Wednesday, August 20, 2008

UA - Bila Tserkva

After some more potato-stuffed varenyky with fried onions as well as another brownie with ice cream, we headed out the door for a walk around town. Oksana, her daughter, Svitlana, Anastasia, and I all headed toward the river and into a park that followed along the river’s course. This park is reportedly larger than Sofiyivka Park in Uman’, albeit without the fountains and without the crowds.

As with Sofiyivka, however, I could clearly tell that we were past its prime – August just isn’t the time one goes strolling through gardens and parks. Despite the lack of flowers, it was still a pretty stroll among the trees. I can’t quite recall ever seeing a country that still has so many willow trees – perhaps my most favorite of all trees. When I think of place names like “Willow Grove” back in PA, I can’t help but wonder if Western civilization has waged a de facto war on willow trees. I grew up with one in the backyard of my grandmother’s house, in Philadelphia, and always loved the look of it and the sound of it as wind swept through its branches and leaves.

After several hours in the park, we emerged into the more urban parts of Bila Tserkva and wondered about a little bit more. Returning to the apartment, I sat down in the living room and chatted with Svitlana’s mother – using Anastasia as an intermediary translator. It was fun fielding various questions, of which I thought one was interesting: what is considered to be a prestigious profession in America?

I responded that generally wealthy and well-liked would include doctors, though wealthy and despised could include lawyers. To the former, I was intrigued to learn that doctors aren’t particularly respected here – really just your typical middle-class. Rather, in Ukraine, the prestigious role goes to people who own their own business. I’m not quite sure if that meant your business had to be successful or not. Surely a successful entrepreneur would be well-regarded in nearly any country, but sometimes even a struggling business owner may be highly regarded just for the individual’s will and determination.

After thanks and farewells, we departed to catch the marshrutka back to Kyiv. Our seats were above the rear wheel wells, which was initially a bit uncomfortable but once I got my leg up – I recalled why I always loved sitting above the wheel well back when I rode the school bus. The well basically functions as a footrest and can actually help one get quite comfortable (provided they’re a bit flexible). The overhead vent was right beside me and was open much of the trip, providing the perfect ventilation to maintain a perfect temperature. What a fine ride it was.

This was our last night in the Kyiv apartment. …Ever. Not only were we leaving the next night for the rest of the month, but Svitlana was moving to a new apartment the next day. As I said several days ago, the lease on the apartment here in Kyiv ends toward the end of August. Svitlana’s roommate, Veronica, apparently found a new place while we were down in Bila Tserkva. So tomorrow was going to be moving day. For tonight, however, we were still here.

I met the last roommate, Roman – making a total of five people in this little apartment. If I understand it all correctly, I believe the new apartment will just be Veronica and Russlan in one room, and Svitlana sharing a room with one of Veronica’s friends – I think her name was Yula? I haven’t met her, so I can’t say much else about her.

It is amazing what technology can do to reduce noise. Exhaust systems, engines, tires, pavement materials, and even building insulation. With the windows and doors open in this apartment, there is a cacophony of noise emanating from the major highway down below. When the doors and windows closed, however, the building’s insulation renders it a nice and quiet volume. The catch is: it quickly becomes stiflingly hot. I brought along my pajama pants as a courtesy to my hosts, but this night I finally slept in my more natural attire: just my boxers. Whereas I’d constantly wake up in a sweat on previous nights in Kyiv, this time I’d sleep and be a fine temperature all night long.

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