Monday, March 15, 2010

Only in Ukraine

Zdrastvuyte! Hello!

After reading my blog about Peru, I've decided to copy myself. I really enjoyed looking back at my postings about things I learned, life lessons, and thoughts about what make the country special. This time I'd like to share some of my favorite memories we have about Ukraine and things I am learning while living here.

Life Lessons
Number Adin: The best way to make a friend in Ukraine is to have a dog! I was shopping at the market while Adam waited for me outside with Riley. When I came out a group of people had made friends with Adam, and even more so with Riley. They offered Adam and Riley vodka (of course), and spoiled Riley by feeding him all their lunch meat! Needless to say, Riley really likes Ukraine!

Number dva: Always be prepared to welcome strangers on the street to a drink. When offered vodka they pulled clean plastic cups from their jacket. How thoughtful not to make us use a community cup!

Tri: Life is a party..... even at the dog park. Across the street from our apartment is a small park where many dog owners get together in the evenings to socialize their dogs and with each other. Our first visit to the dog park we were welcomed with champagne (again with clean plastic cups), grapes and chocolate!

Chitiri- Ukraine is dog friendly, not dog safe. The deal breaker for moving to Ukraine would be if we could not bring our dog. QSI ensured us that Kiev is a very dog friendly place. Everyone loves dogs! And, they do! Especially Riley. There are no other dogs in all of Kiev that look similar to Ri. His bright blue eyes catches the attention everyone. One of the first words we learned was 'eyes' because strangers will stop to ask about him and comment on how beautiful his eyes are. However, in Kiev stray dogs run around like big city rats. Many of them quite aggressive and diseased. This made it difficult to adjust to living here in the beginning. I could not walk Ri anywhere. One day I took him for a walk to the school. Along the way we were greeted by three very large, aggressive strays. Before I knew it I had three dogs crowding in on me bearing teeth. Riley is not much better as he can be aggressive at times as well. Since then we have learned how to deal with the strays and walking is a lot less stressful.

Pyat: Diversity does not mean black, Asian, white, and Hispanic. Diversity is a school of 52 nationalities and a classroom of 40 different cultures. Between my PE classes I teach 200 students and 40 different nationalities ranging ages 6-12 years old. Now that is diverse!

Shest: Anything is edible; including fried fish skins and raw bacon fat (called salo). Well, at least it is a change from chicken feet.

Shem: Vodka and salo are main staple items in Ukraine. In Russian, Vada is water. I think somewhere along the line they got Vodka and Vada mixed up. Adam and I had taken a weekend trip to Odessa with our good friends the Chapmans. Once in Odessa we took a 40 minute bus ride to a very pleasant beach on the Black Sea. On the bus ride back a woman opened a bottle of Vodka (yes on a public bus) and cut up pieces of salo (fat). Remember lesson number 2? Well, she was prepared. She pulled out cups and began to pour and pass. Before you knew it she was friends with everyone on the bus. One man quite relaxed after helping her finish her bottle began singing.

Vosem: Snot can be used as leather polish. You can witness just about anything on the trolley bus. One example of this is a women blowing her nose and then rubbing her tissue all over her purse.

Dyvit: A smile and kind gesture can make someone's day. Meet Happy. I don't know what his real name is, but I know him as the cutest and happiest old man I have ever seen in Ukraine. He is about 70 years old, has white hair, and his ears come out and fold over at the top, just like my grandpa's ears! It is not common to see many smiling faces, especially in older folks. Unlike most on the trolley, Happy is always kind, polite, and wears a permanent smile. He is a ticket taker for the trolley bus I ride to work and home. Everyday I hope to get on Happy's bus, it starts my day off right! He will smile and hold out his hand to direct me to an open seat. Happy, makes me happy!

Dysit: Children matter. The most remarkable sight I've seen in people here has been on the marshuka (a small bus). Children can often be overlooked, but on this particular day I witnessed a mid aged man leave his seat and stand so that a young boy of about 7 years old could enjoy his seat! It was a small thing but made me heart smile.

Adinadsyt: Plan your escape off the overcrowded trolley accordingly. Rule of thumb for the trolley.... There is always room for 1 more. Always. Can't breathe, it's fine, 1 more. Cracked rib from pressure, pick 'em up room for 1 more. Don't mess with old Ukrainian women; they'll take you out! One morning into work the trolley was quite packed as normal. A man got off at the stop before mine and two ladies had to step out to make room for him to pass. As they stepped back on to the bus one started shouting in a very upset voice, and the other tired to calm her. I stood up from my seat to make my way to the door. The upset woman glared at me and asked if this was my stop. When I answered yes, she began to yell at me and refuse to let me pass by. When the trolley stopped and the doors opened the calm woman got out of the bus, but the other stepped up and blocked me from making my way out the doors. Now, I originally thought she was stepping up to make room to let me pass. When I realized she really was blocking me I grabbed her by the shoulders and shoved her aside yelling "What is wrong with you" in English. Previously I had answered questions in Russian, so it came as a bit of a surprise to the passengers when they heard the shouting in English. I managed to get by but as I was half out the doors shut, leaving me wedged in between them and the nice woman chasing the bus down. I looked like a rag doll, with one arm and leg in the bus and one arm and leg hanging out of the bus. With my purse dangling in my arm out of the bus I began to shout at the driver and banged the side of the bus with my purse and foot, while frantic passengers also shouted for the driver to stop. It wasn't long before the driver noticed the commotion and stopped the bus. I got off and the women chasing us down was able to get back on. I turned and continued to shout back at the grumpy woman who caused all the drama. I laugh now as I remember all the faces of the passengers baffled by the upset English-speaking girl wedged between the doors of the trolley! No injury was caused, in case you were wondering. I can't help but now reflect on what that poor elderly woman must have been going through that day to cause her to react in such a way to the inconvenience of letting someone pass on a trolleybus.

Well, there you have it. We have many more stories I would like to share, and I am sure the list will only grow as we continue this adventure called life. I hope you have enjoyed our stories!


Kim and Brian said...

I love reading your stories! I read these and laughed so hard at some and teared up at some. It was great to hear these stories again. I can't even begin to explain how much I miss you. My heart feels a little empty when I think of you being so far away; it's as if you are the missing link to connect it. But then I read your stories, the devotion you have given to eachother and others and it makes me smile, and know that you are just sharing that link with others. I love you incredibly and can't wait for what you have left to give and share. Big hugs! Kim (a.k.a. Sissy)

Dog Skin Problems said...

Thank you for this very informative article of yours. You have explained everything well. I appreciate that you shared this to us.

Tasha said...

This story's been really funny to read! i understand you like many others would. when i came to Kiev to study here, i had a very similar shock (cultural, meaning peoples behavior)... got into the same situations with trolleys... and angry unhappy babushkas (as we call them... read as grannies) =)
as for point 8: yuck.... come on, she didn't do that.... i cannot believe it..... it's disgusting....
to point 3: oh yes, life is a party! but a very sad thing about Ukrainians as well as Russians is that there can be no good party without alcohol... =( this upsets me...
well, keep learning about our country =) and don't forget to share!!! =)