Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: The Boy from Reactor 4

Кит approves! Or rather, he would if he could read.
I bought an e-book this week.

You may think what's the big deal here? but this is huge in our household.

I never buy books anymore. Unless it's a textbook, it's an absolutely pointless way to spend money. For example, this year I set a goal to read a certain number of books.

125, to be exact.

And as of March 28th, I've finished 64 books.

Monday, March 25, 2013

On TV?

This is why you should never ever let me behind a video camera.

We recently completed filming a 5-minute casting video for the TV show House Hunters International. It only took...uh...25 days to come up with the final product :p Looking at it now, I would have done a lot of things differently (like get a haircut!) but hey, it is what it is. Here it is!

We were both sooo nervous to be doing this. It's hard to look at yourself on a camera and share your life with an unknown audience. Like it probably happens for most, we didn't seek out the opportunity. Instead, a producer contacted us, patiently answered all our questions, and asked us to make this video. The one thing we were sure of is how cool Kharkov is. Kharkov deserves to be on TV and I love introducing people to the city for the first time! Now that the video has been submitted, we're waiting to hear whether the producers want to send a crew out here or not.

In honor of television, here's one of the first Russian hip hop songs I ever heard: Хочу на ТВ (or, I want to be on TV).

Sunday, March 24, 2013

In the time of mud- wait, I mean snow

After a fleeting caress from the pleasant kind of spring weather, rain clouds rolled in and obliterated the blue skies and hopeful feelings of the days before. My mood echoes the weather; it rises when I wake to dust motes floating in rays of sunlight, it falls when the atmosphere closes in on the city like a wet lump of wool. Eager anticipation one moment, apathy the next. 
Sometimes I feel like Oblomov, the character from Ivan Goncharov's novel who literally spent 100 pages lying about in bed. Other times ideas run wild through my head, and by the time I've written one, three others have already taken flight. Is this some kind of seasonal fever? Is anyone else floundering about in bits and spurts as well?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Making borsch (in 8 easy steps)

There are two ways to make borsch.

The first way is to invite over someone who knows how to make borsch.

The other is to roll up your sleeves and get to it.

I prefer the first method, of course : ) but for those of you inspired enough to try your hand at borsch-making, here you go!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Let the Pancake-Eating Begin!

It's here! Maslenitsa has begun!!!

For a while I was worried that I'd miss it... when asked, everyone gave a vague answer as to when the holiday week started:
"Uh, it's pretty soon."
"No, it's in April!"
"Wrong, it's definitely next week."
Fortunately, pancake-laden advertisements appeared in the windows of supermarkets and just the other day a Russian blogger announced the start of the Maslenitsa week. If you're reading this and scratching your head over this holiday (Masa-what?), read Inna's informative entry on From Russia with Love.

If you're more interested in the answer to the question-

"Can you walk your bear down the street in Ukraine if it's on a chain?"

- then by all means, please check out the video below. The bear shows up at 2 min, 50 sec.

Major props to my student O for filming last year's Maslenitsa celebrations and allowing me to create this video from the footage.

Now go eat some blini! С праздником!

Suggested Reading
  • For Kharkov's 2013 Maslenitsa celebration, hop on over to Chelsea's blog.
  • More interested in Maslenitsa's follow-up period of fasting? Andrea in Kiev will tell you all about her великий пост lunch date at Lucca.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Life in early spring

A group of young soldiers crossing Constitution Square

Instead of lots of words, here are snapshots from the past several weeks.


"Metalist Union 1921"
"Glory to the War Heroes, 1941 - 1945"
Found in a parking lot
Hopefully the first of many more beautiful Kharkov sunsets to come!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Money Madness, or What Is It Worth Tomorrow?

I wish I had been born ten years earlier (to have been a twenty-something during the 1990s). That way I would be either rich or dead by now.
  - D's coworker

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the rest of the 90s were a time of chaos and hope for Ukraine. Obviously I wasn't in Kharkov then, but a friend of mine was. Here he shares his thoughts on the kupon karbovanets, a currency briefly used during those years before it succumbed to hyperinflation. 
What was your reaction when this currency was first released? Do you remember the reactions of others?

I was more than hopeful, but it was only me. Others were just interested and older people were suspicious. Faith in the soviet currency was immovable (until the annihilation of Sberbank accounts).

From the late 80s I was a great supporter of the idea of Ukrainian independence. In 1987, I dared to predict that Leningrad would soon become St. Petersburg. No one believed me. And they were right, it was beyond their imagination at the moment. So, when the news about our own Ukrainian currency appeared, I was very excited. We were allowed to have only a hundred kupons (that was the name, karbovanci was the Ukrainian word for soviet ruble) when they were released. A person was given a hundred kupons and the rest of their wage in rubles.  

Why did the government begin printing the karbovantsiv in the 1990s? What was their explanation? 

Friday, March 8, 2013

What it's like to work at American English Center

A snapshot from training days!
*Note: I'm no longer with this school. This post covers my experiences up to early 2013. For the most up-to-date info, try contacting the school directly. Happy job hunting!! :) *

There's a lot of negativity on the internet about working at American English Center (AEC). Before coming to Ukraine, I scoured the internet for clues about what it's like to work at AEC. Perhaps a similar search query is what brought you to this post. Now that I've spent 19 months teaching at this national chain, I'd like to balance all those venomous forum threads with my experience. After all, lasting 19 months at our local branch of AEC puts you squarely in the "old-timer" ranks, if not the ranks of "ancient elder".

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A passion for fashion?

As a girl, it's intimidating to move to a country rumored to have some of the most beautiful women on the planet! I hoped that some of this legendary beauty know-how would rub off over time, but it's doubtful. Yesterday a student gifted me a gorgeous blue scarf, which I immediately hung around my neck. At the end of class she approached me- no, no, no. You should loop the scarf like this and pull the ends equal here. Oops!

Just to shock my English students, sometimes I'll lower my voice and whisper evil stories of American fashion. And on occasion, university students will actually wear their pajamas to class! Students here love Friends and Sex and the City, and they'd never imagine that this kind of crazy pajama absurdity can happen in the land that brings you Jennifer Aniston and Carrie Bradshaw. But I assure you, students, happen it does.

It's not that Ukrainians are totally obsessed with appearance. In a class last fall, one woman bragged about never having worn makeup, not even for her wedding. Others- male and female alike- eschew trends and prefer comfy clothes. Last night I saw a scruffy kid wearing a Cannibal Corpse backpack. But perhaps I have become obsessed with fashion, for I pay attention to it everywhere I go. I can name the big differences between Ukraine and the US off the top of my head:

Women here tend to wear bangs and high heels and dye their hair with wild abandon.

Men wear bangs too and pointy shoes and rather form-fitting jeans. Not gonna bring up the mullet. It also happens.

Overall, both genders put a lot of thought into their appearance. It's not rare to see people polishing their shoes with Kleenex before entering a building. Ukrainian friends routinely show off more extravagant manicures than friends back home do.

Here- see for yourself.
Two young women preparing to ride the rickety cable carts in Gorky Park. The man is wearing an outfit typical to the older Kharkov male: leather cap and jacket.

Friday, March 1, 2013

On Thirty

 A friend called me up the other day. To paraphrase our conversation:

Him: Hey, your birthday's coming up!
Me: Oh, you remembered! Thank you : ) (yes, I even talk out loud with emoticons, so :p)
Him: How are you doing? I thought you might want to talk about it....
Me: Hmm? What do you mean?
Him: My older brother just turned thirty and he freaked out about it for a little while.
Me: Oh, I feel fine about it.
Him: But why did you come to Ukraine? What do you really want out of life? Is this it?
Me: (internally: hey, I think I'm supposed to be asking myself those questions!)

Isn't that what we are supposed to do? Treat big numbers like 25, 30, 40, and 50 with extreme caution? Tread carefully and kind of cringe when anyone brings it up? But I don't feel like that right now; actually, I feel positively flippant about thirty.