Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas Fail

Apparently, this is pretty much the most ill-wishing, evil-eyed, bad-omened thing that you could buy for someone from Crimea.

Maybe you're already looking at it and nodding your head, thinking of COURSE! I'd NEVER buy that for a Russian! Duh!

Well, I thought it was cute. And useful. And a doormat.

Not a gateway of evil.

But here's what happened and why a doormat- esp this particular one- is such a bad gift idea.
(Oh, hindsight!)

Friday, December 11, 2015

8 things to keep an eye out for in Nicaragua

We've got a trip to Nicaragua planned. D was a little reluctant- "Where??"- but agreed after I promised him all the fresh fruit and ocean he could stand.

As we get closer to the trip, I've been telling him a little about the country. Here's the result of that-

8 Things to Keep an Eye Out For in Nicaragua

A cheap and easy snack! A famous poet! A dessert you'd better eat fast! A thing you need for air conditioning! A dinner with a face! A place to sit! Red-and-black painted anything! Painted buses!

Friday, December 4, 2015

The cat lounge

Once upon a time we would tiptoe through the Kharkiv cat mafia's alleyway on the way home from work. Portland, though, has a totally different feline scene.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Tale of Two Thanksgivings

A Tale of Two Thanksgivings 


How You Can Gain 9lbs in a Single Weekend If You Have Ukrainian Relatives :p

Friday, November 13, 2015

Rainy day quotes

The rain is finally here!

This fall I've been working from home as an online English teacher, meaning lots of peeking out the window at the rain + lots of weather updates from abroad. Most of the students are Ukrainians (hooray!) so that makes Ukraine seem a little less far away. All the students are reporting rain where they are too, but some also have snow on the horizon.... I'm kind of jealous! Hopefully Portland will get a snow day this winter. For now, we'll have to be content with rainy afternoons.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Desert Botanical Garden, Arizona

One hour is just enough time for a quick wander through Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden minus the sunburn.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Papago Park, Arizona

In September I got to spend a half-day in a place I'd always wanted to visit- the southwestern US! There's a magnetic draw to the heat, desert landscapes, mystical power vortexes, and massive sandstorms of that region. We didn't encounter any vortexes or sandstorms on this visit, but there was plenty of heat and desert to go around.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A farewell to Ukrainian street art

Even though there have been a ton of posts about Ukraine's street art on this blog, I still have more pictures left over.

Seeing as how it's been 1.5 years since we left Kharkiv, it's probably time to dust these guys off and make space on the computer for new photos. (There are also a few repeats in here that I just really liked.)

Hope you enjoy! :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Weekend visit

My mother-in-law came to visit this weekend, bringing along a gigantic bag of candy...

... and an even more gigantic reservoir of "Where's your house/car/child?" comments. As no house/car/child magically appeared, we were forced to show her other things, mainly things that (to her disappointment) we do not personally own.

We took her up the hill to OHSU-

Monday, October 12, 2015

3 Ukrainian empties

Three old favorites that we just used up-

1. Here's what the lady at the аптека presented when I asked for sleeping pills. Turns out that yes, they make you sleepy, but more than that- they make you SNACKY. It's probably a good thing that they're all gone.

2. In the US, spices tend to come in glass, plastic, or metal containers, but the packet reigns supreme in Ukraine. You buy dehydrated soup in packets, sour cream and milk in plastic packets, and any imaginable spice- dill, pepper, "for shish kebab", "for Korean carrot salad"- in a packet as well. The whole spice aisle was 100% packets and this was perhaps the best packet of all: the borsch packet!

Sad to see it go but D does make a mean borsch ;)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September weekends

Honestly, to this day I continue plotting on how to escape Portland. (The whole bloom where you're planted thing has not taken root.) But nope, still here, meaning Fall #2 in this apartment. We even made it all the way to the opening of the newest downtown bridge, something I thought we'd miss by thousands of miles. The new bridge is pretty cool, though. It's the city's 9th bridge downtown and said to be the sole public-transit-and-pedestrian-only bridge in the United States. No cars!

Even walking towards the bridge (see photo above) felt really 2025. Not a single person asked me for money to buy pot or dog food. Bikers sped by with a smile. There was no garbage and no fast food. Everything was clean, shiny, new.

In a move of (mainly-unrecognized) act of genius, one guy lobbied to have the name of the bridge changed to The Jean-Luc Picard Wonder Crossing. He spent $5,000 on Star Trek billboards to advertise the idea and put up a Kickstarter page. I didn't want to look back and say I never hung billboards of Jean-Luc Picard when I get old, he said. Also, all of the lawyers we contacted thought unofficially that Jean-Luc Picard would definitely want a bridge named after him and advised me to put up the billboards.


Another name that didn't make the cut - The Stephen Colbert Bridge of Destiny.

As for the final name, take a look at what is now called Tilikum Crossing:

Those other bridges- covered in cars! ;)

This sunny afternoon wasn't just a random walk, though; I was fulfilling that annual deal-breaking wifely duty known as...

.... Attending The Science Fair.

I swear we just did this 365 days ago.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

One Nicaraguan sunset

My Spanish teacher had me memorize a poem by the Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario-

Qué alegre y fresca la mañanita!       A morning so happy and fresh!
Me agarra el aire por la nariz:           I take in a deep breath
los perros ladran, un chico grita        Dogs bark, a boy yells
y una muchacha gorda y bonita,        And a pretty, plump girl,
junto a una piedra, muele maíz.         Grinds corn with a stone.

It's been 100 years since he wrote that poem and while there are no more plump girls grinding corn in the mornings (at least that I saw), there are still plenty of dogs barking.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Nicaragua homestay

A sweet family with babies, cats, and a guard dog- what else do you need? :)

Guard dog Negro, on duty.

Negro, off duty!

That's Luna next to him. She's not shy at all about asking for attention and lots of it.

If you can catch her awake, that is.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Snapshots of Nicaraguan Life

Welcome to the sole tropical edition of Snapshots : )

Les presento a Nicaragua- let me present to you Nicaragua- and a few of its six million inhabitants.  And its dozens of volcanoes. And green jungles. And oversized fruits. And friendly pets. And towering palms. And holiday parades. And... you'll see!

Most of these pictures are from San Juan del Sur, a once-sleepy fishing port that's now a party hotspot for surfers, language students, and backpackers. I swear I heard more German than either Spanish or English there!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Blogs about Ukraine (once upon a time)

Looking for blogs about Ukraine? I'm updating the blog list and retiring the golden oldies below!

Ukraine once had a large number of talented foreigners blogging away about the funny, the fantastic, and the frustrating. Now that number has plummeted. While politics and hard news are everywhere, it's harder to find a plain old daily-life "what's it really like?" update in English. 

I'm keeping this listing of blogs here because although most authors have moved on to other endeavors, they left behind a great online record of their days in Ukraine. I hope you too will find interesting stories when exploring their sites.

As for the blogs still producing content, check out the updated More Ukraine Blogs tab. If you know of a good English-language blog about daily life in Ukraine, please leave a comment below and I'll happily add it. I LOVE reading stories of everyday Ukrainian life no matter how big the city or how tiny the village.

Happy reading! : )

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Republic of Tea haul for fall

In Ukraine there was never ever a too-hot-for-tea point on the temperature scale. It could be 5000° C and my husband would still be hovering over the tea kettle, waiting for it to finish boiling, asking me if I wanted a cup too.

On a recent trip to Nicaragua, though, every single day was a too-hot-for-tea day. Hence this, uh, slight overcompensation upon returning.

Decaf tea overload-

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Kharkiv's Shevchenko Park

Here's Taras Shevchenko, the Ukrainian hero who has cast a lingering shadow through history. Don't tear me apart for this, but in my mind he's like the Abraham Lincoln of Ukraine.

Both Lincoln and Shevchenko lived during the same times- their births and deaths were just a few years apart. They have completely different stories, of course- one was a poet whose career was ended by a tsar, the other a politician who saw his country through a civil war- but they're memorialized in imposing statues* as national patriots everywhere throughout their respective countries. Plus, nowadays Abe's got the $5 bill and Taras has the 100 uah bill (now worth about $5 USD). When I say Shevchenko is Ukraine's Lincoln, I mean that he's remembered with that same feeling, that the history books label them both as men who stood up for their nations.

*(Although Lincoln often gets the heartbroken look and Shevchenko gets the badass glare.)

But enough about history- you can get more of that here- this post is competition for last December's sad poetry night. Here's the contender for sad poetry champion: a Taras Shevchenko poem...

Чого мені тяжко, чого мені нудно
Why do I feel so heavy? Why so weary?