My eyes open at 8:21 AM.
"D, hurry!!" I shout and spring out of bed. "We've got nine minutes!" By hustling we manage to make it downstairs by 8:35 AM. Waiting for us is Lydia, the building вахта who has taken us under her wing from day one. "There you are!" she chirps. She's adorned with her usual armament of pink frosted lipstick, rouge, and black mascara. In true Ukrainian picnic style, she's wearing navy blue track pants and black heels. With a quick point toward the grocery bags and a "let's go!", we're off on the first picnic adventure of the year!
D and I haven't the slightest idea where we're headed, so Lydia leads the way. Being the kind of conversationalist who doesn't need much fuel to keep the fire going, we can barely keep up with her. So, I tried to get my grandson to come with us. He's 19 years old. I got up at 5 AM and prepared some pelmeni for his breakfast and reminded him about the picnic....Oh, watch out! Don't walk between those telephone poles- it'll give you a headache! Anyways, my grandson said 'Why would I go with you? I don't know those foreigners at all.' But me, I'm just delighted, it's so important to meet new people, you know...
We catch the 272e marshrutka and travel down Shevchenko street. At some point things start to look familiar and we figure out our destination- the Zhuravlevsky Hydropark! Lots of people are outdoors today, cleaning up the city. Some groups appear to be sponsored by the Party of Regions, a political group whose blue and yellow flags flap gently in the background. "It's субботник, Saturday labor", says Lydia. "I remember doing that myself before, on Lenin's birthday (April 22nd) or on the first of May (beginning of the May holidays)." A city-wide cleaning will take place today and throughout the country, reports this news article.
|If you're wondering why the city is so smoky these days.... :p|
The dogs live in the woods. During the winter they shelter in this small hut.
A sudden outburst of barking alerts us to the arrival of Lydia Vladimirovna, the caretaker of the dogs, and soon the four of us- D, myself, and the two Lydias- are standing around the coals, getting ready to grill the chicken that Lydia the вахта has marinated.
|I was a bit dubious about this mayonnaise & onion marinade, but it turned out quite tasty!|
|Meet Toy, a two-year-old stray dog.|
As for the inevitable occasional new batch of puppies, she pays a woman to take the puppies one by one to the market and find them good homes. The woman even places a follow-up phone call to make sure the new owners are a good match for the puppy.
By the time all the snarls have been worked out of Toy's coat, it's time to eat. We sit down to fresh and marinated cucumbers, white wine, grilled chicken, and an apricot pie. The dogs crowd around us, their eyes greedily following our every move.
It's about 1:30 PM and the park is filled with people. We even catch a Zumba demo on the way out (video can be found here if you don't see it below). Zumba and pole dancing are very popular right now in Ukraine, but I guess it's hard to do a pole dancing demo in the middle of a park!
And with that, the first picnic of 2013 concludes.... hopefully to be followed by many, many more!