Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Another blog post down the drain. All because I tried to select all with ctrl-A. It's 11:30pm and I was cranky and tired anyway, and now I'm even more cranky and tired.

Today I went on a 'ladies who lunch' tour to a Babi Yar memorial for the 37,000 Jews who were murdered over a two-day period during WWII, and St Cyril's Monastery, which is an old, Kiev Rus period church with great artwork inside.

I know the following reasons don't really justify my crankiness, especially considering I went to a very sobering memorial for tens of thousands of murdered Jews and a church that was ruined by atheist-Soviets. But to sum up why I became cranky and tired:
  • Was late to the rendezvous point by 10 minutes because the buses and taxis wouldn't stop for me
  • Once with the group, we caught a zillion marshrutkas to get to St Cyril's, I'm not kidding. I hate those suspension-free-zone minivans
  • My toes froze about three times. I'm surprised they are still on my feet
  • I had two cameras. One of them is big and heavy and a pain to carry around. For most of the day, neither of them would work
  • After you have dwelt on the injustice of the previous point, imagine my annoyance when it turned out neither would work as a result of my own stupidity. One camera didn't have a battery in it. The other has a dead battery, and the spare was in the wrong place so I couldn't find it for the majority of the day
  • Got yelled at by a trolleybus full of Ukrainians for getting off at the wrong stop
  • After all of this, I had to go to the supermarket and purchase about 30kgs of groceries which I carried home on my back.

Add to the mix freezing cold temperatures - it was minus nine, and about minus 20 windchill. The final straw was blogger mysteriously deleting my long and descriptive blog post.

Grrr. Well, I've just finished taking out the double-spacing blogger inserted into this post when I uploaded the pics. It's time to go to bed.

How was your day?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A job opportunity

My enterprising mind sprung on an enterprising way to make some money: copy off other people's enterprising ideas.

I've always been a bit of a foodie. I really love cooking and using fresh produce to create really yummy flavours that both feed and really impress people at the same time. So in my current employment-drought, I thought perhaps I can get a foot in the food industry here in Kyiv. And once again, I look to the source of all things wise: babushkas.

These women are survivors. While their husband-muzh throws back the vodka in the village, these ladies are up with the birds, on the train to the big smoke to sell their fresh farm produce, before going back to the village to haul her husband-muzh out of his vodka stupor and into bed.

The only thing about selling vegies is, they have to buy them first.

So on the way from the train-vagzal to the market-rinok, they detour to the local supermarket to buy up a day's worth of vegies. And then onwards to the rinok to sell said vegies at highly inflated prices to useless foreigners (like Little_Miss_Moi).

Ukraine is a land where the food flows a-plenty at generally cheap prices (probably to make up for the occasional say, pebble in one's yoghurt). But when you're asked to pay $12 for a single cauliflower, you know the joke's on you.

(Lucky for the Bessarabskii Babushkas, I'm a total pushover. With my head bent in shame, I paid the dosh and exited the rinok. If I'd turned around, I'd have seen those wily old tarts giving each other high-fives and circulating a picture of me for future reference with the caption: 'She can't say no'.)

Ukraine is a happy go lucky sorta country. I'm sure no-one would care if I entered the fruit-reselling market. Except the scary babushkas.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I fell off the (daily blogging) wagon

I was seeking some creative inspiration for the blog yesterday afternoon so when Mr_Moi suggested we head to the nearby Arena Bar for an aperitif, I agreed wholeheartedly.

Trudging through the snow, we arrived there at about 5:30pm, and we ordered a beer (500mL cloudy something-or-other that was brewed in the premises), and some sausages from the aptly named "Meals for Beer" menu.

After working non-stop all weekend, Mr_Moi was keen to have a couple of beers and go; in his words, "Early out and about, early home". But so engaging was our general chit chat that it eventually led to another beer, which lead to us philosophising about how darn perfect we are, another beer, and strategising how we can make the world as perfect as us.

Five hours and five beers each later, we asked for the bill (in my by then perfectly fluent Russian, which they totally comprehended), went home via McDonald's (the sausages weren't enough), and, with some more philosophising about the 'international language of fast food', skated home on the snow like loud obnoxious foreigners.

The only thing we didn't theorise a solution for was: what does 'democratic pricing' mean?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Dear Augie March - is it over between us?

Happy Australia Day. You'll have to excuse me if this is a lacklustre post, because I've written it three times and managed to delete it three times too.

Aussies observe a number of traditions on Australia Day:
1) Lots of icy cold beer
2) A couple of snags on the barbie
3) The Australia Day one-dayer from Adelaide Oval

and the left-wing hippy student minority observes the following tradition:
4) Listening to the Triple J Hottest 100 countdown.

Now, number 4) has always been a rather fringe exercise. Not only would my parents not tolerate the Hottest 100 being played in the house, but they banned us from using the car if we ever left the dial on Triple J.

(I still classify number 4) as one of my traditions, as I hang onto the last vestiges of my student days. And my twenties for that matter...)

So I was rather surprised when I rang my brother's house, in hippy left-wing paradise, and heard my mother in the background not only tolerating, but listening to and enjoying the Triple J Hottest 100.

And when they annouced that Augie March's 'One Crowded Hour' won the number one spot, my mother postively squealed with delight.

Augie March has long been one of my favourite bands. Their style can best be described as 'avant-garde' rock, and there's very few cool people I've met who know the band, let alone my mother being a fan.

Later today, I logged onto and was shocked to see the band staring at me from the most prominent photo-spot on the page. I took a screen shot as I'm not entirely sure it's not a mistake.

Since when have the Australian masses cared about who won the Triple J Hottest 100? Never mind the Murdoch Empire plastering the winning band on their flagship Aussie news site.

But the heftier question is: can I continue to love a band that my mother has acquired a taste for? Her taste and mine parted ways in 1990 (not before she could instil a love of Billy Joel in my young, impressionable mind). This time a year ago, she was singing the praises of James Blunt, so I'm struggling to determine whether her taste in music has improved, or if Augie March have just become mainstream crap.

I guess you can listen yourself and decide if the song is any good.

Unfortunately, we couldn't get any Aussie branded beer here, but we figured чернігівскье преміум was close enough (well, it tastes like beer). In order to keep our Australia Day beers cold, Mr_Moi and I have popped them on the balcony where they're cooling down in a balmy minus six degrees.

Advance Australia Waltzing Matilda Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi. Happy Australia Day.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The slush has arrived

Today has been a rather uneventful day, so I've had time to reflect on the snows that finally hit yesterday (but were almost melted by today).

Yesterday I woke up to the sound of cars driving along a wet road. What with winter being so late this year, I really believed it would never come, so when I checked out the 'rain' and saw that it was 'snow', I was actually shocked.

It seems that winter may have finally come to Kyiv. Unfortunately, it was so long in coming that the people who are employed in winter-orientated occupations seem to have left town. There were no babushkas out sweeping the paths at the crack of dawn (8am), and very few snowploughs on the roads.

Throw into the mix above-freezing temperatures by mid-morning, and it was almost time to go swimming.

As you can see, there's there's a bit of slush on the roads, and with the Ukrainian tendency to park on the footpath, it's hard to distinguish where the road ends and the footpath begins. The hilarity of twisted ankles and a big a-over-t stack ensues. Not me personally, of course.

As I earlier mentioned, most of the snow had melted by this afternoon but the days are still short, so most flat surfaces in town didn't see the sunlight today. They're still very wet, and tomorrow the temps are dropping below zero for a few days. I'll have to pull out the ice-skates.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The art masters of Ukraine

Today I went on a tour of the National Art Museum of Ukraine (or something like that... National Museum of Ukrainian Art? Not sure). We had an English speaking guide who was great; a little over-zealous about some of the religious pieces, God bless her and her love of the saints.

There were three rooms and two antechamers of icons. I'm glad they didn't expect us to kiss them, as they do at the Caves Monastery, or Lavra, although, I've been assured by a Ukrainian that scientific studies have been carried out and found that no germs are transmitted by kissing a picture that a million desperate sick people have kissed (
God bless the Ukrainians and their undying belief in their own superiority).

I have a theory that Ukrainians kiss icons to make up for the fact that they can't relate to people they encounter at any other period in their lives. If you make eye-contact with a Ukrainian, expect a sneer at best, but potentially a fist in the eye. Don't even attempt a smile. And yet, Ukrainians don't mind getting up close and personal - they are severely lacking in any awareness of personal space (God bless the Soviets and their lack of privacy).

The number of times I've been walking along a street, only to realise there are two fellows within one centimetre of my handbag... Well, it's alarming. But they just elbow past you (even if it's an empty street. Any excuse for physical contact), leaving your handbag alone in their quest for a one-litre bottle of beer, a pack of fags or some other mildly anti-social behaviour. Ah, except on the metro. If anyone's that close to you, they expect to claim ownership over anything they find, oh, in your handbag, pockets or on your general person. Bit like those Devonshire scavenger folk.

But. I believe deep down that Kyiv is the city of love. Everywhere you look, you see amorous youths indulging in a public pash, a bottom grope or generally draped over each other. As The Beatles said in "Back in the USSR",
those girls from Ukraine really knock you out, they leave the west behind.

And in honour of that sentiment, I would like you share my enjoyment of one of the best paintings I saw today, by a fellow called Pymonenko.

This painting depicts a scene from a Kyiv village around the turn of the century, I think. It encapsulates the Eternal Kyivian Juxtaposition: Kyiv is the city of young love, where people can't talk to each other but touchy-feely runs free.

And... Whatever you do, expect the wrath of a cranky babushka with a big stick.

God bless Ukraine.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

This is a Clayton's post

I would like to dedicate this post to my little brother, Clayton. He was named after the non-alcoholic spirit, Clayton's: The drink you have when you're not having a drink. Being born six years after the four other well-spaced kids in the family, my parents deemed him the baby you have when you're not having any more babies. Growing up with this stigma, it's a wonder he turned out normal.

This is a pic I took of myself in London's Regent's Park in September. In many ways, the weather pattern we experienced there was one I've experienced here: unseasonably warm, lots of flowers where there should be dead foliage, and people out and about, making the most of the weather. Of course, one major difference between London in September and Kyiv in January is that the sun was out.

I look at these photos from time to time when I need to remember what a shadow is.

So why is this a Clayton's post? Two reasons:

1) I want to put a pic on my profile without using the crappy Hello software recommended by blogger. That software just does not work for me. I have circumvented the need to use the software by posting this, and using the URL from the pic above to put a pic of me in the profile section. So darn smart of me.

2) This post has nothing to do with anything. It's the post you post when you're not posting a post.

I am a bit concerned on reading the Wikipedia entry on Claytons, that my readers will think I am an unloving daughter and older sister. One of the definitions given for Claytons on Wikipedia is:

... Subsequently, the term "Claytons" entered the vocabulary of both countries [Australia and New Zealand], used as an adjective to signify a compromise which satisfies no-one, or any form of inferior substitute or low-quality imitation, largely synonymous with the word "ersatz". For example, a hasty or temporary repair may be only a Claytons solution to a problem.

I would like to point out that I'm not trying to make a commentary on my parents' decision to have another child after they reached perfection (Little_Miss_Moi). Simply make reference to the second definition provided on the page.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Just one of the crowd

The International Women's Club organises a lot of groups, and one of them is Monday morning coffee (MMC).

Today I had a lovely MMC session, but hitherto I haven't been entirely convinced it's my scene....

Before Christmas, I went to my first Monday morning coffee at the residence of a tri-colour flag ambassador (not the obvious one). It's a little out of the centre of town, so I dressed in my Sunday best, with pearl earring and fob chain to boot, and caught the metro over.

At the metro exit, I took the wrong street. After walking for at least 20 minutes, travelling further into a nameless native suburb, I was evidently nowhere near ambassadorial residences. Consulting my map, I realised I'd gone so far in the wrong direction that I'd almost walked all the way home.

I retraced my steps and found myself on a road six lanes across, that descended steeply down and around. Seeing a construction site snaking off this road instead of the street I was looking for, and being now an hour late, I rang Mr_Moi in desperation and tears, and demanded he look up the map online.

"It's fine. The construction site is the street. According to the map, it's the eighth house on the right." And sure enough, it was. Past the construction, the street was a boulevard of national flags, marking various ambassador residences. I found the house I was looking for, with a flag blowing above a 10-foot high gate guarded by a stern military man.

I was impressed. The closest thing I have to an armed guard at my apartment is the security guy outside the casino two doors up. At least he's there 24/7.

The guard let me in and I was greeted at the door by a grinning maid-babushka who whisked off my coat, took my 'shapka' and had me out of the foyer and into the reception room in a flash.

And there were all the 'ladies who lunch', munching on pastries and elegantly discussing life in Kyiv. The dining table was adorned with 30 of everything: 30 fine-bone china cups with real-gold trim and matching saucers, 30 crystal juice glasses, 30 cake plates, 30 silver forks and 30 silver teaspoons. Overseeing all were 30 (okay, three) servants, dressed in black with frilly aprons and white caps, serving food and drink.

I sipped Perrier from a crystal glass to cool down after my pilgrimage from the metro, then grabbed a coffee and headed off to talk to someone. Anyone. I was by far the youngest in the room - by about 10 years. But on average, by about 25 years. I gravitated towards the one person I knew, and proceeded to stalk her for the next hour.

I found it hard to keep up with the chit-chat about finding drivers and housekeepers, trips to Switzerland for skiing and Paris for shopping. But
I dutifully nodded or shook my head sympathetically where required. I chatted to people about this and that, and cracked a few jokes to prove that I was a 'crazy Australian' and worthy of social interaction. By the time the gathering ended, I'd talked to a lot of people and as a result was very pleased with myself.

As it was time to go, we moved en masse to the door, thanking the host for her hospitality. I donned my coat from the nice babushka, put on my hat and walked out among my new friends, laughing and chatting as we walked down the steps, past the military man and out onto the street.

It felt nice to leave with the crowd. It was like being at school again, yearning to be accepted and then actually making some friends. I felt like I was one of them - I was a lady who lunches! I threw my shoulders back and turned on my heel to head towards the end of the street. I took about five steps, then turned to ask someone a question, and realised... I was alone.

As I stood looking around for the vanished crowd, I was blinded by a blur of tinted windows and metallic paint as my fellow 'ladies who lunch' flew past in their luxury cars-with-drivers. My heart sank as I realised I was alone on the long walk home.

I set my shoulders to the wind, trudged up the hill and caught the metro back to my little one-bed flat with no babushka at the door. As made a cup of tea to cheer myself up, it occurred to me that I don't even have four matching coffee cups, let alone 30.

Luckily, things have improved. Now that Christmas is over, no-one is discussing holidays I'll only get jealous of. And most importantly, I found out MMC is usually walking distance from town - no driver required.

Further proof the 80s are here to stay...

Pull out the synth-pop keyboard and play a victory march! The 80s are here to stay.

Yesterday I realised I was plum out of currency, so it was time for a trip to the money changer.
As I was waiting at the window of my preferred babushka (consistently good rate, short walk from home, located in a rather unsuccessful, thus quiet, mobile phone shop ergo low post-exchange crime rate), I was surprised to find myself not only humming, but also bopping along to the song on the radio.

Hello 1989! It was 'Pump up the Jam' by Technotronic.

I don't remember much of the 80s, but I did achieve a lot in that decade: I learned to talk, walk, dress myself, chew food and eventually learned to wipe my bottom, to my mother's joy.

There were some drawbacks to being an infant in the 80s, though - my fingers were too small to master the Atari joystick, mum said I was too young to watch BMX Bandits, and when I was five, my sister devised a rather embarrassing dance routine for me to perform to 'Physical' by Olivia Newton-John. It involved big hair, lycra and leg-warmers. I'm still trying to live down the pictures.

Living in the Kyiv-80s time-warp gives me a chance to re-live the 80s as a grown up. Somewhere, in this parallel 1989 universe, on the other side of the world, an embarrassed nine-year-old me is sitting in my primary school library in shame, being forced to apologise to the class after accidentally farting. (In my defence, I had two older brothers. I didn't realise it was taboo to fart in public). Here in Kyiv, however, the grown-up me is getting acquainted with mullets, tassles, and A-Ha; and singing along to 'Pump up the Jam' by Technotronic.

Here's hoping I enjoy the 80s; I can make up for my meltdown in 1986 when, at the age of six, my favourite tune was 'You're the Voice' by John Farnham. There was no dance routine to that one, just lots of heartfelt gesticulation and lip-syncing.

Oh, is that the time? I have to go to my jazzercise class.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Kyiv Day of Prayer?

The other day as I was resurfacing from the depths of the Metro, I spotted one of my strangest sights to date in Kyiv.

Now, in my time, I've attended some rather fervent prayer sessions at pentecostal church services. So when I was walking through the tunnels of the Kyiv Metro and saw two dyevushkas clinging to each other, heads bowed, whispering intently I assumed they were overcome with emotion and prayer. I felt like I was in a Hillsong congregation on a Sunday morning.

But there were two things that struck me as odd.

1) The dyevushkas were stopped in a narrow tunnel... Not so surprising, as in their endless quest to be noticed, dyevushkas think nothing of stopping suddenly in a torrent of pedestrians. They're probably hoping a prospective husband will trip over their stick-thin legs and whisk them away to a life in the States. But these ones were really putting their lives on the line by blocking 300 cranky Ukrainians who were just as keen as I was to emerge from the hot, stinky Metro.

2) Ukraine isn't the USA - it's not exactly known as a charismatic Christian heartland, or really Christian at all for that matter. At best, a Ukrainian will be spotted strolling into a church to take shelter from the elements and plant a sloppy one on a portrait of a saint. But so removed are the Ukrainians from Christianity in general that they don't have Christmas trees here, they have New Years trees. Although Christmas is a good excuse to take holidays and enjoy public inebriation.

My heart went out to these desperate dyevushkas as I watched them at their prayers. One of the girls was almost crying, she was so upset, and her companion was clutching her, physically holding her upright for fear she would faint... Or so I thought.

Then the devastating(ly funny) reality dawned on me. One of the dyevushkas couldn't move because her stiletto heel was stuck in the pavement grate. Oh, it was the funniest thing I've ever seen! I just hope her prayers were answered, cause all I could see was a $300 pair of boots going, well... down the drain!

Will the real shoe fetishist please stand up?

I am in a state of heightened concern.

I was just looking at my flickr page and was alarmed to see that the photo of my bew-di-ful legs with their fur-lined boots has been viewed 43 times?! I mean, I know the sight of my legs is enough to set hearts racing, but 43 times viewed is a little alarming compared with an average of six views per every other picture.

All I can say is that I'm scared. Is someone stalking me on the net? Is a so-called 'friend' to whom I emailed my flickr link really a sordid recruiter/spy for a criminal shoe-fetishist ring? Are my precious pins going to turn up on websites that, if they were a phone number, would start with 1800 and end with XXX? And only be advertised after midnight on channel 10?

All I can say to you, Mr/s Shoe Fetishist, is that I'm a humble, unemployed young lady. If you're making money off my legs... I want a cut too.

(If you just happen to be reading this post, and are curious about my potentially money making legs, you can make an appraisal by looking at my flickr site here. But when you're making me an offer, just remember: I won't don my boots for less than $10,000 per day.)

Put your vote in for this year's Loogies!

It's official. Loogies fever has hit Kyiv. Bring out the ballgowns ladies! Prime your papps, gossip mags! The night of nights is coming.

Since I've been here, I've seen hundreds of legitimate contenders for the Loogies. They're everywhere. Some of the more common Loogie haunts include... Adorning the steps to the Metro, or hanging around the footpaths pretty much anywhere in the city. You'll see the occasional Loogie draped in a cafe or restaurant, with the more dodgy ones hanging out in the loos.

And boy, do the Loogies bring out the best in people. Oh! they make people laugh; they make people cry. They make people dance - especially when they're trying dodge that extra sticky Loogie.

This year's Loogies will fall into two categories - the Slimy Loogie, and the Green Loogie. Unfortunately, due to the late onset of winter and the illnesses that come with it, there simply can't be a Gold Loogie category this year.

I'm in negotiations with people who know people, in order to bring Bert and Patti to Kyiv to host the first official Loogies Night. I really don't think Matthew's recent kerfuffle involving his ex, Brooke Satchwell and her suspicious bruises, has brought the Newton name into disrepute in Ukraine.

In fact, with behaviour like that, Matthew would be considered an upstanding citizen and an exemplary specimen of the male species. Perhaps he should accompany Bert and Patti here and then defect?

He'll have to practice his Loogies.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Merry New Year

With no snow in this part of the world, one's mind has to resort... either inwardly or outwardly... to other things. Like West Wing.

I love West Wing. And here I am, after a couple of 'card-o-nays', having a giggle over one of the characters saying, "I'm sorry about this mess, one of my assistants just had her thesis published."

Replace 'thesis' with 'faeces' (yes, the audio was rather questionable), and there's my mirth for the day.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I got a Carol Brady

Getting a decent haircut certainly poses a problem when living in a country where one does not have a mastery of the Russian language, in a land where 'initiative' is not exactly at top of mind of the masses.

Yesterday, after enjoying a huge and cheap business lunch with Mr_Moi, I wandered over to the only hair salon I've ever noticed (the city doesn't lack them, I just don't notice them) in order to bungle my way through trying to book a hair appointment.

I walked and and all I could muster was, "Dobry den. Pa angliskii pazhalsta?" which means, "Good day. In English please?" Yeh. Crap. I know.

Before I knew it, I was sitting on a groovy chair that gives you a back rub to make up for the fact that the dyevushka hardly rubs in the shampoo and conditioner, let alone massages your scalp. Then I have to try to explain to her what is wrong with my hair. She doesn't understand "It's too thick at the moment." She ends up accusing me of having 'fat' hair. Then she wants to know if I want it all one length, or longer at the back (oh, the 80s are so in fashion here). I insist on all one length, thank you very much, and tell her to do something that she thinks looks cool and that looks OK on my head.

So she begins to work her magic, one millimetre at a time, one question per millimetre, until eventually (read: three hours later), my hair is marginally shorter and there is a distinct mullet upon the nape of my neck. Then she thins out my hair - hurrah for that, cause I'm feeling chubby enough as it is, without the hair suffering the same fate. Except she only thins the ends, not the top.

Then she shapes the front of my hair to look like a bowl. I have all bulk on top, thin tendrils hanging down, and a bit fat mull en rear. I look in the mirror and realise - I look like a brunette Carol Brady. The original 70s - not a modern incarnation.

Welcome to eastern european fashion. The 80s arrived 20 years late, and they're here to stay.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Hello one and all. While I have hitherto been successful in relatively keeping you up to date with what's been going on in my life via group emails and flickr photographs, I am, indeed, guilty of 'slacking off'. Partly because there simply haven't been any new photos to add for a while.

There may have been, but I've been a bit lazy on the photo front to be honest. Here are some really good photos that you missed out on, because I was too lazy to take them:

1. A photo of the Kyiv New Year's tree at Maidan. It's 35 metres high and made of the branches of real fir trees. Looks impressive but I just can't be bothered to go out, remember to take the camera, and hike all the way up to Maidan to take a photo. I just keep thinking, "There's always next year..."

2. A photo of the yummy goose I got to munch on a Christmas lunch. We were kindly invited around to someone's house, but there were a lot of strangers there; I felt shy so I didn't take the camera around.

3. Photos of Mr_Moi's Christmas party. He didn't take the camera, and lucky he didn't because, considering he lost his phone that night, there's a very real possibility that he may have lost the camera also.

4. Photos of the New Year's fireworks that banged in the sky for not one, not two, not three, not four, but five - yes, five - hours after New Year struck. And there's another new year coming up on 14th January (Orthodox).

5. A photo of Mr_Moi and me at the pub at 8am this morning, watching the final session of day three of the Ashes on Sky Sport. We didn't have a beer, but it was the earliest we've been up since we've been here.

So there's the lowdown on what's been going on in the life of Mr and Miss_Moi.

To give you all an update on what's going on specifically in my life... The job front isn't looking too great for me at the moment, so I'm looking into kicking my Russian lessons into high gear, and I'm considering taking German lessons too.

I have also joined the International Women's Club of Kyiv (IWCK), where I am hoping to become a part of the cooking group, tennis group, and the Russian literature group. I also go to Monday morning coffee, but not sure I will continue that because, after seeing the inside of a few rich-o apartments and diplomat houses, I just don't think my little box of an apartment will adequately deliver when times comes to reciprocate the horse-pit-ality.

That's about it for now, crew. See you later.