Archive for November, 2011

Kiev Sunday

November 20, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Sunday = day off. I was thinking of going on a tour to Chernobyl and the town of Pripyat, but the government is not allowing tours at this time. So, I went to Babi Yar instead. Babi Yar (or Babyn Yar) is a site just outside of the main city where thousands and thousands of people were massacred during World War II. Specifically in 1941. It’s actually a park now and conveniently it’s right near a subway stop. Here is a picture of the main entrance to the park. It’s a small memorial.

Today when I arrived, there were a group of people picking up trash. The park has Tons of trash in it. A ridiculous amount. A lady came up to me and if you pick up a piece of trash and put it in this bag, you will be happy. So she gave me a little glove and I did. The whole experience was pretty eerie.

I wandered around the park a bit and came to this building. I didn’t go in because there were some guys inside doing who knows what, but it had some interesting graffiti.

A little further on from the building is a memorial with a menorah, and a ravine, that I assume is the actual Babi Yar ravine. I went close to it and there were some flowers there.  It looks like the ravine pictured on the wikipedia article. Pretty strange to be there. It doesn’t look it from the pictures, but there were people around so I didn’t feel too scared.  Some of the people I saw were going to the bathroom however, I witnessed three different people peeing or pooping in the woods.

It just added to the feeling that this place is being not treated so well. But it was nice to see this trash – pickup initiative.

Here’s a picture of the menorah memorial that’s in between the building and the ravine. There’s also a memorial of a cross close by. Although there were many many Jews murdered here, there were so many other people murdered here too. 

It was pretty cold out so after walking a little more around the park, I hopped back on the subway. I was going to go to some synagogues to add to my self guided Jewish tour of Kiev, but I think that will wait to tomorrow. I was too cold to walk around outside anymore. Plus I have a meeting tomorrow right near a synagogue.

I went to lunch at a restaurant I thought would be great because it was very crowded when I checked it out the other day, but was pretty bad. One bad thing about the lunch experience was that the restaurant had a TV and it was playing a Nickleback music video marathon. Gross. Then they gave me some pork butter and fish butter and I didn’t like that very much either (it was almost as bad as the Nickleback music videos).

I also went on a walk today to check out the motherland statue that I thought was closer than it actually was.

Apparently this picture is from about four of five kilometers away from it. I had intended to go closer, but it was really cold. Plus I got a better view of it than the picture might suggest.

At dinner, I had Borscht. It was really good. I was surprised that I really like Borscht. Apparently there are many different kinds but this was the hot kind. I imagine it would be a really bad thing to spill on yourself, however.



working and wandering on saturday

November 19, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Today and yesterday have been pretty decent. I’m getting giddy about going home soon! Yesterday I worked, and the today I worked and wandered around. Yesterday I had an appointment that took me to the older part of town.

This picture was taken from a restaurant on top of a hotel  that I went to because I had to pee. When I was very little, my Bubbie (grandmother) gave me some very good advice. She said whenever you have to pee, go into a fancy hotel and walk in there like you own the place. I do this all the time. I’ve peed at some unbelievable hotels. The Ararat Hyatt in Moscow had fresh orchids in each stall. This particular time, I got lucky too. I saw a sign for the top floor restaurant and went up there and got this view!

After my meeting, I tried an interesting way to get back to the newer part of town, a little trolley.

I didn’t actually know where it went, but saw that it went UP, and I definitely needed to go uphill so went for it. This trolley  runs basically 150 or 200 feet (best estimate) up and down a hill connecting the older and newer parts of Kiev. It must be pretty old, but a lot of people seem to use it. It costs 1.5 hryvna (gryvna… the Ukrainian currency is so hard to pronounce) which is just about nineteen cents a ride. This picture of the trolley is from earlier in the day. When I rode it after the meeting, it was just about dark. I got up to the top and found myself at a plaza I had been to the other day near some churches. There were some bells ringing and it was misty outside and quiet (there were people around, but no cars where you get off) and I felt like it could have been a long time ago.

The exit was right near this church area that I went back to today. The colors on some of the churches are just awesome. Also, I can’t believe they didn’t charge me to get into the church courtyard.  I was expecting to shell out lots of hhggrryyyvnas to get close to this one.  Before going to the church, I walked through the main street that was closed off to cars. There was some kind of event going on although im not sure what it was. There were students in graduating university-outfits,

a bunch of people in orange construction hats (which might have something to do with the Orange revolution), some people in sports uniforms, others holding flags, and what sounded like very inspirational speech that at times triggered much cheering from the crowd.

At one point during the day, I wandered down this path near that church from before where many paintings were being sold. I wandered further down the street and found this seemingly never ending souvenir pathway that was never ending. It was just a pathway because there was construction on the road next to it.

Back home they definitely wouldn’t let people walk so close to a construction site. At one point a metal barrier wall swung out from its tie and almost hit the guy in front of me. It was definitely startling. On the pathway, they sold traditional Ukraine clothing and textiles (the red embroidery on white cloth), soccer jerseys, antique cameras, and old things like coins, pictures, hats, etc. from the soviet union, beads, knit hats etc.  In this picture is the sweet green church, the construction around it, and down to the left is the beginning of the souvenir pathway.  I had a picture of myself in front of the church that I wanted to share but it’s not as good.

Some people really don’t know how to take pictures. The lady that took it cut off most of the church, I’m not sure why. She took another one, but at a slant. Gosh. You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to find someone that can take a good picture around here. I never ask anyone to take another picture though unless they offer because I feel really annoying to ask them in the first place.  It’s very exciting though when it happens and a picture shows up on the camera with me AND with the interesting subject in the scenery. Maybe tomorrow. I have more pictures to share but will wait until I have more things to say. I’ve been writing more than necessary and blabbing a bit so that the pictures on this blog look good in the middle of lots of writing.

Anyway, many hugs and kisses. Good night!


thursday in kyiv

November 17, 2011

Dear Famliy and Friends,

Only five nights to go on this five week trip. I’m pretty excited to get home. This morning, I decided to take the subway to a mall that I thought was close to a subway stop. When I got into the subway, i was trying to read the signs, map in hand, and an woman came up to me and she said “I see you and I think you need help, where are you going.” I pointed to the stop I was trying to get to, and she walked me all the way to the platform where I needed to wait, and then went on her way. It was a station with two different lines so it’s a bit confusing if you don’t know any of the local language. I thought that was extremely nice of her. The subway here is no Moscow subway, but it definitely worked!

I didn’t take any pictures today but here’s another from yesterday to spice this up.

It’s a cathedral I bumped into yesterday. Don’t worry, it didn’t hurt. (haha!)

The subway station was not near the mall, and I got frustrated after walking for an hour and a half  in the wrong direction (getting different directions from everyone I tried to ask). The area wasn’t really nice to be in, so i just said to myself screw it and got a taxi.  I really wanted to not use a taxi, but I also really wanted to get some work done today.

When I left the mall, it was just about dark outside, so I decided it would be the smart thing to do to take a taxi back to the hotel. I noticed a taxi with two people in it (two drivers) and there was an empty taxi next to it, so i looked in and asked if they would please take me to the hotel. One of the men asked me to write it down, so I did.

I got into the taxi and the driver said Hi to me and bye to the other driver, and I noticed he had the weirdest voice. I didn’t really think much of it. And then the driver tried to make conversation with me, and he kept writing things down on this little pad that we had originally used to write the name of the hotel and on which the other driver wrote directions and he was making some Crazy motions with his hands. “USA” he wrote. I crossed it out. “CANADA” I wrote. People around here seem to Really like Canada so I usually go with that. He lit up. I tried to say something to him and he shook his head. “TORONTO?” he wrote. I crossed that out too. “CALGARY” (just to make it interesting). He said Calgary as he knew it! and smiled and made some motions like a hockey stick. Oh yeah.   Here’s yet another picture. I know it’s blurry, but the color of the sky was Insane. This is a different church than the one above.  

I didn’t really think anything of all this broken conversation and use of the notepad because no one really understands me around here, but I was still wondering what was up with his voice and kept trying to speak really clearly to him then he pointed to his ears and shook his head and it hit me…ahhh he’s Deaf! That explains a lot.

So we continued to talk through the notepad all the way back to the hotel and he even gave me a new page on his note pad. That was one of the best conversations I’ve had this trip.

So that was really nice. After I got back to the hotel I dropped off my stuff and headed out for dinner. I ended up at an Indian restaurant and had rice and lentils and salad. It was great.


wednesday in kiev

November 16, 2011

Oh Hello Family and Friends,

My first day in Kiev was a productive one, and I had some nice weather. It was a truly sunny day today. I don’t think I’ve seen a truly sunny day in three weeks. Here’s a picture of Kiev, this is a main street. There are a lot of really nice buildings and cathedrals here, and the painting on many of the buildings is colorful.

On my day off I’ll get to walk around and marvel at these buildings and sites but for now work is my main purpose. I’d like to end my trip having done an awesome survey of Kiev.

Not much else to report today. I’m pretty tired so it’s time to go to bed!!!



tuesday: good bye moscow, hello kiev!

November 15, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

All my love. By the way, for those who don’t know, Kiev is pronounced “keev!” My great grandmother pronounced it that way, and I didn’t know what the deal was, but turns out she was right. Very smart, Bubbia Lily.

The last day in Moscow was pretty productive, but it’s a good thing I left when I did because I was just about ready to punch everyone. I got hit in the face with the subway doors one too many times. Gosh, though, the subway system is so cool. Here’s something I found in there:

The flight from Moscow to Kiev was uneventful and during the flight I even slept a little bit! This is Very unlike me. It was a two hour flight and during the flight we went back in time, leaving at 1:00 P.M, and arriving at 12:35 PM in Kiev. Mind blowing.

I arrived in Kiev and it was overcast and cold. After a half hour taxi to the hotel, I unpacked and went out for a walk. My first impression of Ukrainians is that they are not so scowly. I have Ukrainian heritage, and I also noticed that facially I look like more people here.  I read that many (80 something percent of) Ukrainians do indeed have Ukrainian decent.

I ate lunch at a place called Buddha Bar. It’s a very hip and sexy club/restaurant at night. I had the lunch special that I thought was reasonable. It was more like a “linner” (lunch-dinner) because I ate around 4:30.The food was spectacular and interesting. For example, I had coconut milk chicken soup. Here’s a picture of the city from right outside the Buddha bar when I walked out. It was snowing at that point!

The city is very beautiful so I’ll take some more pictures tomorrow. In this one you can see Independence Square in the background. It gets dark here around 4ish.

Coming from Moscow to Kiev was a two hour time difference because Russia didn’t “fall back” this year!



sunday in moscow!

November 13, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Today I slept late and my headache finally went away. I started with a nice walk from the hotel towards the Kremlin. I went on a pedestrian only street that sells a lot of souvenirs and has a lot of cafes and other shops. Here’s a picture:  not bad! I found the best deal around for some shirts and got some for my brother and sister, I miss them very much. I went to eat breakfast at an international foods cafe, which was cool, except I didn’t have much appetite. The menu had different foods with flags indicating where the food was from.

After this walk, I went to the Kremlin with the intention of seeing the Diamond Fund. I think the diamond fund was closed or something by the time I got there, but I went in anyway and took some pictures and saw some other exhibits. Here I am at a funky church:

I feel really annoying asking people to take pictures of me, but I guess that’s one of the things you have to do when traveling alone.  After the Kremlin, I went back to the hotel and hung out and then went to dinner. I had homemade tagliatelle with meat sauce and it was really good. The people at the Italian restaurant are my friends here. During dinner I read a magazine that I found in English about Baku, Azerbaijan. I have a colleague that went there or is going there this quarter! She might even be there right now! Looks very interesting.

Here’s a picture of that fancy market in the bottom floor of the Tsum. I snuck it because I’m not sure pictures are allowed there, but no one gave me a hard time.

I’m getting a little sick of everyone here, seems like there is a little more rudeness than I’m used to. For example, on the street people  just smack into each other (sometimes really hard!) and don’t acknowledge it. And in the entrances and exits to the subway, there are these heavy swinging doors. No one (except tourists) holds them so when you follow someone thinking they may hold the door because they are very close in front of you, it smacks you in the face. 

Here’s one more picture from inside the Kremlin.

I’m excited that tomorrow is my last day and then on to Kiev.



saturday in moscow

November 12, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

I’m feeling a little sick and a little sad right now, but i’ll do my best. Here’s a picture of a synagogue in Moscow I visited today. I like this picture because you can see the star at the top and also the nice columns. 

I just learned that my Zadie passed away last night, and this is the reason i’m sad. Mostly sad not to be with my family on this day. Zadie was pretty old and also very sick with parkinson’s disease, but my mom told me he was at home and comfortable when he died. For those who don’t know Yiddish, Zadie means grandpa.

I’ll say a little bit about my Zadie before continuing. Not too much because it’s sad to think about this when i’m alone and can’t have any hugs. But he was extremely funny and loving and a great grandfather. He had a joke that I think about all the time when I’m eating. When he ate a lot he used to say that he was “eating like he had two assholes!!”.  HAHAH! Also, he taught me how to play the card game Gin, one of my favorite games. Not the rummy kind, but straight Gin. He would beat me and say “Whats the name of this game!!!???” and slap the card face down on the table. Also, seems like he was a great dad, because he has great kids!!

I’ll certainly miss him and remember him from when I was littler and he wasn’t so sick and he smiled huge and laughed a lot.

This morning, I slept as late as possible, which wasn’t that late, went to the Cosmonaut museum. A colleague said it was one of the cooler things he did in Moscow. It was definitely cool, but I didn’t learn much because all the explanations were in Russian. Here I am with something:

I was not supposed to take that picture. I think you have to pay extra to take pictures but oh well. After the museum, I was very hungry because I hadn’t eaten breakfast but was also feeling picky and didn’t want to eat just anywhere. Meals are very important.

I ended up at an Uzbek restaurant and it was well worth the wait. The server really liked me. He asked if I had ever had Uzbek food and I said no but I had Kazakh food as I just spent some weeks in Kazakhstan, and I really like “bursack” and Manty. I say it like a combination of “bursan” how someone spelled it for me and “ballsack” how it’s pronounced. My Zadie would have liked the name of this food. “Our special bread is ballsack” “Great, I’m so glad you have my favorite food!!”

Anyway the server said that he was from Kyrgyzstan and they have those foods there. I had soup, salad, and some pilaf all very delicious. After lunch, I visited that Synagogue. And I started to get a nasty, pounding headache really bad. I started walking to the Kremlin to go inside and to see the diamonds and jewels museum but my head started to hurt so badly and I was feeling too sick to think so I went back to the hotel.

Here’s another picture of a subway station.  I can’t get over the Subway.

It was about 5 pm when I got back to the hotel and i’ve been lying in bed watching South Park and Gossip Girl all evening. My head is still throbbing even with the Excedrin. I was too tired and hurty to get dressed and go downstairs for dinner so I ordered room service for the second time in my life. Now it’s time for a good sleep.


Moscow Day 2

November 10, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Yet Another great day in Moscow! This morning, I got on the subway again to visit a shopping mall outside of the town center. It was a much less glamorous area of Moscow, and interesting to see. To get there, I took one of the subway lines all the way to the end. I’m very impressed with the subway line. So far no problems, and even the station at the way end is very pretty, nice to look at and be inside and the trains come very quickly.

This picture is just a street I liked. After that excursion, I went to an Armenian restaurant back in the center of town. At the beginning they give you lavash with some homemade yogurt and herbs and radish to roll up. Then I had spicy soup with lamb and chickpeas and vegetables and a big hot pepper inside of it, and then for dessert the best Halva I’ve ever had. I tried to buy some for someone special at home but the staff told me sorry, it’s from Armenia. Damn! Well I hope to get there soon.

After that tasty lunch, work took me to an very glamorous shopping centre, the TSUM. Estee Lauder was having some kind of event there and they were doing something to some models’ faces. I tried to ask someone what was going on but no english. At the mall there were some robots in sexual positions that I found extremely amusing so I took some more pictures. Here’s one of my favorites.

I’m not sure what the robots were doing in the store, and tried to ask someone but that also didn’t go very well. There’s a very fancy supermarket at the bottom of the TSUM where I got an apple. It was Fabulous. They wouldn’t let me take pictures of it and I didn’t want to sneak for fear of getting kicked out. After the TSUM, it was dark out and before taking the subway home I went to see the red square at night.

Two thumbs up!



Moscow Day One

November 9, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Today was a great day in Moscow. I got up before the alarm (probably due to the time difference between here and Novosibirsk), got dressed, ate some breakfast, and got right on the subway. It would have taken me an hour to walk to my first destination! The subway system is extremely complex and it seems to work beautifully. This may be wrong but it worked well today and I think a lot of people take it as there is a lot of traffic here. I was taken by surprise because to get to the trains you have to go about a mile down on an escalator. I was also surprised at how beautiful the train stations are.

Here’s one example. It was a little bit difficult and overwhelming to nagavate the subway system because it’s all in Russian.

My first stop was the Gum shopping mall. Wow. It was also very beautiful and overwhelming. Since it was a snowy and gross day, it was hard not to spend more time in there, but I pushed on. Here’s a picture of inside the Gum.

This picture actually doesn’t really show you what it looks like, but i tried to capture it. After the Gum, I walked outside and Boom red square. I wasn’t going to visit the red square today because today was a working day (and it was not a good day to take happy pictures so I’ll have to go back) but I just happened to see…

 Pretty cool after a lifetime of pictures of this building. You can’t tell in the picture but it’s horrible outside. It’s snowing/raining, and cold. After a lot more walking and working, I had the best Tuna sandwich I’ve ever had for lunch.

I’m not sure what was special about it. I washed it down with some cider– Happy autumn.

I took the subway home. I took the Brown line, which is the line that goes in a circle and connects many of the other lines. Right before I got on the subway I saw this scene and thought it was an interesting view of the city.

That’s about it. I went back to the hotel and

worked more.  I’d like to mention that I think I saw a fancy hooker drop off / pick up from a business man staying at the Hotel. I’d also like to mention that tipping here is interesting. The servers get paid way more than their counterparts in the US (I read somewhere that they make slightly more than teachers, go figure) so tipping is really like an extra.

Also It’s my mom’s birthday tomorrow. I think she’s turning 35 or something. Happy Birthday Mom!!!!



Hello Moscow!!

November 8, 2011

Hi Family and Friends,

I’m safe in the hotel in Moscow. The flight was pretty uneventful, except that it was delayed a little bit because Putin was leaving the airport from Novosibirsk so our plane couldn’t take off until his went due to security reasons. I learned this from a girl that helped me out. I didn’t realise the plain was delayed and it changed gates and none of the airport staff spoke english.

I got to Moscow and it took about 50 minutes to get to the hotel. Colleagues said that it has taken them two hours to get from the airport to downtown so I considered myself lucky. There’s a lot of traffic in Moscow as with any big city but I don’t think I saw it in full effect. When I got to the hotel a girl tried to cut me in line (people don’t really respect the idea of a “line” in Russia it seems…) but i didn’t let her get away with it.

I got into the room and nearly cried with joy because it is really nice and the shampoos are fabulous. I washed my hands to clean them but also to try out the soap and it’s lemony ahhh. Same with all of the shampoos. They provide shampoo, conditioner, soap AND bath gel… wow. No more of the combination “hair and bath gel” i’ve been seeing.

I went down to the hotel restaurant, an Italian restaurant. It was very fancy, and extremely expensive (my most expensive dinner yet) even though I didn’t order very much.  One thing I did get was Mozzarella and Tomato and Basil salad. I almost cried with joy again because it tasted so good. The tomatos were big and not mealy at all, there were basil leaves, and the mozzarella cheese was soft and real mozzarella cheese. I’m not sure what i’ve been eating for the past three weeks…

I had a glass of sparkling wine to celebrate a safe arrival and the shampoos. It was a Russian sparkling wine and pretty dry and quite good. Although i think most wines are good…

Now I’m nine hours ahead of Boston. I’m looking forward to getting to work tomorrow and to seeing the city!!!