Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Buzzed in Crimea

Well, here it is 9 at night, and I’ve just had a cup of coffee AND a cup of black tea with my neighbor, so I will probably be up a lot of the night. Or maybe not, who knows…. But at least I feel energized at the moment to get some writing done. I’m a little behind on my weekly blog posting. I do spend a lot of time these days visiting with my neighbors, and I’m loving it. Usually involves some sweets, tea or coffee, and sometimes other food, too. Tonight Maya had just finished making little dumplings stuffed with curd cheese, the name of which I couldn’t understand, and we had those too. Yummy. I’m sort of surprised I haven’t become a bit of a tub with all that I eat, but I also do a tremendous amount of walking. I have developed a major sugar craving, though. It’s nonstop sweets—cookies and candies mostly—here in Ukraine.
Saturday I was going to have sort of a relaxing, do nothing kind of day. About 11am I was hanging out my laundry, and Maya invited me in for a cup of coffee. I saw that she was canning (the Crimean Tatar version—different than the water bath I’m familiar with) and I offered to help. Well, it turned into an all day affair, and I ended up having lunch and dinner with them as we cooked away. Mostly we made an eggplant dish where you chop a lot of eggplant, carrots, onions, and peppers in small pieces, cook them a long time in a lot of oil, adding garlic and tomatoes as you go. End up with a kind of spread. We cooked it outside over an open fire in a huge wok-looking pan that she had brought with her from Uzbekistan, where most food is cooked outside. After making the eggplant dish (which is so delicious, with that great smoky flavor), we cooked another Crimean Tatar dish, plov, which is kind of a rice pilaf—rice, onion, carrots, and chicken and whole heads of garlic—also cooked outside. Also divine…. I sure am eating wonderfully here.
Sunday I went on a 3-hour walk from my house, exploring the bluff across the road I have been eyeing for awhile, going through a little village which seems much older than where I live, and then on a long path through the forest. Then I made my way back home along the bluff that I usually hike. While up on the bluffs, Pat called from America, so I sat up there looking out over the fields and distant mountains, and had a great talk with her. What a life I get to live here. Later in the day I skyped with some more friends back home and did some emailing. I hadn’t talked to any of my neighbors all day, and that evening when I went outside to talk with Lenora across the road, it was kind of a shock to start speaking Russian again and of course, the reality that I can barely understand the language. But somehow I do manage to communicate. None of my neighbors speak English, and the last few times I have been with the family that has the son that speaks some English, he has been off playing soccer (football here), so we have had to do without our sometimes interpreter. Maybe I really will eventually learn the language, out of necessity, if nothing else. I do have a once a week tutor now, so hopefully that will help, though it’s hard to get myself to do any studying. After trying to speak and understand all day, the last thing I want to do is come home and study the language!
Met a really interesting woman last week. She is 44, an American that was born in Istanbul to a Crimean Tatar father and Russian mother. She came to America when she was 16 and has a strong Russian accent. She is here on a Fulbright grant doing some kind of survey with the Crimean Tatars, as she speaks the language (along with English, Russian, and Turkish). She is disabled from a bicycle accident when she was a child, and though she can walk a little, she mostly gets around on one of those motorized sit scooters. We talked quite a bit about her experience of being disabled in Ukraine, and it is as bad as I thought. I mentioned the new library and how they said they had an elevator, and she said no, they lied, which is what I thought. There are no wheelchairs at the airports, she can’t ride the buses because she is unable to get on them, almost no buildings are wheel chair accessible, and there are no ramps anywhere. She loves Crimean and has been here six times and would love to live here, but the inaccessibility and health care are a nightmare. Her grant runs out in January, and she is scheming to stay a while longer, so maybe we will get to know each other.
Well, I think that is my report for the week, especially as I am now halfway into this week. The weather has weirdly (for August) turned cool, but it is hard to complain after some of the hot days we have had. I never liked living in air conditioning back home, and here there is none, so I am getting to see what that is really like. Mostly it is fine, though the buses can be pretty bad sometimes. What I have the hardest time with is working, especially in the afternoon. All I want to do is lay down and go to sleep! Today it was nice and cool, and I had way more energy.
Good night to all of you over there in America. Or I guess it is good morning. Lots of love to everyone from my new life in Crimea.


  1. Barb,
    I'm finally In! Thanks for sharing your blog with me. It sounds like a lovely life. It seems simpler is better -- a lesson so difficult for America. I will keep reading. Perhaps blog a little myself. Here's news. I am putting together a reading for Tru Colors, for Sept 18. More later.

  2. hi Barb-- I drive by your house often, and it looks sweetly lived in. It sounds like you have settled into a pretty good life there, taking in much more of the landscape around you than we normally do here. Reminds me to slow down, take a walk, and discover my own 'hood.

  3. hey Barb - saw an article in the Int'l Herald Trib today about the mayor of Kyiv...who they said was a bit mental - never know what that is about -anyway interesting to see Ukraine on world news with mayor posing in speedo...a little nutty, i guess. did a little research on crimea - I may have to plan a trip - I really do like that part of the world and had not realized where crimea was.
    cheers, casey