Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Now THAT's a sausage

I've learned that there are some days, as an expat, you just want to curl up and not face the world.

For me, today was one of those days.

Today I was strangely compelled to sit on the couch and do nothing but watch the telly and eat a bit of junk food.

(Or, more truthfully, I had to catch up on about a million Fun Monday posts).

So instead of depressing you with the reasons why I didn't want to front up to the world today (in fact, there isn't a reason), I thought I'd show you a picture of what we had for dinner last night.

This is half of a Ukrainian sausage.

I've seen some curly sausages in my day - I have many a Zimbabwean and South African friend who's treated me to the delights of boerewors over the years (and yes, it's a very yummy sausage. Good for camping, and brekky).

Here in Ukraine, there are lots of sausages available, always of the piggy persuasion, and always laced with a shizen-load of fat. So far, we've resisted the temptation to purchase, but when we decided to make a yummy risotto that calls for Italian pork sausages, we decided to brave the Ukie snag.

After we'd lugged the snag home and pulled it out to start the risotto, we were very surprised to find that, contrary to any other sausage we've ever eaten, this snag wasn't made with minced meat - rather, chunks of pork, and chunks of fat.

We used half the sausage for the risotto, and had to eat the other half for dinner last night.

The photo shows 'the other half'. It was seriously the most giant and chunkiest sausage I have ever seen.

Do you want to take a closer look? Here goes...

What do you think? That's some sausage...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Fun Monday # 2 (well, it is for me)

** Fun Monday update: For those of you still doing the rounds, my friend carpetblogger was an unofficial Fun Monday entrant. Check out her Instanbul blogging environment (she has the best looking support staff in town).

Welcome to my second ever Fun Monday!

Today's Fun Monday is brought to you by my compatriot, Willowtree, and for the full list of participants this week, you can visit him at A Dingo's got my Barbie. I encourage you to visit, there's free vegemite sandwiches at the door. (Not really, but there should be).

The theme for this week's fun Monday is 'blogging environment'. This is fairly easy for me, seeing as I have an apartment the size of a shoe box. I have a living room, bedroom, teeny tiny kitchen and a bathroom. Not much choice really.

But I also have a laptop computer and wireless internet (not exactly reliable), so my blogging environment could really by anywhere within my 50 squares.

Mostly, though, my 'computer room' is the one that is also the telly room, the reading room, and, if we had a piano, it would be the piano room too.

Here's a picture of my blogging environment:

Jaw-dropping, isn't it? To afford you a closer look at my 'desk', I took another picture from a slightly different angle:

Notice the crochet nana-rug on my knees? Not only did I make it myself, but I hoiked it all the way to Ukraine to keep me warm. And they still haven't really fixed up the heating so I'm using it this morning.

Now, let's examine my desk in greater detail. Firstly, my mouse-pad. It's a small coffee-table book about Australia. "What's it doing on your desk?" you ask. Ay, there's the rub. My desk isn't a desk per se, rather, and this will shock you, it's a coffee table.

See the two glasses next to the computer? That's the remnants of last nights coupla glasses of Georgian red wine.

Underneath the desk there are a number of magazines, and a couple of hard drives to play music from. My speakers? They're built into the computer of course. And all the computer cords, when not in use, conveniently tuck away into the footstool you see in the backgrounds of the pics.

The true beauty of this position is that I can type at the computer, and without moving my head, I can also watch telly.

Talk about an assault of the senses.

So, that was a rather mediocre post, was it not?

Here's something to get you excited. Sunrise in Kyiv from the living room window you see shining in the photos above.

First, the sun just peeking over the buildings across the road...

Then a little more...

Then a little more than the one before....

Then even more than the one before and the one before that....

And finally way more than the one before x(times) four...
(Well, how the heck else can you commentate a sunrise?)

Have a great fun Monday. Love Little Miss Moi xx

PS Can you see the reflection of my in my pink pyjamas in the door?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The seven day itch

Today was the seventh day of the seven day itch.

No, dirty minds, I don't go through a new bloke every week.

Heating in Ukraine is an interesting concept. The city (i.e. council) heats our apartment. In fact, the city heats most of the apartments in Kyiv. It's turned on in October, and turned off in March.

All day, every day, our apartment is heated to a balmy 21.5 degrees. I can't turn it down, and I can't turn it off. That's just the way life is. As tenants, we don't even have to pay for it.

The problem is, when a cold snap comes, the heat goes mad. For the past week, I've been sweating out the cold snap (when I'm not freezing, of course) in 25 degree heat, because the city has shovelled a little too much coal into the furnace. The inevitable result is that I'm constantly dehydrated. And really bloody itchy.

This morning, after a rather sleepless 25 degree night*, I woke up and surveyed the damage. I've sweated through two sets of pyjamas this week, I have a heat rash on my arms, I've scratched off skin on my shins, and I have bruises around my knees from my ferocious scratching.

Of course, it doesn't help that I insist on sleeping under a doona (duvet, quilt, whatever). I can't sleep any other way.

In Australia, Mr Moi and I never owned a heater. On those 10 degree winter nights in Sydney (it does happen), we watched telly with crocheted granny rugs on our laps. When things got really bad, we'd be in bed at 7pm watching telly from underneath the doonas.

This heating thing, with no open windows and no moisture in the air, is new to us.

I know you're thinking, "Well, why don't you just buy some moisturiser? Surely this would be the cure for the seven day itch?"

Well, the truth is, I tried. I really did. But it was so confusing looking at all the Russian labels on the shelf, that I just gave up. I didn't want to buy something for oily skin when I have dry skin. My hormone balance, in general, is erratic enough, without messing with the pH balance of my largest organ. (Ohh. On proof read, that sounds a bit dirty. But I'll remind readers that I'm a girl).

Secretly, being itchy made me feel a bit tough. It's like 'tough', at a discount. I thought I could tough it out.

Except, the cold has finally caught up with the heat, and apartment has now dropped to about 15 degrees. As a result, I have three jumpers on and am sitting under a doona. And the confined dry heat is making me itchier than ever.

* Many women in Ukraine are very beautiful. Now, Mr Moi has never given me reason to think that he even looks at other women - I've never seen him do it, and if I comment on a stunner who's just walked past, he's totally oblivious.

Regardless, last night I had a dream that he met a lovely beautiful girl and I caught him talking to her. Then, at 3am this morning, he woke me up saying, "Little Miss Babe, have you seen my wedding ring? It's fallen off, I can't find it!" Half asleep, I patted the sheets and my pillow, to no avail.

When I woke up this morning, I found his wedding ring clutched in my hand under the pillow. I have a suspicion that, when he cheated on me in my dreams, I grabbed his hand and yanked off his wedding ring. And, in case you're wondering, I did give him the silent treatment for cheating on me in my dreams.

See? I'm a tough bird.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Grrr... the problem with Rugby

"Little Miss Babe [that's what Mr Moi calls me], hurry up! We're leaving in 20 minutes."

I was greeted with these words this morning, while enjoying my blog visits with a 'cup of joe', as the Americans say.

"But I have to wash my haaaaiiirr," I yelled back.

"You don't have time," was his rejoinder (wow, I finally got to use that word in a sentence).

Okay, okay, so where is this dialogue going?

I have a problem with Rugby. Hitherto in my life, autumn and winter (i.e. March to August) have ping-ponged between normal, everyday life, and weekend sporting hell. Because Mr Moi is a sports freak.

I don't mind watching a few sports, but in winter, social activities are invariably organised around being in front of a telly at 2pm and 7pm on Saturdays and Sundays in order to catch the 'kick-off'. Of what sport, it really doesn't matter, but usually Aussie Rules or Rugby.

While somewhat painful, these fit nicely into my day - 2pm, I enjoyed some girl time, and 7pm we were socialising, so he had to miss out (on sport heh heh heh).

Now, flip those times to the opposite hemisphere halfway around the world, and you'll understand why Mr Moi pushed me out the door with dirty hair at 9am this morning. We had to get to the pub to watch the Super 14.

And because we're now in the Northern Hemisphere, and our friendly local Irish pub has Sky telly, I also get to watch the UK club rugby, the Six Nations, and the whole gamut of soccer: Premier League, UEFA Cup, UEFA Champions League and some other one, I'm sure.

We don't have Sky telly. So unlike when Mr Moi watched these sports in Australia and I pottered around the house, in Kyiv, I have to join him in the smoky pub if I want to spend time with him on the weekend.

Now... Before you start commenting in the vein of, "Girl, you gotta set down some rulz for your man," I'll leave you with this thought.

I don't work. It's minus 15 outside. I watch TV all day. I have three English language channels that repeat all their content over and over again. And when they've done that, they repeat all the content backwards. To be honest, I don't mind the sport.

I just wish I didn't have to have it for brekky. With dirty hair.

Friday, February 23, 2007

You know it's time to wear your thermals when...

On Wednesday, the temperature in Kyiv dropped. Quite significantly, in fact - it was around minus 15 in the morning, and warmed up to around minus seven.

And the sun was out. As a result, I seriously underestimated just how cold it was outside.

Setting out for lunch, I donned a pair of trusty knee socks under my lined boots. No tights, no thermals. Just a cotton summer skirt, boots and socks (oh, and a shirt and jumper of course).

Not having far to go to meet my friends, I didn't really notice the cold. But after lunch, a friend asked me to walk with her to find a sports hall she'd been told about.

So we set out on foot, up from the valley that is Kreshchatyk to the hill-top of the river bank. The wind was blowing mighty fiercely at the top of the hill and it was bloody freezing.

Admittedly, we were both rather cold, but as we were on foot, we just sped up a little to keep warm.
We walked around for about an hour, then returned to Kreshchatyk. That's where I saw something I've never seen before.

A Ukrainian man smiled at me. Almost laughed. I was dumbfounded, this was such a monumental event. Ukrainians never smile and make eye contact on the street. What was going on? Have the tides turned?

Then he looked at my knees. I followed his gaze and looked down.

My knees were fluorescent pink. They were brighter than the worst sunburn I have ever had if my life. In contrast to my black boots and black skirt, this painful streak of freezing pink flesh was shocking.

I was so embarrassed. I undid my zip just a little so I could pull my skirt lower to hide the pink. I felt as though people were looking at me, thinking, "What a stupid foreign lady. She doesn't even know how to keep warm."

I scurried home, and pulled out the thermals straight away, so I wouldn't forget to put them on when I went out on Thursday. Then I spent the rest of the evening defrosting.

So while it's not as interesting or inventive as some of the competition entries, I discovered: you know it's time to wear your thermals when your legs are so pink, they force a Kyivite to smile at you.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

If you want a haiku, leave a comment...

Dear my fwends

I went out for dinks tonigth. I got a bit pished.

Love LMM xo*(^xo


I got so excited about my competition that I started my prizes after half a day, not a whole day.

The competition is still open. Submit you answer to... "you know it's time to wear thermals when..."

Haiku in your honour will appear within 24 hours. Give me something to work with!

Have a haiku on me

In my world, everyone's a winner (either the words of a loser, or a fan of FDR) (I fall into the former category, in case you were wondering).

I have written a haiku in everyone's honour. Based on their competition entry...

He sat on the bench
Condensation set in. Stand
Up, skin's left behind

Fripples through the mist
She can't feel her mammaries
She and bra are one

That shrinking feeling
A feeling of profound loss
Something's gone, 'downstairs'...

He licks the steel tap
It is minus seventeen
They have tongue for tea

A tap up my nose
Emits lots of snot drip drop
Snot-cicles. Can't breathe

Wake up. Sit on loo
No tinkle. Just a wet bum
Darn iced loo water

stick finger up nose
ouch! stabbed by icy nose hair
blood, freeze! finger stuck...

Boobs freeze to brass bra
Pumpernickel licks the brass
Uh oh! Cold and stuck

Run out of clean undies
Pull out trusty thermal slacks...
Too hot for summer

Pull on thermals. Hot!
Pull them off, wring out the sweat
Cowboy hat instead


Ten pairs of knee socks
Toes are warm but nothing else
Knit some thigh warmers

The very nice man
L.M.M.'s a girl
Does not know what go-nuts are
Erik! Please explain...

PS I'm not a poetry freak. I suck at it. But I do like writing funny poems.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Do you want Little Miss Moi to write a haiku in your honour?

Simply compete in today's reader competition!

You know it's time to wear your thermals when....?

(Hint: it has something to do with the cold)

(Yes, there is a story behind this, but you have to work for it kids!)

Terms and conditions.
All educated (and not-so-educated) guesses are welcome. The winner of the competition will be announced tomorrow. The prize is a haiku written by moi in your honour. Winning criteria is completely arbitrary. I reserve the right to write crap poetry.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Grocery shopping in Oo-kray-ii-na

I have a new blog friend, which is not surprising. I have only been blogging for one month, so all my friends are technically new friends.

My friend is Willowtree, and his blog is called 'A dingo's got my barbie' (what a tribute to Lindy). Willowtree lives in rural Australia (strangely considered the outback by a few of his readers), and he has inspired me to post about my grocery items. This is because he recently posted two rather entertaining pieces about groceries - part one is here. And part two is here.

So this one's for you, Willowtree.

Today I toddled off to the local supermarket to get some groceries. My local is called 'MegaMarket' and, like all supermarkets in Kyiv, it sells a random collection of goods. Whatever you want to buy is not there. What you don't want, is. For example, I might be looking for brown sugar, or cornflour. Not there. But if I want four aisles of Russian chocolate, I have it. Yum (err, not).

Or three aisles of vodka. Two aisles of beer. One of juice. One of really bad Crimean wine and champagne. Do you get the idea that Ukrainians don't mind a bit of a tipple? Well, you're right.

Really, it's not too hard to shop in Ukraine. Even if you can't understand the writing on pack, you can either see the product itself or a slightly representative picture on pack. Personally I sure can't tell from reading the label, because most labels are in Ukrainian. Never mind that most people speak Russian in this part of the country.

And, instead of stocking a range of goods, the store will only offer one good, in one brand. You want canned corn? You have to buy Bonnedelle. End of story. Instant noodles? Big Ben. Cornflakes? Nestle all the way, baby!

MegaMarket's range changes from week to week, so if I see something I like (like Heinz Baked Beans), I buy in bulk as there's every chance they will disappear within the week and not return for three years.

So. Today's shop was only a small shop. I purchased the following groceries for the royal sum of 70 gryvnias, or $US14.

Here's what you get for $14 in Kyiv:

(I have cropped the photo very close so you're not subjected to my landlord's horrid taste in wallpaper. Also, I already owned the toaster. The kitchen is so small, the toaster lives on the table).

Now, I could translate for you. I really could... if I was learning Ukrainian. But, as I mentioned before, in that cruel twist of fate, everyone in this town speaks Russian, but not one sign or label is written in Russian. So not only is Russian a bloody hard language, but I can't even soak it up via osmosis.

Let's look at some of these items a little closer. Firstly, the mushrooms. By the time I left Sydney, mushrooms were retailing for $8.99 (aussie) a kilo.

grib'i shampin'on i vesov'ie

In Kyiv, these babies retail for $US3 per kilo. Yes, some people do choose to steer clear of mushies in Ukraine, as mushrooms (and berries) absorb a lot of radiation. But I'm putting my faith in MegaMarket not to sell me Chernobyl mushies.

Next the carrots. This ubiquitous root vegie sells here for 50 cents per kilo. What a bargain! At that price, they sometimes come dirty, but I can live with that. I've eaten so many carrots in Ukraine my skin is turning orange. And I can see in the dark.

morkov' vesovaya

The price here -1.78 gryvnias - is about 35 cents.

Next we have some delicious chips. The brand name is 'Lyuks'. I'm not sure what that means, but the flavour is cheese and I trust this brand because it's a Kraft brand. I figure that means no MSG and a certain level of quality assurance.

Lyuks nizhniy sir

You can also see my Gallina Blanca pasta sneaking a peak in there, and again below, along with my 'toonets', or tuna.


I don't usually eat much canned fish, but I figure: when you can't trust the meat, or the butcher of the meat, you can always trust fish in a can. This tuna cost about $US1 per can, and comes in springwater. Oh, no, make that simply, water.

Now. Thank God for globalisation, without which, I wouldn't be able to bring you the worthy Snickers Bar and Mars Bar.

Pictured here is part of my Mars Bar Max, and the side of the Snickers packaging. The packaging pictured reads:

superpitatel'niy batonchik. Ne tormozi. Snikersni. (Russian)

What it means, I have no idea. Something about Snickers, I guess... "Eat me, I'm delicious, I'll make you strong and muscly BUT only if you go to the gym and work me off". Etc.

Last but by no means least is the beer.

This brand of beer is called Chernigivskye (in Ukrainian it's Chernihivske). It's made in the town of Chernihiv, about 200kms from Kyiv. This is the beer my body rejects the least (no headaches, not too many evil hangovers), so it's quickly become my favoured (but by no means favourite) beer brand.

Chernigivs'kye svitle. Zvareno v Ookraiini

What you see pictured here is one litre of beer, packaged in a plastic bottle. I purchased two litres of beer, which cost me $US1.20. What a perfect price for beer, no?

Now, I would love to end with a whiz bang photo of me combining all the items above into some delicious gourmet meal, but that's not going to happen. Firstly, combining the above ingredients would create a meal of sludge that tastes like sludge. Secondly, I'm not that energetic.

And as for the fallout of today's grocery shop: I'm already kicking myself cause I bought apple and carrot juice instead of just apple. Last week I bought peach juice instead of apple.

Damn me not looking at the pictures properly. I think I need to take a five year old shopping with me next time, their powers of observation are far more sharply honed than mine.

PS Just looking at the vegie labels, I think they might be in Russian, but it's hard to tell because the printer has printed the letters crap. Not that you really care, do you?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Fun monday part II: my precious things

This week's fun monday is hosted by karmyn and the topic is precious possessions. And so to start...

In August, Mr Moi and I made some very hard decisions. Examining our measly possessions, we had to decide what to bring to Ukraine (the bare minimum), what to store in Oz (anything worth anything), and what to chuck in the bin/give away (pretty much everything).

During this time, I learned how easy it was to chuck stuff out. So easy - just put it in the bin or give it to charity. We threw out so much stuff... and unfortunately, I was bitten by the chuck-out bug, and threw out two-thirds of my beloved knee sock collection.

I had about 30 pair of knee socks. I've whittled this down to a collection of about 10. I've collected these over a period of time, mostly from Australia, Japan and some recent additions from France. They are precious to me.

Yes, they are very beautiful. I especially love the ones at the far left, aqua with white polka dots. These were brought back to me from Japan. And I found the pink socks with the stars at the trader's markets in Sydney. They had a sister pair - black socks with white stars, which looked great with my black one-star converse sneakers. But Mr Moi forced me to dispose of both after a week of camping in the rain with no other shoes or socks.

The stripey socks were purchased for me by a former colleague. They are my 'corporate' knee socks, as they were deemed acceptable to wear to work. My other socks weren't acceptable, but I wore them anyway.

My other prized possessions are my accessories. I don't wear makeup, but I love earrings and all that flippy girlie stuff. Much to my mother's dismay however, not one piece is made from a precious metal, except maybe a bit of silver. And none contain precious stones. And my average accessory usually retails around the $5-mark.

Here's a picture of my accessories.

Oh, I don't wear the pink padlock at the front. But you have to admit that a pink padlock is rather special, so it's kept with my special accessories.

Here's a picture of my socks and accessories together.

If you notice, nothing matches. That's because I never match. It's just too hard to co-ordinate clothes with socks and shoes and accessories.

Last but not least. Drum-roll please...

My final prized possession has travelled with me everywhere. Mr Moi wants to throw it out. I have to hide it from him. It's covered my head in south east asian temples, been a frenchie-style neck tie in cool clubs in Montreal, and now it's acting as an ear-warmer in Kyiv.

It's my red bandanna.

Purchased for 50 cents at Vinnies at Nundah in 1997, it's our ten year anniversary this year. I love you red bandanna.

And so ends my first fun monday. I hope you enjoyed it.

Fun monday part I

Dear all. I am new to fun Monday. I am feeling the pressure. If I didn't have a Russian lesson to cram for today, I would post before midnight my time.

Being from Australia, however, I should be genetically conditioned to cater to my readers there. I should be thinking forward. However, I'm not good at that at the best of times.

Fun monday is coming. The day is 24 hours long...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The terrific Taras Shevchenko tour

Today was a beautiful day. So I will try not to be cynical.

To celebrate this beautiful day, Mr Moi and I nursed our mini-Caribbean-Club hangovers from the comfort of our couch, and looked at the beautiful day every now and then (basically, when we were game enough to expose our eyeballs to sunlight).

But, as fate would have it, I had agreed to babysit the kids of a couple we know. After a bolstering meal of chinese instant noodles, we set out in the crisp minus 3 air, and walked to our friends' house.

I took the point-and-shoot with me to capture the fleeting afternoon. And it wasn't until I downloaded these photos that I realised I've documented the terrific Taras Shevchenko tour.

Taras Shevchenko is a Ukrainian literary hero (not to be mistaken with Andriy Shevchenko, who is a Ukrainian soccer hero. And unlike Taras, he's still alive).

Walking to the end of our street, Mr Moi and I had to cut through Taras Shevchenko park.

Most of the snow on roads and paths recently melted, and has since been followed by a cold snap. So there's still snow on the grass, but not on the paths. This makes walking a pleasure, and despite there not being any other people in this photo besides Mr Moi, there really were a few people out and about.

The sun was actually shining through the trees, which I thought looked rather pretty, and not a little endearing.

As we walked through Taras Shevchenko Park, I couldn't help but notice Taras Shevchenko University. It's the big red building you see in the background.

There's a story behind the colour of the university - I think some young bolsheviks were protesting against the Tsars, so Nikolai II ordered them to be killed. They happened to be students at the university, who were protesting at the university. So, to remind the public of the bloodshed, Nikolai ordered that the building be painted red.

If that's not enough Taras Shevchenko for you, then here's the main man himself. Everyday, he keeps watch over his park and his university.

Unfortunately, because of the way his statue is positioned, he can't keep watch over his boulevard.

This is Bulvar Taras Shevchenko.

Well, part of it. It's actually quite long, and lined with poplar trees. I'm looking forward to seeing it in the summer.

Walking down Bulvar Taras Shevchenko on a Sunday night, as we were, we could hear the bells of Volodomyrsky ringing.

This old church is still operating as a Russian Orthodox church. The bells were calling people to church, I guess, and unlike other bells you see around the place, they were being rung by humans.

I love the blue domes with the gold stars painted on. Even religious people must be three year old kids deep down.

Kyiv, as with all former soviet countries, is full of underpasses. Because the driving is so bad, and humans act as something to target rather than dodge, the soviets wisely built a lot of underpasses around the cities.

This is one of them. It's also an entry to the Universityet metro station, one of the deepest in the world.
The sun is running out, so here are a couple of last ditch shots to capture the prettiness of the day.

And finally, here's what brings me back to earth: garbage piled high right on the footpath of one of the city's flagship streets.

And here's one of the trams from the 1940s that hopefully will get replaced by a Swiss-issue 'new'* tram.

I hope you enjoyed these colour photos from Kyiv.


It's another beautiful day!

Last night I went salsa dancing. Salsa dancing in a town that doesn't even sell salsa dip? you ask. Yes, I went salsa dancing in Kyiv.

It didn't really matter that I don't dance salsa. Or dance at all really. But after a couple of beers with a new friend (he's English), Mr Moi and I ended up at an establishment called 'The Caribbean Club'.

And, being a democratically priced type of place, girls get in cheaper than boys. Now that's equality!

Most restaurants, bars and clubs in Kyiv are themed, and The Caribbean Club was no exception. Protruding from the stage and hanging over the dancefloor was one of those huge, old Cuban-style cars. This was complemented by a band who played the entire back-catalogue of Buena Vista Social Club, and a few pictures of Uncle Che smiling peacefully down upon the dancers.

At first I thought the car was being offered as a prize, so out of place did it seem in a 'dance club'*. It's not uncommon for cars to be offered as prizes in the casinos and poker-machine bars here. Then I realised there was no gambling going on. Perhaps it's a prize for the best dancer? But then I thought surely they couldn't afford to give away a car per night, even it was Cuban-issue.

So through the process of elimination, I realised it was decoration. Hm. Interesting. I can imagine it gets in the way of the dancers at times.

I was surprised to find that, at The Caribbean Club, people actually know how to dance. The girls gravitate towards the fellas who can pull out the moves. And, being a student bar, there was probably even some real Cubans there!

Mr Moi, as ever, was the exception. After we got kicked off the table we were at, I badgered him to come dancing with me. When he was finally fed up with my pestering, he spotted a lonely kid from Libya, introduced himself and said, "Take my wife away and dance with her."

After one or two songs, I realised that not being able to dance (with your husband) actually makes dancing both a little boring, and a little scary. So I escaped the dancefloor, leaving my new Libyan friend in the lurch, and went back to Mr Moi and the comfort of a glass of beer.

We made our escape from The Caribbean Club just as the band was leaving the stage and the DJ was dusting off his Christina Aguilera CDs. We didn't want to get caught in the gyrating masses of 'anarchic salsa', a.k.a. dirty dancing.

And that was my night - oh, well, my two hours - at The Caribbean Club.

*It isn't really.

Friday, February 16, 2007

A to Z meme

I don't know what a meme is. But, when I was working, I wasted all my time on doing these sorts of things. Seemed better than editing documents, and funnily enough, that's precisely why I'm procrastinating now.

A= Action or Drama: Romantic comedy and bad Chinese films.
B= Best Friend: My mum (that should butter her up for when I want to visit and leech off her). Nat (same reason).
C= Cake or pie: Cake. Pies only come in the meat variety.
D= Drink of choice: Sauvignon Blanc. Preferably from Tasmania, but at a stretch, Noo Zulland.
E= Essential item you use everyday: The coffee machine. Chips and chocolate.
F= Favorite colour: Pink?
G= Gummy bears or worms: Gummi bears, and sour please.
H= Holiday destination: Anywhere except Noo Zulland. Or the GULA.. I mean, Siberia.
I= Indulgences: See E for essential items.
J= January or February: Neither.
K= Kitchen Colour: The colour the landlord wants it to be.
L= Life is incomplete without: Tissues.
M= Milk with or without chocolate: White chocolate please (does that mean it's got a lot of milk?)
N= Number of siblings: Four.
O= Oranges or apples: Apples, green ones.
P= Phobias or Fears: Flying in the FSU. Being kidnapped by the mafia.
Q= Favourite Quote: The quote we got from the removalists about three months after we'd moved. We didn't give them the job.
R= Reason to smile: Finding a nice bottle of wine instead of Ukrainian rocket-fuel.
S= Season: Well, it's winter. Eternal freezing hell.
T= Tea or Coffee: Coffee with a slug of brandy.
U= Unknown fact about me: You don't know anything about me.
V= Vegetable you don't like: Liver.
W= Worst habit: Twiddling my hair. I like it. No one else does.
X= X-rays: The last x-rays I got, I stole from the hospital.
Y= Your favourite food: Vietnamese Pho.
Z= Zodiac Sign: Aries / Pisces.

Thanks to Beccy, from whom I pinched this.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Holy holes in my socks, Batman!

It's official. I've run out of socks.

One of the downsides of wearing boots is that they give me a bad case of 'holes in the socks'.

My flat feet have been pampered their whole lives. They've never been shoved into high heels for more than a couple of hours at a time. They're kept free of shoes as much as possible. And when they're forced into shoes, it's usually a pair of nice, soft, comfy trainers.

Then came the time to buy boots in Kyiv.

There are boots everywhere in this town, but nary a pair without six-inch heels and lots of tassles and studs. So when I found a pair of flat-soled boots, I snapped them right up. What I didn't consider was that the toe of the boot was rather low - unlike my toes. So my toes are constantly rubbing on the inside of the boot.

As a result, every sock I own has two holes in it - one from when I wore it on the left foot. And one from when I wore it on the right.

I occasionally get embarrassed about the holes when I doff my shoes in posh people's houses. The other downside is when the holey sock I'm wearing has a giant hole, which cuts off circulation in my toe.

But I had to wonder if it's time to pull out the sewing kit when, visiting my friend's house, her three year old daughter ran up to me, sighing with disappointment. "Little Miss Moi," she said. "You don't have any holes in your socks today!"

That a three year old noticed that 'holes in the socks' is the norm is worrysome in itself. More worrying was that I'd purposely worn these un-holey socks (my only pair) to cover the ten holes in my stockings underneath.

I felt like I'd been outsmarted by a three year old.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My brother has shacked up with a dyevushka... and he doesn't even know it

I'm becoming so eloquent in my Russian that I can introduce my whole family.

[In Russian] This is my sister. She has a husband and a daughter. This is my brother. He has a wife, a daughter and another on the way. This is my brother. He has a.... [In English]... "How do you say girlfriend in Russian?"

"Oh," says my teacher. "Dyevushka."

At which, I dissolve into giggles. Ongoing giggles. I simply cannot stop. Tonya, my teacher, looks at me like I'm crazy. I try to offer an explanation...

"My brother has a 'young lady' oh har har har."

Never mind that the word 'dyevushka' stirs up in me all the bad things about Ukraine I can imagine: break-neck stilettos, slutty mini-skirts, sleazing onto western men, vying for green cards. Thus, I consider dyevushka a naughty word.

And never mind that my brother has been going out with his 'dyevushka' for longer than us three married siblings have been married... combined. She's not of the 'let's nab a westerner' dyevushka ilk. I think my brother should marry her just to save her from this shame in my Russian lessons.

To top it off, my teacher then set me a task to answer her questions. "Please only answer these questions in the third person singular," she said.

Well, that was the end of the lesson. I just couldn't stop laughing. Too much blog-world for me today.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A cold and the cold, and more on Simon & Garkfunkel

A wise friend in Kyiv told me yesterday, "Be careful if you're sick. Every new country is a new bug."

I've developed a cold. I've never been concerned about colds in my life. They didn't inhibit my lifestyle in anyway: you don't worry when it's a 20 degree winter day and you have a trifling runny nose.

But now I understand what it's like to have a cold, in the cold. You can't be bothered doing anything. In fact, I took a 'day off' today and slept. Never mind that my 'day off' is simply opting out of the Monday Morning Coffee/gossip fest.

And so, because of this cold, today's unentertaining post draws to a close... But one thing further.

It seems that my
post the other day has brought a few S&G fans out of the closet. The band really does have universal appeal, and I think between the S&G back-catalogue and the Paul Simon solo one, there's almost a song for every mood (and every movie).

For the record: I do love '59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)'; it earned a couple of extra brownie points after the wedding. While it's not my favourite, it's probably their only non-slit-yer-wrists song, so we deemed it suitable for the wedding.

So to continue the conversation... Introducing:

The Very Predictable Little Miss Moi Top 10 Simon & Garfunkel
(in no particular order and subject to weekly change)

  • Scarborough Fair/Canticle (love that it's sung in round)
  • For Emily, Wherever I may Find Her
  • Wednesday Morning, 3AM (and I like the use of same lyrics in 'Somewhere They Can't Find Me')
  • The Boxer (like the sax)
  • Richard Cory and A Most Peculiar Man (I always associate these with one another, so they're listed together)
  • 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)
  • The Dangling Conversation (I like the harp)
  • A Poem for the Underground
  • A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or how I was Robert McNamara'd into Submission)
  • Leaves that are Green
Any errors, oversights, omissions, etc?

Just so you know. I do listen to other music.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Blog reading 101

For those octogenarians* among my readers - oh, oops, sorry mum and dad, I forgot you're not quite there yet** - here's a guide to reading blogs effectively:

Reading blog posts

  • Blog posts are listed most recent at the top, older at the bottom. There are older blogs on other pages, so when you reach the bottom, click on the link that says 'Older Posts', and you will see the next five oldest blog posts, from newer to older. And so on and so forth. When there is no more 'Older Posts' link, there is no more blog. You've reached the start... or the end, so to speak.
  • You can also navigate through the archives. See that list to the right, titled 'Blog archive'? All my blog posts from the current month are listed there. If you click on the little triangle next to a month that is not this one, all the blog posts from that month will drop down in a list and you can click on them and read. Handy, da?
  • Only the content in the dark green box changes on a regular basis. The light green box is only my archives, which I've specifically moved to the top of the page for the ease of octogenarian navigation, and links to blogs that I enjoy reading. You may click through to these if you like, and go blog-walking. But don't cheat on me behind my back. I will blog stalk you.

Leaving comments

  • If you would like to leave a comment telling me how wonderfully witty I am, like good paren... er, members of the reading public, click on the link at the bottom of the post that says '27 million comments' or some other inflated number that proves my enduring popularity.
  • You will then land on a page with a big box where you type your comment. There's an option to log in to your blogger account to comment. Ignore this. If you had a blogger account, I wouldn't be forced to take time out from my busy schedule and write this how-to guide in the first place. Click on either 'other' or 'anonymous' , and type your message. You do not have to submit a name, webpage or email address. These are optional.
  • For those people who have trouble deciphering the verification code, I am going to disable this feature. But if I get spammed, you're in big trouble. And I will reinforce the verification code and insist you have no right to complain to me about it anymore, thank you.

Handy blog hints

  • If there is something in my blog that's underlined, this is a link. You can click on it and find out more about that general subject area, but remember to click the 'back' button and read the rest of the post.
  • If you think a particular post is funny, you can forward it to your zillions of friends by hitting the little envelope at the bottom of the post.
  • If you can't be bothered remembering to log in and read the blog, click on the 'Posts (Atom)' link at the bottom of any page. I think this means that you get notification when I add a new post. But I'm not entirely sure, and can't be bothered finding out. So if you do subscribe, and it does work, please let me know.

Happy blogging, oldies.

* Actually, I don't think any octogenarians read the blog. I just like that word.
** I should note that my parents are nowhere near 80. In fact, mum hardly has wrinkles or grey hair, and dad is so fit he recently walked 100 kms in 22 hours. But gee they can party hard. Which, perhaps, is why they find it hard to navigate the blog.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

It's alright, God's on my side

The purveyours of all things Godly, religious, and spiritual - John Safran and Father Bob Maguire - gave us a shoutout on their show (and podcast), Sunday Night Safran. In, like, the first three minutes.

You see... In Australia, Mr Moi and I fell asleep every night listening to the radio, usually ABC Newsradio, which, during the night, switches over to NPR or BBC. Here in Kyiv, we fall asleep to podcasts.

Mr Moi and I survive Kyiv on podcasts, and every Tuesday we download the podcast of 'Sunday Night Safran'. It's a radio show on Triple J with John Safran (an Australian Jew) and Father Bob (and Australian Catholic priest), who previously collaborated on a funny show about religion, 'Speaking in Tongues' (look at those competition winners).

Last Wednesday, I woke up feeling absolutely buggered, because Mr Moi and I could not sleep for the entire duration of the hour-and-a-half podcast the night before. We were laughing too hard at Safran and Father Bob to think about sleeping.

Imagine Mr Moi's surprise last night as we listened to this week's podcast and heard Safran and Father Bob greeting their podcast listeners in Ukraine. And explaining the concept of drought for listeners in Ukraine....

Little does Mr Moi know the mischief a bored wife with broadband and an email account can create. Fan mail (stalking?). It obviously works.

You can download the podcast here or, for the next week or so, stream it through the program site. Funny stuff.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Slip slidin' away...

My first love was Simon & Garfunkel. To the extent that, when I walked down the aisle to get hitched, I did it to 'The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)'.

My theme song for this week is 'Slip Sliding Away'. This song plays in my head every time I'm outside, negotiating ground covered in black ice. With enough snow hanging around to melt during the day then freeze, it makes for some entertaining walking along the footpath.

On Sunday, I went to get milk from a shop about 300 metres away. The return journey took half an hour, as I was walking so gingerly over the ice. As I returned to my building, I was hip-hip-hooraying the expedition survival. Only to then slip on a patch of ice on my doorstep...

The other hazard of being out at this drippy time of year is melting ice/snow falling on you from above. Walking along a street yesterday, I heard a crack and a split second later, something hit my head and I was covered with ice.

It was more embarrassing than painful. The incident was witnessed by two fat Ukrainian men who insisted on pissing themselves laughing, coming right up to my face to do so. When I laughed 'har har har' back at them, they said in broken English, "Funny! Very funny!"

Imagine my fate had the ice been a pointy stalactite. At least I would have had something to extract and brandish at the pompous laughers.

Monday, February 05, 2007

I'm b-a-c-k

Today I went to the monthly general meeting of the International Women's Club. All I can think is... what was I thinking?

The club does work hard to get a guest speaker every month, to their credit. The only other meeting I've ever been to was really interesting because they had a Ukrainian lady who lived in India for five years, learning how to do traditional Indian dance. The dance was interesting but I was more interested in the fact that she picked up an Indian-English accent. She talked like she was fresh from Bombay, it was great. She even had the ubiquitous Indian head-wobble.

Today the guest was a cosmetics consultant from Dior. She was Ukrainian. She had heavily accented English which was not quite fluent, and she was trying to engage about 150 ladies in her sales pitch, with no microphone and no visuals except microscopic cosmetics bottles.

Now to give you a bit of background into my facial cosmetics routine, here are the four last occasions on which I deemed it necessary to paint my face:

- My wedding in October 2005
- The media launch of wizardwomen.com.au in March 2006
- My friends' G & L's wedding in April 2006
- A job interview when I first arrived in Kyiv in November 2006 (my only job interview. Obviously didn't look dyevushka enough for them)

About five minutes into today's presentation, I was lost. I had not idea what she was talking, what was going on. This is the downside of er... not wearing makeup very often, I guess.

When the lady started banging on about 'cleansing, toning, moisturising', my friend M leaned over and said, "Little Miss Moi, I can tell you're totally interested in this presentation". I had no option but to be rather rude and discuss what I did on the weekend.

This begs the question - why do all people, including women, suppose all other women are so interested in cosmetics? Sure, I probably look like an ugly hag, but I'd rather do it for free than spend $300 a month on the pleasure with the same result.

And even if I was a face cream fan, I wouldn't be able to afford Dior. And, to their anti-credit, the sales pitch was up there with the best Ukrainian service I've ever received. For example: the lady was touting a hand cream. Now, since I'd practically run to the meeting then downed about 20 cups of coffee as a desperate pep-up, my hands were a little swollen.

So when the reps giving out hand creme, I shamelessly shot my hand up - my hands were desperate for a bit of moisture. For my effort, I received a dollop of creme about a quarter the size of a one-kopiok/kopeck piece. When they gave me the toner, I didn't realise it was so runny and spilt it all over my skirt. I was a right mess.

To get back at them, I took two bags of samples. That's my big 'up-yours' at all cosmetics reps and women who expect all other women to be into spending their husband's hard-earned money on useless cosmetics.

And when they're 80 and I'm 50, I'm sure they'll have the upper, smooth-skinned hand. But you can only think you're a cool rebel once. So I'm happy to be a bare-skinned hippy for the moment. And those two bags of samples will last me the next two years.

Don't go to Australia. It's too dangerous

In the Murdoch empire's never-ending quest to change 'news' to 'sensationalism' in Australia, which is a relatively calm and news-less country, they published an article on their online portal news.com.au, talking about how many tourists have died in Australia in the past seven years.

Of course, when you read the article, they define 'tourist' as someone who would normally reside overseas - which means students, expats, relatives on long term visits... as well as your average tourist.

And what are the causes of death? one may ask. Street gangs with machine guns? Drivers who don't stop at traffic lights so they don't get shot? Kidnapping? Black market slave trade? Err... No.

The most common cause of death is drowning. Other causes include animal incidents (sharks, crocodiles and eye-gouging koalas), natural causes and car crashes. It seems that a big problem is foreigners adjusting to driving on the left side of the road (when Mr Moi and I were in France in a hire car, there were a few hairy moments as we drove into oncoming traffic).

It is very sad that people lose their lives in Australia. But people die in other countries too. And in the past few years, we've even gotten a bad rap from Lonely Planet, whose most recent edition of the Australia book talks about how dangerous the country is. So people go to New Zealand instead - pooh!

Yes, someone disappeared in the outback, never to be seen again. And yes, backpackers perished in a hostel fire that was deliberately lit. These are tragic events. And there will always be tragic events associated with travel.

News.com.au should leave the Australia bashing to other countries, not instigate it against their own. To me, this article is akin to Australia trying to show off its big guns when really, it's just a geek with big thick specs and a pocket protector.

"Ohhhhh a spider! Run away, run AWAY!"

(If you're reading this, don't go to New Zealand. They talk funny).

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The adventures of Mr and Little Miss Moi

One day, not so long ago, Mr and Little Miss Moi got up sorta late, feasted on delicious Chinese instant noodles for breakfast, splashed some water on their faces, and scooted out of their flat.

They were going to watch football at a friendly place called 'The Pub'.

Although both Mr Moi and Little Miss Moi were looking forward to watching the football, they had varying degrees of enthusiasm. Mr Moi was banking on an all day-er. Little Miss Moi was planning a pouting tantrum around afternoon-tea-time, which would trigger the pair's departure.

Mr and Little Miss Moi decided to dodge the snow and travel to 'The Pub' by metro. They think that descending on the Kyiv metro is a little like going into the depths of hell.

It goes a long way down.

Once they were down down down, Little Miss Moi snapped a cheeky photo of Mr Moi. See? That's his cheek. She also snapped some Kyiv winter fashion. Many Kyiv-ites are wearing big coats with fluffy bits all over them.

If you look closely, there's even a couple of big furry shapkas in the photo too.

Mr and Little Miss Moi were transported by metro to Little Miss Moi's favourite station: Maidan Nezalezhnosti. She often copies the announcing man in order to perfect her pronunciation of her blog name. She didn't take a photo of the metro, as the camera was safely tucked away against theives.

Once off the metro, Mr and Little Miss Moi took the escalator up and up and re-emerged from the bowels of the earth.

Before they knew it, they were at 'The Pub'. Here, Mr and Little Miss Moi met up with some fellow rugby lovers, and watched what seemed like match after match. First they watched Mr and Little Miss Moi's home team Queensland play the Hurricanes. Then they watched some soccer.

The soccer was a real low-light, because all of a sudden, 'The Pub' filled up with people of the pommy persuasion, dressed in red jerseys. They were so loud that Little Miss Moi had to yell, and it hurt her throat.

The mid afternoon pouting tantrum was blithely unrecognised by Mr Moi, so Little Miss Moi ordered some hot chips instead. It's funny how the tomato sauce bottle looks only a little weird with Russian writing on it.

Then, the room started to fill up with lots of people from the lovely country of France. They were here to watch their team, The Frogs, play their next-door neighbours and the inventors of pizza, the Italian Stallions. It was rugby time again, and this was the third game all day that Little Miss Moi had been subjected to. She was getting a bit cranky.

So she bought a couple of beers and took some photos of the punters with her ever-steady hand.

After the Frog vs. Stallions match, which The Frogs won, it was time to watch England play Scotland. There were a lot of people in the room in their white English jerseys, drinking a lot of beer. Including a few twelve year olds.

After nine hours in 'The Pub', it occurred to Little Miss Moi that her bottom was really sore from sitting on the one seat for so long. It was time to go home.

Walking down from 'The Pub', Little Miss Moi was struck by how pretty everything looked in the fresh snow that had banked up in her nine-hour absence from the world. She walked through Independence Square, looking about wonderously as the snow sparkled in the streetlights.

Mr and Little Miss Moi, despite eating all afternoon, agreed to join their friends The Chenkos for dinner at Mokka in The Passage. Little Miss Moi discovered that Mokka had nothing to do with coffee, and was rather amused at the black tiger spotted uniforms the waitstaff were forced to wear. Mokka was decorated like the inside of a ship.

After two mohitos and some food in between, it was time to leave Mokka. Little Miss Moi drank so much that she almost thought this Bentley was hers. Even if it was, it had probably been parked there for too long to get out of the snow.

While she pondered why someone would leave a Bentley out to rust in the snow, she took some pretty pictures of the punters in The Passage.

It was quite snowy indeed.

Then it was time to go home. Luckily being with someone who can talk the local lingo, Mr and Little Miss Moi didn't have to face either the sloppy snow, or the bowels of the earth metro in order to get home. They got a cab.

Little Miss Moi snapped this photo at the same time she got whiplash from the driver pulling a U-turn at Maidan.

When they got home, Mr and Little Miss Moi were very tired indeed. They drank some water and a few Neurofen and went to bed. And Mr Moi still hasn't woken up.

This post is dedicated to enid. It's too hard to read her blog without wanting to write in third person.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Bang, bang. My phone is dead

Even in Australia, with the conveniences of online banking and the presence of fridge magnets at home for putting messages at eye level, I was bill-paying challenged. Not out of any malicious, corporate-hating sentiment, just because I forgot.

Life in Kyiv was always going to be a challenge. But, with my SIM sorted out by Mr Moi's work, I thought the magic phone bill fairy (or Mr Moi) would pay my phone bill for me.

In the past couple of weeks, I've been getting many a frenzied text message, in Ukrainian, from my provider. Seeing as I don't know Ukrainian, I figure if it's so important, they wouldn't be telling my by text message. Deleted!

Over the weekend, the intensity of these messages increased. Despite getting two per day, I still thought they were just trying to tell me that I'd missed a lot of calls (from my imaginary friends). Budlaska, dyakukye!

But yesterday afternoon, between the hours of four and six, my phone stopped working. I tried ringing Mr Moi, but instead got a pre-recorded voice that lambasted me about something, I'm not sure what. But she sure went on for a while. I should have just hung up, but I didn't, so I listened and felt guilty, like a scolded school kid.

This morning I gave the phone to Mr Moi to take to work with instructions to 'please fix'. There, his colleague-cum-translator listened to the lambasting message (minus the guilt), and told Mr Moi he hasn't paid the bill. Since November. That's fine, said Mr Moi to his colleague-cum-translator. I'll happily pay the bill. If only I'd received one.

I've racked up a couple of hundred dollars worth of calls. To the UK, to Kazakhstan, to Ukraine. From Kazakhstan, from Ukraine.

So I'm currently without a phone, and likely to be until we figure out how to actually pay the bill...