Sunday, November 17, 2013

Snapshots of Ukrainian Life, Part 16

There's a Russian-language version of the board game Monopoly. It's called (what else?) Capitalist. This is the Ukrainianized-version: Capitalist Ukraine, in which players can purchase famous landmarks and services from around the country. Cool, huh?
cigarette kiosk near the Central Market

Meet Марка, the cat we're currently catsitting for. Watch out, Кит, you've got competition.

Want to meet people? Read a Kindle!

D was out of town this week and I was prepared for a long and lonely week. But, no. Something is happening to the usually reticent people of Kharkov. Even strangers came out of their shells and randomly started conversations. On the way to work, as I was reading a Kindle on the metro, a woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked in Russian with amazement: "Who taught you to read so fast in English?"

A few days later I was reading again, this time while caught in the crowd shuffling toward the escalator at Pivdenniy Vokzal, and an old man started a conversation about англійська мова (the English language). Unlike most people in this city, he began in Ukrainian instead of Russian. Even though I barely understand any Ukrainian, he was kindly undeterred and went on at length about his family, his job during the USSR, and the prevalence of sunflower oil in eastern Ukraine. At least, I think that's what he was saying... 15 minutes went by, him expounding upon things and me nodding awkwardly.

That same night, another older man struck up a conversation. I was sitting on a park bench, waiting for a friend, again with Kindle in hand. The man shouted over from a nearby bench: "Girl! Don't be sad!"
"What? I'm not sad." I replied.
"Don't be sad. He'll call you soon, I'm sure of it." came his answer.
"No, really, I'm not sad. I'm fine!"
He leaned back and took a puff on his cigarette. "Love is like that," he said. "Just don't be sad about it."
At that moment, my (male) friend showed up. The old man slowly rose from the bench, cigarette hanging from his mouth, and began clapping. "I told you!" he called out as we walked away.

Or is it something in the air this week? 


There are lots of dollar stores around town. The stock is totally random: frilly underwear, key chains, shot glass sets, dice, kitchen tools, condoms, holiday decor, hair gel, you name it. Yesterday Maxine (another English teacher) and I went to the best dollar store here; it's near the student dorms and always has more useful stuff than the rival chain Smile Market. We'd only been browsing for a minute when the shop keeper called out "Girl! I remember you! Hello! Where's your young man?" I was pretty amazed- D and I had only been in the shop once before, about 2 months ago. She was nice then too but we didn't really have much of an interaction, nothing that I thought she'd remember.

This time, though, she was all for talking. "Where are you ladies from? Oh, really? I have lots of friends in America- in New York, in Montana, in... what's that place by the beach?"
"California? Florida?"
"No, no... oh, Miami! Yes, I have lots of friends there and we talk on Skype all the time."
She bustled around the store, showing us a blinking Christmas tree that had just arrived in stock and other made-in-China knick-knacks. After the other customer had left the tiny shop, she slyly pulled out some paper from under her desk and asked us if we'd help her write a letter.
"But I don't know what I want to say, so you should decide."
"Um, sure..."
In the end, it wasn't much of a letter. Rather, she gave us a couple of sentences to translate into English, which we wrote down on the paper and she haltingly (but well!) read out loud. Then she magically produced a bag of apples- "Ukrainian apples! Only the best!"- and gave us each an unblemished, red-green apple.

recent dollar store find
This entire incident is especially noteworthy because shop employees are not known for being that kind in Ukraine. In the dollar stores they usually follow you around, trying to convince you to buy potholders or mascara. In the regular shops they're either ambivalent (cashier) or go all evil-overlord on you (security).

New notebook from the dollar store. And pomegranate season has begun!!! Hello, a-pomegranate-a-day lifestyle : )


The Real Deal

In case you missed this on Facebook, here's an amazing/sobering/surprisingly true-to-date collection of photos taken in Ukraine in the 1980s. (And psst, follow 8 Months in Ukraine on Facebook if you'd like to see more stuff like this! : ) )

Game day at the stadium!
Constitution Plaza
Shopping Center "on Gagarin" at dusk


Why You Need A Dash Cam In Ukraine

This video popped up on the internet not long ago. Equal parts wtf and disturbing. Did I mention disturbing? I don't even know what to say.

To make up for that, here's something with a more positive spin:

Until next time!
And as one of my students said, "I wish you a lot of happy moments and less frown things!" : )

Click here for more Snapshots of Ukrainian Life.

1 comment:

  1. Everyday life in Ukraine is so interesting! What other country is like that? Thanks for the snapshots!
    Pomegranate season is the best, by the way!