Flashback: Meeting new friends

I’m downtown near the market square (Rynok) using Wifi at the cafe Mapa, maps. The people beside me are speaking German (remember what I said about the lingering links?)  Oddly, L’viv’s name changes from language to language.  In Ukrainian it’s L’viv; in Polish, it’s Lwow; In Russian, it’s Lvov; In German, it’s Lemberg. (I understand people have missed airline connections because of that last translation.) That’s a domination thing. And this is a particularly good place to consider domination.

As I walked near I crossed Svobody Prospect near the national monuments in the center of the boulevard, and a Ukrainian choir was performing under the monuments. Accompanied by , the choir was made of people my age and older, dressed in red boots and what you would recognize as Ukrainian regalia. Some of the women had floral tiaras.  Some of the men sported Fu Manchu moustaches, typical of the Hosaks. (Indeed, Hosaks sported what we would call “Mohawk” hairstyles.  So Adam’s”faux-hawk” carried additional meanings here.) Anyhow, I wish had been walking with a L’viv native, because the choir director turned around after a certain verse and led the rest of the collected passers-by in the final verses.  Everyone (except me), young and old, joined in. The choir finished to enthusiastic applause and many “Bravos!” from  lusty and diverse voices.  I was sorry I didn’t understand the words or the importance of the song they sang.  Certainly, it was traditional. Certainly, it was nationalistic. I am also sorry my Ukrainian phone does not have photo ability, otherwise you’d see the wonderful sight yourselves!

I’m happy to get out of the house today, because I have been washing the same 7 items of laundry since Monday. I am having trouble with the washing machine.  First of all, it is a washing machine designed for an individual rather than a family. That explains the seven items that sit in the washer’s tumbler. Second, washers here do not work the same ways as the washers I am used to. They move and stop and move and stop. this is disconcerting the first fiew time, but it seems to contribute to a better clean — I can only think of advertising slogans to describe the whiter white, but my boys commented on it.  Adam thought one of his shirts was blue! The washer in the new apartment does not automatically move from wash to rinse to spin.  You have to move it yourself.  This washer, however, does not like to rinse much or spin at all. I envision a washboard in the tub at the most, and rinsing and wringing the stuff in the tub at leastThen there’s the d ryer: a rack on the back proch.  There isnt really such a thing as an automatic dryer, here.  I’ve learned that I can’t simply throw the materials over the rack; I have to anchor them in a way that doesn’t allow them to blow off.  Otherwise, they’ blow off into the pigeon poop, as I have already learned with Adam’s favorite shirt. (Don’t tell him!) We’ll see what the landlady works out with whoever sold her the washer.

The kids are out of school, so its time for me to get home.  More reflections and diary postings soon.  All’s wonderfully well here!

Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011

Bill & Adam went to work on his online classes. We have had no internet access at our apartment, so we are seeking it everywhere we can. The internet room at the university was closed, so they headed out to the internet café on the first floor of our “new” apartment building.

Zachary and I sat outside UKU on a bench to wait for my colleague and his wife to take us shopping. We studied one of our Ukrainian phrasebooks, and looked up “at the market” phrases. We also read the names of the days of the week and the months. Ukrainian months are descriptively named. For example, January is the month of “slicing.” The weather slices you in January. That’s pretty darn descriptive. June is the “red” month, when tomatoes and apples are ripening. August is the “sickle” month… You get the idea. These are words we will have to learn.

Borys, my colleague from the Journalism department of Ivan Franco L’viv National University, and his wife Olyanna (I think that’s “Olga-ann”), who teaches English in the Linguistics Department at the same university, came to pick us up for grocery shopping. Their suggestion. Let’s hear it for great hosts! The four of us introduced ourselves all around, then they drove us to a Costco kind of megastore. On the way Zachary said, “It’s bumpy!” Olyanna agreed that the roads in Ukraine are bumpy. I told her that we had bumpy roads in North America, too. (I seem to remember potholes as a perennial topic of Ottawa conversation.)

At the store, we separated. Zachary and I stopped just inside the entrance, all excited about school supplies. Zachary found notebooks and a knapsack. We found sheets and towels and pots and candy! We passed into another room where we found a wonderful bakery, fruits, vegetables, processed and smoked meats, cheese and prepared foods. In another room we found meat, juice, wine, beer and other groceries I didn’t even examine.

Olyanna identified the best Ukrainian chocolate bar, which we bought, of course. And ate. Mmmmm. I also bought a few groceries and two tea towels to take to the new apartment. I bought a bottle of wine for me and a bottle of wine to take to Borys and Olyanna’s house.

They brought us home to drop off the groceries. Borys went to take flowers to Olyanna’s mother, then Olyanna and Zachary and I walked to her friend Tanya’s house, about 15 minutes away near Stryski Market. It’s an old 19th-century Austrio-Hungarian building similar to our “new” one, with the same mailboxes, and the wooden stairs (in better repair than ours.) On the second (3rd) floor at No. 7, we entered a big apartment. We met Tanya and her husband Ihor (that’s Igor in Ukrainian, which has no indigenous “g” sound), who invited us into their dining room to the left. We met their twin sons Marko and Levko. We also met their Sharpei, Dora, who kissed me on the mouth and licked my hands (after jumping on Olyanna and Zachary). Tanya showed us the bathroom to wash off Dora the dog’s welcome and invited us to tea.

The bathroom was located to the left of the front entrance. It was large, with a shower and a toilet. The basin was a huge contemporary glass bowl with a photo of river rock embedded in it. Photo tiles of sunflowers climbed the walls. A sunflower mat lay on the floor near the door.

We washed out hands, and one of us washed our face. As we walked back to the dining room, to the right we passed a den with a library of lots of books and a leather couch. This is Tanya’s office. When we went back to the dining room, Ihor was opening the dining room table another notch, and we slid in around it with nary an inch to spare. Thank heaven I have lost so much weight! The two boys set the table for tea around us. Tanya offered me tea or coffee, and I chose tea. At everyone’s place, she set two squares of cheesecake that looked like an egg dish made with raisins. She served it with buckwheat honey (“med” as in “mead” – “medvedik” means bear – I think there might be a relationship). Ihor offered everyone pumpkin, which was prepared much like any other squash, but included seeds and bits of skin. Zachary had one square of cheesecake, no tea and no pumpkin.

The conversation was general for a while. Then the kids went to another room to watch a video of Hobak, Ukrainian martial arts (I thought Zachary would jump at the chance to learn, but he is lukewarm), and the adult guys went to talk in the other room. So the Linguistic profs and I discussed their lexicography book (in progress) and other “philosophical” — I would say, theoretical–  ideas. Olyanna thinks our academic areas are similar (I think she’s right!) and has suggested maybe I could do a guest lecture. I’d love to!

The twins  and Zachary took Dora the dog for a walk in Stryski Park, where we met them a bit later. Lake and swans and photographers-taking-wedding-photos. How pretty. One of the twins walked us home.

When we got home, Zachary went out to play with his new soccer ball at the schoolyard across the street. On his way across the street, the gate next door opened and the big black schnauzer came out. A lady on the sidewalk with a small child asked him if it was his dog, and he replied, “Ni.” No. He understood her and responded appropriately! Wow! I am impressed! He is impressed with himself, too! While he was playing, he kicked his soccer ball into the locked UKU yard and had to hop over to get it. There was a man there who didn’t notice. Still, he wants to know how to say, “Sorry I kicked my ball over” for next time. We’ve looked up “sorry,” but we’re having a problem with “kick.”

As I type this, a Ukrainian variety show is on the television in the background and Zachary is in his room playing with his sticks. A duo of young 20-something frosted-hair and bulging-bicep’d accordion players are getting the live audience roused up, like nothing so far has. Zachary will have nothing to do with it, because they are accordions. Hava Ngilla (sp?) is having a great play there; the players and wandering through the aisles and jumping while the audience is clapping and standing up and dancing!. Zachary has gone outside with his ball, again.

Adam and dad are still working on online courses at the internet café. Soon everyone will be home and it will be time to go to bed.


Sunday, Sept. 4, 2011
We knew the way to church today our second trip. We arrived in time for the liturgy to begin and stood near the back at the right side of the church again. And again, this liturgy was supported by the most beautiful choir. Today a soloist, a soprano, contributed her punctuation to the worship service. The priest’s sermon was shorter, and he still speaks without looking at or seeing the audience, as if he is a medium. There is no altar boy today.

Bill takes photos of the kids as they take their leave. When he sends them to me, I will illustrate post them.

Adam and Bill spent the day at the internet café again. Zachary and I wandered over to the market we found on Friday. We found him a suit to wear to school as his uniform. We are very happy with it. We went back to collect Dad and Ad for our dinner date. While they finished their internet session, we went upstairs to the new apartment to use the bathroom. The landlady and her sister were busy at work organizing beds and furniture. It looked nice. We were happy. (And Zachary was particularly happy that they let him in.) He almost forgot his suit bag.

We collected Ad & Dad and walked over to the monument of Ivan Franko that adorns a plaza in front of the main university building. There we met my colleague Borys, who walked us to his house where we joined him and Olyanna for dinner. Borys and Olyanna live in a building like the one we’ll be in. It’s small and full of books. Borys was listening to Scherezhade when we got there. Adam went in to help in the kitchen, which wouldn’t accept any more helpers, while we sat in the living room and chatted. When we were called to dinner, we found ourselves in a smaller room, again full of books. Olyanna had made wonderful cutlets, beans in a particularly interesting way, salad, and delicious dill pickles (we have asked for the recipes.)

Borys served some wonderful red wine they had bought on their holiday in Croatia. They also served Birch juice, made from the sap of the birch tree. Bill was intrigued. His grandfather spoke about tapping birch trees the way they tap maple trees. Zachary especially liked the juice. Later in the week, after shopping with Zachary, Bill brought home a big jar of it. It sits in our fridge right now. What’s left of it.

After dinner, we had chocolate covered cherries, a double-barreled Bailey’s-type liqueur and tea. Olyanna also made a delicious fruit and pastry desert that I could have eaten all evening! What a feast! Bill talked about airplanes and airline safety concerns for most of the evening. We all enjoyed ourselves. Until Zachary started to fall asleep. Then we knew it was time to go – some of us knew, at least

Borys called us a taxi for the ride home. It was a short ride, but very exciting. Poor Zachary must have wished he were still asleep. He thought we were going to hit a number of vehicles, people and animals at every push of the accelerator, but we arrived home without incident. We all tumbled into bed for our last night at the UKU apartment.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s