Today is the last day of October (yes, I remember that it’s Halloween; I’ve been talking about it all week long with various discussion groups), and yesterday marked eight weeks in Cherkasy. It feels both like time flies, and like I’ve been here for eight weeks.
And today, the start of my ninth week in this city, has been a very pleasant day. It is Saturday, so I was able to sleep in. Ahh. My goal this morning was to get a birthday gift sent off, so I went across the street to Silpo to buy a couple of Roshen chocolate bars. Roshen was founded and is owned by the current president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko; in fact, the name is taken from the middle part of his last name. I have found it to be very good chocolate, which was a nice surprise after so many gifts from Ukrainian students in the States of chocolate covered marshmallowy things.
At Silpo I was interested to see that there were huge, and I mean huge, piles of onions around the store. I’ll need to find out what everyone is doing with all of those onions.
Then came the trip to the post office. This is a stressful activity for me, but it’s getting much better. I now know which window to go to, and what I can expect (they want to see what is in the package, possibly discuss what it is made out of, and have me fill out a customs form). Some of the stress comes from the fact that no matter how many people are in front of me in line, it always seems to take forever. The other day I waited for half an hour with just a couple of people before me. Of course I have no idea what they are talking about, but it looks as though they react to every package they get with, “Goodness, how do we handle THIS?” Supervisors always seem to be called, and workers confer to discuss the matter at hand. Again, I don’t know…I’m just saying that’s how it appears. I also have to stand quite close to the person in front of me so that no one decides to wedge themselves in. And then of course there’s the whole language barrier once I get my turn. Well, today was a banner day at the post office, because the normal woman was on break, and another woman was at the station. After she had dealt with the two troublesome cases before mine, I handed her my package and said, “Sho-ko-lad, Roshen!” and pointed to my jewelry to indicate the other item. She didn’t require me to open up the wrapped packages, and then proceeded to fill out the customs form for me! When she showed me the cost on her calculator, I said with deep-felt appreciation, “Thank you! You nice!” Or I might have said, “You beautiful!”– I’m not too sure. In any case, she seemed pleased by the compliment.
Thrilled to have that so successfully completed, I felt emboldened on my walk home and explored numerous shops that I have never ventured into before. In fact, I was just opening doors and walking into places here, there, and everywhere. I may have mentioned this before, but it strikes me how there are shops and restaurants inside buildings that I would never know existed (beyond the sign, which doesn’t help me much). In the States we can usually see inside shops and restaurants from the street, but here I have been surprised time and time again to walk down some stairs or into a dark doorway and through an empty room to suddenly emerge into a nice, well-lit (sometimes), friendly-looking place of business! There’s something both scary and fun about that.
Some of these ventures didn’t amount to much, like the small housewares shop that I happened upon down some stairs, where the two shopkeepers looked at me with great interest since I was their only customer. I tried to look at the tea kettles near the door with an air of great purpose, and then said goodbye and scurried up. However, another one of the stores was a candy store — woo hoo! I bought three little bags of candy since there was a girl there to weigh them for me. I’ve just tried two of them now while writing this post.
At the office supplies store, I felt very successful when I was able to understand that the price was one hundred and thirty-something hryvnia. I threw caution to the wind and gave her one hundred and forty (as opposed to a safe two hundred), and indeed, just got small change back!
My shopping spree finally came to an end at the outdoor market, where I bought some socks, stockings, apples, and pears. I was also able to understand that the apples and pears came to eighteen hryvnia. I’m making a little progress!
I capped off my outing with a meal at the Doner Kebab place across from the outdoor market. I’ve been there once before, and it is one of the only places where I have encountered a worker who could speak some English. I got the doner plate, which looked like this:
With the bottle of carbonated water, it came to 60 hryvnia: just under three dollars. Now I’m back home, happy to be sharing about my day with you. Thank you to all of you who are reading this blog; it does wonders for me to see that and to get comments from you. It’s as if I have you along on the adventure with me, and it would be hard for me to overstate the value of that.