I stole my thunder

This week Kyiv‘s most popular daily newspaper Segodnya ran an article about my 101 reasons to love Kyiv. However, like thousands of others, they found the original blog post I wrote under a short-lived pseudonym – the Ukrainian Penguin.

So, much to my dismay, my pseudonym is now more famous than me and as a result I am getting all the attention I want. I’m jealous of myself and believe me, it’s a strange feeling.

Doing battle with negative stereotypes

Speaking, this time as myself, I was quoted in an article on Friday that made the front page of the Kyiv Post.  The article explored Ukraine’s global image ahead of the EURO 2012 football finals that take place here next month.

As you can see from the article, I think Ukraine’s image problem is largely just that – an image problem, and this image doesn’t do justice to reality. Well, not entirely.

There are many problems here and there isn’t a very well-developed tourist infrastructure. However, as my colleague Chris Collison points out in the same article, this is what makes Ukraine appealing. Not only is Ukraine much safer than people think, but when you visit, you are visiting a real living space. The absence of a ‘tourist trail’ means you’ll spend most of your time engaged with the real world – warts n’all, and you’re much more likely to interact with the lovable Ukrainians who live here.

I’m not going to rant about this topic here, but I should thank the author of the article for including my thoughts. I was unnecessarily blunt with her when we talked because so many Ukrainian journalists are obsessed with this topic and so many want us ‘foreigners’ to tell everyone how awful this place is. The reality is, if you’re curious and you like adventure – it’s not.

It girls and IT guys

The glamour of Ukrainian women is a highly debated topic both here and abroad and its fair to say that many posses a certain ‘it girl’ quality.

However, while Ukraine’s females are keeping-up their fashion chic, Ukraine’s IT guys are leading the world in techno-geek uncool.

I spent 10 years in the IT industry, and during that time I saw some pretty impressive fashion crimes.  However nothing compares to the IT guy who works in my office in Kiev. On Friday he was wearing a leopard-skin pattern shirt with a leather waistcoat, tight black trousers and cowboy boots. As if this wasn’t enough he has a massive Ron Jeremy moustache to boot.

He’s so 1980s super-uncool it’s almost unbelievable, and yet nobody bats an eyelid!

The fashion extremes are dizzying.

You look like a ……

Despite my best efforts to blend-in with the locals, my Ukrainian friends assure me that I still look like a foreigner. Like all Ukrainian guys, I have tried my best to look like Michael Knight, but it seems that I’m just not cutting the Ukrainian mustard.

However, I have made some ‘progress’ because last week a girl asked me if I was Belgian and this week my friend said I looked like a Moldovan. A Moldovan!!

Babushka watch

The ‘babushka of the week’ award this week goes to the old woman who sits on the stairs playing the accordion outside Klovska metro station.  She’s about 70 but she can (and does) play her tunes for a whole 10-hour day.  It drives me crazy after about two hours, but I have a deep admiration for her determination and her stamina.

Strange art

Yes, there’s some veg resting on those ‘breasts’

The Metro speaks English!

On the morning of Monday May 14th, I received an SMS from My Dutch friend.

“The Metro started to speak English!”

It was a historic moment and it made me laugh.

Village of town type

This week I learnt that, in Ukraine, a village which grows beyond being a small settlement can become a ‘village of town-type’.

Having grown up near Kidlington which doesn’t know what the hell it is, this grading system seems surprisingly logical. However, it made me wonder if it works both ways? If a city is full of  stray dogs and Babushkas selling cabbages, could it be called a ‘city of village type’?

I also learnt that there’s a Russian word for people who have the same name: Tjoski

In a country that collectively shares about twelve names, this also seems beautifully logical.