Friday, May 15, 2015


It's been a quiet May so far and poised to get even quieter. After getting back from our trip, we've been making a few quick visits to see friends and family because of a small procedure (this thing again) in a few days.... hello internet-browsing bed rest ; ) Last weekend we caught the bus up to Everett, Washington for a Mother's Day / birthday picnic at the beach with D's relatives.

A Ukrainian church group set up their own picnic about 20 feet away. D's brother-in-law was busy both making our shashlik for our group and watching the church group prepare theirs. "Какой позор", he said, shaking his head, What a shame. I looked... and saw nothing out of the ordinary. He pointed at the woman standing near the shish-kebab grill. "Don't you see that? A woman! Shashlik is a man's job!" ; ) To be fair, his shashlik was quite good.

D came down with the flu recently and spent lots of time napping, so Кит and I had to keep ourselves amused somehow. Although perhaps the amusement was one-sided...

D has since recovered and is back to protect Кит from nonsensical photo shoots.

A card arrived from Kharkiv!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Sightseeing in Las Vegas

Recently I read this idea from a Semester at Sea grad: never let your age get larger than the number of countries you've been to. Awesome, awesome idea. And I feel so behind :p

Still, there's something to be said for going back to a place you visited before. Years ago, my best friend celebrated her birthday in Vegas and let me tag along with her. It was an impressive city the first time around, doubly so this time!

We kept it super-classy by staying at Super 8-

... and, of course, behaving with decorum at all times-

My 2 favorite things about Las Vegas-

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Dream vacation!

Back in a long and gray February, we were dreaming of the Lands of Sun... meaning pretty much anywhere south of here. I started to pay closer attention to those "act now- big savings!" emails that always get past the spam filters and this was the result- two perfect long weeks with my favorite guy on the planet : )

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Interview with a Kharkiv expat

 Meet João, a friendly Portugese expat currently living in Kharkiv, Ukraine!

João, tell us a little about yourself and your life before Ukraine.

I studied International Relations and this part of Europe got me interested, not only due to its history but also the Slavic culture. Before Ukraine I was not particularly happy with the path my life was taking so I decided to try something different and venture myself into this country. This way I practice international relations every day while learning a language that I love and experiencing this culture. And the best thing is that all this builds up to my medium to long term professional goals.

Why Kharkiv?

You can call it luck. My goal was eastern Ukraine because I wanted to become proficient in Russian language. But now that I’ve visited other Ukrainian cities I have to say I’m really glad I ended up coming to Kharkiv. I like the city a lot. It has something unique to it. It’s not too big and industrialized, it’s historic and cultural but in a different way than western Ukrainian cities I’ve visited before, it has a nice range of leisure places and I find people to be more genuine than in other touristic cities. [Editor's note: agree 100% with all of this!]

Can you remember your first impressions of the country?

My first impressions were something along the lines “Wow, this is nothing like what is portrayed by the western media”. Yes, infrastructures are in bad shape but apart from that I found Kharkiv to be quite a picturesque and cosmopolitan city. Having arrived in spring, I remember walking the neighborhoods and seeing lots of green and flowers, playgrounds everywhere with children and grandmothers watching over them, mothers taking care of their babies. Such a family oriented sight! And because the city is full of Universities, there are many youth events that make Kharkiv a city with a rich social life. As for first impressions on cultural differences, I found people here to be more reserved, yet when they have something to say they say it like they feel it. And contrary to popular belief, people are helpful and kind. Or maybe I’ve just been lucky so far.

Do you find it easy to earn a living in Ukraine?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The best place to blog

Do you have a favorite place to be creative? Some place that really inspires or energizes you?

There's an awesome tumblr thread called where bloggers blog that shows all kinds of brainstorming headquarters. My current picture would not be very impressive- it'd be a picture of the floor ; ) Right next to this lazy guy-

In 2013, though, we hit the jackpot when it came to creative space. The year we moved to this place I wrote a whopping one hundred and seventy seven posts for this blog while working, taking a Spanish class, volunteering, and surviving a 2-week visit of the in-laws.

The reason?

This balcony. 

The apartment was smack in the middle of the city- cosmopolitan Pushkin street and all its fancy shops just out the front door- but what completely sold us was the view. Nothing could compete with that view.

Not a single day passed when I wasn't on the balcony for at least a few minutes. Even the very evening we officially moved into the apartment- after a long day of hauling boxes on the metro- we grabbed some fast food and collapsed onto two stools the landlady had left out there, mesmerized by the view. From then on we took as many meals on the balcony as possible.

The balcony was almost empty, home to only a clothes-drying rack, an ironing board, and Kit's litter box (tucked away in the closet), but the windowsill was just wide enough for a stack of books or a laptop.

It was inspiring to lean out the windows and see how far Kharkiv stretched into the distance. Such a big city! We'd pick distant towers to later scout in person, trying to figure out which buildings we already recognized. When Metallist played, the stadium would blaze up with a thousand lights late into the night. Being on that balcony was an instant pick-me-up at any time of day. Even Kit got into the act, spying on the streets below for hours.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Kharkiv now

I never forget Ukraine.

It's always quietly in the corner of my vision, something that the eyes can't quite focus on, a word on the tip of the tongue.

D and I talk a lot about what's happening. I can't imagine what it would be like to still be living in Kharkiv. We were lucky to have the option to leave. Many can't. The landscape is changing fast: symbols of the past erased, cars set alight, more bomb threats in the metro. One of the tech companies at which I taught is moving its operations and staff out of the country. The grivna jumps up and down. 37 uah to the dollar not long ago, today at 21 uah to the dollar. "With the current prices in Ukraine, there is no choice but work hard for your supper", writes one friend.

At the same time, people are getting by. They're tired of it all, yes, but still hopeful. They have spring picnics, go to new cafes, change jobs, walk in Gorky Park, work out, start a new English class. This is the stuff you don't hear about in the news.

But still, it seems that Ukraine is headed toward something. Everyone is guessing (especially the entire internet!) but no one yet knows what exactly that will be.

The photos below are old; the quotes are not.

The war is close. It's the main thing people are talking about. You can't get ready for it, you can either try to escape it or accept it, being a part of it. No one wants it and everyone just hopes it won't begin or pass us by. It's safe in here but who knows how long for. - 23 years old, DevOps Engineer