Tuesday, August 26, 2003

This past weekend was dedicated to celebrating Ukrainian independence. It was quite the celebration as we witnessed it form atop the victory memorial one afternoon of three. Daria has a very keen since of national history, and she was a great tour guide. We did the city for a while, and then returned home to host several people who had returned from rest on the sea. People take a minimum of one week in the upwards of two months during the summer to leave daily life behind and take off to other parts of the country or further. This really makes me want to be a school teacher. The vacation time would be incredible. Think about what you'd have time to accomplish for your own sake; if nothing else, peace of

Back home, we drink a little, we eat a little, and then the guitar comes out. Ukrainians know songs, and people take turns playing the guitar, which also comes with the distinction of choosing the song. It is quite a beautiful pastime. Yes, there is a lot of vodka, but as Martin tried to tell us at the Russian Vodka Room, it does help keep the evening in perspective. In a mere one week my entire perspective on drinking has changed. I enjoy myself much more, and there are many tasty treats all night long. Yet another place that food has hit home for me. The next day no longer holds the same meaning it used to. Although, Alex and I were talking yesterday about how a long night of this will still leave you fairly poisened from high concentrations of alcohol.

In all of this, there's a different attitude towards alcohol. We've had a couple discussions of Ukrainian versus American practices. The question keeps coming up about what Americans eat with beer? I have had to explain numerous times that beer is an entity for its own sake. I think Americans consider beer a vehicle; Ukrainians take that a step further by laying out fish, chips, nuts, crab sticks, bread and cheese, or any other number of possibilities. Of course this doesn't hold true for everyone, and we have seen our fair number of alcoholics, but it is sheer ignorance to say that alcohol has solely a negative impact here. It is part of the culture that means something different to everbody I've spoken with.

Having a beer at lunch with some fish is not a frequent practice, but it is not out of the question. It is also not three+ beers, it's one. And, then life continues as usual, at a reasonable pace. Another thing I have come to love about Kiev is the presence of natural springs. As part of urban development the city
has constructed little areas where there are several pumps with fresh water from hundreds of meters below the surface. The water comes out pure and cold. I have had no problems with this health wise, and I am very pleased to not be purchasing the plastic bottles daily for water. Tap water is okay after boiling (perhaps before, although I have not tried), but there is a pretty high concentration of chlorine in the water.

I have slowly been separating from my hosts and exploring Kiev little by little. I think this week I continue this habit and venture a bit more into the center. I asked about how far home is from the office (Ukrainian Holocaust Center), and I think it might be able 90 minutes to 2 hours. Perhaps, after studying the map some I'll give this a shot.

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