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Journey to the Borderland

May 15

Posted by Lindsey Whissel on 05/15 at 03:51 PM

Slavyansk = home ‘til week’s end.

We ended our time in Kharkiv with a visit to a clinic for children for disabilities that is one of this Rotary district’s projects. It was great to see their facility and to learn about their work. After this tour, we had one last lunch at Igor and Gaylina’s, then we caught a bus to Slavyansk. This bus ride was more comfortable than the last and I enjoyed watching the scenery while jamming to Ruslana (popular Ukrainian singer) on my ipod.

We arrived in Slavyansk around 6pm. Even though we’ve only been here a few hours, I can tell I will like this place; it has a very nice vibe. I went for dinner with my host’s daughter, Vilka at her restaurant- a small, but cool venue that often has live music (though there wasn’t any tonight). I’m sorry to say I made like an American and ordered chicken and fries (the Ukranian cuisine has been great, but sometimes a girl just needs a taste of home:). I also got to meet Vilka’s husband and some of their friends. We had one funny translation snafu when one of their friends asked me the name of an animal in English—he kept saying “animal with drugs” and pointing to his arm. I was beyond confused, so Vilka did a search on her phone and pulled up a picture of a porcupine (I then figured out by “drugs” he’d meant “needles” aka quills).

Since I don’t have that much to report today and I keep making notes about things I want to include in my blog but that haven’t made it in yet, I’m going to make a random list of some of the cultural differences I’ve noticed so far:
1. Stuffed animals are very popular here. I see them everywhere and even houses with only adults seem to have HUGE ones out on display
2. Sofa beds are also big here; I think this is a clever way to condense space
3. I don’t think I’ve managed to find two toilets that flush the same way (push buttons, pull knobs, foot pedals, etc.)
4. Ketchup comes in a bag
5. There are oriental rugs in all the compartments and walkways on the train
6. I think I’ve noted this already, but stray dogs and cats are allowed to roam freely
7. Gas prices are somewhere around $5.50 (USD)/ gallon
8. It seems like we (the Americans) are always asking for two things- water and bathroom breaks [I need to learn the Euro-secret to staying hydrated without drinking water]
9. It snows in the summer. Ok, not really, but in Dnipropetrovsk, there are some kind of trees that shed a white fluffy substance and it looks like snow. I loved it (though my allergies didn’t); it felt very magical
10. There are lots of playgrounds around here and the country really seems to value its youth
11. When entering an Orthodox church, women must cover their heads and wear skirts. We all brought scarves with us, so the head-covering isn’t an issue, but for the skirts we have to borrow some, which most churches keep at the entrance for visitors (sort of an ankle-length sarong/ wrap around)
12. Several times at the end of dinner, everyone around the table has started old Ukrainian songs. I really love this. I’ve been told it’s not as common was it once was, but it’s a wonderful tradition
13. I’ve seen several offices with a set of double doors (one door, a space of about 6 inches and another door). I asked why and was told it’s a means of ensuring privacy

Word of the day: дикобраз (deek-ahb-raz) – porcupine

{name} Author: Lindsey Whissel
Bio: Lindsey Whissel earned her degree in cinema and digital arts from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA. She has produced a variety of broadcast and non-broadcast media projects for television, radio, and the web.

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