29 July 2006


Who needs to lift weights when you can hand wash!?

Usually I just wash 2 or 3 things at a time, the bare essentials. But yesterday I got ambitious and threw 8 shirts, 2 pairs of pants and some socks and underwear into my big purple wash bin. I think it's intended to be for painting, as I bought it at a hardware store, and it has that rippled slanting slope that you run your paint roller over to even out the paint. Well that's my new and improved washboard, that fits perfectly across the edges of the tub.

I started just after L left for tutoring yesterday morning, and was still scrubbing, rinsing, and wringing when he came back 2 hours later.

Many of you might be thinking, duh, Karen...that's life of people without washing machines. But really, it forces me to realize how EASY "modern conveniences" have made our lives at home. I've never had to hand wash. I even had the nerve to complain about saving up quarters for the laundromat. I never thought about how much time and sweat and EXERCISE it produce something we take for granted: clean clothes.

Perhaps I've mentioned it before, but I have a renewed appreciation for the hard work that falls under the blanket category of "housework." And I'm just taking care of myself, imagine if I was trying to do laundry for a family, including sheets, towels, work clothes....ahh! One thing's for sure, I'd be buff.

And allow me to mention the fact that on two different occasions I've heard of Ukrainian women asking their husbands for washing machines only to be met with the question,

"but what would you do all day?"

19 July 2006

a great honor

"It is a distinctly regional force, hated by the majority of the country, which despite disillusionment with Yushchenko, gave fewer votes to Yanukovych in March 2006 (32%) than he received in the first round of the 2004 presidential elections (36%)."
This from the Ukraine report I regularly receive in my inbox. It's interesting to be here, to watch the defection of Moroz of the Socialists to the pro-Russian Party of Regions (who don't feel Yushchenko's election was even legitimate and whose ideology the Socialists opposed, at least in the ways that I understand), feel the shifting of the political climate (just look up "Ukraine horns" in Google news), and to try to understand the RAPID changes that are occurring here.  That as of this moment, P of R is in the majority, less people support them now than in 2004 is breathtaking to me. A lot of us volunteers see things in black and white as far as politics go. We don't delve in too much because we aren't allowed to and, frankly, because we don't really understand the foundations the current political climate is built upon. What I do know is that, standing on the Maidan today, watching the yellow flags of PORA (the Ukr. youth movement which lent substantial support to Yushchenko's 1st pres. bid) and Yulia Tymoshchenko's flag (red heart contrasted against a stark, white field) flapping against the backdrop of a hundred more flags flapping against tents and rows of tents and tents in rows, I was moved. Deeply. People are camping out again on Independence Square--nowhere near the 1,000,000 from 2004's Orange Rev, but hundreds--demanding democracy. Demanding their country listen to them.
One banner I read, hanging from the pedestrian bridge that crosses a cobblestone road that twists behind the square, said/demanded, in Ukrainian (and I dunno if your PCs can read the text):
сперше--про україну
потім--про себе
Which means: First, about Ukraine / Later: about yourself. Which pretty much sums up how I feel about what's going on.
To be standing amongst so many who simply want a voice is a great honor.  A great honor indeed.

10 July 2006

small things can get you through

On the rains, we usually take coupe--a four person "room" on an overnight train. At first, not knowing the language, culture, etc... it was easier to fend of two other people as opposed to many more that you find in Platskart--a full carriage of beds with no divisions.  We had received advice when we first got her that we had to try Platskart at least once. It was an experience.  Recently, a few of our friends had taken Platskart pretty much across the country and spoke fairly favorably of it (as favorably as you can get about a noisy, bumpy, overnight ride). So, on our way to and from Khmelnytsky (where we worked in a fairly unsuccessful summer camp), we decided to try Platskart. It was well worth it not only for the presence of so many people--which makes getting away from one quite simple--but also for the kind people whom we met on the train.

On the platform, we walked the seeming mile length of the train toward our carriage. We showed the conductor our tickets and boarded. My seat was taken by a large woman and her small child. it was daytime, and I wasn't going to use the bed, so I didn't bother trying to sit in my exact seat--as the American in me is wont to do. I sat with Karen on her bed--which folded up in the middle to create a little, uncomfortable table. The carriage was half full, and we found ourselves sitting across from one of the only full berths on the train.  there sat a family headed to Simferopol, in Crimea. After a few hours, the mother of the family discovered that we could speak Ukrainian and engaged us in a very pleasant conversation. We talked about the weather, the lack of farms in Ukraine (which was strange as, while we talked, we rolled past 18 billion farms), and some ukrainian literary figures. Normal and pleasant.

Pleasant because the woman didn't treat us like three year olds because we still can't navigate the genitive case.

Pleasant because she didn't treat us like a novelty because we were Americans who spoke Ukrainian and not Russian.

Pleasant because she treated us normally like we were normal people normally riding on a normal train.

Unfortunately, that's kind of rare. Usually, we feel like fish in a bowl. Googled at because we're American. Because we speak Ukrainian. Because we don't understand Russian. Because we're here at all.

But she treated us like normal people, and I thank her for that.