Monday, June 21, 2010

That's Different, but That's Okay

You may be wondering what life is like in Ukraine. Here are some tidbits from my first year (with more to come as I remember them).

Daily Routine
1. I walk approximately a half mile to the bus stop. On my way, I recently have seen an older lady with light pink hair, and also The Mumbler (who might be drunk). This old man rambles -- rather loudly -- and I don't understand a word. Even if I was fluent in Russian or Ukrainian, chances are I STILL wouldn't be able to understand him.
2. No, I do not teach classes in Russian. I do, however, take Russian lessons once or twice a week, and use some Russian when teaching English at Obolon.
3. Quite often I need to bodyslam my apartment door in order to lock it.
4. Normally we ride public transport to school, but for the past few months, one of the missionaries has driven my roommate and I to school so I can be there to tutor. We are happy for these driving days because it means we don't have to walk as far, and we get a free ride in a private car.
5. To pay for bus fare: there are 2 methods. The first is to pay the driver directly or the serviceperson who is sitting up front or patrolling the vehicle. The second is to take your seat, and pass your bus fare to the person sitting in front of you. If you don't have exact change, you must tell them how many you're paying for, and they will pass it along to the person in front of them, until it reaches the driver. When the driver pulls out the change, he will pass it along the same way it came to him. It's like a game of "Telephone", only you will actually receive the exact change needed. Everyone remembers who they gave the money to, and who they received it from.

1. Salads aren't as leafy here--in fact, they are more like cole slaw or chicken salad.
2. You can buy milk in a bag. The first time I bought milk-in-a-bag, I made a dreadful mess trying to put it into a pitcher. I realized there was no use crying over spilled milk. :)
3. Most food is not made with preservatives, which is both good (healthier for you) and bad (it spoils faster than you would like).
4. I'm not supposed to drink the tap water, though I use it to wash fruits/veggies and to brush my teeth.
5. Milk is available to buy in cartons, plastic bottles, and soft-sided bags.
6. Often, feathers/skin are still slightly visible on the carcasses of chickens/turkeys. You have to burn those off.
7. Ice cream also comes in a plastic bag, almost like a huge sausage link 3" in diameter. It's best to slice and serve.
8. To buy produce at the grocery store, you put as much as you want into a bag and take it to the weigher-lady (that is my phrase, not a translation). She places it on the scale, presses the code for whatever fruit/veggie it was, and prints out a sticker with a barcode and price for the amount of kilograms. Some stores do this at the cash register. Sometimes if you forget to take it to the weigher-lady (like I have), the cashier will say (in effect) "Sorry, it doesn't have a sticker" and won't let you buy it.

Living in Ukraine in general
1. Electric plugs here have 2 circular prongs. The outlets are small recessed circles, about 1.5" diameter, within a 2" square outline.
2. Our washer often sounds like a spaceship taking off.
3. We don't have a dishwasher.
4. I often see men that, as they walk down the sidewalk, pause to blow their nose. However, they do this without using a tissue or handkerchief.
5. There are no places like CVS or Rite-Aid. Rather, to buy things like contact lens solution, I have to go to the "apteka"(pharmacy). Everything is behind the counter or in cabinets, and I have to ask for what I need. Other basic toiletries and personal care items are available in the local grocery stores.
6. When you reach the cashier at the grocery store, she will ask you if you have a discount card, and if you need any bags for your groceries. Even though the bags only cost a few cents, we come prepared to put the goods in our own purses/backpacks, or bring our own used bags.
7. In order to pay my bills, I take the bills and cash to a cashier at a local bank. There, the lady takes my money, stamps the bill, and gives back the stub.
8. Pillows for beds are more square-shaped. Here's an analogy: A4 paper* is to US Letter as American pillows are to Ukrainian pillows. (*See note in "School Life" category)

1. I attend an all-Russian language church. Fortunately, many people there speak English (including the pastor), and often I hear a translated sermon. Sometimes I'm lucky to hear a guest speaker who preaches in English!

Cultural things
1. Don't sit directly on concrete floors--have another layer like cardboard on top of the floor.
2. People don't smile at strangers here, though I have had 2 babies, 1 babushka, and a young girl smile at me (I keep track!).

School Life
1. Our printers and copiers use A4 paper, which measures 8.3" by 11.7". Now US Letter-size paper (which is 8.5" by 11") seems oddly wide and short in comparison.

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