Monday, August 11, 2014

Two cities, two rivers

Exactly fourteen days ago I was here, walking along the banks of the Dnieper river in Kyiv.

Full-on summer at last, the city's residents appeared eager to catch some rays on a long Sunday afternoon.

A former student and I decided to walk as far along the embankment as we dared in the heat.

From many angles, the world looked like nothing more than simple summertime: kids napping in strollers, cotton candy vendors, old men sitting among the trees with their fishing poles.

If you looked close enough, though, you could see traces of another kind of -time: harsh graffiti scrawled next to the colorful flowers, girls in blue-and-yellow miniskirts and dresses, violent scenes from Euromaidan painted on the sides of arcade game tents. Ads from a local language school featured Yanukovich's face and the words "He never studied English" spray painted up and down the sun-drenched sidewalks. But these things were easy to miss, for the day was so bright and everyone's faces were turned towards the warm waters of the Dnieper.

Now fast forward two weeks and 5,600 miles to summer on the riverbanks of another continent.

My parents let us tag along as they attended a local networking event for engineers aboard a 98' yacht named the Willamette Star.

(click to enlarge)

It soon became clear that very few people on that boat spoke normal English (RFI? EMI? Radiated susceptibility? High energy surge test?), so the language barrier left lots and lots of time for picture taking. Kind of like Ukraine in that regard, haha :p

Even though I grew up here, an early love of reading meant that whenever we were around this area, my nose was in a book. The only childhood landmark I was familiar with was OMSI, the rather epic Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and its resident submarine parked out front.

The USS Blueback - if you saw the movie The Hunt for Red October, then you've seen this sub in action!

Dozens of houseboats lined the riverbank. The rent must be astronomical... but imagine the view!

And there's a new riverfront housing scheme for those who haven't got that amount of cash lying around... find a boat that floats and you can park it for 30 days before simply pulling up anchor and relocating to a new stretch of the river.

My father was a sailor and kept a small and somewhat sea-worthy sailboat until just a few months ago. "If only you hadn't sold it", I told him, "D and I would have been all set." He turned and looked at me with amazement. "Katherine- that boat was sinking!" But really, it depends on how fast it was sinking ; ) Probably for the best, though, as I don't think Кит would be quite as excited about the idea.

One of Portland's nicknames is Bridgetown and the city sure lived up to its name that afternoon-
1) The Ross Island Bridge.

2) The Sellwood Bridge, open to traffic but currently getting beefed up for "the next big one" (aka earthquake).

3) The Steel Bridge, a 102-year-old bridge that carries bikes, pedestrians, cars, light rail, and trains.

4) The under-construction Tilikum Bridge, slated to be opened next year to mass transit, bikes, and people on foot. Private cars and trucks not permitted.

5) The Marquam Bridge, or as my father calls it- "that damn overpass on steroids".

6) The Morrison Bridge.

7) The Hawthorne Bridge, 114 years old and crossed by about 30,000 people daily.

8) The Burnside Bridge... and you're probably burned out on bridges now so we'll end this topic here ; )

I was surprised by the number of people out in kayaks, Hobie Cats, speed boats, or just floating near the shore on inflatable rafts. The sandy stretches were nowhere near as packed as Kyiv's precious real estate but there was a lot more stranger-to-stranger waving going on than I'd ever seen in Ukraine. And dogs, big dogs, were everywhere- in boats and kayaks, on the beaches, fetching sticks from the water.

After two sunburnt hours, the Willamette Star returned to its starting point and everyone spilled back onto the dock. I'd say it was a successful afternoon: handshakes and business cards exchanged between the engineer types, piles of fruit consumed by D, a gigantic amount of photos snapped by yours truly. Portland is pretty, and it was nice to get out on a somewhat-cool afternoon (it's 97F here today and climbing), but I still find myself missing Ukraine and her blue summertime skies.

Your turn- which river appeals most to you?
An afternoon on the Willamette or the Dnieper?


  1. That's one of the toughest questions you've asked yet.

    We've only spent a total of a few days in Portland, but it just may be one of our favorite cities in America. The Willamette is nice, but a drive through the Columbia River George is even nicer. Have you ever been there on a boat?

    On the other hand, Kyiv is such a beautiful city, and the waterfront is gorgeous. Even though the news right now is terrible, Ukraine is an exciting place to be, and it only seems to be changing for the better.

    Conclusion: Willamette or Dnipro? Can't decide!

    1. Hi Michael and Yulia! Yes, I could see you guys being right at home in Portland... so many green ideas and so much diversity here : ) Are you by any chance originally from somewhere in the Pacific Northwest? I don't think I've ever been in the Gorge on a boat, but we've driven along it a number of times. My brother lives out there in a little town of about 7,000 people, hoping to go see him soon!

  2. We certainly did feel at home in Portland (although Ukraine has an even stronger pull for us). We also watched TV shows like Portlandia and Grimm before going there, which also piqued our interest. You mentioned that your father was involved in Grimm, right?

    I'm actually from the northeast, and Yulia and I lived in the Midwest before coming to Ukraine.

    1. Wow, you have a good memory! Yes, he was an extra in one episode. We just watched it, actually... he was in 2 scenes, maybe about 4 seconds screen time total. Not bad for a first timer!

      Portlandia is something I've been meaning to check out. People are always mentioning it and there are a lot of those "keep Portland weird" stickers around- are they from the show? This morning there was an article in the paper about a NY couple who moved to Portland because they heard it was so relaxed and accepting of all types. The guy had a ton of facial tattoos and piercings and he had hoped it wouldn't hold him back from getting a better job here, but alas, that turned out to not be the case and the couple ended up going back to NY.

  3. The cat Кит is now living with my grandmother so for just 5$ you can come and see him.

    1. Hello there, Slava ; ) Кит's here napping now, he sends his regards!

  4. Welcome home K! How did you manage with Kit?

    1. Thanks, Jo! : ) He's done great overall. I just sent you an email with all the little details : )

      By the way, what's happened to The Pecking Order? Are you changing things around?