Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Russian away from Europe?

A long, long time ago (6 months ago?), this ad for parking popped up in Kyiv:
"Be European! Buy parking tickets!"
And now, as you've most likely heard after the internet blew up with protests and calls to action, there's a lot more going on with this European idea than mere parking customs.

Should Ukraine align itself with Europe? With Russia? Do its own thing?

The first political display of opinion to show up in Kharkiv was this, about two months ago:
"Independence 1991 - 2013. We remember, we love, we mourn."
I noticed the sticker on the back of an advertisement stand at the train station. Who had put it there?

A few weeks later, the billboards spoke out:
"EU association means an increase in prices." [depicts 19.99 uah becoming 19.99] "The Ukrainian Choice political party is warning you."
"EU association" [warning symbol] "The Ukrainian Choice political party is warning you."

If you're late to the game, here's some good reading to get caught up. Or just use the dates as a timeline of what's been going down.

Nov 3: Ukraine's Risky Bet: An eventual new alliance?

Nov 11: Phantom Pain in Russia's Amputated Limbs: Russia just won't let go?

Nov 12: Ukraine, a Chocolate Factory, and the Fate of a Woman: Poisonious chocolate? Or political pressure?

Nov 16: Waiting to See if Ukraine Tilts East or West: What will happen to Yulia Tymoshenko?

Nov 16: Epic Drama in Ukraine: Do Villains Turn Into Heroes?: Ukraine... as a Hollywood screenplay?

and then the President called things off...

Nov 21: Ukraine Suspends Preparations for EU Trade Agreement: Further delays?

Nov 22: From Facebook and Twitter to the streets: Ukrainians protest of ceased EU deal: #євромайдан, #майдан, and #euromaidan? 

Nov 22: EU loses out on Ukraine, but may have dodged a bullet: Did it?

Nov 22: Politics of Brutal Pressure: What's going on behind the scenes?

Nov 24: Huge Ukraine rally over EU agreement delay A second Orange Revolution in the works?

And that's pretty much where things stand as of today, November 26th. The mayor of Kharkiv has banned all mass public gatherings, allegedly to try to contain a flu outbreak. Lugansk has outlawed all peaceful public protests until 2014. There's already been violence in Dnipropetrovsk. One blogger witnessed her students leaving school and taking to the streets in Kolomyia.

By the way, this is NOT about Ukraine joining the EU tomorrow- that's not what was on the table. What was being offered was a trade agreement.
source: vk.com
The political ads around Kharkiv protest any form of alliance with the E.U. but I wondered what the average person thinks.

So I put the question out there:

What do you think about Ukraine and the E.U.?

And here's what people (students and friends) said:

Sunday, November 24, 2013

На кухне 12: Odds and Ends

Support your local sausage industry

Ой, it's been six months since the last edition of на кухне (in the kitchen)! To be honest, it feels like it's been that long since I actually cooked something. Is there anyone else out there guilty of shirking their womanly kitchen duties? Since the entire summer and fall have looked like this:
Banjo café, Prospect Gagarina
... I don't have any delicious recipes to share this time, sorry. But I do have some other tasty odds and ends for you!

Drink your soup

Actually, the last recipe I remember trying to make was a disastrous attempt at okroshka, a chilled soup that's popular in Ukraine.
This is how okroshka should look. Disclaimer: not my okroshka. It's from the cafeteria.
Most people nowadays seem to use a milk product (i.e. kefir, sour cream, buttermilk, even mayo [if you can believe my friends]) as a base but this Baltika beer ad suggested using non-alcoholic beer instead.
"okroshka with shrimp in beer" Looks good in the ad, doesn't it? (Can you see where this is going?)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What I love: Kharkiv architecture

Ten of my favorite things about the architecture in this city! : )

 #1. Buildings with arches that you can drive through:
Overwhelming, slightly depressing, yet impressive.

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What is Ukraine?: an odd collection of quotes

Ukrainian FAQ: all the questions Ukrainians are undoubtedly sick of answering
image found on vk.com

There's one question that people always ask you more than any other when you're a foreigner living in Ukraine.

Not "Where are you from?"
Not "Why did you come here?"
Not even "Do you like our country?"

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Great Blini Peace Treaty of 2013

Thank you guys for your comments and emails! I'm happy to report that all of us are alive and well, even the cat (who has been eating the [extremely, extremely well-cooked] meat).

For forty-eight hours I've been attempting to tone down my shameful super-bitch alter ego. It's like she manifests herself out of the darkest recesses of my head, making a special appearance for only 2 particular people on this planet, one of those people being D's mom. (As to the other person, sorry. Probably nothing is ever going to change there and you know why.) D's mom is really sweet- she tries so, so, SO hard and watching my evil twin treat her so poorly practically constitutes a crime against humanity. But I have learned a couple of things by now:
  • Mothers + their sons + the son's girlfriend = a combo that probably doesn't work well long-term in any culture. It's like two angry reindeer and an innocent man, all stuck inside a bottle.
  • I am the mistress of cleaning and decorating my home. If someone tries to rearrange the plants on the windowsill or clean my sink, prepare for war!!
  • Cooking, however... please step right up. Here I'll totally yield ground.
  • Guilt gifts help.
So, after buying a scarf for D and a scarf + tapochki (aka house slippers, the building block of Ukrainian society) for his mother, it came time to put part two into action: a truce cemented by the noble pancake.

We made blini together.

It was surprisingly easy to make them.
2 cups of milk, 2 eggs, 1 tsp salt, 2 tbsp sugar, and roughly 2 cups flour.

Mix gently.

Add (a shocking amount of) oil to a dry frying pan and wait for it to heat up.

Pour the heated oil into the batter, stir once, then begin frying.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The return

Names of all the in-laws in Russian. Yep, it's that complicated!
(Муж = husband, жена = wife)

It's that time again, time for the Trial by Fire Visiting Relative. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know what that means :p

Someone's mother has come to stay with us (and it's not Кит's mom!).

The front door burst open yesterday, and a laughing, exhausted mother/son duo stumbled in. The power was out in the building and they'd had to walk up probably 200 stairs to reach the apartment. As soon as mom caught her breath, she lugged her bag to the middle of the floor and began the gift distribution.
Someone got his USSR birth certificate and a new pair of shoes (and lots of compliment fishing: oh, they're probably the wrong color, you must not like them, I should have bought a different pair)
Decaffeinated black tea, impossible to get in Ukraine.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Life among the reindeer herders

In which Odin the Alaskan traverses the tundra, milks reindeer, makes pelmeni, and generally enjoys life with a group of Siberian reindeer herders!
Thanks to Khoomei.com for this map.
Missed something? Catch up on Part 1: Siberian Adventures and Part 2: On the road in the Tuva Republic!
Map of Tyva Republic showing our route. Kyzyl to Toora-Khem is shown in blue, while Toora-Khem to the herders' camp is in red. Regional boundaries are indicated by faint pink lines—Todzhu is the largest region and the one furthest to the northwest.

It's difficult to discuss reindeer herding without making it seem romantic and/or otherworldly. Its exotic image is probably part of why it's an interesting topic to many. Even as someone from Alaska, a land where reindeer herding was historically widespread for a time, the lifestyle of a herder seems far-removed from the realm of my day-to-day experiences.
Yet many aspects of life during my few weeks among the herders were rather ordinary. Our typical tasks and chores in camp were familiar. A number of days there seemed to drag on, making me stir-crazy, especially if I didn't leave camp to go walking or hiking. A big part of the herders' lives involves travel through the taiga. To a city-dweller this might seem exotic, but to someone who's worked in the woods or spent a lot of time there, it's often pleasant, yet also has a certain familiarity to it.
There is one thing that does make these herders' lives extraordinary, though. Almost all people in the modern world—even the vast majority of rural Siberian natives—spend some or all of their time living in town. Even most reindeer herders nowadays are based in settlements: herders in northern Siberia commonly work on a shift-based system (e.g. 2 weeks in the tundra, 2 weeks in the village), while Alaska's Inupiaq herders make day-trips to their reindeer and return to their villages each night.

But not the Todzhan herders.

Sergei Shagdyr-oolovich lives with his 25-year-old son, whom I'll call D. Both father and son return separately to the village of Toora-Khem (or nearby Adyr-Kezhig) several times annually, but live nearly the entire year in the taiga.
Sergei Shagdyr-oolovich
Wintertime they spend at lower elevations, where the weather is not as severe and the snowdrifts are not as deep. Here, the herders have a few small cabins, including this one, where we initially met Shagdyr-oolovich.
In late spring the herders follow their reindeer up to near treeline. During the course of  a summer, reindeer & herders move several times from pasture to pasture, the latter camping in a lightweight nylon walltent.
Reindeer may roam at any time day or night, but they seldom wander more than a mile or so from camp.

They are very curious animals, and often linger near camp, poking their paws & noses at anything of interest.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The lake

Back when the city was still swaddled in greenery and thunderstorms provided a chilly respite from the summer heat, D and I went out in search of an adventure.

This was the same afternoon we photographed the odd mix of art / graffiti that decorates Akademika Pavlova street. I remember feeling so relaxed that day; we actually had a whole afternoon off (it was Saturday) to wander around and not be at the constant beck and call of others. A student met us at the Akademika Pavlova metro stop in order to get her new coursebook for our private lessons and then- freedom. Sweet, sweet freedom.

Off we went, down the road. To one side was a high wall and an empty, weather-worn security booth. Aside from the traffic to our right, we were alone.
And then, as desolate as that view was, we reached the intersection of Akademika Pavlova and Blyukhera street and it all changed.
Housewives shook the dust out of rugs from their balconies on the 9th floor. Cars honked. People rushed down into the Studentska metro station like ants disappearing into their subterranean tunnels.