Month: October 2010

How you like Ukraine? 51 Things I like or dislike about Ukraine

After more than one year inside Ukraine I thought I’d try and answer this grammatically incorrect question once and for all. Or, more specifically, I wanted to identify what makes Ukraine special, different or unusual. With a view to doing this I started the task a few weeks ago by keeping a record of the things I noticed, the things that I liked, the things that annoyed me and the many many things that make Ukraine Ukrainian.

The plan was to take these notes and write them up into three lists: 1) the things I like, 2) the things I find interesting and 3) the things I don’t like. However; its just not possible. So many of the things I noted would fit in all three categories and as I’m someone who’s fascinated by the obscure – I’m interested in the things I don’t like and I like things if they’re interesting.

So I decided to lump them all together and dish them up in one long list. You’ll have to try and decide for yourself which ones I like and which ones I dislkie. It shouldn’t be too difficult.

Ukraine as a list, according to Ian Bearder

  1. Communal toilet washing facilities

  2. Soup with every meal

  3. Compot

  4. Ёжик в тумане

  5. Decorative concrete fences

  6. Train picnics with your fellow passengers (and usually with ham and fruit)

  7. Emotional goodbyes and lots of waiving on the train platform

  8. Devushka (women) …hey devushka!

  9. Devushkas posing for pictures…
    A) with their leg on a tree
    with their face next to a flower

  10. Ukrainian Nationalism

  11. Arguing against Ukraine’s hypocritical and pointlessly nationalistic language policy

  12. Babushkas (Grandmas: usually tough-as-nails and always with a headscarf. Ukraine wouldn’t function without them)

  13. Marshrutkas (small yellow minibuses) I love them.

  14. Passing money to a complete stranger on a Marshrutka, waiting for them to relay the money forward and then recieving your change …without moving from your seat.

  15. 1980s mullet haircuts being worn like they are still cool

  16. The ‘celebrity’ business person

  17. Vertical power structures

  18. Eta Normalno? (is it normal? is it?)

  19. High heels

  20. Black Jackets, leather flat-caps, pointy black shoes and fur coats

  21. “How you like Ukraine?”

  22. “How long are you in Ukraine?” (meaning “How long HAVE you been in Ukraine?”)

  23. Dill

  24. Karaoke

  25. Middle-aged, serious looking men singing passionate love songs at the Karaoke

  26. Street Karaoke with single people singing alone, to themselves, in public

  27. The fact that almost all girls I know attend dancing classes or Yoga

  28. Leopard skin patterned coats, shirts, bras, socks, trousers, boots, knickers, dresses, skirts, suits, swimsuits, handkerchiefs, bed sheets, wallpaper… (etc etc)

  29. Blue metro ‘zjatoni’ (tokens)

  30. UAH (especially the 100 Hrivna because Schevchenko has a weird shaped head)

  31. The Circus (its like time-travel)

  32. 24 hour flower shops (EVERYWHERE!)

  33. Black Range Rovers

  34. Black Range Rovers driving all over the pavement

  35. Black Range Rovers that park all over the pavement

  36. The kind of people who drive (or want to drive) Black Range Rovers that park all over the pavement

  37. President (Tsar) Yanukovych and his bone-head Oligarch buddies

  38. Queue jumping (this is the second favourite national sport. Smoking is the first favourite)

  39. Sushi …sushi, sushi, sushi (f-ing sushi)

  40. Poshli (lets go…)

  41. ‘ring ring!’ ‘ring ring! “Allo!? …ah, Maaaama!”

  42. Reserved Signs (which don’t mean it’s reserved)

  43. High levels of narcissism

  44. Low levels of modesty

  45. Very high levels of curiosity, generosity and drama

  46. “I think I have a very Slavonic face. Don’t you think so?”

  47. Face Control

  48. Women with very high voices and men with very low voices

  49. The following words and phrases: Top management, VIP, Reliable Partner, Sushi, Information Partnership and Face Control.
  50. People (usually girls) who believe they’re too special to use public transport. In fact, if you believe you’re too special to use public transport I’m 99% sure the opposite is true. You’re probably a twat.
  51. All of my Ukrainian friends and colleagues. Ukraine wouldn’t be anything without them.

So, do I like it? – yes, a lot. Do I like Ukrainians? Most of them – yes, a lot. Can I recommend life in Ukraine to anyone who’s thinking about it? Yes, absolutely. Just remember to be patient and try not to judge things by your own standards. It’s almost impossible, but try.

Ultimately, if Russia can be described as ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’, then I think Ukraine should be ‘a poem soaked in nostalgia, squashed into Vereniki and sung at full volume from a street karaoke machine’!

Posted from: www.bearder.com

Moving Pictures of the USSR. Part 1.

I couldn’t work out the difference between a Cartoon and an Animation so I’ve settled for a literal description – Moving Pictures. I guess that there is no difference except the target audience and that adults prefer to watch the formal ‘animations’ so they don’t sound childish…

Anyway, I’m not going to babble on about naming conventions and linguistic overlaps in the English language – this post is all about cartoons. More specifically, it’s about cartoons from the side of the Cold War which didn’t have Disney or the Warner Brothers.

Like all kids who grew up in the UK in the 70s and 80s I was heavily (and maybe unhealthily) exposed to hours and hours of Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny, Tweetie Pie etc and endless re-runs of older classics such as Bag Puss, King Rollo, Mr Ben and Postman Pat which was all postponed once a year for the Christmas animation cheese-fest, the Snowman. Actually, I could probably sit and type for another twenty minutes listing all the cartoons I remember, He-Man, Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds etc etc… but I think you get the picture.

However, had I been sitting 1000 miles to the east, life would have been very different. Instead of Winnie the Pooh, I would have giggled away to Vinnie Pooh and instead of Tom and Jerry, I would have fond memories of the USSR’s bad woolf in Nu Pogodi. I’m absolutely sure I would have wanted a Cheburashka toy.

Anyway, for the benefit of anyone who cares and everyone who didn’t grow up in the ex-USSR, I’ve compiled a list of the most popular animations and cartoons from the region. Yes, some are stupid and yes, some are strange but they’re all unique and offer a fascinating insight into a world which no-longer exists.

Thanks to Youtube and thanks to the people who added subtitles, we can all enjoy them. So, let’s start with the coolest… the amusingly simple Vinny Pooh

We have “Winnie the Phooh” because we have a ‘W’ and definitive articles, the Russians have the much funnier “Vinny Pooh”. Now, I’m not sure that they’re based on the same stories (presumably they are, at least loosely) but, in my opinion Vinny wins paws-down. I was never a fan of the American Winnie the Pooh cartoons but I’m a big fan of the Russian version. Here, see for yourself…

Posted from: www.bearder.com

Autumnal

I survived the -30 winter, blinked and missed the spring, sweated, sighed and sizzled through a +40 summer and finally made it to Kiev’s most beautiful season – Autumn. For once, it’s not too hot, not freezing and it’s stunningly colourful.

However, ironically as the trees turn the city red, orange and yellow – the Ukrainians themselves do quite the opposite, they go back to black. It seems that when the temperatures shrink in Ukraine so does the national fashion sense. Autumn and winter is a time for almost universal black leather hats, dark leather jackets and long fur coats…

Posted from: www.bearder.com

Ello Elbow!

I was nonchalantly stretching my arms yesterday by bending both arms up in a classic ‘strong man’ pose, when I heard a worrying tearing sound. I rolled up my jumper to discover that my shirt had ripped right open around my right elbow. Upon seeing this (and despite the obvious concern for my favourite shirt) I temporarily basked in the glory of the fact that, like the Incredible Hulk, I had just flexed a muscle and burst from my clothes. However; this initial feeling of power and vindication for the many years of firm belief that I am indeed super-hero , soon gave way to concern as I realised that it has only been a week since my right elbow poked its way curiously out of another one of my favourite tops. So, what’s going on? Why is my right elbow doing this to my poor clothes? …maybe it’s growing? or maybe I’ve started leaning on it or disproportionally rubbing it in comparison to the left elbow? Who knows? but, if you see me unconsciously doing something with my right elbow or you think my right elbow looks bigger than the last time you saw me – please say so. I need to put an end to this problem because, unlike 1970’s mothers – I cannot sew patches.

Posted from: www.bearder.com

Ello Elbow!

I was nonchalantly stretching my arms yesterday by bending both arms up in a classic ‘strong man’ pose, when I heard a worrying tearing sound. I rolled up my jumper to discover that my shirt had ripped right open around my right elbow. Upon seeing this (and despite the obvious concern for my favourite shirt) I temporarily basked in the glory of the fact that, like the Incredible Hulk, I had just flexed a muscle and burst from my clothes. However; this initial feeling of power and vindication for the many years of firm belief that I am indeed super-hero , soon gave way to concern as I realised that it has only been a week since my right elbow poked its way curiously out of another one of my favourite tops. So, what’s going on? Why is my right elbow doing this to my poor clothes? …maybe it’s growing? or maybe I’ve started leaning on it or disproportionally rubbing it in comparison to the left elbow? Who knows? but, if you see me unconsciously doing something with my right elbow or you think my right elbow looks bigger than the last time you saw me – please say so. I need to put an end to this problem because, unlike 1970’s mothers – I cannot sew patches.

Posted from: www.bearder.com

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