So far, so good – I’m not bed-ridden with any swine nastiness. Actually, as I wrote that, I just realised how (despite my joking) I’ve been taken in by the hysteria here. Old Swiney has been killing people in the UK for months now but I didn’t even think twice about it. It hardly got a mention amoungst friends and life went on as usual, perhaps with the odd missing colleague for a week or two, however, the fear here is much more obvious and like the flu it seems to be contagious.
Anyway, it’s Tuesday morning and I’m writing from a warm apartment in the belly of Kiev. Later I’m hoping to invade Obolon – a new and popular region of Kiev that would most probably be described as ‘up and coming’ by most British estate agents. However, it’s one of those grey, wet but not-quite raining days and it’s killing my motivation to explore. If I do, I’ll add some pictures here for you later.
So, as you can probably guess from the fact I’m at home on a Tuesday – I’m not working. Although I’ve been trying, nothings come up yet. OK, this might be expected in Ukraine in the midst of a financial crises however, as I’m not even asking for a salary it’s a little perplexing. The fact that almost nobody has the common courtesy to reply to my emails with a “thanks but, no thanks” doesn’t help. I tend to use more expletives but “how rude” is enough to explain my opinion on this.
To increase my chances of success I was reading some advice online yesterday and I stumbled accross this little pearl of wisdom…
“Make sure you are able to explain to employers why you are in Ukraine in the first place and for how long. They need to understand your motives for moving from a wealthy country to a poor one.”
It comes from an article at tryukraine.com and it hit a note with me because it’s not just relevant to work. I mean, it’s not just future employers you’ll need to convince, it’s pretty much everyone you meet if you decide to move here.
In a country where, given the chance, most people would leave to work in the ‘rich’ and ‘civilised’ Western side of Europa – almost nobody can understand why I’m here. It’s normally the first question off most peoples lips but even the people who know me quite well have given in eventually. The sad thing is, it reveals both a negative self image (of Ukraine) and an annoying suspicion of foreigners. Of course, there’s normally a good reason for most stereotypes but the question gets a little tiresome . (NB, if you’re not British that’s an intentional understatement).
I guess the trouble I have is that I can’t give a simple, one-line reply to confirm or diffuse their suspicion when they’re already thinking…
A: “aha, you’re here for the girls. I thought so …dirty sex tourist” or
B: “You’re working here? Oh, you poor thing! they sent you to Ukraine”
Trying to explain any longer or non-standard scenarios doesn’t usually work. It is, I guess ‘not normal’.
This article was written, on the topic by a local girl working for a travel services company in Kiev. However, it just wound me up even more. Maybe I misunderstood her point but it seems a little confused. She tries to explain the stereotype whilst happily subscribing to it, writing “even if it’s not their goal on their first time [finding love] it definitely is on their second visit to the country”. sheeesh…
Anyway, I’ll stop ranting (for now) and the tryukraine.com website has some useful info if you are every here and looking for work. I take heart from the fact that the article exists as they seem to understand here the ‘adventurous souls’.
Another great website for anyone interested in Ukraine is: http://vkhokhl.blogspot.com
I can’t remember how I discovered this website but, I spent hours reading it and it remains one of my favourite sites about Ukraine. I copied the following from one of her posts…
“Chewing gum I remember much better – we were told at school to never take it from the evil foreigners because they put needles inside to kill the innocent Soviet kids. But we gladly took gum and candies and little souvenirs – and survived.”
Not only does it show the INCORRECT suspicion of foreigners in it’s historical perspective but also how kids, whichever country they come from, will happily ignore their parents and trust other people – especially when sweets are involved. There’s no cold-war thinking in a toddlers mind.
It’s also where I found Masyanya, an amusing Russian cartoon about a somewhat crazy Russian girl. If you’re lucky you can find the videos on Youtube with English subtitles.
…pizza pizza! (intentionally sounds like ‘pizda pizda!’ which translates along the lines of ‘fuck fuck’)
The weekend just gone I spent Saturday daytime walking around Kiev with Cee, a Chinese student who’s studying Russian here and, after dinner, drinks and a ‘question and answer’ session at home with Maria and Vika we spent the night drinking and dancing with a group of Georgians in a bar opposite my house. It didn’t end so well but that’s not for public discussion, you’ll have to ask in person if you want all the details.
On Sunday evening I met up with Olya, Olya’s cousin and her cousins boyfriend Pasha. The three of them did a great job of confirming my faith in Ukrainian hospitality as they took me for a beer (and wouldn’t let me pay of course), showed me the sights, showed me how to read a receipt (and check it for extra items!) and told me all about each other, their histories, hopes and dreams. Pasha and Olya’s cousin were expecting a child and were clearly very happy and although I’d only met them 2 hours before, I left them after a big round of kisses, hugs, handshakes and smiles. I can’t speak Russian but that all translates quite well.
and now? well, I’m pretending to be at home by listening to Radio 4 online. Yes, it’s for old people but there are few things in Britain that are more British than Radio 4. Google also just sent me back to primary school with today’s topical picture. I had no idea Sesame Street was still going.
Oh, and I forgot to mention my wallet. My never-ending wallet that’s been in (and sometimes out) of my pocket for the last 13 years was finally lost last Sunday. It, my drivers licence, cash-card, the lot – all gone. Well, all gone for a day! My phone rand on Monday evening and, thanks to some handy translation work by Maria – 2 hours later my wallet was safely back in its old home, my pocket. A golden toothed, leather-coat-wearing, tough-guy security guard had found it and instead of stealing it all, he’d done everything he could to get it back to me. Thankfully for me he did and in doing so he proved beyond doubt (to me at least) that this place isn’t half as bad as people might think.