Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Little Miss Moi has left the building

But unlike Elvis, I'm still alive.

I've just gone to a new home.

You know what they say, a change is as good as a holiday. And while I've got no gripes with blogger, I just wanted to try something new. Sorry, these clothes were getting a bit old.

Visit me at


http://littlemissmoi.wordpress.com


once again, that's

http://littlemissmoi.wordpress.com


For all of my bluddies out there, if you still love me, please update your links.

See you soon!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Seasons

I'm so stupid when it comes to northern hemisphere seasons that, when I learned the names of the months and seasons in my Russian lesson, my teacher also had to tell me which months belonged to which season.

"Yeez, Leetle Meez Mva, vesna eez spring, eend ze months are March, April, May. Repeat after mee, spring eez... March, April, May."

But, now that I'm here and have lived through a cold Christmas and New Year, and am living through a summery May, I'm getting the gist of the seasons.

So I was more than a little suprised when I logged onto one of my daily newspaper reads, smh.com.au and saw the headline, 'First snow brings winter delight'.

"What?" I thought. "It's summer, how dumb ARE they?" (yes. I really did think that, when I should have been thinking, "Oh, this El Nino palaver, turning the seasons upside down." Either way, it was a stupid train of thought).

Then I remembered it's winter in Australia. Well, in some parts. I've never personally lived through a proper winter until this past year's in Kyiv. To prove point: I just checked Wunderground.com.

The current temperature in Kyiv, Ukraine: 24 degrees
The current temperature in Brisbane, Australia: 23 degrees
This crappy post about the weather: Pricelessly crap

Monday, May 21, 2007

Seven random things about Little Miss Moi

enidd tagged me to write about seven random things. Thanks enidd. It's not often I'm tagged and it makes me feel loved.

Racking through my rather random brain, it was hard to come up with anything that seemed worthwhile. But I came up with some boring randomnesses and this is what I got...


1. When I was six, I fell off my bike and hit my head. The result was a black eye that was closed for a week. I think my parents were embarrassed to take me out in public (in case someone thought they did it to me).


2. I'm not a huge fan of the beach. While I don't mind a dip in the ocean, I hate sitting on the beach getting burnt. And sand is overrated. But I swear, I really am a true blue aussie.


3. I took my first overseas trip in utero. My parents went on a holiday to Germany when mum was six months pregnant with me. At least I had a first class position all the way.


4. I finished school, and started university, when I was 16. This is simply a result of the differences in the state education systems in Australia, not because I'm a brainbox. Sorry.


5. Continuing on the non-brainbox theme, I have two degrees. One is a Bachelor of Business in Communication. The other is a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies. Now here's the dumb thing - both are underpinned by the exact same communication theories. So I needed to do two degrees to learn the same thing twice.


6. I have flat feet and bad knees. I use this as a legitimate excuse to avoid high hells, I mean, heels. At all costs.


7. I am one of five children. My anguished mental state is a result of the fact that I was the youngest for six years, before my little brother came along. After that, I was abruptly thrust into middle-child-dom.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Not a true Aussie? And the tale of the too-small skirts

Some of my readers have accused me of being a whimpy Aussie because I can't use a barbie and I don't like it hot!

Well, poo to them.

I never said I didn't like the hot weather. You see, it's all to do with the food in Ukraine.

Since I've lived in Ukraine, I've put on about 5 kilos, or perhaps a little more. The result is, I'm weighing the most I have in my life.

Another result is, all the lovely everyday summer clothes I brought with me from Australia no longer fit me. The only clothes that (just) fit me are the heavy winter skirts and shirts I bought when I first came to Kyiv.

And before you say anything, I don't want to go out shopping for clothes that fit. Firstly, because I actually really want to be (and hopefully am in the very slow process of) losing weight.

Secondly, clothes in the shops here are rather arbitrarily priced, which means that most things that are about double the price you'd pay back home. Weird, isn't it? Cheap food, expensive clothes. Doesn't really make sense to me.

But really and truly, give me hot weather any day over snow and slush. There's nothing better than sweating, and walking around in just a skirt and shirt with sandals. No coat required.

Too bad I only have one skirt that fits at the moment.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Feeling hot hot hot

I logged onto to the weather website Wunderground today.

This is what it said the weather would be in Kyiv:

Temperature in the thirties? With continuously sunny weather? I don't believe it.

Well, sometimes Wunderground gets it wrong, so I decided to check with the source of all things true and solemn -
BBC Weather.

Holy freakin' shite! 34 degrees? In Kyiv? Where, only three months ago, it was minus 18?

I really don't get the weather in this part of the world. But I think it's time to buy a fan.

All of a sudden, this doesn't look like a bad prospect:


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Welcome to Crimea!

Where the hell is Crimea?

I like to explain it as: Crimea is the peninsula that dangles off the bottom of Ukraine. Take a look at a map of Crimea here. It dips quite nicely into the lovely Black Sea, across which, if you squint your eyes, you imagine you can see Turkey.

Crimea is an autonomous republic of Ukraine. This didn't really mean much to me. There are certain other things that define its difference to Ukraine more pointedly, to me, anyway...

Firstly, the Crimean Peninsula was historically occupied by Greeks, Genoans and Crimean Tatars, to name a few. As a result, there are some amazing ruins and architectural sights around the place.

The Crimean Tatars
took over rule of Crimea from the Mongols (yes, Genghis's troupe really did get this far!) and ruled for around 300 years. They are a turkic speaking people, and indeed the name Crimea is derived from a turkic word,
qimirm (imagine the 'i's without dots).

After Crimea was annexed by the Russian Empire under Catherine the Great, Crimean Tatars were persecuted and so fled the region, mostly to Turkey. Those who stayed were deported en masse by Stalin after World War II: on 18 May 1944, all the Crimean Tatars in Crimea were sent to other regions in the Soviet Union - mostly Uzbekistan. The area was resettled by Russians.

It was only in the late 1990s the Ukrainian Government started issuing Ukrainian passports to the Crimean Tatars to allow them to return to their traditional homeland. Crimean Tatars have a distinct language, culture (there is even a 'Crimea' TV channel, which plays talent shows etc), cuisine (although influenced heavily by Uzbek and Turkish) and religion (Crimean Tatars are mostly Muslim).

The second reason Crimea feels so totally different is because of it's long history as part of Russia. Catherine the Great annexed Crimea for the Russian Empire in the 18th century.

Crimea was where the Russian Empire's, then the Soviet's, navy fleet was moored. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia negotiated a long term lease of the mooring areas in Sevastopol from the Ukrainian government. There are lots and lots and lots of military people walking around town, and Russian flags all over the place.

Because of this, and a myriad of other reasons, I'm sure, Crimea feels totally Russian.

So, for me, learning Russian in a town where all the signs are Ukrainian, Crimea felt like a lingo utopia (is that a lootopia?). Little things started to fall into place - I learned how everyday places like Produkti and Rinok are spelt, I could understand some of the signs, and I didn't get confused by the occasional person answering me back in Ukie.

My visit to Crimea took me to a number of different places:

  • Sevastopol. Was a closed city until 1996 or thereabouts (so if you have an old Atlas, you'll be looking and looking for it). Very beautiful city. Where the Russian Black Sea Fleet is moored
  • Khersones. About 5 kms from Sevastopol. A 1,500 acre site containing ruins of the Greek colony of Chersones, which was founded in the 6th century BC
  • Bakhchisarai. Where the family who ruled Crimea lived. I think. Amazingly cute little palace there, as well as an Orthodox cave monastery, and some troglodyte caves
  • Balaklava, where the British Army fought the Russian Army during the Crimean War. (Yes, that's what balaclavas are named after...) Where the valley of the Charge of the Light Brigade is located
  • Alupka. A lovely sea-side village with a park and a Khan's palace
  • Yalta. Former Soviet resort town, which the guide books claim is a but yukky, but I thought it was nice. So there you go.
Well, this post is a bit of a link-fest, so I'd better give you some photos to reward you for your patience.

A rainy day at Sevastopol


Soldiers admiring the ruins at Khersones


Babushka and dyevushka selling Khan's clothes at Bakhchisarai


Daisies in the park at Alupka


Old Soviet sanatoriums from the boat to Yalta


Alupka and the Khan's palace from the boat to Yalta

Monday, May 14, 2007

Barbeque nation

From A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

It would be useful - I wasn't quite sure in what way, but I was sure none the less - to learn to fend for myself in the wilderness. When guys in camouflage pants and hunting hats sat around in the Four Aces Diner talking about fearsome things done out of doors I would no longer have to feel like such a cupcake. I wanted a little of that swagger that comes with being able to gaze at a far horizon through eyes of chipped granite and say with a slow, [wo]manly sniff, 'Yeah, I've shit in the woods.'

It's time I learned to fend for myself. It's time I learned to barbeque in the woods.

In Australia, a barbeque, or 'barbie', usually comes with a gas bottle and a nice wooden stand. They even have wheels, and look a variation on the theme of this:

See? This one even comes from Australia - 'Down under'.

And heaven forbid, they are so easy to use that in many a household, women commandeer the humble charcoal-maker that worldwide is the domain of men. (I'll just point out, women are less inclined to create charcoal on a barbie).

Now, I've also previously mentioned the drought in Australia. As a result, it's been illegal to light a fire in the bush, for, like, ever. The Aussie bush is predominantly eucalypt, thus there's quite a bit of oil hiding in the leaves. One carelessly lit fire on a breezy day can potentially burn half of Sydney.

But I digress. So...

Imagine how excited I was when enidd suggested that we all go for a barbie in the woods (ohh err I've never been to the woods before, only the bush!), get the man to light some sticks, and we all sit around and eat shashlyk, or potentially, Stalin.

Now. Who is we all? Let's just say, it was a real blarty (blog party).

The blarty consisted of enidd and the man, sarahemily and HDF, Olechko, Mr Olechko and bubba, and of course, Little Miss Moi and her beloved Mr Moi. Not to mention, the late afternoon cameo from Olga, the very brave dogwalker of Stalin and Fluffy.

Unfortunately, enidd got sick and decided not to come. Boo hoo. At the same time the man broke us the news, the rain started to bucket, and for an instant, it was really quite conceivable that our blarty was going farty.

However, with true pommy weather optimism, the man found a patch of blue sky and convinced us that this was the sign we were all waiting for - the weather would be fine. So we piled into the cars and took off to the island.

The island is Trukhaniv Island, and is a huge, empty, grassy and treesy island in the middle of the Dnipro River. It's covered in dirt tracks and full of big fat ditches, which are especially fun to drive someone else's car on. :o)

There's not really much to say about the BBQ itself, except that we drank lots of fizz (Cricova - a newly found Methode Champanoise Moldovan bubbly) and got a bit pizzed. We also drank beer (the Olechkos gave us a Ukrainain and European beer tour without leaving our seats) and red wine. We ate lots of meat from sarahemily's shashlyk, and endured a few rain showers (perhaps by then, I was too tipsy to care).

Australians, despite our tough talk, are really a bit ninny when it comes to being outdoors (OK, well, just me). Australians like to picnic on the beach - where they arrive first thing in the morning to nab a picnic table and camp out for the rest of the day. Said picnic table is usually within safe walking distance of a dunny block. So my biggest worry was where we were going to go to the toilet.

But. I have conquered all. Now I can say we shit in the woods. (OK we didn't really, but it sounds better than saying, 'I did a girly wee behind a tree trunk and even had to take a roll of loo paper and a can of air freshener').

And now it's time to call a halt to a long and rambling post.

Here are some photos to wake you up and help you envisage what a tough bird I've become. Enjoy!

Setting up camp in the woods - see the mole hills (I thought they were ant hills)


Boys being boys: admiring their collective handiwork (oh how Soviet!)


One of the highlights of the day was being able to enjoy the wildlife


More wildlife.. . Oh! no it's not, it's someone with her head bent in shame after going to the loo in the woods


HERE'S more wildlife. I was afraid they might bite


Not a pretty sight for vegetarians. Of which I am not one...


Beautiful bread from the French bakery owned by Russians


Gathering more sticks for the fire...


... while the girls sip on pink Moldovan fizz


And the boys misplace their beer bottles


When the fire looks like this, it's 1) time to put it out and 2) time to go home


But not before we get a lesson in what do to with bio-degradable goods...

Friday, May 11, 2007

They said there were steppes out here somewhere...

But all I could see what flat land, as far as they eye can see...


With the occasional dug up paddock (yes, folks, that's the technical name)...


And every now and then, a few pretty poplars and other trees (oak? willow? If it's not a eucalypt, I can't vouch for it) on the horizon...


A canola field here and there. We were assured they weren't GM crops...


More canola fields, and very dark and dreary skies...


There were even a few lurkers on the side of the road. After all, if you ask a Ukrainian where the toilet is, their response is, "Everywhere!"


Still no damn steppes! After ten hours of driving, I thought I would have seen one or two...


But mostly just saw abandonned buildings and factories...


And lots of flat land...


I'm steppe-ing into the twilight zone...


Tune in tomorrow to see where Little Miss Moi ended up after this long day on the road that was supposed to have steppes, but only had flat land.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Diary of a lazy moi

Well, the fact I have a cleaner seemed to cause quite a flutter. So here's a whole post dedicated to justifying my laziness.

Why do I have a cleaner in Kyiv when I live in a flat the size of my bedroom in Sydney, and I'm cozily unoccupied in the employment department?

It's because I'm a lazy twat. Oh, that's not it! It's because blogging has become a full time job. Nope, that's not it either. Even though, it practically has (reading blogs, not writing).

To be honest, I have a cleaner because it's so darn cheap. Hands up (Robin excluded) who wouldn't get a cleaner when she only costs $20? And not only that, but I have the satisfaction of knowing that I'm contributing to the scourge of the underpaid working class helping someone earn money in a country where a lot of people live below the poverty line.

And everyday life here is plain exhausting. Every three or four days, I do the following:

- Go to a money changer to... get some money changed
- Hike between three different and widely dispersed shops and an open-air market, just to get all the groceries I need
- Carry it all home in a backpack and numerous shopping bags that bang against my legs
- Walk up four flights of stairs because the lift is making really scary noises again
- Head out again to pay some bill or another (I miss internet banking)
- Visit the babushka in the kiosk up the street because I've inevitably forgotten something.

That, my friends, pretty much takes up the whole day. By the end of this little routine, there's been that much physical exertion and contact with grumpy service people, the last thing I want to think about is cleaning the bathroom. My cleaner is my sanity preservation.

And while I've wasted a whole post on justifying why I have a cleaner, I still haven't convinced myself that I'm not a lazy twat...

(At least I don't have a nanny, a driver, a housekeeper and a cook. People here do. All up, salaries for those staff combined would cost the humble expat about $20,000 a year).

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Late, and unofficial, Fun Monday

While you all wait on tenterhooks to find out where I've been for the past week, I thought I'd show you some photos my darling mother recently sent me.

Also, I have a twinge of Fun Monday envy. If I took a photo out my front door, you'd just see another boring, steel-reinforced door in a dreary foyer. So, I'm stealing my mother's glory.

As Willowtree mentioned in his photographic odyssey, parts of Australia are in the grip of drought. This is nothing new, as it seems for the past ten years or so, one state or another has been dry as a bone.

Growing up in lush, sub-tropical Queensland (and it's more tropical than sub, I'll tell ya), I remember the time about five years ago when the Premier ordered the drinking water dams be opened and water be released, as the dams had reached their capacity.

Criticised at the time for letting water go when parts of Australia were really darn thirsty, I remember him saying, "We have enough water here to last us another five years."

Five years down the track, and Brisbane hasn't seen a significant rainfall since... well, since then. Water is now the Premier's number one priority.

So without any further ago, here are photos of my parents lush, sub-tropical front yard...




When people say Australia is running out of water... they're really not joking.

(And as I write this, my cleaner is cleaning the kitchen with the water constantly running. At least it's not drinking water.)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Where do YOU think Little Miss Moi is?










I'll be back soon! Like, in two days :o(

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Prolonging the holiday joy

It seems the Ukrainian government decreed that today, being a Saturday, was a working day.

And it turned out to be true! Mr Moi went to work, we even went to the bank and it was OPEN on a Saturday!

Why did the government issue a decree that Saturday was just another working day?

Next week, there are two public holidays - on Tuesday and Wednesday. When public holidays fall on days that are separated by only one working day from the weekend, the Government will usually make everyone work on a Saturday anywhere up to two weeks prior.

This, then, creates a four (or, in this case, five) day weekend.

Of course, this doesn't really affect lazy me. But I always thought weekends were sacred... Am very glad I don't work in this slave driving country (with lots of long weekend holidays).

Friday, April 27, 2007

Beer in the park

After a hard day's work (that's Mr Moi, not moi), what better way to unwind than to join the other 500 people sitting in the park, buying 80 cent beers from the hastily erected tents?

Then sit anywhere - on the edge of a fountain, in the makeshift beer garden (read: tables, chairs and brollies that are scattered hither and thither), on a park bench or, heaven forbid, on the grass, while drinking the beers and watching the evening close in over the city.

Admire the tulips. Look at the trees in bloom. Watch the little kids on jumping castles. Wonder about the planters on the lightpost that have the hammer and sickle painted on the outside (they've obviously been using the same planters for 16+ years). Listen to a group of 20 very drunk girls singing folk songs and crying their Ukrainian eyes out.

Three beers and less than $3 later, it's 9pm and time to go home and cook dinner. Ahhh... spring seems nice so far. I can't wait 'til summer.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Five questions from mind the gap

Little Miss Moi interview - by Mind the Gap

1. What’s your worst habit?

My worst habit is the tendency to stare off into space while playing with my hair. This, my mother calls 'twiddling'.

This habit has been such a problem throughout my life that, over my adult years, my hair got shorter and shorter as I tried harder and harder to stem the desire to twiddle: ten years ago, I chopped my hair from the longest it's ever been (1 cm below my shoulders) to short, then shorter, then shorter.... And, although I now have ear length hair as a result of not trusting the likes of Willy Barber and other hair hackers in Kyiv, I've had a happy decade of short hair.

And I'm still enjoying my twiddling. (And it's become somewhat of a trademark. Oft commented on in the workplace - where I don't even realise I do it - I've never been fired for it).

2. What’s the most stupid thing you’ve come across in Kiev?
Besides dyevushkas who slow down the pavement traffic speed to 1 metre / hour while they walk in an arm-linked phalanx of scary aggressive wimmin, in their 10-inch stilettos that they spent 70 per cent of their income on, forgoing the possibility of more pleasurable things like travelling abroad, and increasing the possibility of foot, knee, back and bone problems for the rest of my life?

No. That's definitely it.

3. What and who was your first pet?
Well, the family had a chihuahua dog called Pepe when I was about two years old. We left him with my grandparents when we moved cities, and then he died. I didn't cry, so he doesn't really could.

Then there were the two goldfish, named Speedy and Buttons. Obviously, Speedy knew how to push Buttons because one day, we found Buttons on the floor. We put him back in the bowl, but then his tail fell out and we have a feeling Speedy ate him. I didn't cry, so they don't really count either.

Then there was our green pet budgie. He didn't have a name. I trained him to sit on my shoulder, say some words, and nibble my earrings. He was my best TV watching, book reading buddy (well, he ate the pages of my books while I read them).

One day, after my dad had mowed the lawn and concurrently drank about 10 beers, he walked out of the house with the budgie on his shoulder. The bird, being a clever little tyke, saw the big blue beyond and flew away.

I cried and cried and cried. So I guess, he counts.

4. At school were you teacher’s pet or hell raising rebel?
With an impertinent name like 'Little Miss Moi', do you really think I would be the teachers' pet?

In one of my classes in ninth grade, I was sent out of the classroom so regularly for my excessive chit chat (and back chat), that the teacher installed a desk for me on the platform, right next to his desk. And that's where I sat for the rest of the year.

5. What’s your favourite joke?
It's not really a joke, it's a Monty Python skit. Scroll down to see!


If you want ME to interview YOU... then let me know - leave a comment in the comments box and I'll send through some questions.

Sarahemily - thanks for my 'quezzers'.

My favourite joke

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fish and quips on St George's Day

I've previously spoken, as a guilty lurker, of checking out Pioneer Woman everyday (Sorry, you can't click through. She doesn't need ANOTHER link! C'mon, I'm not being mean... am I?)

Another blog I semi-lurk at is Sam's blog at Becks & Posh. Sam is English, living in San Francisco, and an ultimate foodie. Not only does she like to cook it, photograph it, and eat it, BUT she has the energy to blog about it too!

To celebrate St George's Day - which was yesterday - Sam launched a blampaign (blog campaign) called 'Fish and Quips', inviting all bloggers to do their bit to prove English food isn't a joke, and to post a delicious English tucker recipe on their blog to celebrate.

Well, I just popped on over to Sam's and started drooling immediately. The recipes and pics submitted by bloggers around the world look absolutely mouth-watering, and being an Aussie, there's a lot of familiar dishes there (I'd say I was brought up 60 per cent English stodge style, 40 per cent combined Asian (and in Oz, Asian is East Asia, not the Indian sub continent) and Mediterranean).

But looking through this list made me realise something else.

I actually feel sorta at home in England. Now... I'm still a proud Aussie, orright?! I've never lived in the UK, I've only been there a handful of times, and I still don't want England to win anything like the cricket or the rugby.

However, in light of the fact that my 'home' home is an expensive 27 hour flight away, and that I have many friends and family in the UK
(oh, and I'm a British citizen), the UK is the place I go to when I need to speak English and stock up on Vegemite and Aussie wine buy products I'm familiar with.

And as it was, moving to Sydney made me realise that Poms and Aussies are very similar. We talk the same language (well, we do!). We're not selfish - we haven't taken you, I mean, the 'u' out of colour, favour, humour or favourite. And we're poncy with our spelling - we like writing cheques, changing tyres, and playing tennis with racquets.

And then there's the suburbs. In Australia, we have: Lewisham, Haymarket, Croydon, Paddington, Brighton, Kensington, Petersham, Chiswick, Camberwell, Camden, Guildford, Cleveland, Gladstone, Kew, Richmond and Hyde Park, to name a few...

(Then again, we also have Woolloomooloo, Kurri Kurri, Narraweena, Ku-ring-gai, Woolloongabba, Murwillumbah, Tallebudgerah, and Wooloowin... But just ignore me.)

And... we all love Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson. And we love fish and chips (and if you come from Noo Zulland, you'd love fush and chups).

So there you go. Check out the tucker. It makes me want to go to England.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

This one's for Willowtree

If you're wondering what all this is about, click over to Willow-treat and read his post, then his comments.

Welcome to Dorrigo!

A species that can only be found in Dorrigo

Species: Pissna flushturdum

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I blame it on the revolutsia

I always new Friday was going to be a big day.

For starters, it was the first full day Mr Moi was home from Moscow! That's right, after being apart during my three week sojourn to Australia, I came home to an empty apartment for two weeks. But now he's returned, which is noteworthy if not for anything else but the subsequent increase in my laundry quota.

Secondly, I'd organised to meet my new bliend, sarahemily, sometime in the afternoon. What time, I wasn't sure; it mainly depended on who cracked first and demanded some Moldovan fizz and a 'thank God it's Friday' moment.

And I'd been invited to brunch. MmmMMmm, I just love brunch. I'd volunteered to make my signature* Chocolate and Banana Bread. Being my usual disorganised self, of course I left baking to the last minute - Friday morning, 7am (exactly 3 hours and 30 minutes before brunch started). You can't beat fresh fresh baking.

So the day was, needless to say, a little hectic.

At 7am, I was in the kitchen in my pyjamas, fending Mr Moi off the three bananas I'd purchased for the sole purpose of making Chocolate and Banana Bread. The bread was in the oven by 8am, at which time Mr Moi left the flat, and left me with a bag of clothes that needed to be 're-washed' (which means, they didn't dry properly the first time and thus, stunk).

From 8am, I was a good little blogger, doing my rounds with a cup of coffee. Ten minutes later it was 9:15am, the bread was burning, I hadn't had a shower, I had to hang out the washing,
and I had to email sarahemily to arrange a time to meet (with strict instructions that she was to send me a text message because my phone still does no outgoing calls or texts).

I dashed off the email, took the bread out of the oven, had a shower and was getting ready to leave when I realised it was 10am - which is the time I'd arranged to meet my friend, new-mum H, who lives a 15 minute walk away.

When I arrived at new-mum H's building, she was nowhere to be seen, so I got the lift upstairs, rang her bell, rang it again, waited 5 minutes and rang it again. Determining she must have left, I went back downstairs, where I met her at 10:30am, only 30 minutes late, which was coincidentally the time we were supposed to get to brunch.

Giving Igor the driver strict instructions to get us there quick smart (via the bakery) we set off. Igor must've listened to me, because he did a 20 minute drive in 10 minutes, and I got a five minute stopover at the bakery.

But the time we arrived at brunch, we were a little out of breath, only 15 minutes late, and really bloody hungry.

Cut to two hours and 45 minutes, two babies, one pie and lots of coffee, toast and muffins later...

Igor knocked at the door to let new-mum H know he was here to pick us up. We bustled off into the car, tried to drive down one street, only to find that it was shut - protesters. So we headed up another street and drove along for a while at about 5 kms per hour. My phone rang and I scrambled to pick it up, and that's when I saw the text message waiting for me. Don't have time to read it, must answer phone...

Of course it was sarahemily. She'd sent me a text, which I hadn't read. It had told me to meet her 1:30pm, which was 15 minutes ago, near the revolutsia action, which happens to be halfway between our two flats. I assured her I was on my way, I should only be 30 minutes late, so I'll see her in 15 minutes.

"Do hurry," said sarahemily. "It's just started to rain and looking at the protesters is losing their novelty factor."

Roll forward one hour, three cut-off streets, two protester camps and one more phone call from sarahemily. As Igor manoeuvred the car close to new-mum H's building, I flung the door open, took a rolling dive from the front seat, landed on my feet and started running to where sarahemily was waiting.**

I reached the rendezvous point in record time (14 minutes as opposed to 15), and saw someone waiting around the corner. As I walked around the corner, I was shocked to see sarahemily had a beard, wore cargo pants and had a penchant for Doc Martens.

Then a text message came through on the phone. Oh, she's gone into a shop, so cargo pants wasn't sarahemily at all. And I can't tell you how happy that mades me feel.

So, we met. One hour and 30 minutes late. After I caught my breath, we toddled off to MegaMarket, where security had shut the gates and were only letting people in one at a time - and only if they weren't carrying a flag.

We invested in some cheese and fizz and hightailed it back to my place, past the 10 smelly portaloos that were on the street to cope with 1000 protesters with normal bodily functions. We enjoyed our Moldovan fizz... but I can't help feeling awful for keeping my new friend waiting 1 hour and 30 minutes.

I blame it on the revolutsia.



* Well, Bill Granger's signature dish. Close enough
** Made up, of course. I don't even bend down to tie up shoelaces, let alone jump out of a moving car

Friday, April 20, 2007

How to make a good first impression

Well, to put it simply:

Don't be one and a half hours late to meeting your new bliend. When she's waiting in the rain. Surrounded by about a zillion protesting Ukrainians. Who don't mind drinking quite a bit of alcohol while protesting. And wildly waiting flagpoles. And she's standing in amongst them. And the riot police are out.

That's how to make a good first impression.

(And did I mention it was raining? And I was one and a half hours late? And it was windy and cold? Gosh, I'm a bad bliend. I'm drinking a glass of Crimean sparkling wine to make me feel much better, thank you very mush, I mean, much.)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Blisters and blends

I've previously alluded to my blog sisters - blisters - Sabrina and Beccy. Our blogs are triplets, but were born a few months apart.

And now, I have some blends! That's right, blog friends. As in, real life friends (well, almost - I'm using today's post as an opportunity to introduce you to someone I haven't met yet but will be meeting soon!).

So far, I dusted off the passport and travelled to Molvania to meet enidd. We enjoyed drinking some shampanskoye from Molvania... or was that Moldova? Not sure, but they're both prolific wine producing regions.

Then I met my Ukrainian art and style icon Olechko. We met in the park and drank a beer before trying to go to a gallery that was shut. Oh well - next time.

And now I have a new friend. Her name is 'no i'm not a tree hugger but blah di blah' (we'll have to think of a nickname for her cause I just can't be a.r.c.e.d writing that every time). Well, you can tell from her URL that her name is sarahemily. A bit easier to type than noi'mnotatreehuggerbut...

The great news is she has a NEW blog! Well, it's sort of new - she's been squirreling away for the past month or so, writing lots of funny stories, and she's now opened up her blog for our reading pleasure! And a pleasure it is.

At no i'm not a tree hugger but... you can expect some similar 'everyday experiences' that you've come to expect from moi. But unlike moi, sarahemily also has a conscience - as a result, she mulls over things like recycling in Kyiv, sustainable development and other things that I'm too selfish to think about.

So click on over and visit my new blend and leave her a comment of support. Remember, she's living through the revolutsia too, so give her a word of encouragement; chin-up and all that palaver.

Welcome to blogosphere, sarahemily :o)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lurkers...

They're everywhere. We all have them (or hope we do!)

Guess which of the following two lovely faces is a lurker?

The lurker is the one who won't comment! Or! maybe she will now... (after all, she promised).

Are you a lurker?

I'm a lurker. I lurk on Ree's blog. I don't even want to be a Pioneer Woman reader; being an Aussie and all, I root for the underdog. (Did you like my use of the semi colon there?) But she's just so damn engaging with her so-called 'good' photos and 'yummy' recipes. It's irritatingly entertaining...

Here's a funny lurker story for you.

I always look at my stat counter. I'm reassured when I see people from home visiting. Except, in the past week, there's been this person from Ukraine who logs on for like, 10 hours at a time. I was getting a bit paranoid - is someone stalking me? Does someone here hate what I write? Should I close my blog?!

It got to the point that I checked everytime I walked out the door to see there was no one waiting there to berate me for my blog. Then I realised... the IP address... it was mine.

Duh.

Here are some other random thoughts for the evening:

Before I left Australia, I read the book Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. It's set in Ukraine. The movie (of the same name, directed by Liev Schreiber and starring Elijah Wood) is a little more straightforward and just as enjoyable (even though it was filmed in the Czech Republic, hrmph).

The music, story and acting (especially Eugene Hutz's acting and his Gogol Bordello music - he's my hero) are all fantastic. I recommend watching the movie, and reading the book if you have the time and inclination. Personally I watch it every now and then and it helps me with my Russian (there are parts in Russki with English subtitles. I'm understanding more and more).

Did you know the name Liev (as in Schreiber) is spelt the same in Russian as the name Leo (as in Tolstoy)? The true transliteration of his name into latin letters is 'Lyev'. And, with the streets and squares named after him (Tolstoy, not Schreiber), it then changes into 'Lva Tolstogo'. Yep, Russian is a confuzzling lingo.

Another random thought: if there is a sound that I identify with Kyiv, it's the car alarm. There is someone who parks their car near my apartment, and I can imitate the noise off by heart. When I visited Almaty in Kazakhstan, I heard the same noise and felt right at home.

One day, I hope to record it for you. But I fear I'm so used to it, I'll never get there in time.

Besides that, there's not much more to add tonight...

PS Welcome to my first visitor from Afghanistan! I don't think this blog will help you find Istanbul Salsa though...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Fun Monday 13: 10 Questions


This week's Fun Monday is being hosted by Bethany at Ice Cream Mama. Click on over to see who the participants are this week.

Bethany's challenge was to answer the following ten questions, which she got from her favourite TV show, The Actor's Studio.

I'm in a bit of a bleh di blah mood today, so please excuse me, and I'll excuse your yawning as you read!

What is your favorite word?

Favourite words, for me, are chosen entirely because of their sounds. In fact, I said a favourite word on Saturday night (I actually admitted to the person I was talking to that I only said the word because I like the way it sounds), and now I can't remember it. Too much Pinot Grigio, I guess.

Anyhoo, at the moment I'm admiring the phrase: Respublikansky Stadion, which is up there with Maidan Nezalezhnosti. I can't think of any of my favourite words in English at the moment (sod's law strikes again) but you can be sure I've probably used them a million times in my blog.

What is your least favorite word?
I like to think of least favourite uses of words. For example, in high school, my peers started to use the word docile to indicate that someone was stupid. In my mind, docile means gentle and timid - like Bambi. It really ruined the word for me.

In Australia, it's also common to refer to people who are hippies or live in the country and are a bit rough as
ferals. To me, feral is a plant or animal that grows out of control. I don't really like it used in reference to human beings. But, it actually does work well, and I do use the word - and hate myself every time I do.

I also don't like people who are too lazy to use decent adjectives, and just describe everything as 'f***ing'. This is common amongst some Australian males...
I went to the f***ing beach yesterday and the waves were f***ing huge so I got my surfboard and caught the sweetest f***ing waves.... etc. Grow a brain and expand your adjectival vocab, for goodness sake.

What turns you on (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?
I love cooking. I love reading about food. I love thinking of meals to create and picking out new recipes to try. And I love to gobble it all up. Enough said, really.

I also love listening to music. As I've grown up, I've tended to retreat into my old favourites rather than find new bands - just a bit lazy I guess. We all know how I feel about Simon & Garfunkel (and if you don't, click on the link).

I also love writing. When I was working for big corporates, I loved the challenge of creating news for the company, and editing and proof reading documents. It's hard to be creative about the same company for years on end, but when you conquer the challenge, it feels good!

What turns you off?
Public drunkeness (unless it's me, ho ho ho), hoiking and spitting on the ground, aggressive people, public conflict (e.g. couples fighting in public).

I also get turned off by people who REALLY force their opinions on others. I can be a bit bossy, so this could well be me, but I'm constantly keeping myself in check. I try hard to keep my trap shut, so I don't appreciate it when others don't (that being said, I know hardly anyone who's so opinionated I'm turned off).


What is your favorite curse word?
Fricken, bollix (yes, I know that's not the spelling, but that's how I say it), shizen, f***, pr*ck...

What sound or noise do you love?
Rain on the tin roofs in Queensland houses (listening from the inside), wind outside (but I hate being IN the wind), Mr Moi's voice, birds, the sound of Skype starting up (as it always precedes a phone call home).

What sound or noise do you hate?
The sound of toilets flushing on planes. Always makes me think I'm going to get sucked down too. People talking over the top of one another. Car horns beeping for no reason.

What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt?
- Opening and running a shop, perhaps a cafe
- Novelist
- Chef.

What profession would you not like to attempt?
- Anything with numbers
- Teacher (I don't disrespect the profession. I just seriously don't have the patience)
- Anything that involves too much networking or selling.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Good on ya for being a good person.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Transport in Kyiv 101: The Metro

My readers often ask me, "Little Miss Moi, how do you move about the city of Kyiv?" (I made that up. My readers couldn't be faffed to ask me about that, but I'll answer the question anyway).

I have four main means of transport around Kyiv. Here they are, ranked from most frequently used to least frequently used:

  • On foot
  • On the Kyiv Metro
  • In a taxi
  • Being driven by someone else's driver.
Today's lesson will focus on the Kyiv Metro.

My experience on the metro here is that it's fast, reliable, clean and a great spot to see some bad fashion. I've previously alluded to how deep the metro stations are, and this Wikipedia article gives you a good run down of the metro altogether (notice the big map? Bold names in Ukrainian, lesser names in Russian. This is why I have so much trouble learning the darn lingo).

To ride anywhere on the metro costs 50 kopioks or kopeks, which is about 12 cents Aussie, about 10 cents US, and 5 pence sterling. To travel, you buy a zhiton (token) from the kassa (cashier), slot the token into the gate and jump on the escalator to go down.

The only bad thing about the Kyiv metro is that there are no signs in latin letters (i.e. ours), and the only time one sees a route map that isn't written in Cyrillic, is once you're on the train. Not a lot of help if you then find you're going in the totally wrong direction. This makes is hard for people like Mr Moi, who still hasn't learned the whole Cyrillic alphabet.

There's one confusing thing about the metro, but works OK once you get used to it. In, for example, Sydney, the Town Hall station has about six platforms because there are four of five lines running through it*. But regardless of the line, the station is called Town Hall.

In Kyiv, when you come to a station where there's two lines running through, each line's platform has a different name. Albeit, the platforms for the two lines are usually separated by a two or three minute underground walk too. So, for example, the stop Maidan Nezalezhnosti is on the blue line. There is also a red line stop at that station: Kreshchatyk. Different lines, different names, same station. It actually makes it easy when you've arranged to meet someone at the station, as the margin for error is considerably more narrow (I'll meet you at Kreshchatyk is much more definitive than I'll meet you on the third platform from the entrance, fifty furloughs from the northbound tunnel).

Now, let me have a rant about the Tube in London. It's small, it's dingy, and, even if you're at a major travel hub station, they DON'T have lifts. So, for example, I forked out 15 pounds to ride into Paddington Station from Heathrow at 6:30am, because I was at the end of a 27 hour transit from Australia. This is a lot of money, but I was exhausted and wanted to get to my brother's house ASAP. And my suitcase weighed 27kgs.

When I arrived at Paddington, I had to then catch the Tube six stops to get to my brother's place. So I followed the signs to the Tube. First, down some escalators. Then, down some stairs (bang, bang, BANG went my suitcase). Then, through a tunnel and UP some stairs! The effort of pulling of my up the stairs almost pulled my arm off.

Then back down some more stairs, and onto the Tube. Then repeated the same pully-uppy shitehouse routine when I got off the other end.

Where the London Tube is warren-like, the Kyiv Metro is cavernous. Where the London Tube has stairs, the Kyiv metro has escalators. Where the London Tube trains are tiny and slow, the Kyiv Metro trains are a normal size and go rather quick.

I could go on and on, but I won't. I'll leave it right there.

I hope you've enjoyed this lesson on the Kyiv Metro.


*I just made up these numbers.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Spring is in the... park

Picture spring in Brisbane: brown backyards (even if you have a front yard, it's called a back yard) as a result of no rain or anything wet falling from the sky since April (sub-tropical climate remember, people).

The trees didn't have to grow any new leaves because they never lost them in the first place. The grass would crunch under your feet when you walked, kids were banned from playing sports on the fields because they were rock hard, and the weather stayed the same (about 30 degrees every day), but got progressively more humid.

Spring in Sydney was a little nicer: backyards were green because, hey, it does rain occasionally during winter in Sydney.

About one tree per neighbourhood managed to lose its leaves in autumn, so it would grow leaves (oooh! Ahh! Look at the new little leaves!). And, living in an older and relatively untouched suburb like I did, the most amazing spring flowers would bloom in the most amazing gardens. The temperature would increase from 23 to 28 with the occasional freak 40 degree day thrown in, usually brought over Sydney by a westerly wind, which inevitably resulted in bushfires.

Spring in Ukraine is different. Here are some little differences that I've noticed:
- There was snow. Now there's not
- There was heating. Now there's not
- There were no leaves on trees. They're getting there
- There was 20 million cloudy days in a row. Now there's some sun
- There were ubiquitous black coats. Now people are wearing some colour

And, most importantly:

- There were no beer tents with tables and chair set up every 3 metres throughout the city. Now. There. Is.

In honour of spring, here are some photos I took on a recent walk through Taras Shevchenko park.

Enjoy, and have a good spring (oh, don't worry, I'll be back before it's over).

My Ukrainian friend told me this is a tree that bears leaves that 'look like your hand'. I'm angling for some kind of maple... anyone?


Yeah, because I love underexposed shots, this doesn't capture how damn green the grass is in this part of the world. In Australia, when you picture our natural 'green', throw in about 40 per cent browny yellow too.


I'd better hightail it home, there's rain on the way. Obviously like the amount of humidity in the air in Brisbane in spring, the amount of sun in Kyiv only increases in increments.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Witty Wednesday

*Scroll down for some photos of what's going on in Kyiv today*

Have you heard this one?

A man walked into a bar.

He should've been more careful.

Chrisb at Ms Cellania
is on a mission to make us all laugh. Today she posted an Irish joke that was rather giggle worthy (and she said "most of you will get it before the punchline." I'm so slow, I didn't get it until a couple of seconds after the punchline).

Her joke reminded me of one of my all time faves. And I'm not insulting Irish people - I'm half Irish Aussie convict myself (the other half is stubborn Scot).

It's long but worth it.

* * * * *

Two Irishmen walk into a pet shop. Right away they go over to the bird section. Gerry says to Paddy, "Dat's dem". The clerk comes over and asks if he can help them. "Yeah, we'll take four of dem dere birds in dat cage op dere," says Gerry, "Put dem in a peeper bag." The clerk does and the two guys pay for the birds and leave the shop.

They get into Gerry's van and drive until they are high up in the hills and stop at the top of a cliff with a 500-foot drop. "Dis looks loike a grand place, eh?" says Gerry. "Oh, yeh, dis looks good," replies Paddy.

They flip a coin and Gerry wins the toss. "I guess I git to go first, eh Paddy?" says Gerry. He then takes two birds out of the bag, places them on his shoulders and jumps off the cliff.

Paddy watches as his mate drops off the edge and goes straight down for a few seconds followed by a 'SPLAT'. As Paddy looks over the edge of the cliff he shakes his head and says, "Fock dat, dis budgie jumpin' is too fockin' dangerous for me."

A minute later, Seamus arrives. He too has been to the pet shop and he walks up carrying the familiar 'peeper bag'. He pulls a parrot out of the bag, and then Paddy notices that, in his other hand, Seamus is carrying a gun.

"Hi, Paddy. Watch this," Seamus says and launches himself over the edge of the cliff. Paddy watches as half way down, Seamus takes the gun and blows the parrot's head off. Seamus continues to plummet until there is a SPLAT!, as he joins Gerry's remains at the bottom. Paddy shakes his head and says, "An' oim never troyin' dat parrot-shooting nider."

A few minutes after Seamus splats himself, Sean strolls up. He too has been to the pet shop and he walks up carrying the familiar 'peeper bag'. Instead of a parrot he pulls a chicken out of the bag, and launches himself of the cliff with the usual result. Once more Paddy shakes his head - "Fock me Sean, first der was Gerry wit his budgie jumping, den Seamus parrot shooting and now you blimmin' hen gliding."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Another week of Thinking Blogger

Two weeks ago, for the first time in my blife (blog life), I was tagged! A big thank you to beccy, who tagged me.

Then about a week ago, I was tagged again! A big thank you to sabrina, who tagged me that time.

Before I go on, a word about beccy and sabrina. These two girls are my blogging sisters. Firstly, we have triplet blogs - we all chose the same blogger design! Great minds, I tell ya (and I'm not usually a fan of green).

Secondly, I love dipping into their blogs every day and reading about life in the Emerald Isle - they have great stories about haircuts, music (1, 2, 3), food and shopping, all of which I totally relate to.

Thanks beccy and sabrina.

So, let me introduce you to the Thinking Blogger.

If you've been doing the blounds (blog rounds) over the past week, you would have seen the Thinking Blogger MeMe turn up all over the place.

Here are the instructions:

1. If you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to the post (or posts) that tagged you, so people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. Optional: Proudly display the Thinking Blogger Award with a link to the post that you wrote (in my case, I'll have to figure out how to do that :-)

As I said, last week really was Thinking Blogger week, and most blogs I read were tagged. So I'm tagging some people who I'm sure haven't been tagged. Here goes:

1. *Squishyness* - Amelita is a food lover formerly of Brisbane, in Queensland, Australia. She has a large family to cook for, and cook she does - she makes the most AMAZING recipes. She recently moved to Far North Queensland, and I've been jealously reading her posts about seafood and tropical fruits. You need to pop over and visit Amelita and drool over her food. And her pastel drawings.

2. I love Brisbane - Wes is a fellow Brisbane-ite who set himself the task of creating one post a day about a landmark or attraction in Brisbane, Queensland. He finds out the most amazing places, and makes me hugely homesick for my youthful haunts in the process. If only there was a blog like this about all our favourite places, then we'd always feel like we're keeping in touch with home!

3. Olechko - Olechko currently lives in Kyiv, and being a native Ukrainian speaker, she finds out all the cool places to go - galleries, restaurants, events and even towns (like Lviv). And then, she's kind enough to tell English-speaking expats like me all about them. Her blog has an artistic bent, and she shares her great photography and/or sketches in every post.

4. enidd (third-person singular) - enidd's blog entertains me no end. Not only is it bloody excellently written, but her mind makes me really jealous. When I think or speak in abstracts, I sound dumb. When enidd has an abstract thought, she's totally hilarious. She has a great talent for making me laugh, and hopefully you'll discover she has a great talent for making you laugh too. (Is that worth a jar of Vegemite from Tesco, enidd?)

5. This is a split - two friends in the States - Amy and Zandria.

Firstly Amy: She's moving to Australia, or she's not, or she's almost, or she definitely is again. It's been a rollercoaster ride for the past three months (boy, can I relate. Took us five months to decide to come here, daily conversations about Ukraine weren't fun). Amy uses her blog to explore her feelings about moving to Australia, and Australia itself, and talk about her feelings about uprooting her family and making this life-changing decision. Although it's a crazy ride, everyone who's moved would relate.

And Zandria: This girl could publish a magazine in her own right. She's a great writer with really thoughtful pieces and interesting stories. She has also compiled a list of '101 things to do' and keeps her readers updated on her progress through the list. I tell ya - it takes guts to make a list and make yourself accountable like that.

So there's my five.

But I'd also like to make a special note of the anti-heroes of this MeMe - Willowtree and Dirty Uncle Mark (both said they would not accept an award. Seriously. Boys, tsk!). I read both these blogs on a daily basis and they make me laugh. And they're worthy of mentioning soley because they didn't want to be mentioned.

But, I do wear my heart on my sidebar, and I'm not lying when I tell you that my daily reads really are on the sidebar. I keep it relatively up-to-date, so if you're up there, I'll just say thanks for the good reading. If your name isn't up there, then leave a comment so that I know you exist!