Monday, December 30, 2013

Odessa in photos

Odessa, as seen December 26th - 28th, 2013.

Enjoy! : )

Morning fog at the Odessa train station.
The Saint Panteleimon Orthodox Church and its neighboring "Mister Sandwich" cafe.

Found this cat on duty outside a discount shop.
Changing of the guard?

Friday, December 27, 2013

New Years and Other News

New Year's preparations in progress...
The local paper already has weather predictions for the entire coming year. How in the world can they predict that??!
The predictions include "a frozen and snowy February, a rainy spring, an early summer (@ 40° C) and a warm fall".
As I stood near the straws at Coffee Life, looking over the front page, an old woman entered from the street. She grabbed the copy on top of the pile, frowned, and looked at me and said: Why do they print this stuff? They can't even get tomorrow's weather right!, tucked the paper under her arm, and hustled herself right back out the door.

For those of you who live abroad, do you often read the local news? Do you do it online or via newspaper? Every time I see a newspaper I wish I were more up-to-date on what's happening locally. Maybe that will be New Year's resolution #1!

This December 24th issue of Вести had a lot of interesting tidbits- for example, a New Year's poll. Ever wondered what Ukrainians do to celebrate? Read on! You can see how "Ukrainian" your celebration will be...

5 questions about New Year

Where do you plan to celebrate the holiday?
  • @ home [59%]
  • with friends [35%]
  • at my parents' place [21%]
  • undecided [8%]
  • in a restaurant or on the street [7%]

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!!

We're mixing old traditions with new for Christmas this year-

Last night two local American couples hosted a craft night:
Attempting to decorating cookies. Mine looked like they were done by a drunken elephant with a paintbrush.
The hostess found the idea for these adorable nativity scene ornaments on Pintrest: cinnamon, cloves, anise, yarn, glue gun and voilà!

Our Christmas tree is up, made possible by the dollar store (mini tree & tinsel garland), Yves Rocher (ornaments), friends (santa), students (angel), and the aforementioned craft night:

Tonight may be Christmas Eve but it's business as usual in Ukraine. Here's where we're deviating from tradition and instead going to the Russian banya until the wee hours of the morning. Then back to work tomorrow morning for D (but don't worry, I'll make him a nice Christmas breakfast!) and come evening we'll be on the train for Odessa with the rest of his coworkers. This time I'll be properly dressed for lots of stomping around en masse in the cold :P

As for costumes, D managed to track down a gangster costume [of which he's most excited about his faux machine gun] and I'm busy panicking about my [so far] lack of a costume. Does a black dress cut it?

Anyways, Merry Christmas to all of you who will be celebrating tonight and tomorrow!!!! : ) Wishing you a day filled with fun, family, and friends!

A "real" Santa Claus (aka Дед Мороз, Grandfather Frost) for hire!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Saturday in Ukraine

Saturday, 3:30 PM

Just a random Saturday in Ukraine...

8:30 AM: Alarm goes off. Ugh. Alarm gets quickly turned off and reset.

9:30 AM: Alarm goes off again. Кит is meowing up a storm, demanding his breakfast. D feeds the cat and heads out to drop off some paperwork with someone. I sleep in : )

10:30 AM: D returns. Кит makes it known that he's ready for breakfast, round 2. Then it's nap time for all.

11:30 AM: Now everyone is awake. Breakfast is grechka (buckwheat) and ketchup. Two cups of black tea. Some discussion over what will happen this week... it's time for the yearly corporate party down in Odessa. This year's theme is 1920s/gangsters and the company seems to be taking it fairly seriously so we've been in minor panic mode trying to come up with ideas. The office is leaving for Odessa on Wednesday but suddenly now we have some bureaucratic tangles to unsnarl- and quickly- so Odessa might not be an option this year after all.

1:00 PM: Leave for the Pivdenniy Vokzal metro station, as D has more paperwork to drop off at an office across town.

1:30 PM: Get to Pivdenniy Vokzal. An outdoor market has sprung up around the train station. It's been there for a couple of days, usually playing these guys via massive speakers.

1:50 PM: Seems like the office is closed until 2 PM, so we set off on a walk around the neighborhood.
Lots of icy sidewalks this time of year, be careful out there!
How much? Why, quite a bit, thank you for asking! :p

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The holidays are coming!

13 days remain until the festivities begin in Ukraine!!

Window displays are already in place around town:
Everyone always tells stories about mandarins being the best treat of their childhood. "My mother would only give us one per day", said a businessman the other day. "We could hardly wait until New Years Day, until she finally let us eat our fill."

New Year greetings Yoda-style (something like New Year Happy, it is)

Kharkov's Freedom Square remains fenced off, ostensibly for municipal workers to create a winter wonderland...
Freedom Square, December 2013. Photo credit to the lovely Maxine : )

But last year (and the year before, if memory serves) there was no such restriction:
Freedom Square, December 2012
... so that could be because of EuroMaidan.

Meanwhile, the ёлка at the train station has received its final touches.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Kharkiv EuroMaidan

Even the BBC is talking about Kharkiv's rather laid-back attitude towards EuroMaidan, but I'm going to change my stance a little and say that while the reaction here isn't like the massive patriotic fervour seen in the capital, opinions are nevertheless being expressed on the streets.

These stickers have popped up around town:
"Kharkiv Euromaidan, 6 PM, at the Shevchenko monument"
At first I wasn't sure what they meant- 6 PM when?- but guessed maybe they meant 6 PM daily. Sure enough, a few days later I ended up downtown at 7 PM and came across this crowd, complete with the mandatory loudspeaker-holding motivational speaker.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Winter Blues

Winter is so exciting at first: the snow, the cozy evenings, the matching gloves and scarves. But after the first few weeks have passed, ugh. It's like a marathon of endurance. A seeming lifetime of 3 PM sunsets and frozen toes. The winter blues have hit me hard this time around. Looks like this centipede feels the same way-

Readers- what do you do to keep your spirits up during this time of year?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Euromaidan update

The streets of Kyiv, December 8th.
People from around the world have been asking what it's like in Kharkiv right now. The capital (Kyiv) has been action-packed for almost 2 weeks: protesters have occupied government buildings, special police forces are in the streets, the Kyiv Post newspaper is providing continuous updates.

This is Майдан Незалежності, Kyiv's Independence Square, on December 6th:

And to compare, here's Площа Свободи, Kharkiv's Freedom Square, on December 7th:

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving and... a revolution?

Kharkiv's Freedom Square at 3 PM today, now closed to the public.
As we enjoyed our Thanksgiving dinner, little did we know that a storm was brewing. No one brought it up that Thursday evening but within 48 hours, talk of a revolution was everywhere.