The New Year

Trip Start Sep 08, 2010
Trip End May 09, 2011

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Flag of Ukraine  ,
Friday, January 30, 2009

American Christmas was shared with 12 of my Ukrainian Students at my place.
Nothing a bit of champagne and vodka and some decorations from home won't cheer up.

New Years Eve on Kreschatik

The thermometer was reading just about 12 degrees, the sky clear and people were joyous.  Kreschatik (the 5th Avenue/Pennsylvania Avenue of Ukraine) was filled with people adorned with tinsel, light up ears and sabers, colorful wigs, thousands of bottles of champagne and vodka and high spirits.  There were not only youthful partiers, but plenty of the very young and the very old.  If you were lucky, you were near some of the older partiers who brought musical instruments.  My estimate would be that there were about 70-80 thousand people in Independence Square ringing in the New Year.  Most didn't appear to have a concern about Russia's threat to turn off the gas in the morning.

A gigantic geometrically lighted disco New Years tree filled the view and it was circled with multiple different Deyt Moroz (Santas) - both red and the traditional Russian Blue - many accompanied by the better half.  These Santas don't stand on decorum much and many smoked and drank vodka on the job.  Their job was to collect money while being photographed. 

The holiday lighting on Kreschatik was wonderful lots of color, flashing lights, and giant colorful balls.  Walking around the swarms of people, you could see different celebrations going on, dancing, singing, etc.  There was a huge stage set up at the bottom of the Maiden statue where entertainers danced sang and wished well.  The count-down went off after a small speech bv the president in Ukrainian (so I can't tell you anything he said) which was followed by about 15 minutes of fireworks right above the statue.  Quite a spectacle and lots of fun.  Beer, wine and vodka was sold at many tables scattered around the square and I imagine the street crews in the morning were kept very busy with the clutter that remained. 

On the way back home at 1:30 I entered the Metro a bit nervous after leaving my younger friends to party the whole night and heading home solo. I was lucky enough to be near a couple in their 60's with a tambourine/drum and an accordion player with a couple of their buddies who also had finished the party on the square and were on their way home too.  They were encouraged by everyone waiting for the next train and we all had an impromptu party with more song and dancing with all the rest of the subway crowd. Inside the metro car they continued and our car was hopping with babuskas dancing and singing, laughing and generally being unsteady their feet with the moving and stopping of the car.  Bottles were uncorked and cheese was passed to the musicians whose smiles were filled with golden teeth.  It was quite fun and a memorable experience.  Needless to say, I don't think anyone noticed I was even there and I made it home without a glitch.

Fireworks went on all night from every corner of every neighborhood.  It is like a 1950's 4th of July - that is before the laws were toughend up.  All the buildings are made of concrete so the fire danger is minimal.  The news doesn't report injuries or accidents so I think all is well!!

The Ukrainian Christmas is on January 7.  We jumped on a bus and headed to the Architectural and Folkloric Museum where we were planning on listening to music and following a parade through the many acres of  historic buildings and singing.  The problem was the cold.  It must have been 12 below and none of the buildings out there are heated, or if at all minimally.  We heard a bit of singing and called it quits!

The Orthodox people here in Ukraine celebrate quite a few church holidays.  St. John the Baptist is a big one.  Many people do the polar bear dip in the Dnipro River to commemorate St. John baptizing Jesus.  There are also tons of people at all the churches getting 2 liters bottles filled with water blessed  and then taking it home to bless the house and people.  The rivers were filled with people and the churches were packed.  The monks would spray all the people with holy water as they came.  Interesting.

School has started back up for a new semester.  It still is quite fun, but a lot of work.  I am so rewarded by the friendships of my students.  They escorted me to the Water Museum and tea for my birthday.  A couple of PC friends in town for a Russian language refresher made an event out of going to the local Korean restaurant to celebrate!   I also have been able to go to the Opera to see the Nutcracker, and another theater for a version of the Wizard of Oz that I could hardly recognize.  I toured the Motherland Military Museum with a PC friend and hit the Art Museum too.  Tomorrow I will go to a Modern Art Museum - the Pinchuk Gallery and then next weekend the students and I are heading to the Medical Museum first and then the Pharmacy Museum.  Lots of English practice there!!

I have finished the draft of my thesis paper on the Subsistence Farmer in Ukraine, and have become fully certified to Teach English to Foreigners.  Am looking into many different options to spend the next year.  Started thinking Thailand was calling me, but am leaning more toward Oman, Jordan, Dubai and Singapore with the intent of making some money first and then possibly touring Asia on the way home - obviously I am dreaming big, but...

The gas wars with Russia seem to have quieted here.  The weather has been mild considering it is January - now we are in the mid-thirties and there is no snow on the ground.  The heat is on and we have hot water - at least for the moment.  The news is not to be trusted.  The good news is that the US has Obama and the hopes are high, although Ukraine is really not sure what to think of a black president. The economic crisis has hit here and we are expecting it to get worse by spring.  Crime and pick pocketing are on the rise.  I can't believe it is the end of January and I am just finishing my report on Christmas!!
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wkatsande on

Happy New Year
Hi Becky thanks for the update. Singapore is wonderful and would be a change from the Ukraine. The problem is that it's English speaking and thus maybe teaching English to the Chinese. huge huge hugs and have a lovely year

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