Sunday, July 27, 2014


Although we're somewhere on the streets of New York right now (unless something has gone really wrong), I wanted to share this small collection of pictures and quotes with you, things that caught my attention for one reason or another. All of the photos are from Kharkiv and, except for the photo of the church, taken within the past month.

"It's like we're living on the slope of a volcano." -a friend speaking about Ukraine, winter 2014

"Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages." -Dave Barry

"If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world." Ludwig Wittgenstein, Austrian philosopher, 1889-1951

"I don't think apologizing works with Ukrainians. You can say "I'm sorry" but make it sound like you're not." - D (after a visit to the train ticket office)

using the yes/no packing method

Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy. -Anne Frank

"Sex, drugstore, and rock'n'roll." -said a friend during a Scrabble game

From D, during a discussion on why cows are so prevalent in Ukrainian advertisements- "People like cows. They have an aura of trust."

"No one can protect them except for you" - photo taken at night in downtown Kharkiv

 "If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn't want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher's job." -Donald D. Quinn

our schedule for the final month of conversation clubs

"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning." - Louis L'Amour

"If we do not find anything pleasant, at least we shall find something new." -Voltaire

"Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow." -Anita Desai

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A new start

We're on our way now. I'm very, very grateful that we were able to follow this dream so very far. I wish you the same in your life, the opportunity to follow your own dreams to whatever destination they lead.
The 8 Months in Ukraine Facebook page will continue to be updated regularly about Ukrainian-ish things. The fate of the blog is undecided, but I'll definitely continue to write somewhere (and will share the link for those who want to come along for the ride). Aside from a few pre-scheduled posts, it'll take us a little while to re-access the world of internet but I'll be back within a few weeks : )

Пока for now! Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The (not so) brave cat

*Warning: embarrassing cat pictures ahead. Embarrassing for the cat, at least.*

What I like best about dogs is their excitement over everything. 
It's time to wake up? 
Someone dropped food on the floor? 
We're going outside? 

It's not quite the same with a cat. 
Wake up? 
Go right ahead, I'll sleep another 5 or 6 hours. 
What's that, expensive cat food?
*sniff* No thanks. 
Venture beyond the door?
SHEER CATTY TERROR. (Let's just say if George R. R. Martin wrote a book about this, it would be called A Song of Dread and Despair.)

We've been trying to get past the sheer terror bit when it comes to going outside. 

Taking him for some fresh air- check.

Getting used to a leash- check. (Although he hates it. This is what usually happens.)
obligatory and mortifying kitten pic

Experiencing all kinds of weather- check.

Suffering through the most humiliating experiences possible- check. Like wearing his knit sweater from Grandma.

It's all to no avail. 

At home he's a great guy. Sociable, slightly imperious, playful. He loves chasing his laser pointer "mouse" and pouncing on drinking straws. He immediately knows when we've brought home a melon from the store and runs to the kitchen, begging for a piece of it. (Melon consumption in our household is roughly: D- 95%, Кит- 4.5%, Me- .5%, and let's not even talk about corn on the cob!)

But when that front door opens.... oh boy. Watch out.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Kharkiv cafés: waffles, pig ears, and Sherlock Holmes

The time left before our flight can now be counted in hours... under 100 of them!... hours filled with packing anxiety and heartfelt goodbyes. It's unsettling to have these very normal "pre-move" events juxtaposed against the terrible backdrop of deaths in the southeast. I've been meeting friends for quiet cups of tea since no one is in the mood for celebrating anything. One benefit to this, though, is getting to squeeze in just a few more of the city's cafés before our travels take us far from the streets of Kharkiv.

Enjoy : )

Try It!


The new Waffle Café (same location as 44 Favorite Place, next to the Beketova metro) 

How could anyone say no to such waffles??! Not to mention, waffles in Ukraine = a big deal. This is not a land of waffles makers and breakfast menus, thus waffles don't come with any preconceived notions of waffle propriety. Expect waffles with M&Ms, waffles with salmon, and waffles with beans.
Novel tea too- this is basil + cucumber.
You can build your own waffle starting from 10 uah, order a sweet "Belgian-style" waffle (35 uah), or choose a savory "American-style" waffle (55 uah). Here's the menu. I was tempted by the waffle topped with spinach and scrambled eggs, but the lure of marshmallows and Nutella won out in the end.

Good Vegs - a vegetarian fast food restaurant

In a city where coffee houses have chandeliers and even McDonalds hires interior designers, there exists a humble underground café on Gudanova street that serves juice instead of soda and veggie nuggets instead of chicken nuggets. We tried a cheeseburger (excellent) and yoga roll (yuck) here last week, as well as the vitamin salad (yum). Prices run about the same as any fast food place in town, maxing out at around 80 uah for a complete meal. They have a menu online but it hasn't been updated with the new items like the vitamin salad. I would definitely check this place out again. Hours are either 10AM - 8PM or 11AM - 9PM, depending upon whether you believe their website or the sign on the door.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Swan Lake

After writing and publishing this post, the terrible news about a Boeing 777 being shot down in eastern Ukraine broke.  Get BBC live updates on the situation here.

Sorry Mom and Dad, but this post is not about a ballet :p

For a place that looked like this two years ago...
the change is amazing-

Every time I see Gorky Park, there's something new. Last month it was the sparkle of the newest cable cars.
the way it was vs. the way it is

This month I wanted to track down the swan lake, a place that friends have been mentioning for months. It was easy to find; just listen for all the loud oohing and ahhhing over the lake's two proud parents and their pair of cygnets.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Helping out

Before coming here, I worked with refugees and immigrants. A few of those refugees had come from Ukraine (or through it... at that point in time, Ukraine didn't have that many of its own refugees but rather operated as a transit point for refugees from many other countries). There was the young and somber Ukrainian family, 2 kids in hand and third one on the way. The Somali guy who'd been living in Kyiv, waiting for clearance. The large family who had left Russia, also counting the days until their paperwork would allow them to enter the US. One winter I designed and taught a citizenship class for elderly Pentecostal Ukrainians and Russians. That may sound like a dull combination but it turned out to be a blast
We had Bingo, History Jeopardy, Mock Interviews. They assigned powers to the state government and federal government and identified the freedoms of the first amendment. Our lessons went way back to the Declaration of Independence and as far forward as Sept 11th. And they took their studies quite seriously, always completing the homework assigned, always coming to class early. Imagine yourself in your 70s or 80s, doing this all in a foreign language with a different alphabet.

Well, everyone worked enthusiastically except for a particular old woman. She was the rain on our parade, the classroom Eeyore. Although she never missed a class, she grumbled her way through all of them. Her response to every question- especially if she knew the answer!- consisted of turning to a neighbor in our tiny group and saying "Что она сказала? Я ничего не понимаю, не могу", What did the teacher say? I don't understand anything, I can't. I didn't know what to do with her, so I just kept on keeping on, welcoming her to our group and encouraging her even when she launched into the occasional "Гражданство- это больше грех!", Citizenship is a sin! tirade (which struck some serious fear into the hearts of her other equally-religious classmates). But on the very last day of class, she approached me afterwards with a strange expression: a huge smile. I learned so much, this was so good! she told me. I'm not going to give up, I'll keep practicing!

Hoping to make some kind of similar positive impact here, I contacted a local group called Social Service Assistance one September day. Social Service Assistance, or SSA for short, aims to assist a wide variety of people, youth to elderly, locals, foreigners, you name it. They've hosted a Super Granny competition, organized a Second Youth Club for other older folks, and done a lot of good things for refugee families and children.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Snapshots of Ukrainian Life, Part 20

After lots of phone calls and flight checking, it's official: we've got tickets. Two bittersweet weeks left before packing Kit into his new cat carry-on and getting on a plane. As another blogger put it- "When you move across the ocean, you leave in steps - and each one stings a little."

Now come the goodbyes. All the things that used to be mundane (grocery shopping, going to the park, refilling a metro card) are becoming a series of "the last ....".

For a while I was really bummed out, searching for something that could take Ukraine's place in my heart and finding nothing. Finally I understood that there doesn't need to be a replacement. Sometimes you just find a place that can't be replaced. I know that lots of you who read this blog feel the same way.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


It was a three-day weekend for many people recently as June 28th marked Ukraine's Constitution Day. Now, just a few days later, the long weekend is over, the ceasefire has ended, and the news is again sadly full of bloodshed.

But Sunday was quiet. We caught a marshrutka to the outskirts of the city and then piled in a friend's car and drove toward a small river as far as the road allowed.

Seen around town...

From a group called "Fed up with it!"
Recently I've cut back on taking photos around town, switching instead to jotting interesting things down on a tiny notepad from the grocery store. A lot of the things I've noticed have been on the metro which means a blurry, grainy photo anyway, so a notepad works just as well.

An ad for a wallpaper store:   
"Anti-crisis measures! All wallpaper now at 2013 prices!"

A tour agency's blue-and-yellow-swathed poster: "Rest from politics!" followed by prices for 7 days in Egypt, Greece, Poland,...

A placard from Comfy, a major electronics store, promises "Low prices will unite the country."

What first seemed to be a recruitment ad- a picture of a soldier with the words "The chance to serve your country has appeared"-

- has turned out to be a major campaign sponsored by a group called the Ukraine Crisis Media Center. The solider poster was just the first of many. There's since been:
  • The doctor: "The chance to build a healthy society has appeared."
  • The miner: "The chance to lift up your country has appeared."
  • The student: "The chance to pass a test and not a bribe has appeared."
  • The grandparent: "The chance to raise your grandchildren in an affluent Ukraine has appeared."
Grandparent ad in the background, purple ad partially blocked by the marshrutka.
I don't know that many doctors, miners, or grandparents, but I do know a lot of students and they've made no secret about the fact that a little extra cash is often required as they progress through their studies. As for soldiers, it used to be that I only knew one, but now more and more acquaintances are getting surprise phone calls and then leaving to serve.

I hope that the future does bring affluence, health, and stability for the country.