Saturday, October 29, 2005

western Ukraine



i'm back online, now in Seattle. i'll post more pictures and movie clips from Ukraine over the next couple weeks.

here are some pictures from my trip with Seva to western Ukraine.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

crisis

on September 3, the presidential chief of staff Zinchenko resigned and called for Poroshenko and Tretyakov to resign as well, saying they were involved in corruption.

on September 6, Yushchenko held emergency talks with his cabinet in order to stop the infighting. apparently no dismissals came as a result of those meetings.

this morning Poroshenko and Tomenko resigned. Yushchenko, at his press conference this afternoon, said he had become tired of waking up every day to face the conflicts within his cabinet. apparently he's fired what remained of the cabinet, including Premier Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Yushchenko appointed Oleh Rybachuk to replace Zinchenko, and has already appointed a new man (whom i haven't seen before and whose name i didn't catch) to replace Tymoshenko.

the Rada was in session today, argumentative but functioning normally, every faction blaming the others for the crisis. Yushchenko appears completely calm, but then he always does.

i just saw commercial announcing tonight's news/talk show with the topic "The End of the Orange Revolution." kind of ridiculous, but catchy. anyway we're all speculating about everything -- no real information has come out yet.

До зустрічі, Київ.

tomorrow i'll be in Seattle. i'm packing up (most of) my stuff and saying goodbye to everyone here.

last year when i moved here Kyivites asked me "Why??"

now, when i tell them i'm moving away, they again ask me "Why?"

both are reasonable questions. i have no satisfying answer for either of them!

i know i'll return to Kyiv -- but sadly i don't know when.

and i hope i'm not leaving at "the right time", as it might be said. the gov't has entered a serious crisis in the last 3 days. three high-level resignations and a lot of yelling and finger-pointing in the Rada. press conferences all day long on TV.

anyway, i plan to keep posting on this blog. about what i'm not yet sure. please bear with me -- and thanks again for reading!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

for Neeka



seen in Lviv

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Ovruch



Ilya, Seva, and i just returned to Kyiv after two days in Ovruch. yesterday we picked mushrooms in the forest, and afterwards took turns chopping wood while Anya watched.



tonight Seva and i will take the overnight train to Lviv. neither of us have been to the far west of Ukraine. we want to tramp around and visit some villages in the Carpathian Mountains.

[note: for some reason this post didn't load on the 28th. i loaded it again today, 3 september, after returning from western Ukraine. more about that trip later.]

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

killer



we came home to find Binrucho crouching over his first kill. a little bird got into the apartment -- and it probably didn't live long. the only evidence of struggle was an overturned sugar bowl. we found the bird with its head torn off. Binrucho had this look, as if to say "i didn't mean to do it."



we explained to him that this rite of passage means he can no longer play the kitten card. he is now a cat.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Turkey



well, as with my recent trip to Bosnia, i'm finding it damn difficult to write anything coherent about the trip to Turkey. just too much information (personal, political, historical) to mash into one short and entertaining blog entry. it makes me sad, really. maybe my writing powers have fallen. or maybe not. (probably the real explanation is that i have very little alone-time with my laptop these days.) so, i'm just going to post pictures and hope they suffice. (check back soon for some pics of the Balkan trip, too.)

my photos of Turkey

i do want to say thank you to Arda, Gul, Anil, Tuna, and Yalcin (and, of course, Seva and Ilya) for making the trip fantastic.

yesterday i ran across an article in the LA Times. though it isn't well written i found it pretty interesting and illustrative of some of the contradictions in modern Turkish culture:

Islamic-Style Swimsuits Give Women Freedom to Dive In

"Some may never live, but the crazy never die."

WOODY CREEK, Colo. — At dusk Saturday, about 350 friends and relatives of Hunter S. Thompson stood outside and stared into an inky sky, drinking, waiting. In front of them loomed a massive monument in the shape of the late writer's icon — a dagger topped by a "gonzo" fist — roughly 2 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. [more here and here]

Sunday, August 21, 2005

a wedding (Ukrainian style?)

we're back in Kyiv. Turkey was fantastic. i'm trying to get some pictures posted.

tonight Ilya, Lena, and i attended the wedding reception of Ilya's old friend Boris. we arrived late. maybe 50 people (family and closest friends) were in the rented reception room of the old school. wooden utensils were being handed to the winners of some sort of contest. (i think this was non-traditional.) a bunch of tables were set up in the shape of a horseshoe. Boris and his bride were in the middle, and in front of them were a lot of flowers, a traditional loaf of bread, and an embroidered sash. we took seats with everyone else. the food was half-eaten and most of the bottles (wine, vodka, juice, water) were half-empty.

at the request of the MC (in this case, a woman hired for the job) the bride's brother brought out a huge, gift-wrapped box. a lot of people crowded around. amid a lot of cheering it was opened. i didn't see what was inside. (actually, neither did Ilya or Lena, making us suspect that they didn't actually open it.)

regardless, the happy couple kissed. and i don't mean just kissed, they actually went at each other. it was sweet. we all yelled our praise. a toast occurred, then a short interlude during which the DJ played an elevator version of the Beatles' Obla-Di-Obla-Da. we toasted again. the MC chimed in: "who's the baldest man here?" after some analysis it was determined that a particular gentleman was (as it turned out) the lucky man. the MC announced there would be a short-skirt contest.

seven young women lined up. only one wore a skirt. the rest hiked up their dresses as far as they could go. the bald man stretched a tape from their heals as far up as HE could go, yelling out the centimeters each girl had achieved. the Best Woman won the contest -- her dress had the highest slit. for winning she was allowed to present the bride & groom with a box (oddly, a beat-up, yellow & blue UkrPost box) inside which the happy couple found a freshly picked head of cabbage.

the MC announced the rules: "tear the cabbage apart and, depending on the color of the button found inside, you will have a boy (red button) or girl (blue button)." turned out it was a joke and they found nothing inside! ha ha! not sure what that means. the couple made-out again.

there was a break in the action. we signaled to the bride & groom and made for the outer hallway. Ilya wanted to give his regards and make an early exit. but before Boris could break away, his new mother-in-law arrived to the hallway, shoeless with mud covering her feet and ankles. clearly a Ukrainian tradition! a plastic tub with water appeared. then Boris, wielding a bottle of vodka! the woman acted wild, stomping her feet and trying to wipe mud on anyone nearby. (us!) Boris managed to get her feet into the tub and, using the vodka, washed the mud from her legs. we all cheered. the reconciled mother-in-law and son-in-law went to the dance floor, twirling happily to a chancon tune.

we went outside, exclaiming to each other with a glance how difficult our endeavor would be, leaving early after arriving late. but luck was on our side -- fireworks began exploding over the soccer field across the street. everyone, including the newlyweds, came outside to admire this salute to the lucky pair. much cheering. afterwards, we were able to congratulate the them both, chat with them for awhile, toast them with a sip of champaign, and make a smooth exit.

we returned to the apartment where Sasha, Alya, and Lena's sister Yulya were relaxing. we ate a small dinner, drank some congac, and watched the second half of Predator, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Istanbul

Ilya and i are flying to Istanbul in the morning. our plans to go to Georgia didn't work out but Arda invited us to come to Istanbul. Seva arrives there today. after a few days there we're planning to visit eastern Turkey. and, wherever we go, we plan to eat as much tasty food as possible.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

for Kreg

an excerpt from the short story "Rubbish Wind" by Andrey Platonov, written in 1934 and found in a collection of his stories titled The Return.

A stranger to all thought, indifferent, as if he did not exist, Lichtenberg walked up to the radiator of the truck. The metal gave off a trembling heat; thousands of men, converted to metal, were resting heavily in the motor, no longer demanding either socialism or truth, sustained by cheap petrol alone. Lichtenberg leaned against the vehicle, pressing his face to it as if to some fallen brotherhood; through the chinks of the radiator he saw the mechanism's tomb-like darkness, in its clefts humanity had lost its way and fallen down dead. Only now and again amid the empty factories could you find mute workers; for every worker there were ten members of the State Guard, and in the course of a day every worker produced a hundred horsepower in order to feed, comfort and arm the guards who ruled over them. One miserable labourer maintained ten triumphant masters, and yet these ten masters were filled not with joy but with anxiety, clutching weapons in their hands against those who were poor and isolated.

Over the radiator of the vehicle hung a golden strip of material bearing an inscription in black letters: "Honour the leader of the Germans -- the wise, courageous and great Adolf! Eternal glory to Hitler!" On either side of the inscription lay signs of the swastika, like the tracks of insect feet.

"O splendid nineteenth century, you were wrong!" Lichtenberg said into the dust of the air -- and suddenly his thought stopped, transformed into a physical force. He lifted his heavy stick and hit the vehicle in the chest -- in the radiator -- smashing its honeycombs. The National driver silently got out from behind the wheel and, gripping the torso of the thin physicist, struck his head with equal force against the same radiator. Lichtenberg collapsed into the rubbish on the ground and lay there a while without sensation; this no longer caused him suffering -- he had very little sense of himself anyway as a vital body and ego, and his head ached more from the rubbish of reality than from the blows against iron.

Above his vision the day shone weak and white, he looked into it without blinking; dust had blocked up his eye sockets, and tears were flowing from them to wash away the tickling dirt. Above him stood the driver; all the animals this man had eaten in the course of his life -- cows, rams, sheep, fish and crabs -- after being digested inside him, had left on his body and face their expression of frenzy and of deaf savagery. Lichtenberg got to his feet, jabbed his stick into the animal torso of the driver and walked away from the vehicle. Astonished at such an act off heedless courage, the driver forgot to give Lichtenberg a second blow.

Friday, August 05, 2005

r.i.p. zachariah



for 14 years you outlived even your own self, the master of the chain-link fence, the destroyer of doors, the digger of comfortable holes, the lover of babies & broccoli, the dude who took himself for a walk (better done at night, or in the rain, lest you be followed). your own legend carried you forward but you, always modest, never mentioned it - the chickens & rabbits, the dead shows, the shovel-wielding enemies, the days tramping through the mountains (and like muir you forever held tents to be for sissies). and now it's somehow fitting that your big heart finally said 'enough' and left you, leaving us only with your body. maybe it was your final great escape - you were always smarter than us, anyway. good bye, zack, we love you.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Sarajevo roses

just returned from our Budapest/Sarajevo/Dubrovnik trip. will have to write more about it later and try to assemble some pictures. we all had a great time. (our friend Evelyn even flew in from Paris!) though Budapest and Dubrovnik (on the Croatian coast) were beautiful and interesting, Sarajevo was the most incredible place and i want to go back there tomorrow. alas, tonight Svet and i are going to Kamyanets-Podilsky for 2 days of climbing. can't complain about that, though.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Budapest & Sarajevo

my friend Lara kicks ass. so does my friend Olga. Olga suggested we go to Budapest this weekend. what could i say but "let's go!" we bought tickets and reserved space at a hostel. i wrote Lara about these wonderful plans and, from her nice flat in Sarajevo, she wrote back: "dude, what are you doing? you've got to come here!! it's only a night train from Budapest!" so what could i say to that? Olga and i are leaving today. we'll be gone for about 10 days.

Lara is working on her PhD. check out her latest article.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

birthday party

we made a good 16-hour celebration of Ilya's birthday yesterday. started out at the apartment with a great lunch w/vodka, made by his folks. Ilya then went to his office where his work-mates broke out the champaign. later i met them at Docker Pub, as did Olga. Alyonka ordered a cocktail that arrived with a dangerous (and lit) firework sticking out of it -- Ilya drank it. a cover band played Zeppelin, Stones, Beatles, and Deep Purple tunes. at some point a table of drunk dudes (drunker than us) started singing along with the chorus of every song. (i think they only knew the choruses.) Olga was lucky enough to leave before they started. the rest of us left and went to Hydropark to dance. after working up a sweat we walked to the Dnieper and swam as the sky turned from black to navy blue. it was so windy we were warmer in the water than out of it! i think only one injury occurred here (unless Alyonka was bruised when i spun her into a fake tree on the dance floor): Ilya and i were running up and down the beach trying to dry off and warm up -- in the half-light i stepped on a rock and hurt my foot. (just a bruise, i think.) wet and cold we returned to the dance club where a sweet waitress fed us hot mushroom soup and tea. the sun was well above the horizon when we got home.

Ilya was completely happy about his party. today we were still talking about it, as well as laughing about the confusing conversations we had today that were attributable to our hangovers and lack of sleep.