Friday, January 31, 2014

Blue & yellow

The blue, they say, represents a beautiful clear sky and the yellow stands in for ripe fields of wheat, but it's not hard to see the blue & yellow pattern in other places too:
A friend's photo: field of sunflowers in Sinne, Ukraine.
The trees of Sarzhin Ravine in the fall

Whatever the reasoning behind the design may be, people in Ukraine are proud to show off the colors of their flag

There are plenty of blue & yellow vehicles:

Monday, January 27, 2014

The little things, part 2

D photographing a recent sunset
Thank you guys for your recent comments and emails. Reading your words and ideas means a lot to me and I really appreciate your support!!! I think it's great that you take the time to read this blog and even greater that many of you are thousands of miles from eastern Europe but you still find space in your hearts to care about this country and its future.

As you know, there hasn't been much change in what's happening in Ukraine... it's true that lots has happened- this building has been occupied, that building has been occupied, more police ordered to stand in the cold, thousands of tweets sent around the world, government officials made to actually do some work, but there's no end, no change in sight yet. There are rumors flying around about Kharkiv- "oh, they're all so lazy there, doing nothing", "the government is preparing for a mass protest", but again, not much visible to the naked eye.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The little things

When we came to Ukraine in 2011, we came with four suitcases and a cloak of optimism that everything would work out. To paraphrase Ray Bradbury, it was more a matter of going to the edge of the cliff, jumping off, and trying to build our wings on the way down.

After all this time I can't say that our wings are fully-built... or perhaps it's just that they don't actually look anything like wings should look.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Troubled times

Kharkov, Jan 21st. The calm before the storm?

Jan 21st newspaper with news from Kiev.
Articles inside include "Useful Advice: How to protect yourself from gas and stray bullets".

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Snow day!

The Metalist Stadium in the snow.

A day of big, fluffy snowflakes falling non-stop!

Зима близко = Winter is coming (GAME OF THRONES reference!!!)
January 14th, Old New Year, marked the end of the holidays. People are beginning to throw out their Christmas trees.

Even the usual hustle and bustle of Central Market was subdued and snow-covered:

But we did find one guy who wasn't afraid to brave the elements:

Thursday, January 16, 2014

An unusual Kharkiv photo op

Okay, I have to share this with you guys. It's too strange to pass up!

This picture was circulating a while ago on the internet-

Um, yeah. That's no joke.

Last summer we were out for a nice long walk.
The Матроны Московской church, under construction along the Saltivs'ke Highway. What it will look like after completion.

Hoping to find the "Ukraine" shopping mall, we were walking and walking and walking, mainly in the wrong direction. (I always think that briefly glancing at a map once [at home, on Google] is good enough... and then it always leads to a time-consuming misadventure. Anyone else guilty of this?) After passing the church, we found our exhausted selves at Tractor-Builders Avenue, contemplating a left turn or a right turn. We randomly picked left, which was a fortunate guess as Tractor-Builders Avenue to the right leads to a long stretch of not much. It was a beautiful day that day. We continued on, past an empty ice skating rink, past balloon vendors and excited kids in Park Peremogy, past this wild-looking monument in the same park-

L to R: Chernobyl, WWII, Afghanistan (Afghan War)
Chernobyl has no end date : (

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Remembering Siberia

Nine years ago I was braving the cold and darkness of Siberia.
Odin (yes, the reindeer herder!) and I had traveled to Yakutsk, the capital of the Sakha Republic and one of the largest cities in the world built on top of permafrost, on the traditional student pilgrimage of studying abroad.
a 2 PM sunset

Monday, January 13, 2014

Simferopol: yea or nay?

Remember this?

Have you guessed the destination of our first trip of 2014?

That's right- Simferopol! Otherwise known as D's hometown.

My feelings on Simferopol are mixed. Ukraine has a lot of beautiful cities, but I'm not sure Simferopol is one of them.

It's the capital of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the jumping off point for visiting any city that borders the Black Sea. In my eyes, there are nearly as many trains, electrichkas, trolleybuses, buses, marshrutkas, and taxis as there are residents (just over 350,000). Simferopol seems like more of a gateway than a destination for most people.

Since there's no metro, I haven't been able to explore the city much; perhaps there's undiscovered beauty waiting in other parts of the city. Or perhaps it's the timing of our visits as we almost always visit in the fall, winter, or spring. Maybe summertime Simferopol is worthy of an entire deck of postcards, who knows.

main square with the mandatory Lenin statue

BUT I will say that this (very short) visit did open my eyes a bit and allowed me to see more charm in the city than before. We walked as much as possible and even places that had been umimpressive on previous visits seemed a little cooler.

The main drag- Pushkin street.

Here's one of my favorite finds from this trip- a library tucked away on a quiet street.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Holiday travel: Odessa

Yikes: it's almost lesson-planning week, which is followed by the actual go-back-to-work week. It feels like a disproportionate amount of our time off was spent on this:
Hello, 42 hours of train travel in 10 days!! Although we did get THE HOLY GRAIL of trains on one leg- an empty compartment : )

To start there was the annual corporate pilgrimage to Odessa for a night of partying.

This year we traveled with a massive group of about 40 people (employees + girlfriends/family):
Our group carrying their luggage from the train station.
Some of those people in the picture above were well-rested. Others, probably not (read: hungover). The festivities had started the night before as the overnight train pulled out of Kharkiv. Things started literally with a tremendous jolt- the guy carrying all the booze and snacks first missed the train, but some quick-thinker on board pulled the стоп кран (emergency brake), the entire train shuddered to a halt, and the latecomer was able to hop on. There was a 180 uah fine to be paid for pulling the стоп кран but hey, no comrade will ever be left behind!

We got on the train not knowing if we'd all be crashing on someone's floor or not for the next three nights, but the company took generous to a new level as they booked everyone rooms at the Black Sea hotel:
The Black Sea hotel. Felt just like we were at home because of all the remodeling (or perhaps our neighbor with the drill was also on vacation!)

Through the heavy fog we occasionally got an awesome view of a nearby church:
Entrance forbidden! Dangerous to your life! is written on the sign on the balcony door.

There was only one downside to staying at this hotel:
My jeweler couldn't stay in the room. He had to sleep in the lobby, poor guy. Sorry, Jacob.

The company also took care of most of our meals at the nearby Kompot restaurant (where we ate last year as well):

Outside of group meals and The Party, people were free to roam the city. We took major advantage of this, walking and walking and walking and walking until it felt like our feet were broken.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Merry (Orthodox) Christmas!

Last night we went for a rainy walk downtown. M, a former colleague, had popped into Ukraine for a quick visit from the chaos and crammed metros of Russia's capital.
M and me

Monday, January 6, 2014

Russian by the Numbers: 2014 Goals

Happy 2014!! : ) Meanwhile, the holidays go on in Ukraine. I asked D this morning if it was time to take all the decorations down. "No way!" he said, "Tomorrow is Christmas!" Tomorrow is indeed Orthodox Christmas (Jan 7th)- he's actually got the day off work. Then there's Orthodox New Year (Jan 14th), so the decorations will have to stay for a little bit longer, I suppose.

In the meantime, the beginning of January means goal-setting time. Some people aren't into this much, but it's one of my favorite times of the year- a new start, a new planner, a reset button on bad habits. I already picked out a brand new planner (2 to be honest, couldn't choose!) and have been mulling over some things. Are you the New-Year's-resolution-setting type? What are your dreams for this new year?