Thursday, June 20, 2013

A friend, remembered

This is my friend Lydia.

Not everyone is friendly to foreigners, but she always was.

Not everyone wears a dependable smile, but she always did.

We met a year ago, as D and I moved into this building. She was sitting on the bench outside as he and I approached the doorway, arms filled with stuff. I later realized that she loved to watch all the comings and goings and daily dramas from that bench. She came over to meet us and turned up again later with two plants- "this one is for money, and the other is to bring you love!" she promised.

Lydia was constantly in motion. She worked at the entrance of a neighboring building and I'd see her gardening in rubber boots, gossiping from the bench, sweeping, scrubbing. She was never at rest for long. Sometimes she'd stop to tell me about the difficult parts of her life or worry over whether she should take an extra cleaning job in Gorky Park to help support her daughter's family. Other times she would break into song and reminisce over her younger days traveling the country and singing. She explained how she took up smoking in her 20s out of the worry that not knowing how to smoke would make her seem awkward on a date.

Lydia was only 63. She had blond curls like a 40s starlet and she never appeared without her trademark bright lipstick, blush, and heavy mascara. She'd go tanning and swimming on the weekends at a park near her home. Coming back to work, she'd roll up her sleeves to show off her tan and scold me for being so white. Lydia took us to this spot in April and we had a wonderful picnic lunch together. I still remember how she wore heels to our picnic :p

Monday, June 17, 2013

Parks, apartments, go carts, and pho

Friday night, 7 PM, the weekend began! I'd just finished leading 2 speaking clubs and caught a glimpse of this fading rainbow on the way out of the building. An auspicious sign, hopefully?
The next day we were out the door at noon, off to view an apartment near Moscovskiy Prospect. I don't know much about the area except that it's home to Turboatom (Турбоатом), a factory that employs almost 6,000 workers and produces turbines.
This car looks like it's decked out for a wedding?
"Where should we go?", D shouted into the phone over the roar of the nearby traffic. The landlady was on the other end of the line. "Okay, Koshkina 15, got it!" he answered. We checked Google maps and set off down Plekhanivska street, which was pleasantly wedged between a green space and a park.
Koshkina 15 turned out to be extremely difficult to find, as it didn't actually exist. After confirming this with a handful of passerby and shopkeepers, D called the landlady back. "No, no!", she said, "We're at Kovtuna 15!" Oops.

Friday, June 14, 2013

50,000 views and some news!

We've reached 50,000 views on this blog!!! I want to send out a huge СПАСИБО, ДЯКУЮ, and THANK YOU to everyone for reading and sharing : ) You guys are a huge inspiration to D and me ... being able to share our small corner of the planet with you has totally changed the way we see the world. Your comments, emails, and questions are totally fantastic, keep 'em coming!
As for these fireworks, remember how I mentioned before that fireworks are quite commonplace  in Ukraine? This was someone's random weeknight celebration in the neighborhood. Pretty cool, eh?

The other piece of news....

... our new website is up! It's called Street Russian and it's designed for people who are learning Russian. The immersion method has its ups and downs (as we've discussed before) but one of the awesome pros of living abroad is being exposed to all kinds of vocabulary that you'd never find in a course book. I want to share those everyday moments with those who don't get to see them and could benefit from the exposure.

The site is still a work in progress but if you're learning Russian (or even if you're not!) we'd love to hear what you think. Is it useful? How would you improve upon it? We were thinking about adding an audio file for each picture in the future so users can hear how everything is pronounced. If you've got an idea or a picture that would be a great fit for the site, please drop me a line! By the way, here's the Street Russian Facebook page if you're into that sort of thing.

So thanks again, my friends! I look forward to learning more about all things Ukraine and Russia with you : )

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What's new

Annunciation Cathedral after a recent storm
Please accept this heartfelt apology, for the wide-eyed photographer and breathless blogger that you know is currently on hiatus. She's somewhere in the back of my brain, shut up, while a mundane version of me survives June. And what are the mundane parts of life? Why, the necessary evils of housing, education, and work, of course. (Does anyone else ever yearn to be some simple woodland creature like a sparrow or a raccoon? Or at least to have been raised by wolves?)


new apartments considered so far: 4 (2 real, 2 fake)

Goodbye, afternoon writing sessions on the balcony!
The hunt for a new apartment continues. I guess I should back up a bit and give you the backstory. Last month, our ever-so-charming landlady arrived with the announcement that she'd be raising the rent. This was not shocking news in itself and we might have taken on extra work to stay here, but the way she said it... was not promising. Her attitude has gone downhill over time. She asks to be paid in dollars and then examines the bills to make sure they're not counterfeit. She distrusts D's computer calculations regarding the electricity bill. One time D was running late and she insisted on going back downstairs and waiting out on the street instead of coming in. And- a tiny thing but what really gets to me- she never takes off her dirty shoes! Hello, it's Ukraine! No one wears street shoe indoors unless they're at an apartment viewing. It's flat out bad manners. She might as well take my toothbrush out and rub it on the sidewalk.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Summer approaches

Work is the greatest thing in the world, so we should always save some of it for tomorrow.
 - Don Herold

The weather is fantastic now! It's time to avoid work at all costs and get outside instead!
Time to wear sandals and eat ice cream in the grass
Time to ride the cable carts between Sarzhin Yar and Gorky Park
Time to learn how to open bottles using only the metal walls of a cable cart
Time for thunderstorms
Time for families to visit the "extreme" park together
Also... work can be postponed a little longer by hopping on a marshrutka and venturing out to a great b-day party in поселок жуковского, or жуки (Bugs) as it's called by the residents.
Свято-Николаевский храм, or St. Nicholas church
It's a 6 uah ride here by marshrutka, 40 uah by taxi
Happy Birthday to the birthday boy!!

Wherever you are, I hope you're enjoying June as well : )

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Here comes the bride... or not?

Yesterday I went for a job interview at a marriage agency. Whoa, Katherine!, you're probably thinking, what's up with that?! But don't worry, I wasn't the one being interviewed (if you can call it that).

My friend Y called me up last week. She's an English teacher and she's eager to get more experience speaking the language. Her students told her that a group of foreigners would be in Kharkov soon, for a social/marriage tour/whatever you want to call it, and Y hoped to sign on as an interpreter for the event. Come with me, she said on the phone, I've got an interview set up for Monday afternoon. And so I went, for who could honestly refuse getting an inside look at this kind of thing?