Sunday, March 2, 2014

A birthday amid the uncertainty

As you know, the news about Ukraine is full of полный мрак и ужас, total doom and gloom. It leaves me with a constant headache, like I've been breathing in fumes all day long. Yesterday we spent most of the day at home, clicking through progressively scarier and scarier articles. A student messaged me in the morning: will there be class today? This particular class meets downtown, in a building that borders Freedom Square. I checked with my colleague who would be teaching that morning: No, he texted, I'm going home. There's a strange atmosphere here. Sure enough, before long, something had happened. Meanwhile, the updates from Crimea (where D's extended family lives) just kept getting worse. He checked in with some friends and family by phone, who assured him they were all fine, at home with full pantries. Then he got a call from a co-worker in another city; I don't know what the coworker said, but after the call D immediately filled up the bathtub and all available containers with tap water.

I do want to point out one thing to you; although the media is screaming "war" right now, showing pictures of gun-toting soldiers, and fear-mongering as much as possible, here in Kharkiv- except for the area around Freedom Square- life is more or less normal.

It's not what you're seeing online.

People ride their bikes, children run around playgrounds, school is in session, transportation runs as normal, the stores are stocked with food, orange-suited sanitation workers are out keeping the streets clean, students attend my classes, taxis are everywhere, salaries are being delivered, florescent spring tulips are for sale in underground passages, our bank card works. I do believe what's happening now in this country is incredibly serious and will affect not just Ukraine but the entire world, but what is shown in the news is not everything, it's only the worst. 

On to something more cheerful; yesterday wasn't just a Saturday, it was also my birthday! Of course we had to at least get offline and out into the real world for a little bit.

Walking down Gagarin Ave, we spied on the (increeedibly slow) progress of this building. I'm not sure if construction has stopped or if they're just adding a brick a day. Anyway, I can see this place easily becoming a favorite of Star Wars fans worldwide.
This is what you'll see on Google maps if you search for "Kharkiv death star".

In the evening we headed out to the French Boulevard Shopping Mall, an upscale place with its own mini Eiffel Tower.
People often make jokes like "If it's new in Ukraine, that means it's been around in Europe for 10 years already" but NOT THIS TIME!!! Finally I have had a conversation with my relatives in America about something they've never heard of before: 4DX (that's short for Making-Regular-Movies-Obsolete-Since-2009).

If someone tells me in the comments that they've known about this stuff for ages, I'll be so sad. As a technological turtle, I've long been awaiting the day to not be the last person to find out about something new.

Here's how you make a 4DX movie theater:

Take a 40-seat theater.

Combine with a 3D-film.

Add chairs that are capable of multi-directional movement: sideways, back-and-forth, up-and-down.

Next, install special effects: artificial wind, fog machines, strobe lights, scents, bubbles, and water.

Voilà! You now have a 4DX theater and can charge people $12 a ticket.

D and I had wanted to watch a movie in this theater for ages. They opened the 4DX hall in December with heavily-advertised showings of The Hobbit. People stampeded to the viewings. It was impossible to get a seat unless you had a bank card and could reserve/pay online days in advance. I asked friends who had gone for their opinions. Some loved it. Others compared it to a 3-uah marshrutka ride through the Saltovka area and rubbed their necks in remembrance.

Our verdict?
Awesome! In fact, D informed me that he never wants to go back to a 2D movie again :p I agree. The special effects, movement, and 3D really draw you into the events unfolding before your eyes.

One other thing- we saw a movie called Вий and I highly recommend it to you if you like dark, brooding films of fantasy. A village of badass Ukrainian cossacks, one British cartographer, creepy monsters, a story taken from Nikolai Gogol... what more do you need for a great film?

Since it's a Russian-made film, it was shown in Russian (plus Ukrainian subtitles). The film especially resonated with me as Jason Flemyng, the British actor, speaks his lines either in the Queen's English or basic and accented Russian. And bonus points for casting the man who plays everyone's favorite father, Mr. Tywin Lannister, in one of the English-speaking lead roles.

If you're in Kharkiv and I convinced you to check this film/theater out (hooray!), here's a schedule of free marshrutkas that will drop you off at this mall. They're free, by the way, because you'll be a very captive audience to the TVs on board that show advertisements.

Aside from seeing the movie, we had time to stroll around the mall, watch skaters zip around the ice rink, pop into a few shops, and buy some tea.
I had assumed the mall would be quiet, considering everything that has been happening recently, but no- plenty of families, teens, and hand-in-hand couples were at the mall with us. All the little shops were open and business has actually picked up since the last time we visited:
In this 2013 photo, lots of retail spaces stood vacant.
There were certain hints, though. Inside one fancy clothing shop, a husband waited on a couch while keeping one eye on his small son and the other on a touchscreen in his lap. I got a look at what he was watching: a video of the local clashes that happened in the city that morning. In the movie theater, as a small goblin appeared on-screen, some wise guy from the audience called out "Titushki!" and was rewarded with lots of laughter. On one hand, with everything being so grim, I'm glad that people can at least find some humor, but it's clear that no matter where people are and what they're doing, only one thing is on their minds.

18 comments:

  1. Belated happy birthday and thanks for giving an on the ground news report, not the sensational the armchair generals prefer!

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Rupert! Glad you enjoyed : )

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  2. Ukrainians

    If you like your country. you can keep your country!

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  3. Happy birthday! (Also, Russians have the similar 4D thing, but call it 5D. I'm not sure which additional fifth dimension they've discovered, but there it is.)

    Also, thanks for the ongoing updates!

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    1. Oooh, 5D! That's pretty cool!
      I've seen a 7D advertised here, not exactly sure what it is though :p

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  4. С днем рождения! Looks like it was a day well spent and that mall looks super spiffy! Thanks for the updatesa and let's hope that all remains calm!

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    1. Спасибо, Chelsea. I bet you recognize that mall!

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  5. This post made me feel so much better about you :)

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    1. Glad to hear that, J. Really, things have been calm. I see these crazy news reports and think "What country is that?". Hopefully Ukraine won't actually turn into the Ukraine that the media has made it into.

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  6. Glad to hear you're OK - I've been thinking about you while watching the news. Scary times. Happy it's not all doom and gloom where you are though and that you had a nice birthday. Take care of yourself!

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    1. Linda, I just have to say- reading about your "Love Handles in Latvia" was the highlight of my day today. Freakin' hilarious!!!! What on Earth is Latvia going to do without you?

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  7. Happy belated Birthday! I'm glad to hear its life as normal in your area and that you're staying safe! Interesting to hear from this perspective rather than the news..

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    1. Thanks for coming by : ) Happy to report that life so far continues to be normal here!

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    1. Yes! Peace would be the best bday present ever : )

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  9. Happy belated. Mnohaya lita!

    Thank you for posting your news. Much appreciated.

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    1. Дякую, Christine. Thank you for reading and commenting!

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