I’m sitting here at my desk at the library, watching the technician from Kyiv install the scanner that we purchased with the $15,000 grant we received last May from a US foundation. Not that I have any choice given the language barrier, but it is so hard to just sit here and let it all happen without butting in with my opinions. Of which, of course, I have many. I do have faith in the young library workers who are most involved in the setting up of the scanner— I know they are both very knowledgeable about computer technology. But I also know that the scanner is just the first step in a long term project to digitize the library’s rare book and newspaper collections. It will be interesting to see how this all develops. Like everything else here, I know it will take some time for them to initiate a system and I will, once again, have the opportunity to practice patience. And trust—that they will indeed get it together to do what they need to do to take advantage of this wonderful gift to the library.
Following up on my last blog, the “prazdniks” continued after Thanksgiving with my neighbor Siyare’s 24th birthday on a Friday night a week later. Siyare is the daughter in the family of my ex-landlords, and I always enjoy going over there. Though now they always say that I don’t come enough, that I have “forgotten them.” But of course I haven’t, and I try to get over there once a week or every other week. Outside my family, they are my best friends in Ak Mechet. And their gatherings are always a lot of fun—lots of food and usually lots of people—relatives and friends. On this occasion, there were the six family members, a brother-in-law, and three friends of Siyare’s, all of whom I knew. There was much toasting as usual—the men with vodka, us women with wine—and I even got them to sing Happy Birthday as we do in America—the first time I have done that in Ukraine. Candles and singing is not something that happens here.
Safie's 14th Birthday Dinner
Safie’s birthday was a little bit more subdued, but Neshet’s sister who lives nearby came, and Serdar for once was home. There was much toasting with wine among us four adults, and Lenura had made another of her fabulous dinners—this time we had rabbit, which was a first for all of us, including Lenura. Neshet likes exploring different foods and sometimes watches a cooking show. On the last show they were preparing rabbit, so he went out and bought a rabbit and gave it to Lenura to come up with a dinner. I’m not sure how she feels about this “cooking on demand,” but she looked up a recipe on the internet for “Christmas Rabbit”—clearly an English dish—and prepared a tasty concoction of rabbit and mushrooms baked in a cream sauce. Well, it wasn’t really a cream sauce, because cream as we know it is pretty impossible to buy here, but it was a tasty white sauce, nevertheless. And for dessert, we had ice cream and fresh fruit, a choice of two different cakes, and a sort of sweetened squash with nuts. You don’t go hungry in my home, that’s for sure.
This week I’ve been sick—a bad cold—and have stayed home from work until today. I feel like I get a lot more colds here than I did in the States; I suppose it is the problem of my immune system not being used to Crimean germs. Quite a few people in my office have been sick lately with colds, but luckily, I don’t seem to have transferred it to anyone in my family.
One of Aivasvosky's paintings.
Before I got sick, I did make an excursion down to the coastal town of Feodocia to go to the Aivazovsky Museum. Ivan Aivazovsky was an Armenian artist who was born in Feodocia in the early 19th century and lived there all his life. He became world famous for his paintings of the sea and even today is considered the greatest painter of seascapes. His works are large—some of them covering an entire wall—and the sea he depicts is usually a violent one, sometimes complete with ship wrecks. As my experience of the Black Sea is one of fairly tranquil waters, it makes me wonder what inspired his paintings. But there is no denying his incredible mastery of water. One of his most famous paintings—completed just a couple of years before he died at the age of 83—is filled with a raging sea, and as you stand and stare at that painting which fills the wall where it hangs, you can’t help but be drawn into the luminance of those turbulent waves. My PCV friend Cheryl, who accompanied me on the museum visit, had been there before, but wanted to return just so she could once again see the painting. As she said, it felt like one could spend hours just looking at that water.
But, of course, that wasn’t really possible, as we both had buses to catch back to our towns, so we left the library and spent an hour or so wondering the waterfront of Feodocia, usually a bustling place in the summer overrun with tourists, but on this cold November afternoon, filled with only a few people walking the promenade in front of the old ornate mansions converted into “sanatoriums,” as resorts are called here. I don’t really like the overcrowded coastal towns in the summer which is why I had waited until November to make the trek here. I had long wanted to see the Aivazovsky paintings, and I boarded my bus for the two-hour trip back to Simferopol, highly satisfied, with their images floating in my head.
Much love from Crimea