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?