, said goodbye to a relative several days later, and visited Sevastopol and Yevpatoria before heading back to Kharkov. This year we stayed much closer to home. Coming back from Odessa on December 23rd, we found ourselves thrown into a week of chaos.