Wednesday, August 20, 2003

I have many things to say about my time in Kiev so far. I'm quite happy
with how the past couple days have gone. I live with a wonderful and
cheery young couple, Daria (23) and Alex (26). They married this past
March, and both are recent graduates of institute. Daria has completed her
Master's in cultural studies, and Alex is currently working on a higher
degree in Mathematics. They both would be considered fluent English
speakers as with many of their friends. I have to this point only met
Dema, who was a bandmate of Alex's during their teenage years. Dema has a
company in Kiev where he does identical work to my last job with AJWS as
well as a couple other functions. We were laughing last night as I
explained being the technical person in my line of work also included
screwing in lightbulbs. He can relate to the variety of tasks required of

My spirit is rejuvinated as I was able to cook last night. I prepared a
lovely Italian sauce from local ingredients. Despite lacking my usual
addition of tomatoe paste the dish was fabulous. I love soothing my soul
with food. Daria had a friend who had prepared such a dish for her before,
but Dema and Alex had not to that point experienced Italian "Sauce". I was
happy to prepare it, and at the end Alex asked me for the recipe I told
him there was no recipe and there is time yet to prepare it again; only
next time he must watch to get it. They have offered such exchanges on
their end by a similar request from me. I'm picking up some smatterings of flavor each place I have been so far.

A personal favorite from Nikolaev was Compote. I'm sure everyone will
agree that it is a simple matter to prepare and they know of it or have
made it before, but I don't believe I have seen it before in America. Simply fill a
pot with water, add an assortment of fresh fruits, sugar to taste, and
boil for some period of time. Let sit until it cools and refrigerate. It
is so simple and delightful. It often sat on the dinner table as a lovely
alternative to water, or g-d forbid soda. I'm happy to see most people
here don't consume drinks like that. It is something I have waivered on in
the past, but when I return I'm not sure I'll have much of any interest
left for it. I can find caffeine other places like in tea for example.

Vodka is a different story for this culture. They like it, and were happy
to find out it was my favorite drink before leaving America. We have
enjoyed the spirit thus far in the honey and pepper variety in Kiev, but
before long I will try others. There is a wall of Vodka to choose from
everywhere it is sold. Many stores display their selection upon entry,
with food around some other bend. I don't think this is necessarily the
best, but it does speak to what people want.

We have had many enlightening conversations about what life during and
after the Soviet Union has meant to different people, and invariably the
topic of Vodka comes into the discussion. I'm fairly convinced it has
hindered development to varying degrees. Alternatively, I can attest to the fact that there is vitality here. My present company is shining proof to that end.

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