Out at lunch yesterday I saw the above massive crowd protesting in front of (of all places) the Belgian Embassy. I asked a street vendor who had been outside all day listening to the guy with the bullhorn shouting what they protesting. His answer: "Who Cares?" Posted by Hello
Somone in Hades better go check the thermostat, baseball's coming back to Washington.


What was a minor headline on fark was a top story on the news here last night. Ukrainian Prime Minister and Presidential Candidate Viktor Yanukovich was hit with an egg yesterday. Something that already sounds stupid reached the level of the absurd when you actually see the footage of this. The guy got off a bus surrounded by security and was immediately pelted by a brown egg. His crack security detail notices nothing. Yanuovich doesn't even notice it at first. Then he reaches to his side where the egg hit him, feels the yolk and must think it's blood as he immediately collapses to the ground. This is noticed by his security and in a scene reminscent of the RFK assasination they pick him up off the ground and immediately carry him into an open van. He was then driven immediately to the hospital for treatment. All for getting hit by an egg. The unintentional comedy off all this really defies description. If I can find video of this on the web, I'll link to it.


Saturday was "Shevchenkovski Day" in Kiev. Shevchenkovski is the name of the district I live in. I guess it's the equivalent of Clarendon days, or any other neighborhood celebration you see in Arlington. Anyway, the only way I was able to note this celebration being marked was by a weather beaten and haggard Ukrainian flag being placed on my building and briefly seeing a talent show put on by students from Shevkenko University. Check out those national costumes! Posted by Hello


Above is the latest ExPat I've befriended. His name is A.D., which is short for American Dog. His owner is my Russian tutor, who picked him up when she was working in Illinois. She swears that he is unable to communicate with dogs other dogs in Kiev. That's probably a good thing, as he can't understand the other dogs making fun of his jacket. Posted by Hello
I'm not even going to claim to be an expert on, or even that knowledgeable of, the Darfur situation. Honestly, I had to look up how to spell Darfur to write this freaking post ("is it 'Dafur' or 'Darfur?'"). But this Brooks column on how the "international community" has reacted to the crisis really hit home for me. This wasn't due to any personal experience, rather it was because I had just finished reading "Emergency Sex" last week. That book was as damning an account of U.N. ineptness in Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, and Bosnia as I've ever read. It was written by former and current U.N. employees who were there dealing with the ineptness first hand and it wasn't just the accounts that were damning. You read what some of the authors themselves are writing about how they conducted themselves and you're left wondering how any sane person would send them to work in those places...but I digress.

Take a minute and see what Brooks has to say and take a couple hours to see what these former U.N. workers have to say.

Then head for the hills the next time you see anyone wearing a stupid light blue hat coming in your direction.


I'm sure I'm dated in linking to this, but I highly suggest you give a listen to Hard n' Phirm's "Rodeohead" if you either like Radiohead or listen to bluegrass. Or both. If you like Radiohead you'll find it amusing. If you like Bluegrass, you'll be surprised at how well done it is. If you like both, you'll be surprised at how well tracks from Kid A (amont other albums) translate to bluegrass.

After linking to that Shatner song previously, I may have to start another semi-random feature: "Amusing Novelty Song of the Moment."
This evening I learned that Estonians have a reputation among former Soviet types as being really slow. Thus, for the weekend I have two newly learned Estonian jokes to share with my peeps.

Two guys are walking down the street and they see someone standing on the corner. One guy says to the other, "Is that a Russian standing over there?" The other guy says "No, that's an Estonian running."

(rim shot)

I was watching the Matrix the other day and I paused it during the "bullet-time" sequences. It was amazing, if you look really closely at the bullets you can see that they say "Made in Estonia."

(rim shot)

Thank you very much, I'll be here all week. Don't forget to tip your waitresses.


I've been sitting on this picture for a week or so and I figured there's no time like the present to share it. It's an ad for a show some Russian musician I've never heard of (Fyodor Chestyakov) was putting on at a local watering hole. Reading further down the poster he appears to be playing songs from his new album "Negro Cuban Blues" and yes, he is in black face. I don't think he's going to be touring in the U.S. any time soon. Posted by Hello


I'm frequently asked how the food is here. "What is there to eat in Ukraine?" Well, the country is known for two, maybe three, things. Borscht, vareniki, and salo.

Everyone knows what borscht is, and if you haven't had it I highly recommend it. Be sure to get a dollop of sour cream dropped in it. Good stuff. Vareniki are kind of like pelmini or dumplings. Never had them, can't comment.

Salo is a different animal entirely. It's basically chunks of pork fat. You might know it better as fatback. They love this stuff here. I've seen it spread on bread like butter. Or just eaten straight as kind of an appetizer or a snack with vodka. It's quite interesting to see, especially when you know exactly what it is and not just as "salo." Pictured above is salo, packaged for sale in an extremely upscale supermarket, sliced up and packaged nicely. Allmost resembles bacon, really.

This is not how I've typically seen it packaged for sale. If you go to the market that Ivan Ivanovich is buying his salo from there's typically huge slabs of the stuff just laying out on some ancient, kind of clean counter with flies buzzing about it if the weather is warm. Next time I go I will be sure to get a picture of it so that everyone can get that visual. But if you're ever here just visiting, chances are you won't see it like that. If anything it will be presented to you almost like butter (maybe with some dill in it, they use dill here like it's going out of freaking style...but that's a whole other subject) so be sure to check out what you're putting on your knife before you spread it on your bread. Posted by Hello


Actually, there's a mildly amusing anecdote that I'd like to write about before I forget about it. Earlier this morning I was whistling in the office and was informed that this was something I shouldn't do, whistling indoors. Bad form over here.

So when I was out at lunch later with the Russian woman who is going to be tutoring me starting this Sunday, I asked her why one shouldn't whistle indoors in this area of the world. She shared with me the two reasons she was given as a child. The first reason is it was bad luck. If you whistled indoors you will apparently lose money later in that day. The second reason she was given was that the fascists whistled indoors so she shouldn't.

I suppose the lesson learned is that if you don't want to be a money-losing fascist, you shouldn't whistle indoors.

Not feeling the writing today. So I'll just continue the "photos of my neighborhood" series. Here's the back side of my building.  Posted by Hello


I also stumbled accross a political rally on Saturday evening. Ukrainian presidential elections are at the end of October. The rally pictured above is for the opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, and was held at the "Europe Square" end of Kreshatik. Yushenko is the opposition candidate in the sense that he is running against a guy who is a member of the current president's party. In a mildly surprising move, Ukraine's current president, Leonid Kuchma, didn't find a way to "run" for re-election and will actually be stepping down at the end of his second term, in accordance with the constitution. The building in the picture used to be a Lenin museum. It's now called "Ukraine House." Posted by Hello

Reasonably busy weekend. Ended up having to work Sat. and Sun. Saturday was attending an Air Show (pictured with this post). The planes involved were all Antonov transport aircraft, so the demonstrations were kind of boring. However, a boring airshow in Ukraine is 100 times better than a Ukrainian airshow chock full of excitement. The one neat thing was seeing the An-225 in person. The thing is a beast and even larger than the An-124 that I had done some work with last December. The An-225 was originally designed and built to carry the Soviet space shuttle "Buran" around, so there's only 2 of them in existance. With the Buran program long dead (I think I read somewhere that the only surviving shuttle is now used as a restaurant in Gorky Park in Moscow), it now operates as the largest cargo aircraft in the world. Posted by Hello


As you may or may not notice, I've enabled comments.


Some innocuous Friday fun. Pictured is a reasonably popular local brand of beer. To those of you that can't read Cyrillic, the brand is called "Rogaine." The only thing I can think of that tops this on the Cyrillic alphabet unintentional (or probably intentional in this case) comedy scale is the Ukrainian girl-group pop sensation called "Viagra."
Posted by Hello


William Shatner has a new album coming out. I highly recommend his cover of "Common People." Jarvis Cocker approves!

Had lunch today at a good Italian place near the Golden Gate called "Pantagruel." We got a table outside as it was a pretty nice day. Parked right across from our table was a Red Honda GoldWing and my God...you would have thought that there was a juggling eskimo midget quadraplegic there instead of a freaking motorcycle. Every 5 minutes some passerby would stop and stare at the thing, as evidenced above. I guess Hondas are a rarity here as people would stare, look closely, and sort of quizically say out loud "Gahld-Ving?" Posted by Hello


Went to dinner with someone visiting from the states and an HCN from the Embassy. Friday's was the chosen destination. Flair seems to be a requirement here as well. The apparent difference being the flair is mostly Soviet in origin.  Posted by Hello


Conflict at the Golden Gate! In a scene reminiscent of the Huns laying siege on Kievan Rus, a conflagration erupted at the Golden Gate during a stroll this evening. While minding my own business on an errand to the market, the woman on the right of the photo came running accross the street screaming, seemingly right at me. Luckily, it wasn't me she was screaming it, it was the guy on the left of the photo. I don't know what he had done, if anything, but this crazy woman barrelled right at him, and other men sitting on the street tossing back some beers and watching this go down physically stopped the guy. The old woman caught up to him, pulled a bottle out of one of those bags and chucked it at him. Hard. He then screamed back at her (indecipherably to my ears) and immediately started to bolt the other way to the metro. Got this picture as the guy started to run away. Shame I wasn't quick enough to capture the bottle being tossed, as that was easily the highlight of the whole mess. Posted by Hello


The counter-trey seems to be back in D.C. This pleases me greatly...and increases my need to find a freaking bar that shows the NFL.

I hope we absolutely pummel New Jersey next Sunday.


Podol Posted by Hello

Forshette Posted by Hello
Today I went on a solo excursion to the grocery store pictured two photos up called "Forchette." It's actually a pretty decent grocery store for here in that they have a great selection of items and they aren't unreasonably priced. Only problem is that it's a 45 min or so walk to get there from my apartment and coming back involves walking up the insanely steep hill that is the Andreevsky Spusk. So purchases have to be kept at a minimum if one plans to walk back. They did, however, have the large heffeweisen glasses in stock that I have been looking for, so the excursion was productive. "Forchette" is located in a neighborhood in Kiev called Podol. I'm not quite sure how to describe the character of Podol, but the best thing it has going for it is the lack of Soviet style buildings. Unfortunately, most of the buildings are in need of some serious repair, but parts of it (especially the parts close to the bottom of the Spusk) have gone through "remont" and look to be in decent shape. (as evidenced by the photo in the above post).

I also had to include the photo above. As long as I've been visiting Kiev I've seen this woman hanging out at the bottom of the Spusk, and I'm sure she's been there for a lot longer than that. She's an absolute crazy and just sits there with all these handmade signs around her, stinking up the corner...but all the dogs hanging out with her don't seem to mind. They're always milling about there with her, so I guess they aren't strays, even if they look it.

I have been told that there is another crazy woman that lives in my neighborhood near the Golden Gate who can be regularly spotted taking the chickens she lives with out for a walk. After hearing about this I've been carrying my camera with me everywhere in hopes of seeing her. Posted by Hello
Saw last night, on a Ukrainian TV station oddly enough, that Franz Ferdinand won the Mercury Music Prize. Good for them. They certainly deserved it. Best album of last year, hands down. And what on earth was Ukrainian television doing covering the Mercury Prize in the first place? I would be shocked if freaking MTV covered it, but there it is on Ukrainian television. Odd.


You know what I like about Kiev? There's absolutely nothing here that reminds me of places like Leesburg, Manassas, or Sterling. Errrrr...never mind.... Posted by Hello


Above is the first in an occaisonal series of pictures of my neighborhood. This is my street. My building is on the immediate right. My doorway is the one right behind the blue sign you see on your right. Incidentally, that blue sign is for a dry-cleaner's called "Un Momento" the shirt on the sign is the same colors as the Italian flag. Apparently, Ukrainians associate Italians with quality dry-cleaning. Who knew I was missing out on my ethnic calling? Further up the street on the right is the headquarters for the Ukrainian Social Democratic Party (united, there's two Social Democrats) and across the street from them is the headquarters for the Ukranian Green Party. The Social Democrats have a much bigger and nicer building. Unfortunately out of the picture is another group of political rabble rousers called "Bratsvo." They are located on the end of my building. I can promise more on them later, as I really get a kick out of those guys. Posted by Hello


Got a local cell phone today. Went with a service that I have actually seen advertised and found amusing since I started coming here 2 years ago, "Ace&Base."

Please don't get this confused with early 90s Swedish pop sensation "Ace of Base."

As far as the Ukrainian cell service provider is concerned, Ace&Base are two seperate types of service plans. Judging from the SIM cards pictured above (and their actual rate structure) "Ace" is for the upwardly mobile, western influenced, chart reading, oligarch in the making.

Base, on the other hand, appears to be marketed towards the Kiev club kid. Out on the town, hitting all the trendy night spots, and taking pictures of themselves on their camera phones (which seem to be growing ubiquitous here) to send to all their friends and acquaintances to show how great of a time they are having.

I signed up with "Ace."

Incoming calls are free, so if I know you, shoot me an email and I'll get you the number. Posted by Hello


Don't get me wrong here, I love "The Man" or "The Couch Slouch" or "The Cynic" or whatever the hell Norman Chad calls himself these days. But picking the Cardinals as this year's team of Destiny ? I think he's reaching.


After going to the wedding in the morning, there was actually about a 4 hour break before the reception. This was to allow time for the bridal party to fulfill a tradition of driving around to local landmarks and getting there picture taken. As Christa and I were not part of the bridal party this allowed us time to come back to the apartment, hang out, and set up a wireless network. Then, around 4, we left to go to the reception. It was held at a restaurant called "Pizza Express," but the food served was Middle Eastern as the owners were apparently Muslim. There was no booze served, and it's undetermined whether or not this was because everyone there were born-again types or because the owners of the establishment were Muslim. Because there were a few English-only speakers there besides myself, everything was said twice. In Russian and English. While beneficial both here and at the wedding, this really drug out the proceedings quite a bit, especially when the MCs started inexplicably reading aloud passages of "Pride and Predjudice." Posted by Hello

Here's a better picture of the newlyweds. Again, try to pick out the Americans! Posted by Hello

So yesterday (the day after arriving in country), I went to a wedding. It involved an American and a Ukrainian. Guess who is who? I had apparently met the Ukrainian before, but had no recollection of it, as that meeting had also been immediately after arriving in country. Both bride and groom were born-again types, so the ceremony wasn't Orthodox by a long shot. The interior of the church actually had a weird, faux-modern feel to it. Some of the stained glass actually made me think of a poor-man's Chagall.  Posted by Hello


Arrived in Kiev Yesterday. Jet lagged today. Attended someone's wedding this morning anyway. Details and pictures to come.