Saturday, February 28, 2015

Snapshots of American Life 2

It's almost time for my birthday, which means this was an entire year ago. Wow. Just wow.

Speaking of which, saw these on the streets of Portland the other day-

And one more interesting thing from the streets- the fallout shelter on 6th Avenue. I'd love to hear the story behind this.

Website: Nuclear Survival in Oregon

Spring is here. How this is possible in February, I have no idea... but know better than to look a gift horse in the mouth ; )

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ukraine and the US, Part 2

My heart still misses Ukraine and reading things like this... is, well, heart-breaking. Instead, I'll point you in the direction of someone who is doing good things and share a fun little post on the cultural quirks of my favorite countries to start with a "U".

10 Things You're Not Likely to Encounter in the United States:

Followed by a Good-Luck-Spotting-These-Things-in-Ukraine list...

#1. Waiter-made trainer chopsticks in every sushi restaurant, used by about 80% of diners. 
Known informally as Giant Tweezers.

#2. Fast food job applications that require a photo.

#3. Cheap blini.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A library of limestone and brick (and the way there)

I have always loved public libraries. All those pages and colorful spines, displays carefully crafted by librarians, comfy chairs for binge reading, plus the almost* absolutely-free cost? Where's my library card already?!

In fact, "libraries" was my top answer to that #1 expat question: What do you miss the most from your home country? Since we landed on the west coast last summer, I've been indulging in library visits whenever possible.

(*this reader may be more prone to overdue fines than most)

Portland's central library.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

We had a really low-key Valentine's Day this year: a movie, a long walk through town, and takeout pizza. I talked D out of his traditional pilgrimage of panic to the supermarket, meaning we got to sleep in and then wander over to the farmer's market.
College pub.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The languages of February


How is it that the shortest month always seems so long? Ukrainian sure got the word right: Лютий, fierce, cruel, severe, February.

Morning commute.

Instead of just treating this post as a place to whine, though, I want to share a positive linguistic trend. At work we use mainly English and Spanish with clients. I met one Ukrainian guy back in October of last year, and then... nothing. Just when it seemed like it would never happen, they appeared.

First, a husband/wife from western Ukraine. I asked them what language they used at home, expecting the answer to be Ukrainian or possibly Russian. Nope. Any guesses?

[hint: it's another language that starts with an "R".]

Romanian! "I grew up learning Romanian and Russian in school", the husband explained, "then picked up Ukrainian during my military service in L'vov." Have you ever heard Romanian being spoken? It's a beautiful language.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Healing garden

Since last time I shared some of Kharkiv's most famous sights with you, here's a little hidden corner in our current city. It's probably not in any of the guidebooks; we came across it completely by chance on a long walk last October.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A letter from Kharkiv

This beautiful letter was waiting in the mailbox the other week. Ukraine is not synonymous with cool stationery in my mind- it was always a hunt to find writing paper, the post office would often be out of envelopes (yet have plenty of laundry detergent for sale)- so seeing this was a wonderful surprise.


Featured on the envelope and letter are the Mirror Stream Fountain and the train station, two of the city's most recognizable landmarks. I adore the fountain's winter backdrop- brings back memories of walking home past its white dome on the way home snowy night after snowy night- and the cute way the artist added a kneeling photographer in front of the train station's columns. That tree to the right of the train station though, is not very realistic; reality is more like a rickety beer/kvass stand or a shawarma shack.

These two places were among my favorite sights in Kharkiv! Let me show you why...

Mirror Stream Fountain

If I just saw it once during the day, I'd probably agree with all the people who are like eh, a dinky fountain, what's the big deal? But stay in Kharkiv long enough and this place will grow on you.

All the weddings stop here, brides and grooms showing off impressively-long kisses to shouts of "Горько! Горько!" from their friends. Kids run around the edge of the pool, young lovers pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist from the security of park benches, and there's always a guy with white pigeons who will take your picture for a few grivna.

Summer is a great time to visit-

It's the time of year when rainbows get caught in the spray of the fountains and everything is bright, clean, and uncomplicated.