Saturday, August 31, 2013

Summer's last hurrah

Happy Independence Day, Ukraine! (written in Russian)
There's always one last big hurrah here before the end of summer. Here's how it went down this year...

As you can see, the day started out gorgeous-
Park in front of the train station

The city was filled with these-
Billboards are dedicated to those who fought in World War II
Not sure about the red and green flags, but they were all over the city as well
"70 years of a free Kharkov,  Kharkov- city of war glory"
Happy Independence Day, Ukraine! (written in Ukrainian)

As the daylight vanished, more and more people filled the city streets.
Left: Freedom Square. Right: Shevchenko Park
Vendors showed up with balloons and glow-in-the-dark jewelry. Flimsy wooden tables topped with beer appeared in Shevchenko Park and on the fringes of Freedom Square. The alcohol sellers were young, probably university students. I assumed they were merely the enterprising type, trying to capitalize on the event and make some cash, but friends quickly pointed out how unlikely that was. To sell and not get hassled by police, they would need to have permits, and it was far more plausible that some rich politician or businessman hired the students to staff the tables while he raked in the cash.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sudak, Crimea. August 2013.

Two days ago D got a phone call from the states. His father had passed away at 4 AM that morning.

It's so hard- how does a son say goodbye to the dad that he's always known?

How does a wife say goodbye to the man she loves?

How does a teacher say goodbye to the student who struggled with this perplexing English language but never gave up learning?

How do children say goodbye to a parent who was always ready to help, whether the distance was 350 wintery miles on an Alaskan highway or 13 hours on a trans-Atlantic flight?

Things are kind of messy right now, everywhere. There's a hole in the fabric of our shared reality.

It's easy to look back on these pictures that D took at the beginning of August, on a brief trip back to his boyhood home, and wish we could go back to that time before the phone rang two days ago.

Kharkov train station

Simferopol, Autonomous Republic of Crimea

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The 5 useful words I learned this summer

I've been off work for the past two weeks, which means a chance to escape the English bubble and really concentrate on Russian. Here are my "official words of the summer", things that either really stood out or keep cropping up over and over again.

1) сарафан (summer dress)

yes, it's me, and then me again expertly photoshopped onto a tree, hooray!
It's hard to find a woman who doesn't have at least one of these stashed away in her closet for the summertime. The term seems to work for any loose-fitting dress worn at this time of the year. I've got several sarafans to make it through the hot weather we're going through now.

According to the indisputable Wikipedia, sarafans go waaaay back in Russian culture to 1376. Read more about the traditional sarafans here.

Weirdly enough, the phrase сарафанное радио (sarafan radio) translates as word of mouth, probably because it's those who wear sarafans- women!- who do most of the talking ; )

2) душевая кабина (shower cabinet)

Ugh, my nemisis! Before the most recent round of apartment-hunting, I'd never had any cause to associate with these horrid little shower cabinets. Let the record stand that I stand 100% in support of bathtubs and outrageously long bubble baths. Come to think of it, if we'd never stooped to considering an apartment with a shower cabinet, we never would have ended up at that scammy agency.
although if forced at gunpoint to sell the bathtub and use a душевая кабина instead, this is definitely the one I'd go for...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Kharkov's Eiffel Tower

An enchanting sunset set to soothing French musique, a gloriously hot cup of café, La Tour Eiffel... it was like being magically transported to Paris.
Ever since Chelsea blogged about finding this place back in April, I'd been hoping to stumble across it. Turns out it wasn't that far away after all; it's merely hidden behind this massive monument to consumerism-

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Now here's something you don't see every day!*

Meet "Sasha", the gigantic wild boar that made an unscheduled appearance in a friend's front yard the other day. "He's not dead, he's just resting", explains the voice in the video. To be fair to Sasha, it has been quite hot lately and I wouldn't mind lying in a mud puddle myself! :p

*and if you do see this every day, where do you live? that must be quite a sight!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Playing tourist

A second visitor has dared to fly out to Kharkov to see us! Odin and I studied together both in Alaska and in Siberia and recently he dropped into town for several days. Here's a sampling of what we've been up to...and proof that August is a great time to visit Ukraine:
countryside swimming
chicken shashlik!
Odin is to thank for many of the fantastic photos in this post!
one afternoon we stumbled upon artists creating this impressive mural on Sumskaya street
a very friendly kitten we met at lunch (and I'm sad to report that the Jazzoff Jazz Cafe is no more; it's now a cheap pizza and beer joint)

the moon rising over the Capitalist Business Center near the Botanical Garden metro

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Year One of The Whale

Disclaimer: absolutely nothing to do with Ukraine here, it's all cat talk.

You've been warned :p

Кит is now over a year old! It's hard to believe, not that he's passed the 12 month 15 month mark, but rather that we've been coexisting more-or-less peacefully for all of that time. I never imagined that I'd grow up to have a cat; my family always dealt in dogs, particularly golden retrievers... and Кит is the polar opposite of a friendly canine.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Surprising places

Yuri Gagarin mural near the Prospect Gagarina metro stop
A good friend came into town to visit last week. He came all the way from the village of Sinne for the promise of an afternoon of bowling, but our plans fell through. Instead, we made a valiant and brief attempt to play badminton on a windy afternoon, hung out in the kids' playground (never too old for the seesaw!), and grabbed lunch at a nearby supermarket café. I hope to return the favor and visit him in Sinne this month. Doesn't it look like a great place?

Anyways, because he's got one of those fancy new iPhones, we were able to take some fantastic photos along Prospect Gagarina after lunch. All these works of art are located on the side of the Gagarin Shopping Center (торговий центр "на гагарина") in an alley by the name of "Street Art".