Thursday, February 28, 2013

Graffiti #12: More Faces

Back in Graffiti #7 I highlighted the work of one of the most prolific graffiti artists in my neighborhood who's claim to fame is giant faces.  I've since found two more examples of his/her work around our place.  This brings me to nine faces thus far.

My New Favorite Tryzub

Laura and I found this variation on the Ukrainian coat of arms while walking around Kiev searching out Laura's must see spots.  Here are my other posts about the tryzub.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Subway Kopeks

"See a kopek, pick it up, and all the day you'll have good luck."  

But I don't think they meant kopeks on the floor of the subway.  Those you should leave alone and you are more likely to have good luck in your health.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Using The Flash

Recently discovered photo trick: on a night with light flurries use your flash to make some very beautiful photos.  Here are a few I took by accident in Kiev's Independence Square.  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Points For Originality

I think that the old lady that shovels the snow [it's almost always an old lady with the saddest shovel you've ever seen] in Kiev's Freedom Square certainly deserves points for originality in their snow pile placement.  

Originality points aside, it's hard to believe that a city the size of Kiev still has trouble clearing out one of the major tourist locations in town.

Friday, February 22, 2013

My First UEFA Game

Last night I went to a UEFA Europa League match between Kharkov Metalist and Newcastle United here in Kharkov. It was my first UEFA game and it was an experience to remember to say the least if for no other reason than the experience of being in the stands with 40,000 yelling Ukrainians.  I made a video of some of the chants the home town fans were shouting through the match.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

If You Ever Meet A Ukrainian Bus Driver...

In your life, if you ever get to meet a Ukrainian bus driver you should treat them with the same respect you would give an elite athlete or a specialist, like a surgeon or engineer. The talent it takes to drive those buses on the pothole filled highways and bi-ways of Ukraine should be acknowledged.  Our trip around central Ukraine this past week found us on two long bus rides and I thought it was a miracle we made it without hitting one of the many deep deep potholes, having a wheel fall off, and being left stranded.  Beyond potholes you also have the other drivers and the almost unimaginable obstacles that you might encounter [how about a tipped over semi full of cows?] as this recent video of Russian driving highlights:


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ukrainian "Cinema"

Along with being the most popular movie in America, A Good Day To Die Hard seems to be playing at nearly every theater in Ukraine.  In my limited experience with Ukraine I feel like there is dual nature to Ukraine in that one side strives for Ukrainian independence from Russia, both politically and culturally, while another side fully supports a strong relationship with Russia.  All that being said, there is something rich about the popularity of a movie in which an American icon blows up much of Moscow with his son.  

Another movie making the rounds currently in Ukraine is Django Unchained.  It's hard to imagine a more American movie than the next installment of the Die Hard series but there you go.

Monday, February 18, 2013

My Hat

This is the hat that  I've been wearing around Ukraine this winter.  I bought it at one of the tourist stands in Kiev and it has a small Ukrainian flag that looks like this on the reverse side.  I always wear it with the Ukrainian trident/descending falcon turned to the front and I've recently been wondering if by wearing the hat it screams that I'm a tourist or...

...that maybe I look something like the Ukrainian version of this.

I mostly take for granted that when people look at me they know I'm not from here and so I wonder if the hat maybe gives me more Ukrainian authenticity or maybe it does the reverse as a true Ukrainian never be caught dead in a hat bought at a tourist stand.  One thing is for certain though, no one probably cares either way.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Making Friends In Ukraine

I had a little friend take an interest in my Minecraft game while I was killing time at a train station.  He watched me play for a few minutes and then moved onto greener pastures and a family that was watching a movie.  Every once in a while his parents would yell at him to leave the other people alone but he would be right back at it five minutes later.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Random Picture Collection: Instagrams From Around Ukraine

Roughly every month I collect the photos that didn't quite get their own post and bring them together in a single post.  Past collection can be found here.  

Here are a few photos from my recent travels that I've been posting on my Instagram account

It was either wedge into the smallest elevator ever or take the stairs past the drunk guy sleeping in the hallway on the third floor. 

In the winter they just cover the carousel with plastic.

Yanni is coming to Ukraine...but I'll hold out for The Killers in Latvia later this summer.

Something tells me nothing in this store is "fun" or "cool."

A Father teaching his daughter how to play cards Wednesday on the train to Vinnitsya.

After rarely seeing ice in restaurants I've been served ice cubes this way two nights in a row.

Antagonizing the fish at our hotel. They either thought I was going to feed them or they don't like getting their photo taken.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The View From My Window #12: Kiev Hostel

The view from our hostel in Kiev...all night long there would be loud bangs and crashes as the snow from the angled roof would fall off.  At first I thought people were throwing their garbage from their windows down into the dumpsters below.  

Here's another view of Maiden Nezalezhnosti which I will never get tired of photographing.  

On American Soil [Briefly]

Wednesday morning found Laura and I visiting the good old U.S. of A. for an hour or so...and by that I mean we went to the U.S. Embassy in Kiev.  Awesome bathrooms, drinking fountains, and we got to cut the queue as we were 'Mericans!  It's not often I'll cut in line here in Ukraine and Laura gets frustrated how I'll let people go ahead to me to get on the subway or trying to get somewhere fast.  But after seeing the line of people trying to get into the Embassy I gladly whipped out my passport and jumped to the front.

The outside security of the Embassy seemed to be run by Ukrainian security and as I went through the metal detector and had my possessions put through the x-ray machine the Ukrainian security guard came up to me and said, "I'll be keeping your cellphone and your lipstick back here."  I looked down to see him holding my cellphone and my ChapStick.  Laura started giggling and I smiled and said "okay."    

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Born Slippy

The dangerous stairs leading to Kiev's art museum reminded me of an Underworld song "Born Slippy." Somehow we made it up the stairs to discover that the museum was closed on Tuesdays.

And here is Laura cursing the Kiev guidebook that said the museum was closed on Wednesdays instead of Tuesdays.

Graffiti #11: Take The Skinheads Bowling

Today's graffiti comes from an alleyway in Kiev near the hostel we are staying at.  It reminds me of the power that a symbol has against plain text. Spray paint a swastika on the alleyway and it would be much more intimidating than writing that this wall seems to be owned by "skinhead."  In fact, this made me smile and think about the great Camper Van Beethoven song "Take the Skinhead's Bowling." 

In my free time I've been re-watching All in the Family and really enjoying them.  Certainly some of the episodes are clearly very, very dated and are borderline ridiculous today but many of them have new found meaning when I listen to anti-Obama arguments that have their roots in racism.  Nearly all of Archie Bunker's problems are centered with his frustration trying to be successful in society with his limited education and if the show had been set during a Democratic's president's term [rather than during Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford's administration's] I think a lot of the jokes would resemble the Tea Party today.

In a season 3 episode called "Archie Is Branded," the Bunker house has a swastika painted on the front door because their address is confused with one of a outspoken Jewish activist.  It is one of the best episodes they ever did and at the surprising conclusion I wish they would have been able to continue the story line beyond just one episode.  You can watch the episode below to see the power a symbol can have:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Weirdest Thing I've Seen In Ukraine

Laura and I recently found ourselves back in Kafka-esque hallway that I wrote about back in October to get some more documents officially translated into Ukrainian...and when I say "officially" I mean adding some colorful stamps to a piece of paper.    

The hallway looked to be pretty much the same although there seems to be a little construction going on in some of the rooms...and on the door in the bottom right of the above photo had a few new sheets of paper attached to it.

If you don't speak Russian you might just pass by this sign not really noticing it...

But once you read down a little further you get some serious Ghostbusters technical talk.  "3rd degree of adsorption?"  I better watch out!

And in case you were wondering if the signs were not to be taken seriously we have some important words from Gandalf and a homage to this legendary scene from The Fellowship of the Ring.

What the heck is going on behind this door???  

While I was waiting in the hallway while Laura was in the very very small translator's office someone else came down the hallway and actually knocked on the door the "special door."  I thought to myself "This is it...we're all going to go up like flash paper!"  We both waited to see would happen next but nothing did...there was no answer at the door and the other guy walked away.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The View From My [Train] Window #11: Dnieper

Here is the view from my train window today crossing the Dnieper River on our way to the center of Kiev.  

You may recognize the monument in the distance as The Motherland Monument that we visited back in November.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Yulia Tymoshenko Protest In Kiev

While visiting Kiev back in December Laura and I came upon the liveliest political protest we have seen in Ukraine so far.  It was organized by the political party All-Ukrainian Union "Fatherland" in favor of jailed politician Yulia Tymoshenko and against current Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

This was a hardcore protest as people seemed to be living in the tents on the sidewalks.

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is currently in jail after being found guilty for breaking Ukrainian laws while setting up a gas contract with Russia while she was in power.  She has actually been held in prison  and then later in a hospital in Kharkiv.  

The sign below reads "No Political Repression" across the top.

This sign reads:  


A collage of Yulia who wears her hair in a traditional Ukrainian braid.

This sign reads "Freedom From Political Repression."

This sign protests current Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Baby's First Haircut

In my time here in Ukraine I've successfully avoided nearly all the potentially bad experiences that living abroad could throw at you...I've never been yelled at in the street in Russian [that I've been aware of], haven't had an icicle fall on my head, or have even fallen on the sheets of ice that go for sidewalks around here.  It's part of the reason I'm having so a good time here, I imagine.  So the thought of finally having to get my haircut in Ukraine and the possible horrible outcomes had me a little frightened as I walked into the salon today.  Laura and I...let's be more honest...Laura had thoroughly researched such phrases as...

"short around the side, longer on top"
"2-3 centimeters off the top" [that's an inch in America]
"please do not shave my head"

Thankfully, everything turned out well and the women of the salon seemed to be amused that Laura was taking photos like this was baby's first haircut.  

I should have gotten my barber's name but forgot to.  She was not happy that I didn't want to have a shave as well.

In the end it was a great experience and I didn't end up looking like Telly Savalas.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

1930's Kharkiv Tourism Posters

Radio Free Europe recently posted some 1930's posters advertising the Soviet Union to the West.  Since many of the key tourist areas [Crimean peninsula, the Black Sea, Kiev] are in Ukraine, Ukrainian locations were the focus of many of the posters.  

Kharkiv, as the second largest city in Ukraine, had a few posters too.  Here are a few highlighting the famous  statue of poet Taras Shevchenko.  

Kharkiv even made the list of the top tours of the Soviet Union.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The View From My Window #10: Bombs Bursting In Air

Fireworks are a pretty regular occurrence around our house on the weekends but it was surprising for them to be so loud and so close on a Monday night.  They were being shot from the roof of a building a block away.  I must admit that whenever they go off in back of my mind I wonder if Russia has invaded.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Don't Tell Stan Lee

Don't tell Stan Lee but the Kharkiv Circus is selling what I'm sure are unlicensed Spider-Man masks...I bought one of these for about three dollars and the webbing on the face is put on with magic marker.