Sunday, August 17, 2014


Clipped newspaper articles and email messages had been arriving for months- a new Russian restaurant was preparing to open in Portland and my family was psyched.

My aunt's excitement was understandable, as she has studied the language for years and visited Mari Vanna, Russian Samovar, the Vodka Room, and other renowned Russki restaurants of New York. My parents' enthusiasm, not so much. Years ago D and I brought a bag of decidedly unspectacular frozen pelmeni from a local import store to share with them and I'm surprised they would give anything serving pelmeni a second chance after surviving that bag. Mysterious reasons aside, now that we're in Portland it was really nice to all meet up and have a little taste of the food that D and I had grown so used to.

Kachka bills itself as a dealer of vodka, zukuski, pelmeni, in other words standard fare for Kharkov but considered more of a luxury in this town. One hundred grams of Russian Standard (vodka) will set you back $12. That's a mindboggling sum to my Ukrainian-ized pocketbook (4 bottles of champagne! a whole bottle of imported high-end booze!) but it's a price preceded with "mere" or "only" in the US. And they're crazy if they think I'll pay 26 uah for some sunflower seeds, but no one else at the table batted an eye at that scandal.

Sticker shock aside, though, the food and drinks hit the spot.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Golden Gates of Kyiv

The Golden Gates of Kyiv. Sunday, July 27th, 2014.

Definitely a cool little spot to check out, even if you show up during a технологический перерыв (technological break) and don't make it inside the museum.

Yaroslav the Wise
Bet their wedding photos turned out great! : )

In other news, we've spent the past few weeks in Seattle and Portland, sorting through the debris of past lives. Eating borsch topped with Canadian-style sour cream, plov with a side of seaweed salad. Adjusting to a landscape of evergreen trees and wall-to-wall carpeting. Having to dredge the corners of our brains for long-unused words like "barkdust". Trying to think of this as the lazy days of summer and not a dead end. Remembering things like fudge and peas that can be eaten with the pods (just try that in Ukraine, I dare you) and that trash is a thing that actually can be sorted and recycled.

Riding the bus in Portland- where is everyone??

Ukraine is already a bit of a distant dream. The occasional thing still feels odd: am I really wearing shoes inside the house? is that air conditioner (read: dangerous сквозняк) blowing directly on us? an entire jar of crunchy peanut butter for only $2.99? a marina is a place for boats, not a woman's name? brick is a quaint addition instead of the solution to everything?

It's weird. Going to take a lot of reprogramming, I think.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Two cities, two rivers

Exactly fourteen days ago I was here, walking along the banks of the Dnieper river in Kyiv.

Full-on summer at last, the city's residents appeared eager to catch some rays on a long Sunday afternoon.

A former student and I decided to walk as far along the embankment as we dared in the heat.

From many angles, the world looked like nothing more than simple summertime: kids napping in strollers, cotton candy vendors, old men sitting among the trees with their fishing poles.

If you looked close enough, though, you could see traces of another kind of -time: harsh graffiti scrawled next to the colorful flowers, girls in blue-and-yellow miniskirts and dresses, violent scenes from Euromaidan painted on the sides of arcade game tents. Ads from a local language school featured Yanukovich's face and the words "He never studied English" spray painted up and down the sun-drenched sidewalks. But these things were easy to miss, for the day was so bright and everyone's faces were turned towards the warm waters of the Dnieper.

Now fast forward two weeks and 5,600 miles to summer on the riverbanks of another continent.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The trip that wasn't (a cautionary tale for travelers)

Things started out normal the day we planned to leave Ukraine.

The usual up-all-night-frantic-cleaning-and-packing marathon (guess some things can never be grown out of!), the handing over of keys to the landlady around 5 AM, the lugging of bags down to a friend's waiting 1985 Moskvich. One other early bird... or rather, late drinker... stumbled past us with a cheery "Good morning!"; in short, all was well.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A small change of plans

Well, in reference to the previous post, you could say something went a little wrong.

Only one of us got to see the sights of The Big Apple (or two if you count the cat, who didn't seem to enjoy himself that much):

The other person ended up running around a different city for a while, which wasn't so bad considering she got to see this on a sunny afternoon:

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Although we're somewhere on the streets of New York right now (unless something has gone really wrong), I wanted to share this small collection of pictures and quotes with you, things that caught my attention for one reason or another. All of the photos are from Kharkiv and, except for the photo of the church, taken within the past month.

"It's like we're living on the slope of a volcano." -a friend speaking about Ukraine, winter 2014

"Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages." -Dave Barry

"If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world." Ludwig Wittgenstein, Austrian philosopher, 1889-1951

"I don't think apologizing works with Ukrainians. You can say "I'm sorry" but make it sound like you're not." - D (after a visit to the train ticket office)

using the yes/no packing method

Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy. -Anne Frank

"Sex, drugstore, and rock'n'roll." -said a friend during a Scrabble game

From D, during a discussion on why cows are so prevalent in Ukrainian advertisements- "People like cows. They have an aura of trust."

"No one can protect them except for you" - photo taken at night in downtown Kharkiv

 "If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn't want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher's job." -Donald D. Quinn

our schedule for the final month of conversation clubs

"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning." - Louis L'Amour

"If we do not find anything pleasant, at least we shall find something new." -Voltaire

"Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow." -Anita Desai