Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year to all my Readers

The temperature dropped to -10C three days ago and it has been trying to snow ever since.  So perhaps we will get winter.  In parts of the world the holiday season is almost at an end with New Year's being the last.  Here in Ukraine it is just beginning.  Tanya has supper ready for Luda's family and I will go to Andrei's.  We will be celebrating Christmas on the Julian calendar so holidays continue for over 10 days yet.

Regardless of how you celebrated holidays (or did not), and given that some cultures have their own New Years based on their own calendar, most of the world, at least for business purposes, recognizes the New Year of the Gregorian calendar.  So "Happy New Year" is all encompassing, to all peoples of all countries.

I appreciate my readers and especially those who comment.  So I say to all of you:

For 2016, may you have peace in your hearts, peace in your families, and most of all peace in your countries. Happy New Year.

From the Independent (click to hear it spoken in many languages)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Happy Holidays.

Tanya calls me every day on Skype.  Luda can go home from hospital on Tuesday, which is good news for all. She recovered very quickly and is walking without pain.

We had "Catholic" Christmas, as Tanya calls it, dinner here.  Lina and Sveta came early and we baked cookies and prepared the meal.  Supper wasn't very English Christmas traditional but there was an overabundance of food, which is traditional everywhere.

Masha was off on a three day school excursion to Kyiv and L'viv.  Andrei had to work, as usual.  When you manage some 70 men doing security work there are always problems and all occur at night.  Tania and her mom came and of course Dasha.  We had enough food for 10, so I sent as much home as people would take.

Yesterday I ate the rest of the cookies so today I had to cook.  I made Enthusiasm Soup aka Refrigerator Soup.  The recipe I learned from my mother-in-law many years ago.

Tomorrow morning I am off to Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky to visit my friends Artur and Oksana for the night, with a stop off at a feedlot near Boryspol to check out Artur's client's feeding problems.  The owner will meet me at the train in Kyiv.  He is supposed to find me some boots.  Size 49 (13). I wish him luck. I am looking forward to the visit more than to the feedlot.

Christmas Cookies

Lina and Sveta, my sou-chefs

Christmas morning view from our balcony
I'd have sung "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" but I understand it is now the official song of the American Republican and Canadian Conservative, Wildrose, and Saskatchewan Parties. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Remembering the Farm - Monday Morning Washday Blues

In the grand scheme of things, certain domestic chores were assigned to certain days of the week.  Some of it made sense.  Saturday morning was housecleaning and Saturday night was bath night because Sunday was church and likely visitors.  We kids and Mom wished for company so we could play and visit.  Dad wished for no company so he could sleep.

But Monday was washday, Tuesday was ironing, Wednesday was bread baking. Why in that order, I have no idea but there must have been logic. Obviously ironing followed washing but why not bake on Monday?

Before we had electricity in 1953, and likely for a few years after that, Mom had a washing machine powered by a 1/4 horse gasoline motor.  It had a long metal hose attached to the muffler to run the fumes outside but it was not quiet.  The washing machine engine was quite popular with older boys who were handy with tools and such.  They made great go-carts.  By the time I was of age, that little engine had gone the way of the horse and buggy.

Exactly when mom got an electric washing machine, I cannot recall.  Nor the make, but it looked more or less like this picture. The tub had an agitator in it and a lever at the side turned on a pump to empty the tub.

The wringer removed water from the clothes as there was no spin cycle.  There was a knob to set pressure on the two rollers, which could turn in either direction. Mom's was a safety wringer.  If something jammed, or you gave it a quick push, it would "explode" and the rollers would jump open. Power wringers without the safety were deadly and could crush fingers or grab pieces of clothing and pull you in.  "Don't get your tit in a wringer" was not just an idle expression.

The washing machine would be set up in the middle of the kitchen and two washtubs for rinse water would be set up behind it on a folding wooden stand.  Water would be heated on the kitchen stove in the washtubs and a wash boiler.  The cleanest clothes would be washed first (same rule on bath night - cleanest kid bathed first).  Water, especially hot soft water, was a scarce commodity so it had to stretch. After the clothes were agitated, the wringer, which swiveled, was set to dispense them into the first rinse tub and run the water back into the washing machine.  Clothes would be fed in to the wringer by hand, one piece at a time.

Mom would put another load in the machine, then rinse the clothes by hand in the first tub, wringer them into the second tub, rinse by hand again and then wringer them into a clothes basket to hang outside on the line. Mom eventually got a dryer which was a God-send in winter.

When Mom and Dad moved into the "new" house in the late 60's she got an automatic washer and dryer but the water from the well was so bad it destroyed anything metal it came in contact with and left the clothes stained yellow so all the rest of her life she took the clothes into the laundromat.

Today, with all the automated appliances we can do whatever, any or every day. Except mending and ironing.  That is still always done tomorrow.

Today, I changed the bed linen and put two sheets, a pillow case and a bath sheet into the machine.  An LG Direct Drive front load with lots of buttons and such.  I never used it in almost nine years.  Tanya does the wash, I hang up the clothes.  So she showed me how to use the machine for when she was gone.  Put in clothes, put in small container of gel soap. Push this button, turn this knob to here, push this button and wait 100 minutes until the bell rings.  I knew about the bell and should have known the whole process was simple.  Tanya is technology challenged. Her instructions to buy her a microwave were "Two buttons:  Make Hot; Open Door".

Just before the final spin cycle it stopped and the warning code UE flashed.  Panic.  If there is a manual it is in Russian. What did we do without Google?  Found the LG site.  Went to washing machines, manuals, download.  Of course on the UK site (English) it would not recognize our model but I went through the pictures until I found one that looked like ours.  Bingo.  UE is unbalanced load.

Fitted sheets are not only impossible to fold, they have a habit of enveloping everything in the wash load, like a protozoa wrapping itself around a bacteria. So I untied the knot of wet soggy stuff and put it back in teh machine.  The instruction book also told me where the Spin setting was. All's well that ends.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Home Alone

Tanya has been gone 10 days now.  She took the train to Moscow then flew to Abakan. Her sister Luda had surgery (5 hours) on Friday to renew circulation in her leg.  Similar to heart surgery I guess with a chunk of clogged artery replaced.  She is still in ICU until possibly Tuesday.  Tanya is looking after her in hospital and again when she goes home.  Now she is limited to taking her food as she is not allowed in ICU to protect against flu.  Hospitals in Russia (and in Ukraine) are so starved for funds that the nurses are only able to administer meds and related.  Patient care must come from family of friends.

Tanya could be gone one to two months.  So there is just me and the critters.  Her family in Zholti Vody is looking after me.  Friday I had enough of my own company so went to town and had lunch with Lina and Sveta, then we went grocery shopping and made a late supper for Andrei's family.  Masha had dance class until 7:00.  First thing Dasha asked when she got in the door "Do you still have the trampoline?".  It was great to have some activity in the house.

The girls are coming again on 23rd to clean house for 25th when we will celebrate "Catholic" Christmas.  Mostly clean cat hair off the carpets and muddy cat footprints off the floor and window sills.  It is constantly damp outside.  Today it is +10C.  I gave up trying to clean their feet and just say to heck with it and clean the floor and window sills.

I should have gone to the market today for a goose or turkey for Christmas Day but maybe they will have one in the supermarket.  They had no beef on Friday.  "Maybe next week". I grabbed the last two pkgs of ground beef.

Luda's operation was at the hospital in Novokuznetsk, which is about 400 km from Abakan and halfway between Abakan and Novosibirsk.  The hospital specializes in locomotion problems.  And there were lots of people there in wheelchairs.  Luda's roomie had exactly the same problem with her leg so they got to compare notes.

Tanya has rented a small flat for her stay in Novokuznets, close enough to the hospital, but with good local transport, too.  She did some walking around town as she had not been there since she was 10.  She says that she has distant relatives there but had lost tract of them over the past 45 years. She took pictures to send me which I am sharing.

We talk on Skype when it works which is sort of hit and miss.  And message back and forth on Facebook.

Tanya is a long way away from me
One of the dozen or more buildings on the hospital grounds

Not yet cold enough to freeze the river

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Twas the night before Christmas & out on the ranch

'Twas the night before Christmas & out on the ranch
The pond was froze over & so was the branch.
The snow was piled up belly-deep to a mule.
The kids were all home on vacation from school,
And happier young folks you never did see-
Just all sprawled around a-watchin' TV.
Then suddenly, some time around 8 o'clock,
There came a surprise that gave them a shock!
The power went off, the TV went dead!
When Grandpa came in from out in the shed
With an armload of wood, the house was all dark.
"Just what I expected," they heard him remark
"Them power line wires must be down from the snow.
Seems sorter like times on the ranch long ago."
"I'll hunt up some candles," said Mom. "With their light,
And the fireplace, I reckon we'll make out all right."
The teen-agers all seemed enveloped in gloom.
Then Grandpa came back from a trip to his room,
Uncased his old fiddle & started to play
That old Christmas song about bells on a sleigh.
Mom started to sing, & 1st thing they knew
Both Pop & the kids were all singing it, too.
They sang Christmas carols, they sang "Holy Night,"
Their eyes all a-shine in the ruddy firelight.
They played some charades Mom recalled from her youth,
And Pop read a passage from God's Book of Truth.
They stayed up till midnight-and, would you believe,
The youngsters agreed 'twas a fine Christmas Eve.
Grandpa rose early, some time before dawn;
And when the kids wakened, the power was on..
"The power company sure got the line repaired quick,"
Said Grandpa - & no one suspected his trick.
Last night, for the sake of some old-fashioned fun,
He had pulled the main switch - the old Son-of-a-Gun!

This rewrite was kind of cute so I thought I would share it.  Couldn't find the author. 
The Gene Autry version below, with explanation.
During the story portion of the December 22, 1946 Gene Autry Melody Ranch Christmas Party broadcast, Gene recites the Christmas poem "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" to comfort little Susan whose mother is very ill. And as this is Gene's telling of the classic poem, it has a Western flavor to it. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Disaffected and it Feels So Good: Antonin Scalia just kicked Clarence Thomas off the Bench and promoted Abigail N. Fisher

Disaffected and it Feels So Good: Antonin Scalia just kicked Clarence Thomas off the Bench and promoted Abigail N. Fisher

Wherein I Attend English Club

For the past several weeks, I have been attending "English Club" which meets Friday evenings from 7:00 until 8:30, 9:00 ish.  The club is open to anyone who wants to practice their English skills, speaking and listening.  So having a native English speaker attend and participate is something they look forward to.  Even if I am 40 to 50 years older than everyone in the group.

The club meets in the common area of a private Foreign Language School.  The school is one of several in Ukraine owned and operated by a private company.  It has three class rooms and teaches English, Polish and German.  The Polish and German classes are mainly adults who intend to go to Germany or Poland to work.  The English classes seem to be supplementary to English taught in schools and attracts mainly children, highschool students and university students.

The language school is located in the same building where I go to get my hair cut.   There is a small coffee/tea shop (four tables) in the building that I stop at for a cup of coffee after my haircut to support the new business.  The couple that run it also speak English.  I was in having coffee one day when the instructor of the English classes came in, heard me speaking and invited me to English Club.

There is a different theme every week and the group leader comes up with exercises that include everyone.  With 15 to 25 people (not everyone attends regularly) we are divided into three groups usually as no one will speak in the large group.  One week the theme was music, another week it was jokes, another week it was books.  This past Friday it was movies and the Club leader, Ina (EEna) (I am only 30 years older than she is) gave each group a set of cards with questions about movies. The set was handed around the group and each person had to read the question and answer it.  Some questions everyone had to answer.

The English class instructor, Dasha, has a class of 6 highschool students just before English Club and she asked me to attend the class and help with pronunciation. So the last two weeks I do that too.  The kids knew me from English Club and when they saw me they smiled all over. Dasha said they were never that happy to see her.

The Friday after American Thanksgiving, the organizing committee even brought lunch to English Club and the theme was food. There has been another native English speaker, Erica, attending for the past several weeks too.    She gave a presentation on traditional American Thanksgiving food.

 Erica is here with her family for three months mainly in Zholti Vody but also all over Ukraine and into Poland too. Erica is the oldest of nine children, three of whom are from Zholti Vody, having been adopted four years ago. The family is very musical and entertained the English Club on the day the theme was music.They have been singing in churches and orphanages on their travels.   Their mom is quite brave as all the kids are home schooled. They currently live in Oregon but are moving (back) to Texas when they get home in January.   Erica's father is Chris Booher, a successful business man and a professional musician, proficient on several instruments. He played fiddle for Asleep at the Wheel back in the late 90's before he decided being married was better than being famous.

Chris and I had coffee together one afternoon and it was very interesting to talk to him.  We both concluded America was going to hell in a handbasket but I suspect for totally opposite reasons.

Chris Booher on the right