Monday, February 8, 2010

Speaking of Ukraine...

These are just a few randoms that I never blogged about and don't want to forget. It's mostly for my benefit since my memory is terrible, my blogging skills are obviously lacking, and I am a horrible journal keeper. And since we all know that I do not lack when it comes to the use of words, it's probably going to be long. So if you're not in the mood for long-windedness, I won't be offended if you stop here. ☺

The day I flew into Ukraine, my brother-in-law David came and picked me up from the airport. It was about a 45 minute drive home and I was looking around at everything and asking questions and David was telling me all about the city and the sights as we passed them. When we got a few blocks away from home, he pointed out the street where the US Embassy was and all I noticed was a big building on the corner with pretty bright pink writing and flashy lights. "Ooh, is that a movie theater?" I asked David. "Um, no," he said, "That's the Mint Rhino. It's a strip club."

I've mentioned before the excessive use of fireworks on New Years here. But I don't remember if I mentioned that they are the kind that only professionals can use in the states. They are the huge stadium type, ones that you see maybe two or three times a year on New Year's Eve, The 4th of July, and the Super Bowl. But Ukrainians don't let any celebration go unnoticed and they don't go easy on the fireworks, especially since they can just buy them off the street somewhat inexpensively. We'll hear the booming of fireworks on a random evening during the week, sometimes on the streets close to our house. And we live in the middle of the city. I heard some just the other night. Someone must have got a pay raise.

I went to the Marine Corps Ball - my first ever black tie affair - a couple weeks after I got here. It's the ball that they have annually to celebrate the birthday of the Marine Corps. Traci and I had to do some speedy shopping to find me an appropriate dress which we eventually found with less than expected effort but the whole thing was very interesting.  Shopping here is never a dull experience. My dress was cute - not necessarily black tie (it was knee length instead of floor length) - and I had to wear a pair of shoes that I had brought with me that kind of made my outfit a little too casual, but it was a real treat to get dressed up and feel glam for a night.  It was also my first ever "little black dress" and that makes any girl feel pretty hot, right? The ball was at the Intercontinental Hotel which was glitzy and beautiful and we had everything fancy like a pre-dinner cocktail hour (Shirley Temple style for us) and pretty plates of artsy-looking food. We also enjoyed some pretty bumpin' music that made me proud to be an American (ha ha, it was a bunch of 20-something Marines that picked the music list so I'm sure you can imagine what it was like...). My favorite part was the ceremonial cutting of the birthday cake with a sword. Oh, and taking a picture with all the marines with a million eyes watching.

I brought my exercise ball with me in hopes of shaping up my abs and trimming my hips and thighs whilst watching TV or during my dreamed-up exercise hour.... But it turns out that I have yet to use it for exercise. I found out within the first couple days of being here that it was the magic in getting Jane to sleep. I mean, who needs a rocking chair when you can just use an $8 exercise ball from Wal-Mart? I would wrap her up and sit on the ball and lightly bounce up and down and it would only take about 30 seconds for her to nod off. It was the only way I could get her to sleep. And amazingly, it still works. She totally knows what's going on now when I sit on the ball and she starts to fuss a bit, but the minute I start bouncing, she lays her head down on my neck and starts doing this little sleepy talk like she's telling some long detailed story. So I talk back to her and just say, "Yeah," and "Mm hmm, I know..." until she finally dozes off. It's pretty cute. I've been deemed the sleep whisperer. 

I've mentioned before the plethora of street dogs here but I wanted to post a picture that I finally got the other day. They are really loud and annoying and there are TONS of them around the city, and I'd like to say that I feel bad for them but wow... they are really annoying. I took the picture around the corner from our building, and there are usually several more dogs than this, but I had to get a picture while I could. A better picture would be down at the bottom of the souvenir street where "the dog lady" has befriended about twenty street dogs and they sleep on this mat that she has put out for them. It is quite a sight. 

Apparently October is the month o' weddings here in Ukraine and Traci told me about it the first couple weeks I was here. She talked about how fun it is to go "bride stalking" on Saturdays because there are 10-15 couples all decked out in their wedding garb walking through the parks and downtown getting their pictures taken. Apparently brides wear really gaudy dresses and carry silk flower bouquets and just walk around all day. Well we never ended up going bride stalking unfortunately, but I did happen accross a couple brides while out doing some sightseeing. One such sighting happened when Camille and I were out souvenir shopping at the beginnig of December on a particularly windy and chilly day. We saw a bride wearing a leopard print fur coat over her dress and being escorted into the square in front of St. Andrew's to get her pictures taken. What I could see of her dress was mostly normal until she took off the coat for pictures and I saw that her dress was STRAPLESS with the exception of a row of white silk flowers that went across the top of the bodice and draped over the opposite shoulder in a sort of one shouldered strap (which I hate that I didn't get a picture of!). But, um, hello?! BRRRR!! Absolutely no concept of seasonal wedding dresses apparently.

Our upstairs neighbors are doing an ongoing "remont" (as they call it here) on their apartment and are really far in debt which doesn't seem to stop them from constantly drilling and fixing and re-doing and adding on. Consequently, they have not been paying their bills - mortgage, electricity, water, internet, etc. and since there is no consequence for delinquency (like eviction), the landlord just comes and has the water pipes re-routed and the internet cables fixed so they bi-pass the 6th floor and other things like that. So in response to the landlord's "outrageous" actions,  the owner of the upstairs apartment has started using various tools to destroy public parts of the building. A couple months ago, we noticed that our internet wasn't working and so David checked the router and the connection and everything seemed ok. It wasn't until he checked the cable box outside our door that he realized the cables had been cut in the night with some wire cutters. The neighbor was angry that the landlord had re-routed the internet, so he cut the cables that supplied the entire building with wireless connection instead of, I don't know, paying his bill. Then, last week, he took a sledge hammer to the buttons in the elevator along with the buzzer system at the entry door. He then proceeded to assault the guy that keeps watch in the garage and used his hammer on the poor guy's security TV. So they called in the militsya, or police. You'd think this whole thing would make me feel uneasy and unsafe knowing that our upstairs neighbor has somewhat of a dangerous temper. But in all reality, it's never been safer and better protected. I mean, there's not too many apartment complexes that have their own armed militia member keeping watch all hours of the day...