Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Who Reads My Blog?

I don't read a lot of blogs. Partly I don't have time and partly my Internet connection is so slow. I read my kid's blogs and my cousin's and one of my former neighbour's who is sort of family and one of my kids' friend's, who has been in Ireland these past two years but just blogged she is going back to Canada, having finished her MA.

And one blog of a "friend I haven't met", that I enjoy, just because it is so well written. Dana Wyzard's LIFE IS GOOD. It is funny. It is heart wrenching. It is beautiful. It is Dana!

But who reads my blog? There is a little map in the upper left corner of my blog which allegedly keeps track of the number of people who read my blog and where they live. It is archived monthly. So today being the last of September, I thought I'd look and see where my readers were. All 409 of them this month.

Some of the red dots I can identify. Kids, relatives and friends. In many places in the world. But there are hits from all over the globe that I can't account for. How did you find me and why do you read it? I am curious. My kids and a few friends are the only ones who comment on even a semi-regular basis.

I know there are programs that search for key words. Someone from Washington who had been here 15 or 20 years ago contacted me when Zhovte Vodi tripped his program trigger. I flushed a couple of foaming-at-the-mouth nutbars a few months ago with an editorial. I expect there are one-hit wonders that stumbled over my blog by accident and never came back.

Please, I would love to hear from my readers from all over.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Birthday Blog

Today was a good day. Every day above ground is a good day at my age.

My kids all emailed so I know they still love me. Tanya cooked up enough food for a large gathering and Andrei, Tanya , Masha and Tanya's mom, Natasha, came over for supper. Tanya said since it was my birthday I didn't have to wash dishes today. They are all neatly stacked by the sink for tomorrow. I get no respect.

Andrei and Tanya gae me a coffe grinder. Natasha gave me an exercise set of hand grips, chest builder, arm builder and a jump rope. Tanya said she could build muscles for me as she has a shovel and 10,000 square feet of garden that needs spading. She said I would use three of items but not the jump rope as elephants can't jump. I get no respect.

Yesterday Zhenia and his son-in-law Oleg were busy widening the gate into his drive way by about 40 cm. Tanya said when they were done they could come over and widen our garage door. I get no respect.

We have a walnut tree across the road from our house. Tanya had been wailing on it with a garden fork to shake the walnuts down. I offered to hit it with the car but she didn't see the humour in that. Since Andrei was here today she asked him to give the tree a shake. He went over and booted it and a whole bunch fell for Masha to pick up. Talk about a kick in the nuts.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Joyce and Judy

My Mom was the oldest of three sisters. Joyce and Judy are the oldest and youngest of Mom’s middle sister, Betty. Joyce is 24 days older than I am which she made the most of when we were kids and will again when we are very old. We were good friends as kids and stayed that way all our lives. Judy was the smart-mouthed trouble-maker little sister. When she was young, she had a friend down the block just like her. The two moms would race to get their kid out the door first to go play at the other house. She is still full of life and fun.

Judy has done some traveling but Joyce never. They came to Ukraine to visit Tanya and me. Talk about feeling loved! That’s a pretty big adventure and not inexpensive to come all this way. Joyce met Tanya last Christmas when we were home but Judy had not and was looking forward to it. We had a great itinerary planned, given we only had nine days plane-in to plane-out.

Of course, fall rains started early. Not a drop for two months and the two days we were in Kyiv, it poured steady (and the next two days as well). We still visited the Pechersk Lavra Monastery and St Sofia’s Cathedral as well as walked the length of Andreivski Uzviz, though the rain had closed 90% of the craft and souvenir stalls.

We didn’t have time to go to Crimea which we would early have loved but instead we made a day trip from our place to Sofivka Park in Uman. The rest of the time we ate Tanya’s great home-cooking, drank coffee and visited up a storm. Catching up on family, getting to know each other again, reviewing all the events of our lives since Joyce and I celebrated our 50th birthdays together.
Our last evening together, we all dressed up and went out to dinner, Judy’s treat, so in a way, it was Joyce’s and my 61st birthday supper.
They arrived home safely and have forgiven us for the 6 hour wait at Boryspil (Kyiv) airport. Joyce was already talking about the next trip when they left so that was a good sign. Thanks so much for coming all this way to see us!! We love you.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday, Captain sober*

Andrei’s Tanya is here with Masha today. Masha will come to see her Babushka as long as Maxim is visiting next door. Maxim brought Tanya another African Violet, a different colour he says. He worships Tanya. Any time an adult asks and takes an 8-year-old’s advice, as Tanya does about flowers, they make a friend for life. Tanya has slipped a geranium for him. He will be thrilled.

As I write, Tanya and Tanya (Is that Double Tanya or Tanya Squared?) are out picking apples again. Andrei’s Tanya is 180 cm tall and 50 kg so she can safely climb the fully extended ladder and reach the next level of apples. I have no idea where they are putting them as we filled all the boxes yesterday. I helped at first but it is pretty boring and I thought we had enough apples anyhow.

Our neighbour Zhenia brought home his new car. I guess he changed his mind about the Chevy Aveo. He bought a (Renault) Dacia Logan 4-door sedan. Reminds me a bit of the Chevy Biscayne of my youth that traded at about $1200. This is a stripped down, plain-Jane no frills car; 1.4 litre engine, standard, no air, no radio, no power windows or locks. $11,000 USD. He is swinging into his yard and just clipped the left front quarter panel on the gate, scraping the paint. He was upset!! Tanya was over looking at it when it happened and came home immediately so she could laugh. Now I don’t feel so bad, having done the same thing, turning into our garage with our new car.

*Captain’s log entry for Friday: First mate drunk on duty. The blog title was the Mate’s log entry for the next day. Excellent spin. He could have worked on an election campaign.

Friday, September 26, 2008

James, hold the ladder steady*

Joyce and Judy left on the plane from Kyiv this morning at 7:00 am. Tanya and I put them on the train in Dnipropetrovsk last night at 5:00. We'd had a great visit (more on that in a bit) and all four of us were tired out, I think. We drove home and were in bed by 9:00. They got to the airport at midnight and had a five-hour wait to check in time.

Today we picked apples. About 300 kgs or twenty 20-litre buckets worth. Of course, that pails in comparison to the amount left on the trees that we can't reach. Anything over 4 meters up remains unpicked. Tanya did the climbing and picking as she doesn't think the ladder will hold me. My job was to steady the ladder and haul buckets of apples to the passageway room where we will sort them into eating apples and juice apples. Lucia has an apple press which we will borrow to make juice. Steadying the ladder was no simple task as the ground is all soft and muddy. Tanya only needed me once when the ladder started to tip and I had to rush to the rescue. (I'm trying to work something in here about ladder reign but think I'll leave it).

Tanya can get Bobik to eat an apple if she bites it and gives the bite to him. Volk wants no part of it. Lucia was over picking windfalls which she takes to a neighbour lady in trade for milk. The neighbour's cow quite likes apples and she won't let her milk down now until she gets her apple treat at milking time. Cows learn quickly what works.

* Obscure reference. Who recorded it first and in what year for 50 poinjts and entry into the BIG draw? Bonus points if you don't have to use Google.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Plov is an Uzbek dish according to Tanya and according to an Uzbek lady at the Samarkand Restaurant in Ulaanbaatar. Today I paid attention while Tanya was cooking it and this is as close to a recipe as I can come up with:
1 kg pork cut into 2-3 cm cubes (can use chicken and likely beef too though we have not)
3 good sized onions chopped up
3 good sized carrots shredded
Brown the meat in a large deep casserole dish in about 50 to 70 mls of oil for 15 minutes or so.
Add onions and carrots after about 5 minutes.
To 1 1/2 -2 cups of rice add boiling water and soak for 20 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water.
Spread the rinsed rice over top of the meat, carrots and onions in the same dish they were browned in.
Add water to cover plus about 2-3 cm
Salt, peppercorns and bayleaves are all Tanya adds though i think one could use one's imagination and make any flavour one wanted.
Cover and simmer slowly for 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the water is gone.
You will likely need to experiment with the rice/water ratios until you find what works in your casserole as Tanya has used this cast aluminum one for years for Plov and has it down to an art. She also uses short grain rice which has very different cooking characteristics from long grain as she likes sticky rice.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

God didn’t make little green apples

Fruit trees are nice in spring when they blossom. Then I wish they would go away until next spring. They litter the ground with fallen fruit. Yes, I enjoyed the cherries (about 10% of production) and the apricots (about 0.5%), don’t get me wrong. But the ground is covered with fruit we can’t pick or don’t need.

Then there are the apple trees. Twenty years ago, fresh from Siberia, Tanya planted this vast orchard, with only a half vast notion of what would happen. There are ten apple trees. From the time apples first start forming the ground is littered with little green apples. They aren’t ready to pick until mid-late September so we endure the windfalls, rake them up and haul them by the wheelbarrow load to our compost heap. We picked two pails full yesterday of the ripest ones from two small trees. The third tree, which is 50 feet tall and covered with apples, we will harvest later and the rest can fall off in their own time.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Vote for Barack Obama

The following open letter was written by a friend who works with Peace Corps in Eastern Ukraine. I thought it very worth while reading so am posting it.

My Friends:

As you know, the upcoming Presidential election is very critical for Americans and for the world. Because I am a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine, I have not seen any TV coverage of the campaign. And, because my personal computer recently konked out, I am not going to be able to keep up with news via the Internet. I wish so much that I were able to go door-to-door canvassing for Barack Obama, but since I can’t do that, I have decided to make my opinion known to as wide an audience as possible by sending this e-mail from the Internet café near my apartment. Please forward it on to others if you feel like it might help get out the vote for Obama.

My Personal Motivation:

It is my privilege and obligation as an American citizen to vote and to actively participate in my government. I consider myself to be a grassroots progressive and when I get home from my Peace Corps service I plan to jump right back into the following public activities that are very important to me: grassroots initiatives to counteract climate change, advocacy for tribal sovereignty, land health education, local food policy, and civil disobedience (if that is what it takes) to stop not only the war against Iraq, but to get our country back on track. On a very personal level I intend to pick up where I left off by working with the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), getting in a lot of hiking, and pursuing “right livelihood” in the rural west. It sure will be a lot easier for all of us to move on with our plans if Barack Obama is President. One of the reasons I joined the Peace Corps was to gain perspective on the American Dream and to distance myself for a while from the nightmare that has been inflicted upon us by Bush and his cronies. I am appalled with McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, yet more motivated than ever to put this awful nightmare behind us so that we can move on into doing the real work that has been neglected for so long.


From my vantage point in eastern Ukraine, where the effects of the famine of the 1930s and the killing fields of WWII are revealed to me everyday, it is annoying to see Americans “blogged down” in trivial media hype. The back-and-forth blather, the simplistic jargon, and the very scary possibility of not just John McCain, but, now, Sarah Palin…. well, those things detract from the seriousness of what this election is all about. I am imploring you not to let this election turn on any deep-seated racism that you might be too embarrassed to admit in public but which you might be tempted to draw on in the privacy of the voting booth. This election is so important that none of us who want to see us emerge from this hellish situation should even consider “making a statement” by not voting or voting for a third party candidate. I implore you to listen to the incredible optimism of the millions of young people who we raised to be as wonderful as they are and who are thrilled about the possibility of participating in the American dream as they imagine it to be, and vote for Obama/Biden. After we elect President Obama, then “we, the people” can begin again to make the presidency answerable to us rather than to corporations and empire.

A Realistic Optimism:

One of my heroes is the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He talked of a “living” constitution that serves as the framework for a “people’s democracy”. Let’s take Marshall’s vision seriously and begin the long process of re-claiming our power. Since so many of our institutions and values have been undermined over the years by this greedy lot, a quick fix will be impossible; however, the foundation is still there and that is what we have to work with.

While I have been in eastern Ukraine, I have thought long and hard about MY AMERICAN DREAM. It is very hard to explain the shame I have felt about my country over the past 8 nightmarish years: shame about the killings in Iraq, shame about the culture of fear that we let the Bush administration administer to us after 9/11, shame about our refusal to sign the Kyoto Agreement, shame about our terrible lack of response to Hurricane Katrina, and shame about our fascination with the super rich. I am tired of being ashamed. So I am not telling Ukrainians about that America. Instead I am telling them about “My America” in which: we all vote, fear is not a bargaining chip, public participation in the decision-making process is a right rather than a privilege, the rule of law is basic to our way of life, poor people have equal access (to housing, education, health care, and jobs), and we take climate change seriously. Idealistic? Well, why not? Naïve? Not at all. Those are my EXPECTATIONS!!

Barack Obama can’t and won’t deliver this dream to us on a silver platter. He’s not perfect by any means. But, you know what? He’s here NOW! He’s what we have….We have him and we have ourselves. What I am talking about here is a “more perfect union” where all of us together are responsible for the American Dream. I am sick of all the fear and negativity. Please, I implore you…


Help us get America back!!

Let’s use the transformative power of our vote to re-set America’s course. We deserve it. The world deserves it. How wonderful it will be to hear the young people who are working so hard for America’s future say, “We did it!”


Norma Cady
Buena Vista, Colorado

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

...walks into a bar

1. A horse walks into a bar. The bartender asks, "Hey, why the long face?"
2. A baby seal walks into a bar. "Get me anything but a Canadian Club".
3. A skeleton walks into a bar and orders a beer and a mop.
4. An Irishman walks into a bar with a steering wheel hanging from his belt. The bartender asks, "What's that for?" The Irishman responds, "Sure an’ it’s driving me nuts".
5. A giraffe walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Do you want a Long-Neck?" The giraffe says, "Do I have a choice?"
6. Charles Dickens walks into a bar and orders a martini. The bartender asks, "Olive or twist?"
7. An amnesiac walks into a bar. He asks, "Do I come here often?"
8. A neutron walks into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender sets the beer down and says, "For you, no charge!"
9. A woman goes into a bar and asks for a "double entendre". So the bartender gave her one.
10. Shakespeare walks into a bar and asks the bartender for a beer. "I can't serve you." says the bartender. "You're Bard!"
11. A dyslexic walks into a bra.
12. Two hydrogen atoms walk into a bar. One says, "I've lost my electron." The other says, "Are you sure?" The first replies, "Yes, I'm positive..."
13. Descartes walks into a bar, the bartender asks "Would you like a beer?" Descartes replies "I think not" and POOF! he vanishes.
14. A snake slithers into a bar and the bartender says, "I'm sorry but I can't serve you; you can't hold your liquor."
15. A young Texan walks into a bar and orders a drink. "Got any ID?" asks the bartender. The Texan replies, "About what?"
16. A pair of jumper cables walk into a bar. The bartender says, "You can come in here, but you better not start anything!"
17. Julius Ceasar walks into a bar and says, "I'll have a martinus." The bartender asks him. "Don't you mean martini?" Caesar tells the bartender, "Listen, if I wanted two I would have asked for them."
18. A penguin walks into a bar and asks the bartender, "Has my father been in here?" The bartender says, "I don't know. What does he look like?"
19. A brain goes into a bar and says to the bartender, "I'll have a beer, please." The bartender says, "Sorry, I can't serve you. You're out of your head."
20. A termite walks into a bar and asks, "Is the bar tender here?"
21. A cheeseburger walks into a bar, and the bartender says, "Sorry, we don't serve food in here."
22. A three-legged dog hobbles into a Western saloon. He sidles up to the bar and announces: "I'm lookin' fer the man that shot my paw."
23. A grasshopper hops into a bar. The bartender says, "You're quite a celebrity around here. We've even got a drink named after you." The grasshopper says, "You've got a drink named Steve?"
24. A goldfish flops into a bar and looks at the bartender. The bartender asks, "What can I get you?" The goldfish says, "Water."
25. A tourist walks into a bar in County Cork and asks the barman: "What's the quickest way to get to Dublin?" "Are you walking or driving?" asks the barman. "Driving," says the man. "That’d be the quickest way," says the barman.
26. A cowboy walks into a bar and orders a beer. His hat is made of brown wrapping paper. And so are his shirt, vest, chaps, pants, and boots. His spurs are also made of paper. Pretty soon, the sheriff arrives and arrests him for rustling.
27. A blind man walks into a bar, grabs his dog by its hind legs and swings him around in a circle. The bartender says, "Hey, buddy, what are you doing?" And the blind man says, "Don't mind me. I'm just looking around."
28. A man walks into a bar looking sad, and the bartender asks him, "What's the matter?" The man says, "My wife and I had a fight, and she told me she wasn't going to speak to me for a month. The month is up today."
29. My brother is a magician; he can walk down an alley and turn into a bar.
30. Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other: "Does this taste funny to you?"

Monday, September 8, 2008

Varicose, Sundried and Assordid Happenings

1. Consulting report is finished, at least the second draft and sent to the boss for proofing before it goes to the client. The client is a good proofreader in his own right but since he is paying, deserves at least a semi-professional piece of writing. It has some good optionsin it and should move the process along. Every gold mine in an agricultural area with a sense of social responsibility needs a Livestock Specialist once in a while to assess projects to help the industry.

2. Kuchma is put out every night. (Why he catches fire every day is a different matter but I digress…) Sunday morning we looked out the window and there he was, passed out in the ditch like a common drunk, sleeping it off in the warm sunshine. When we opened the door, he revived and came in for food and more naps.

3. My cousin, DC Power, (well, at least he isn’t AC-DC) is a pro at digitally repairing damaged photos. He repaired an old photograph of Tanya at 5 years of age that I had scanned and emailed to him. The look is serious (the “Russian” smile) but there is a hint of a smile in the corners of her mouth that gives away the mischievous girl behind the mask.

4. Saturday Tanya got up at 8:00 and by noon had made bliny, perogi, buns and chicken stew. Andrew, Tanya and Masha came for the afternoon and for supper all that was left was the chicken stew.

5. Yesterday the engine warning light came on. The car didn’t seem to have as much power lately but I thought if it was serious Andrei would have noticed it. Today Andrei and I took the car to the only computer diagnostic service in town. Fouled spark plugs from bad gasoline. Though we buy “95 Octane” all the time, one never really knows. They don’t call it benzene for nothing here and the 80 Octane stuff the old beaters burn is actually benzene. Pulled and sandblasted the plugs and the Kia runs like new. Cost $24 CAD.

6. Today we took three carpets to be steam cleaned. Small enough that I could carry them. Cost $48 CAD. There are only two steam cleaners in town. I told Andrei it would be a good business but he says ZV is too small to support three of them.

7. Today was the 31st birthday of Andrei’s Tanya. We went for lunch where I met Tanya’s Babushka Galya for the first time. What an awesome lady. Very Russian, from Moscow originally. Eyes and smile full of fun. Still young at 77 but finds it difficult to get around as her legs are very bad. But she will come and visit us soon, she says.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Bad cop! No donut!

Yesterday Tanya and I drove to Dnipropetrovs'k to meet with Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP) to discuss potential livestock development projects for Ukraine.

It was a risky trip. We had 40 hrivna to our name and a $10 USD bill left from our Turkey vacation, worth about 46 hrivna. Our September finances were somewhere between my credit union and Tanya’s bank. September 1st was a holiday in Canada so the transfer was not made until Sept 2nd. It takes 48 hours to make the trip via New York. Yesterday was Sept 3rd. My credit card expired the end of August and my new card is coming via my cousins in mid-September. That was the least of our worries as only fairly large retailers take credit cards anyhow. Ukraine is a CASH society. There are reasons.

The highway between Zhovti Vody and Dnipropetrovs'k needs some explaining. Between ZV and P’yatikhatki it would be a third class road, two-lane, paved, narrow. Legal speed likely 90 kmph. From P’yatikhatki the next 70 km is second class highway. Two-lanes paved, fairly wide, recently repaired. Legal speed likely 100 kmph. The last 50 km is first class. Four-lanes divided, in good condition. Legal speed likely 110 kmph.

I say legal speed is “likely” because there are no speed limit signs. One is supposed to know these things if one drives in Ukraine. Actual speed depends on the driver and the vehicle. Twenty year old Ladas drive the likely speed limit. Giant Black Toyota Land Cruisers with black windows drive as fast as they want.

One of the rules is that the speed limit is 60kmph when passing through a village, from the sign indicating you are entering the village limits (the name of the village) to the sign indicating you are leaving it (the name of the village with a red line through it). It is rarely obvious to a Canadian that one is passing through a village. It does not look like Landis or Davidson, even though it may have a bigger population than both together. A Ukrainian village looks like a conglomeration of acreages, that, like Topsy, just growed. It is usually sprawled on one or both sides of a creek, river or lake. At night it is even more difficult to recognize a village other than for a scattering of lights off into the distance.

So we are tooling along the four-lane at 110 kmph, slowing slightly for villages whenever I see the signs which, as I get more familiar with the road, is most of the time. However there is one two km stretch of “village” that is so not obviously village where the speed limit is actually 40 kmph. The speed limit is even POSTED. This is four lane, divided highway, in excellent condition with barriers on both sides and a 40 kmph speed limit!!! I figure the gas station owner paid off someone for a slow speed limit to bring more people into his business.

I was clocked at 67 kmph in a 40 zone. The nice young policeman was all smiles and very polite as he made conversation with Tanya who handles all such details. He “fined” us 40 hrivnas in small unmarked bills, as the saying goes, and we continued on our way. If we had insisted on a written legal speeding ticket, the cost would have been much higher, of course, but the real deterrent to honesty is the incredible complex bureaucratic procedures involved in dealing with a ticket. Tanya said it would have taken us two months to sort out the mess.

We had a light lunch, needless to say. Thankfully, STEP paid for supper.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

More Food Prices

Yesterday being the first of the month, we drove into Zhovti Vody and pulled some cash out of an ATM; 1000 hrivna (UAH) which took $236.40 CAD from my bank account. This is getting too close to 4 hrivna per dollar when we used to figure 5 to the dollar. Not good. The Hrivna is holding its value with the Euro, while the Canadian dollar is pretty much tied to the American dollar which has been dropping.

We put 200 hrivna of gasoline (pay in advance), at 6.40/litre or $1.51 CAD, into the car, which was running on fumes. Then we paid up our mobile phone and internet accounts for September which took another 500 hrivna, and then we went for groceries. We came home with 40 hrivna.

Here are some more grocery prices.

And by the way, Kuchma is not fussy about his new cat food but Dyevatka (9th) grocery store does not stock his regular Kit-E-Kat so he will have to make do until we go to ATB grocery store or to Metro in Dnipropetrovs'k.