Trip Start Sep 08, 2010
68Trip End May 09, 2011
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May first is a major holiday in Ukraine - Labor Day. I just happened to get off the bus in front of the local McDonald's and heard a band playing. On closer observation it was determined that the banners that were carried were against joining NATO and many of the red and yellow flags bore the hammer and sickle of the Russian flag. The crowd that had gathered for the parade consisted mostly of older folks. I am sure many of them had easier lives when the Soviets were in charge. A friend and I were in bright red jackets and decided that with the television cameras close by we had keep our distance a bit. It wouldn't look good for the Peace Corps to have us marching with the communists. At least in Soviet time people had hot water and food. The change to independence has been very trying and slow for Ukraine. The final gathering place, "Red Square" was decorated with pictures of Lenin, Stalin, Marx and some others who I don't know. There were speakers and flowers - kind of odd considering! I think the pro-democracy parade had to be in a different place!
To break the monotony of studying Russian, some friends and I decided to see a movie. Love in the time of Cholera sounded like a decent choice. We got in about 5 minutes late and the lady told us only Robert Downy Jr.'s Ironman was playing. We ended up seeing this movie in Ukrainian (not the Russian we are studying) and couldn't understand a word, nor did we particularly care to - dumb movie - mistake. Robert Downey Jr. still looks good speaking Ukrainian. But, the theater was a wonderful one - big screen, plenty of room. We will try again when our language skills are better. Movie $3.00.
There appears to be an inflationary trend almost verging on hyper inflation. The housing market in the US has affected the interest, banking, credit rates. (There really is no housing market so to speak in Ukraine) I have seen only one real estate agency the entire time I have been here. On a visit to Kiev we were told that to buy an apartment there it would cost $1 million US dollars - don't know how accurate that is, but... Buying and selling houses and businesses is almost unheard of. I live in a soviet block style apartment. Much Ukrainian furniture is alike, the doors are alike, the tables, chairs, etc. There isn't much individual choice apparent, although this too is changing. Clothing is the ONE thing that the women seem to have personalized. Stiletto heals (the higher the better), short shorts over fishnet stockings, glitter, feathers, the tightest of tight pants, leather, fur - right out of Fredericks of Hollywood. I don't know how they can walk around here without orthopedic surgeons close at hand. It seems to say that with women to men ratio of 10:1 they mean business!! This is office attire here in Ukraine. Too bad that the alcoholism among men is so high due to lack of substantial employment.
Another thing I haven't seen is books - the Universities we have visited have not had the amount of books that US Universities have.
Ukraine's relationship with Russia is very interesting and one of these times I will try to put it in a nutshell. But 2,000 years is a lot to work with! Needless to say, this century has been probably the worst. Russia took over, then Germany, then Russia again for the last 70. There were millions killed by Germans, and then Stalin starved over 12,000,000. Most people alive today do not remember the times before these transitions. If they do remember or have heard stories they are unlikely to talk out of fear.
Next blog - our trip to Kiev - lots of pictures!