Friday, March 30, 2007

Ukraine on the tip of the tongue in Australia

When I left Australia on Wednesday, the big news of the day was the story about the Ukrainian swimmer and her father, who scuffled poolside at the FINA World Swimming Championships in Melbourne.

While I've heard the stereotypical stories of domestic violence in the former soviet union, I've never seen it first hand.

So I was surprised that, despite living in Ukraine, it was in Australia that I saw a bit of argy-bargy between Ukrainian parents and kids. Not first hand; rather, splashed all over the newspapers.

The paper reports obviously sparked a lot of commentary on the radio in Oz, with people talking about how this sort of violence in not acceptable between parents and kids, or in the sporting community, or both. All the while talking about Ukraine in quite a negative light.

Here's my thoughts on the situation:

- Firstly, I do understand that violence is a part of life for some Ukrainian families, same as Australian families and indeed many families in many different countries. As to whether the stereotype of drunk and violent families in the FSU more so than many other countries is actually true, I'm not sure, but this episode unfortunately perpetuated that stereotype.

- Secondly, Australia is a developed and rich country. Ukraine is only 15 years into independence, is still rather poor and is still trying to find its feet in the global sphere. While violence isn't acceptable, I'm pretty sure Ukraine's priorities don't currently lie in spending money on huge domestic violence awareness and advertising campaigns that Australia does at this stage of the country's development.

Sometimes Ukrainians don't understand how other parts of the world may be different. The most obvious way that I see this is when I try to speak Russian - people can get very frustrated when I tell them I don't understand them, and their reaction makes me think they can't understand that someone doesn't speak their language (fair enough, I am in their country after all).

Violence doesn't solve anything, but Ukrainains are very emotive people - I like to think of them as the Italians of Eastern Europe. They talk with their hands, and if they feel an emotion, it's likely to be the extreme of that emotion (I've heard a couple of Ukrainians say they listen to sad music on purpose so they can cry at its sad beauty...)

What the coach and his daughter probably didn't realise that in Australia, it's illegal to even spank naughty toddlers into submission. They certainly wouldn't have realised that they would go to court and possibly be jailed for having a family scuffle by the poolside.

Sorry about being serious for once. But I just feel like it's a shame that Ukraine is top of mind in Australia and everyone's determined to be as negative as possible about it.

Really and truly, Ukrainians tend to be unemotional and a bit grumpy in shops and restaurants, and boy can they get their elbows out on the metro. But in their own homes, my Ukrainians friends are fun, helpful, generous and very lovely people who have a passion for life, their families and their country.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Ka Huna!

Mr Moi organised for me to be pampered yesterday.

He booked me into a Ka Huna massage, and a caviar pedicure (and no, I didn't get to eat any).

Now, I've had three previous full body massages. Lots of strategically placed towels, and the presence of undies is the norm. My comfort zone exists within these parameters.

I walked into the treatment room yesterday and was greeted by my masseuse. She was a very sturdy looking polynesian woman, who was about 150cms tall. For you imperialists out there, this means that she was short.

First thing, she asked me if I've ever had a Ka Huna massage before. I told her no.

She then proceeded to tell me that I have to leave the comfort of my undies, there are no sheets on the massage bed, and she uses no towels to cover me.

"Ka Huna massage is very beautiful and flowing," she said. "It's a very flowing massage."

Okay, I didn't really know what she meant. But considering Mr Moi booked me into this one, and I miss him so much (oh, did I mention he's left behind in Kyiv?), I couldn't deviate from his plans.

So I dropped the undies and got onto the table.

And for the next half hour, I was repeatedly massaged from head to foot in one sweeping motion, over and over again. It really was great.

I did, however, struggle with all my might to actually remain on the table, which resembled a very nice smelling oil slick. Without the dying seagulls and penguins. Just one beached whale (moi).

Then I had to roll over and lay on my back and get the same treatment on my, erm, front.

Very interesting indeed. Let's just say Ka Huna isn't for the faint hearted...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Australia: the land of the young and free (oh.. wait a sec..)

[Competition alert. Read on...]

Okay so I stole that tagline from the Americans.

But I oh so often have a whinge with my blog friend
Sabrina about the trials and tribulations of moving from a Land of Big Shopping Centres and Lots of Other Stuff to a Land of Not Much of Anything, Really.

And, as Murphy himself predicted, now I'm back in Oz, can I think of anything I've been craving to purchase for the past six months? 'Course not.

I have exactly one week left in the Land of Big Shopping Centres and Lots of Other Stuff. And I want my readers to help me find Stuff.

Announcing the inaugural...

Little Miss Moi Scavenger Hunt

To participate, simply leave, in the comments, details of something you want me to find.

I'll then hunt it out, catch it, sedate it and provide a humane piccy before releasing it into the wild (orright that was a joke you RSPCA types).

Nahh, really, I shall actually provide a photo of your request, with a description of how bloody difficult it was to find it.

If I can't find it, then I'll come up with a really good excuse and maybe even send you a prize for being so clever to outsmart moi (note the emphasis on the maybe, as my guess will be that everyone will outsmart me. And I won't be able to afford that many prizes).

There's one rule: You can't send me on a hunt of landmarks you know aren't in Australia (e.g. the White House). I might make up some other rules as I go along.


Why a scavenger hunt?
Firstly, I want to prove Australia is the Land of Shopping Centres and Other Stuff. I will repeat the scavenger hunt back in Kyiv, and prove that it's the Land of Not Much of Anything, Really.

This will keep me busy for a few days and be a bit of fun and all.

Shouldn't you be busy going out and seeing people rather than scavenging?
Yes. I should. But I'm not. The Hunt will help tear me away from English speaking telly, which I am really loving at the moment. In a way a girl should never love a telly...

So please tell me to go forage.

That's all the FAQ I can think of.

In other news altogether...

I will disappear this weekend, but you must check in again next week to see photos of my visit to Paradise (where my brother lives). Cream on the travelling cake, people.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The journey 'home'

No, I haven't returned to Ukraine (well, it's technically home).

It's been a long and wiggly road home. Here are some pictures of the journey...

Borispil Airport, Kyiv

Lights of London

Daffodils in Green Park, London

Sunrise from a living room, London

Spring flags are blooming, London

Folks looking at the city, Hampstead Heath

Plane window, Bangkok

'Cuisine' in the air, Bangkok

Broken video screens, Bangkok

Afternoon storm, Gosford

Sydney from Watson's Bay

Happy 75th birthday, Sydney Harbour Bridge

Endless beaches, north coast NSW

Yes, the beaches really do stretch on and on..

Friday, March 16, 2007


I counted. I was on a plane for 24 hours.

Because I was sitting at the back of the plane, I didn't get my shit together quick enough to actually get off when it stopped in Bangkok. As a result, I sat in my seat and took photos while the Thai people cleaned the plane.

The whole trip, I was one of three people subjected to broken video screens in our seats. The other two people were on either side of me. Thanks British Airways, for making me feel terribly unimportant and not upgrading me, apologising or even bothering to tell me that they acknowledged my broken screen. BA - you suck.

It was a long trip home...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Fun Monday for a fish out of water

This will be a quick Fun Monday, as I'm not on my own computer, not sitting in my own house, or not in either of the two countries that I currently call 'home'.

So, here's my take on Fun Monday. For all the participants, visit
Beccy at Peppermint Tea.

This week Beccy challenged us to post a recipe that would inspire her to cook it, so here goes mine.

Warm duck salad

Get a bowl. Throw in two handfuls of rucola and mixed salad leaves. Blanch some green beans, then add them. Crumble a handful of fetta cheese in too. Boil up a few beets until cooked, quarter them, and chuck them in too. Toast some walnuts in a frying pan, then chop them and add them to the mix.

In a seperate bowl, spoon in two tablespoons of warmed cranberry sauce, the juice and seeds of one pommegranate, one heaped teaspoon of dijon mustard, a good splosh of red wine vinegar, and a couple of glugs of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and whisk to mix.

Heat a frying pan and cook two duck breats (skin on). On medium heat, cook skin side down for about eight minutes, then turn onto flesh side and cook for about one minute. Then pop the breasts into a pre-heated oven on 180 degrees celcius for about 5 minutes. The duck breasts will be medium rare.

Slice the breasts, chuck them into the salad bowl. Toss the salad to mix, and pour dressing over.

Serves four as an extree. Accompany with a carb - e.g. polenta, risotto or potatoes to make into a main.

Enjoy, and sorry about being uninspring.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Tip for flying...

When the flight attendant offers you a newspaper, perhaps say no. Particularly if you know there was a big plane crash the day before.

Because there's nothing worse than having jiggly nerves anyway, then opening up a screaming tabloid like The Daily Mail to see a photo of a burnt out 737 in vivid colour. And worse is going this when you're sitting on a plane 40,000 feet in the air.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Love yourself. Love your woman more...

Today, much of the FSU celebrates International Women's Day. This day is a holiday to honour the institution that is woo-man, and also saves the men and kids from celebrating mother's day.

IWD is the one day in Ukraine where women can expect to put up their feet, and have everything done for them by the men in their lives. And because men can't multitask, which in this case means keeping a job and treating their woman good, IWD is a public holiday.

Yesterday the streets and underpasses of Kyiv were a-frenzied with flower selling activities; in fact, I saw some old babushkas brining more up from the metro at about 3pm. Offices finished up work for the day at about 4pm, offering employees drinks and food in honour of the fairer sex. By 5pm, there wasn't a woman on the streets who didn't have a bunch of flowers in their hand.

I have also heard it said that IWD is the day that women can expect their men to take the stinky, rotten old Christmas tree out and put it on the dumpster (well, it IS the one day men will do something around the house).

The Ukrainian government declared last Saturday a working day, allowing workers to take the IWD holiday on Thursday, then another holiday on Friday.

As a result, we're de-camping to Britain for a little bit of sanity.

And I got a bit overexcited when I booked my tickets, because I'm managed to book me all the way through to Sydney. This means that I'll be away for three weeks. I need to be at the airport in three hours. And I haven't started to pack.

It also means that, after I depart on Monday, I miss all of Tuesday, arriving in Sydney on Wednesday. Sad really.

So, I promise you dear readers, I shall be writing fairly bland stuff about how excited I am to eat real food, and use real money, and hear real language being spoken. I just may not get around to it every day.

See youse soon,
Little Miss Moi.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I spy with my big blue eye...

The other day when I walked through the communal door into my flat building, I was concurrently choked and blinded.

It seems some old bugger had taken it upon himself to start welding renovations outside the unused ground floor flat. Which is rather inconveniently located at the foot of the stairs, and directly opposite the lift.

Like a train crash, it was hard not to look. And let's just say the work-safe practices aren't exactly high priority in Ukraine.

So, Mr DIY had simply plugged a welder into the powerpoint and started to buzz away, with little regard for the eye and lung-health of people walked past. Or, for that matter, his own.

After dodging the flames and sparks, I made my way up to the apartment with black spots in my eyes and double vision. Opening the door, I went from choking smoke to chokingly bad smell, as the stink from the welding had seeped through the two doors into the flat.

The other alarming side-effect was that, being the enterprising fellows that they are, the renovators didn't organise to get any special three-phase power hooked up, choosing instead to plug the welder straight into a normal powerpoint.

So we've had power outages on and off for the past week. And when the power's been on, it's been strobe light effect. Party on man.

Asking a local about why these guys had taken upon themselves to renovate the foyer (keeping in mind, there's no such thing as strata or body corporate over here), he said, "Many people get very frustrated with the fact there is no definition around the services the municipal council provides. So they just do it themselves."

All I wonder is why they don't take it upon themselves to turn down the darn heating?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Fun Monday # 7: The world's shortest novel.


As she emerged from the lift and sat down, a bright spark from the welding in the ground floor apartment renovations ruptured her retina and she was forced to stumble out of the room and across the road in search of an opthamologist; but, as she made her way blindly across the street, she was hit by a car and whisked away to hospital - so it didn't matter that she didn't find an opthamologist that day, as they fixed her eye anyway, but she never played the violin again.


It's fun Monday! Today's fun Monday is hosted by Min at MamaDrama. Visit Min's blog to see the full list of participants this week.

The challenge, should we have chosen to accept it, was to...

Write the worst opening sentence that you can come up with and accompany this atrocity with a photo of your setting, a character or a bit of action that relates to the opening line or (for those who do not have a camera) a written description of same.

Seeing as I ruptured my retina, I couldn't see well enough to post an appropriate pic - sorry!

Next week's Fun Monday is hosted by beccy.

** Update
Okay okay. Here's a photo to go with the story, for all those critics out there, and story has been amended slightly to fit.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sprung is spring (hang on, I'm not a kiwi), and Sunday lunch

(In case you're wondering why I've posted a Sunday post on a Monday, it's because our darling internet provider saw fit to leave us with access for the past 24 hours or so).

Today, Mr Moi and I 'entertained'. Which is an achievement in itself, as it's not exactly easy to fit more than him and me inside out 50 square metres. Or, be organised enough to entertain.

Nevertheless, we did. But before we could 'entertain', we had to go shopping. And in typical Moi fashion, we only felt the pressure to prepare at 11:30am, which is exactly 1.5 hours before our guests were due to arrive.

"Oh shiza, we'd better go to MegaMarket and purchase some actual food, otherwise our guests will eat gruel," said I to Mr Moi.

So off we popped to MegaMarket to save our guests from the hell that is gruel (or Ukrainian takeout. Same difference, really).

And, as Murphy himself dictated it would be, when you're in a bloody hurry for the first time ever in the history of your living in this town and entertaining - you run into someone you know. And not just one person, but three.

Yes, that's right. I've been in this town for going on five months, and I've never run into anyone I know at MegaMarket, but today I run into three people. Being the nice gal I am, I have to stop and share my life story with all.

I never shop on Sundays, and if I did, it wouldn't be before midday, by choice. Obviously, english speaking women do.

The good news is the guests were about an hour late, which gave me enough time to clean the kitchen before they came, and I felt like a good wife.

Und, vot vas on ze menu?

Fresh tomato in garlic, onion, olive oil and parsley, served on grilled bread rubbed with garlic
Home made hommous
Ukrainian sushi (flatbread spread with cream cheese, pickles and dill, layered with smoked salmon, rolled up and cut into sushis and topped with caviar mmMMmmMMmMm)

Mediterranean chicken (chicken breasts cooked in dried fruits, olives, capers, wine and red wine vinegar) on a bed of cous cous
Rucola salad with stuffed olives and coriander in a garlic, sumac and red wine vinegar dressing

Strawberries mascerated in sugar and balsamic vinegar, with ice cream.

Do you you wish you'd been invited?

Friday, March 02, 2007

The splosh cliche

I've seen it happen so many times in the movies, but never believed it.

I don't know why I doubted it could happen - perhaps because Australia has lovely big stormwater drains to cope with tropical downpours.

I really didn't think it was possible for a car to drive past, and splash the happy footpath dweller from head to foot.

Now I know better.

Walking to the bank with Mr Moi today, we were in a hurry, as I had to be back on the other side of town for my Russian lesson by 1:30pm - and we were dead keen on fitting lunch in beforehand.

Today is a truly rainy day in Kyiv, and it's subsequently melted all the snow that was laying around. The pock-marked pavements resemble miniature lakes. The uneven roads have become swimming pools.

As I was standing grumpily wet on a street corner, waiting to cross the road, a bulky, black-windowed Merc zooms past at an 'up-yours' 100kms per hour.

I couldn't jump back quick enough. I was drenched from head to toe in slimy brown water.

Yay for spring! Lucky I hadn't blowdried my hair this morning.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Why I think moving sucks

I blog a lot about the present, but come with me on a quick delve into life before we left Sydney.

Most days of my Sydney life, I woke up at 6am. That's on the days I didn't wake up at 5am to get some work done before I left for... work...

By 7am, I was at the bus stop, waiting for the 7:06am bus, which would get me into work by 7:50am. Once there, I would power-work until 8:45am, which was when other people arrived and I had my daily conference call with the other states to examine the news.

At 6:45pm I would leave work to get the 6:55pm bus, getting home around 7:45pm.

Don't get me wrong - I actually really liked my job. I just hated the fact that, when I moved into my place, I was working in a totally different job in a totally different part of the city. My house was a 15 minute commute from that job, but a minimum one hour commute from the last job I had in Sydney.

I gave up my job two weeks before we moved in order to pack us up and ship us out. Mr Moi was working up to the last minute... or so we hoped.

I've previously alluded to how much crap I chucked out when we left Sydney. Part of our chucking out strategy involved putting our rubbish into our neighbour's bin.

We did this for about six weeks before we moved. Not only that, but he helped us clean up our yard, trim back the hedges and basically keep our place under control when we were too preoccupied to do otherwise.

To thank him, we bought him a carton of beer. Two weeks before we moved (two days after I'd finished up work), we took it round to his place.

After living in our place for two years, we'd never actually been around to his place. He was a nice guy, but not how you'd expect. He was about 60 years old, with long grey hair and a long ponytail, and in his yard was the most amazing cactus garden I had ever seen (remember, cactus isn't all that common en masse in Australia).

So we took him around this carton of beer to say thanks, and in typical Aussie fashion, he invited Mr Moi and I to stay on and share some beers. Knowing we had to go out for a farewell dinner later that afternoon, Mr Moi took it easy on the beers, while I went rather... hard.

After about four beers (in... maybe... 90 minutes), Mr Moi said it was time to go. And it probably was - from where we were sitting on our neighbour's verandah, we could see it'd gotten very dark. And I was a little tipsy...

Mr Moi led the descent from the verandah, followed by Neighbour, followed by moi. They walked across his driveway, and I followed, traipsing a little as one does when they're a little... happy.

What I didn't see in the dark was an exposed drain, about 10 centimetres across. And that explains why I was so surprised when my foot got caught in the exposed drain. And why I didn't really understand what was going on when I fell on the ground, first on my knees, then my wrist, and then my head.

All that really registered what that I couldn't hear anything.

I stumbled to my feet rather unsteadily, and both Mr Moi and Neighbour were talking to me. I could see their mouths moving. Too bad I had no hearing, not even a high-pitched buzz.

I stood up. "I'm fine, I'm fine. I just can't hear anything. Mr Moi? I can't HEAR anything. What are you saying? I can't HEAR you." Saying this, I stumbled up the inclined driveway. Halfway up, I looked at Mr Moi, and I looked at Neighbour. I thought they were overreacting. And as I looked at them, I tried to move my feet and body to propel me up the incline.

Instead, my body froze and I fell backwards down the hill. I remember this as though I was watching myself in slow motion.

The good news is, my head hit Mr Moi's shin, not the concrete. The other good news is that, after I woke from my faint, I could hear again.

To cut a long story a little bit shorter, we went to the hospital where x-rays determined that I hadn't broken my wrist or my arm. However, it was badly sprained, very swollen around the joints, and I was on some heavy duty painkillers. (I actually couldn't straighten my arm until a month later).

The other bad news was that I couldn't pack a box or move a piece of furniture to save my life. Heck, I couldn't even bring a fork to my mouth to eat. I certainly couldn't drive to the thrift store, the dump or to pick Mr Moi up from work.

So Mr Moi was forced to go AWOL from work. He ended up doing all the moving while I sat back and gave directions.

So, what was so bad that had me dilapidated during the most crucial moving phase? Well, here are some pictures of the spoils. And let's say that photos don't do it justice.

The bruises on my knees

The bruise on my wrist. What you can't really see clearly is the green bruise that settled in the middle of my palm.

A knee close up. So painful, I couldn't even pull down my pyjama pant leg.

And that's why moving totally sucks...

PS And in case you're wondering, the beer was Coopers. Strong beer, that Coopers... Until you move to Ukraine.

Sometimes you just have to laugh...

On my way home from an afternoon coffee at a friend's house, I decided to pop into the supermarket to pick up some food for dinner.

Surveying the shelves with rather low energy levels, I decided I would make pasta puttanesca - an oldie, but a goodie (and a really bloody quickie). For this, I needed anchovies.

Surprisingly, this store had a large range of anchovies. I plucked a medium sized jar off the shelf, chucked a couple of other things in the basket as I zoomed through the aisles, and made my way to the checkout.

It was getting rather late, and knowing Mr Moi's voracious appetite, I stood impatiently in line while I waited for the checkout-chick to finish with the people in front of me. While I was waiting, a young fella came and stood behind me with nothing in his hands.

"Hmm, I wonder what he's buying," I thought.

It's times like this when my imagination goes wild. In the period of about five seconds, I first thought that he might pickpocket me (so I pulled my bag around to the front), then I thought he might be security and want to search my bag (so I shifted by back back around to my back), then I realised he looked like a cool cat, so he's probably just lining up to by some cigarettes.

By this time, the checkout-chick had started scanning my items. She picked up the anchovies, looked at the jar and said something to me in Russian.

Of course I didn't understand, and usually in this instance I will say, "I don't understand", in Russian. This, of course, leads people to believe that I do understand Russian, but didn't understand what they just said, so they will persist in Russian, which leads to a prolonged and frustrating exchange, which achieves nothing.

In order to avoid this inevitability, I lazily said to her (in English), "Sorry, I didn't understand what you said."

She proceeds to pick up the bottle of anchovies, point to it, then point to a barcode on another product. Pointing back at the anchovies, she said, "Nyet, nyet."

Fair enough. No barcode. I replied, "Da, harashoo," to prove that I understood her sign language. She looks at me, shrugs her shoulders with a smile on her face, puts the anchovies aside and continues to scan.

No sign that she's going to organise a replacement. No sign that she's going to get a price check.

So I said, "WELL! I'll just go and get another bottle shall I?" and stormed off, pushing past the cool-cat-security-guard-pickpocketer behind me, saying rather loudly, "F***ing couldn't get someone to f***ing get a replacement for me, f***ing great customer service grrr."

(It doesn't matter that I said f*** out loud. Because in Ukrainian, it means 'lovely and wonderful, smells like roses').

I stalked down to the anchovy section, grabbed a bottle (with a barcode), stalked back up to the checkout and slammed it on the belt.

As I'm pulling out my wallet to pay, I notice the cool-cat-security-guard-pickpocketer behind me has started humming a tune.

"Do, do do do do do, do do do do do do do do, don't worry. Do do do do do do do, be happy, do do do do do."

Well, coming from a Ukrainian, who I know to be rather terse, humourless and unhelpful (only when you don't know them), I just had to laugh. Just quietly, and just to myself (didn't want to give anyone the satisfaction of seeing me happy; it's not the Ukrainian way).

As I walked off, he started to sing the words. I wanted to grab him and hug him, as it's the first time in five months that public interaction in a shop or the like has resulted in me breaking out in a grin. But again, it's not the Ukrainain way.

Still, I walked home happy. If it's good enough for a Ukrainain, it's good enough for me. I have a new mantra.

The problem with being a 'nightly' blogger...

... Is that, if you have an unscheduled trip to the pub in the afternoon, your fingers don't work well when it comes time for the daily blogging.

I might have to become a morning blogger...