Sunday, November 29, 2009

Many Reasons to Give Thanks!

It's been a full year of us being in Kharkov, so this was our second time to celebrate Thanksgiving here in Ukraine. Of course, this year we are a little more experienced, so things went a little more smoothly this time around. For example:
Our Turkey - Last year, we didn't have a turkey because the only size we could find was HUGE (it wouldn't have gotten close to fitting in our oven!). Instead, we had a chicken. This year, we were familiar with the meat market and had our choice of freshly plucked turkeys from various farmers. We were prepared... or so we thought. Before Lucy and I went to the market on Saturday, I carefully measured my oven and checked our oven bags to make sure I would get a turkey that was the right size. We got our turkey home and... it didn't fit in our freezer. Lucy and I both have the largest freezers on the team, but the freezer has three drawers and the turkey just wouldn't fit in any of them. Oops. So, we cooked that turkey early in the week and froze the meat for later. Then Lucy and I went back to the market on Wednesday and picked out our turkey for Thanksgiving day. :)
Cranberries - Last year we couldn't find cranberries. This year, we knew the word for cranberries and had seen them all around the market, they're in season. So, we were set and had wonderful fresh cranberry sauce!
Spices - Last year, it took us so long to find all the spices we needed for stuffing. I think we found them all in the end, but it was a task for sure. This year, we went to the guy we always buy spices from at the market and he had all of them except for sage. Thankfully, he took us to another lady who supplied us with a big bag of sage (it was really a bag of dried sage plants, so we had to take the hard stalks out and use our blender to grind it all up, but it worked)!
French Friend Onion Rings - Last year, Denyce was sweet enough to make her own friend onion rings for the green bean casserole. They were good, but for me, nothing beats the real French's. This year, our sponsoring church sent some to us earlier in the year, so we put them away for Thanksgiving and they were so yummy! Thanks Legacy!
David and I prepared the turkey, dressing, gravy, pumpkin role, and peanut butter pie for the big day. The McDougles and Hindmans made more pies, cranberries, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and rolls for the big feast. And our friends Eric and Lilia (he is American and she is Ukrainian) brought cooked pumpkin (which tasted a lot like sweet potatoes!) and a beet salad. The food was great and the company was even better.

After lunch we played Mexican Train dominoes and the Wii. David's friend, Nikita, also dropped by with a friend of his, Alina, to see how Americans celebrated Thanksgiving. She played dominoes with us and he played the Wii with whoever wasn't playing dominoes. When they showed up, our conversation changed to more Russian since she didn't understand English. It was a little more of a challenge, but we all did pretty good conversing and even explaining the rules of Mexican Train!

On Saturday we invited a bunch of our friends to come for pie. We planned to have a Bible study after, but our plans got changed, so we just had good conversation with them all. Hopefully we'll be able to have another opportunity soon to invite them back to study the Bible. We had 6 friends show up for that, plus a couple of their kids. It was great! We are so thankful for all our friends we've met over this whole year and grown to love and appreciate!

Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful as well. We all, thanks to our Lord, have so much to be thankful for!!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Driving in Ukraine

As I was driving around Kharkov today, I realized that some of the differences in driving might be interesting for you to hear about. So, this post is dedicated to sharing a few of the differences in driving.

First and foremost, I want to state that I love our car and the fact that we can drive everywhere in the city. It is a huge blessing I didn't properly appreciate until this last year when we didn't own a car and were restricted to walking and using public transportation. We are blessed to have wheels!
  • Which side? As in America, we drive on the right side of the road.
  • Police. The police stand on the side of the road here to pull cars over. They stand, in uniform, with a stick and if they point the stick at you, you've just been pulled over. For me, every time I see a police officer, I try not to make eye contact or appear to notice them, but at the same time I have to look enough to be prepared to pull over. If you don't pull over when they point their stick at you, they get in their car and chase you down. We have been told to do our best to avoid the police here because they are corrupt, so we're especially careful when we're driving. But, I will say, the experiences our team has had with the police has been good so far.
  • Horns and honks. Ukrainians love their horns. Many times before the light is officially green, they are honking for you to go. They honk to let you know they aren't stopping, whether you're a pedestrian or another car trying to pull out. Half the time they honk just because they can. Their horns are also very unique. Half of them are "normal" car horns, but other times they are police sirens or fire engine blares (and they're not police or firefighters).
  • Lights. Our lights here are red, yellow, and green, just like everywhere else. However, to indicate for you to go, the light goes from red to red and yellow and then to green. Then to indicate stopping, it flashes green, then goes to yellow, and then red, but sometimes it just goes from flashing green to red. When sitting at the light and the light goes from yellow to green, cars start going on yellow. (Most of the time if you wait for the green light, you'll get honked at.) But, in doing this, you have to be careful because when it's yellow for you, it's yellow for the other traffic as well, so you have to be careful for those who are speeding through the yellow lights. It sounds confusing, but it's really not.
  • Trolleys. We have many streets here with trolley buses, so you have to be extra careful with those. The stop at various points on the street, so you have to be careful when going around them to watch out for pedestrians. Their tracks, which run parallel and in them middle of the street, are tricky to drive on as well.
  • Car Status. Cars have social classes here. The nicer your car, the more you can get away with. So, SUVs and newer/fancier cars are often bullies. They cut off other cars and go around long lines of traffic, sometimes running lights or driving into oncoming traffic to do so. And it's all just accepted.
  • Taxis. I'm convinced that taxis aren't required to follow rules, and they break just about every one of them if they can!
  • Lanes. Some roads have lanes, and some don't. But the lane markings don't always mean anything. If there is one line down the center of the road, sometimes there's three lanes or cars driving right in the middle. It seems the lane markings are taken as merely "suggestions" of where they could drive, not where they need to drive.
  • Road repairs. The road repair vehicles are usually tractors and there is really no warning to their working in the road other than a small orange reflector behind their vehicle. If they completely take up your side of the road, there is no one to direct traffic, you just go into oncoming traffic and you both just deal with it. There's no way to properly explain how they repair roads here... it's all a mess. Last night I almost ran into a big hole in the road on the way home because all that was marking it was three brown sticks sticking out of it. (And remember, it gets dark here at 4:00pm, so a lot of our driving this time of year is in the dark.)
Despite all the differences, it's worth it. Do we feel safe driving here? For the most part, yes. We just have to be very cautious and constantly be aware of our surroundings.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Craft It Forward

A while ago, a friend of mine from Legacy posted a blog called Craft It Forward. If you've ever heard of saying "pay it forward," the idea is based off of that. Anyway, she offered to make something for the first three commenters on her blog post, but those commenters had to agree to "craft it forward."

Well, I signed up for the challenge, and received my gift about a month ago: this really lovely necklace! Thank you so much, Deanna! Needless to say, it has become one of my favorites and I wear it all the time. :)

In fulfilling my part of the deal, I'm posting the same thing here and hoping for three people to comment and accept the challenge. Since most of our readers are supporters, friends, and partners in our work here in Ukraine, the crafts I make will be something related to Ukraine. (A fun challenge for me and hopefully something different for you!)

The first three commenters to this post will receive something from me, and yes, I'll mail it all the way from Ukraine to you. All you have to do is agree to craft it forward to three other people. And, yes, if you don't feel particularly "crafty," then you can bake something or adapt it to what suites your gifts/talents!

Thanks again, Deanna, for the challenge!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More About Ukraine

It's been awhile since I've done a "cultural" post, so I thought I would post a few things today for those of you interested in a little bit of our lives here in Ukraine. Hope you enjoy the randomness!

We live in a place that thrives on traditions and in their opinion, everyone should think and act according to those traditions. Some are what we would deem superstitions, but from what I can tell, for the most part they accept it all as a part of their culture and the traditional way of doing things here.
Whistling - Today David got in trouble for whistling in our apartment. Our language teacher went on to explain that if you whistle in your apartment, it means your money will go out (meaning we'll go broke) just like the sound goes out of your mouth. This makes me laugh because I remember my Poppop saying, "A whistling girl and a crowing hen always come to no good end."
Breaking dishes - it's apparently good luck when you do this here! (I think it's just when you do it accidentally, but I'm not completely positive about that.)
Buying Flowers - You have to buy an odd number of flowers to give as gifts or for yourself. Even numbers of flowers are only bought for funerals. They will not let you buy an even amount unless you assure them it's for a funeral.
Sitting - We girls continually get in trouble for sitting on the wrong places. So far we know the floor, cold places, concrete, etc. are the wrong places to sit. If you sit in these places, you will apparently lose your fertility.
Shoes - David got smacked in the ballet the other night for having his foot up resting on his knee. It's considered very rude to have the bottom of your shoe facing someone.

Daylight in Kharkov
We enjoy the longer days in the summer, and grieve over the shorter days in the winter. But in Kharkov there's a pretty big difference between the two, much more than we were used to in Texas. In Kharkov, we have daylight from around 4:30am to 8:30pm in the summer, but only from about 6:30am to 4:00pm in the winter.

When we went back to the states a month ago, I was once again shocked at the size of the washers in the US. I knew they were bigger, but I had forgotten how much bigger they are! Our washers over here (for the most part, you can buy them a little bigger) fit about 1/4-1/3 of the load we would put in our washer in the states. That's a big difference! That means my flannel sheets get washed separately and if I have two pair of jeans in the load, only a couple t-shirts and a few socks can go in with it. We also don't have dryers (they are available, but hard to obtain and you have to get special ones since most apartments aren't hooked up for the ventilation). We have drying racks and it takes about a 1-2 days to dry the clothes (depending on the season). Thankfully, it's winter and the radiators are on, so our clothes are drying in just about a day now!

Market Changes

Grocery stores aren't our primary shopping place here, in a lot of things (but not all by any means), we go to the outdoor market. On my last trip to the market, I realized how much the market has changed since the beginning of the summer. We started off the summer with berries, lettuce, cabbage, many herbs, mushrooms, peaches, etc. As the summer progressed, we lost the berry selection and gained a huge variety of tomatoes, peaches, apricots, melons, potatoes, and onions. Now, tomatoes are getting more scarce (you can always tell when things are going out of season because the price is 2-3x's what it was in season), mushrooms and melons are about gone, surprisingly raspberries are back for a second round, apples and pears are everywhere, and pumpkins have finally arrived. We're very excited about the pumpkins because that means we can finally make pumpkin pies, chocolate chip pumpkin cupcakes, and pumpkin soup-- all in time for the holidays. Granted, the pumpkins will be going out of season by Thanksgiving, so we're cooking and freezing it now for holiday use. If you want to know more about how to cook a pumpkin or want the recipe for the chocolate chip pumpkin cupcakes, check out my sister's blog here. As our winter approaches, we will be depending more on the grocery stores to stock our vegetable and fruit drawers.

Vanilla Update
If you read my post about making my own vanilla (here), I thought I would let you know that my first batch is done and turned out great! I highly recommend making your own, even if you can buy it in the store. It's simple to make, better tasting, and I'm pretty sure it's much cheaper than buying it in the store.

Well, there's a few of the things I had on my mind tonight. By the way... it's snowing outside my window just now. I'm hoping to wake up to a white view tomorrow?! Who knows.