Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hair

Having spent many years in a house with five females, four human and one Black Lab, I am used to hair-clogged drains. However, I am the only person using the upstairs shower and every second or third day, I have to remove hair from the screen over the drain. I always said I would be bald before I went grey. It looks like that may be the case.

So my hair is getting thin. I never liked fat hair anyhow.

Plumbing

Plumbing in Ukraine is not a trade as we know it in Canada. You cannot "call a plumber" to fix a leaky tap or unplug a clogged drain. Shops handle plumbing supplies but it is do-it-yourself or find a handyman (handyperson?). Which is why we have sewer gas coming back through the bathtub, water leaking from the drain in the kitchen sink and a banging tap in the upstairs bathroom. Our first handyman wasn't so handy. He has since moved to Moscow.

Yuri was here last night after work to repair the hot water shut off tap on our upstairs water heater. Just to explain, the heater is a 20 liter unit which is wall mounted in the upstairs bathroom. Downstairs hotwater is "on-demand" and our furnace doubles as the water heater. Anyhow the tap decided to come apart in the middle. Yuri was disgusted at whoever bought it as it was Chinese-made and therefore poor quality. (China knows it has quality problems, don't worry). We went together, Yuri and I to the hardware store and bought Italian-made. I offered him my teflon pipe tape but he rejected it in favour of tried and true calking fiber.

In Canada I could have replaced the tap. Here everything is so different. It is hard to explain how or why because it looks much the same. I'm glad we have a good handyman in the neighbourhood.

In other news I went for a haircut today. Last summer it cost me about $7 USD including tip, . Today it cost me more local currency but only $6 USD.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dog-Gone

Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday on the Orthodox calendar. Tanya made bliny (crepes) and we took some with us when we went over to visit Masha and parents. Masha has a cold again and did not go to school this week. She is very susceptable to colds, it seems. We had a good visit - Masha "read" an ABC book to Tanya; each letter had a little six or eight line verse and she knew them all the way to M before she got bored and stopped. Then Tanya cut shapes from coloured paper and Masha glued them onto another paper to make a picture of a forest at night with a crescent moon, stars, fir trees, a rabbit and a fox.

We got home about 7:00 in the dark, just in time for the headlights to catch the tail end of two dogs disappearing up the road. The gate latch had just broken as we drove up and they were making good their escape. Bobik came home after a couple of hours. Volk never did come home until this morning. He was all contrite, rolling on his back in surrender. I threw him back in the pen and he seemed happy to be there. Bobik growled at him.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Monkey Cartoon

Bill Stovin's Blog http://mediamelon.net recently ran a blog on the Chimpanzee Cartoon which appeared in the New York Post. My question was this:

If someone did a cartoon of a monkey morphing into Bush, it is humour. The same cartoon monkey morphing into Obama is what? Why?

This answer from "Corey" was exactly what I was looking for and very well put:

There is no reoccurring history of monkey’s personifying white people in negative racial ways.
Sure, if Bush anthropomorphically began swinging from trees and eating bananas, the reference would describe his own behavior without inferring a cultural or racial degradation. Political correctness is different than historical awareness.

Global consciousness still contains remnants of hateful thought using monkeys as a way to portray Black people. Hopefully evolution will, offer the time needed to educate people of little to no tolerance, or fade away their DNA .

Sunday, February 22, 2009

This week's Caption Contest

Last week, I asked for captions for a silly picture and got 6 times normal comments on my blog. This old couple has always intrigued me as to what conversations they might have such as the example given. Lets hear your ideas.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Car Insurance

Car insurance is an annual event that catches me off guard every year. Mostly because it requires a large sum of money which I don't have. This year was no exception. Our insurance was up today and the money to pay for the new contract finally arrived yesterday.

This is a cash society. Our insurance agent does not have a land line in his office and therefore does not have a credit card terminal. My bank (credit union) limits daily cash withdrawals so of course we had to take cash out yesterday and again today to get enough to cover the policy. The insurance agent cannot give us a receipt; he must deposit it in the bank, next door, and they issue a receipt in two copies, one for him and one for us. And charge 1% of the deposit for the service.

The insurance company is out of Vienna, Austria and the policy is quit different from anything I am used to. Not sure if it is how things are done in Europe or just in Ukraine. Our policy last year had a 1% deductible and would have cost us substantially more this year so we opted for a 10% deductible. There is no continuity of policy from year to year. Each policy is a one year stand alone. We had to take pictures of the car showing any damage so it would not be claimed against the new policy.

Cost us about $900 CAD or $750 USD. Not bad as long as I don't hit anything.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Boys and BB guns

The summer my brother was 12 and I was 13, my dad bought us each a Daisy BB gun. Second hand, as new was totally beyond our budget. My brother got the pump action and I got the Red Ryder carbine. His had a longer barrel and was more accurate but mine was "cowboy".

The farm had a .22 rifle, for varmints, injured animals and stunning pigs and cattle to butcher but we had to ask to use it and buy our own ammunition. CIL Whiz-Bang .22 shells came in short, long, long rifle and long rifle mushroom. Shorts were 50¢ for a box of 50 and the LR mushroom were $1.25. BB's were cheaper for target practice and "blazing away" at "stuff". And we didn't have to ask.

Our kitchen range (coal and wood converted to oil) was beside a window which was usually open in summer. I was shooting through the open window at something outside and set an open package of BB's on the warming shelf above the stove.

Mom was cooking a big pot of pork and beans, didn't see my BB's and knocked them into the pot. Not happy but not the end of the world. They sank to the bottom and she carefully scooped the beans when they were done cooking, leaving the BB's for me to wash off and "got out of the house with that thing".

Obviously she didn't get them all. Next morning while doing chores, Dad bent over to pick up two buckets of water and shot the cat.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Waiting in the Bread Line

Crazybearfeet was complaining that she hates going to different stores when she only needs a few things. She would go nuts in our favourite little grocery shop. Tonight I needed three things; bread, milk and ice-cream and had to go to three tills in the same store.

The shop is an old Soviet style full service store with five different tills each with its own staff person. Bread, pastry and chocolate. Fish, meat and canned goods. Dairy and general groceries. Alcohol and tobacco. Water, juice and ice cream. There was only a few other shoppers in the store so I didn't have to wait in line but at going-home time, the store is usually full and you can stand in lines for an hour to get a few things. When you get to the front of the line, you tell the staff person what you want and they fill your order, tally it up, take your cash and wait on the next person. Those who miss the personal touch of the old general store would feel right at home here. Tanya loves it. I hate it because I want to grab what I need and get out.

We both like the store because it has the best bread in town. So fresh from the local bakery it is often warm when we buy it. Their cheese, sausage and fish are also good quality and reasonably priced. Now I will go downstairs and make myself a sandwich.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pruning Trees

Today we were out pruning the fruit trees, February being the ideal month for it in this part of the world. The dirt in the fruit orchard garden area was damp and the clay stuck to our feet in great huge clumps that made our feet feel like we wore snowshoes.

It wasn't much of a chore as Tanya's niece Sveta and I had wreaked havoc on them last year, until Tanya saw us and put a stop to it. Sveta trained in her youth as a silvaculturist under the experienced eye of a retired orchardist (is that a word?) and we were pruning 20 year old trees to increase production. Tanya and I just cut out a few extra branches that were in the interior of the tree and thus get no sunlight. Nothing radical at all.

Sveta pruned like our neighbour of years ago who took such a whack at her apple tree, her husband and I were shocked at the damage.
She said "You are supposed to prune a tree so a large bird can fly through it".
"Well, yes, but they didn't mean a 747".

Two years later her apple yield doubled. I expect great things from the trees we pruned last year.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Carwash

Andrei's friend Kostia operates a tire shop, with a one bay car wash on one side and a small coffee and car accessory shop on the other. The coffee shop is a recent addition. That way he has a place for his customers to wait and can make a dollar on the waiting. Kostia sells tires (I bought my winter grips from him), repairs tires and does wheel balancing.

He does not do wheel alignments. Given the road conditions in this country a wheel alignment would be about as useful as a certificate of health on a hooker in Tiajuana. Good for 15 minutes or until she left the Doctor's office, which ever happened first.

The car either had to be washed or planted to potatoes. I opted for the wash. Business must have been slow in the tire shop as Kostia was washing cars while his man ran the shop. Usually he has someone in the car wash, two people on busy days and two or three in the tire shop.

The car wash is low tech. Karcher portable pressure washer and shop vacuum, compressed air hose and a wringer for chamois clothes. The car is cleaned inside and out, hand washed and dried, interior detailed with the care and attention you'd pay $100 for in Canada. Takes about 45-60 minutes for one person going flat out.

Used to cost 50 UAH, about $10 USD at previous exchange rates. Today it was 70 UAH or just under $9 USD at today's exchange rates.

Chicken Hunting Dogs Cook Own Goose

Spring is coming and everybody's chickens are running loose again. Bobik and/or Volk got another one of our neighbour's hens on their afternoon run about. They are behind bars for keeps now. I'm not sure I can even take them for a walk off leash as they don't listen well if there are chickens to chase and when we come home from the walk, they will be less than cooperative at going back into their yard. So the mutts are now yard bound until I figure out a cure.

Should have known they were going to make trouble. They were at each other's throats from the time I let them out. I walked out on the balcony and they were scrapping right below me. I let out a string of expletives, eg "Nice doggies, don't fight", and they couldn't find the source of my voice. Their puzzled expressions were so funny. Finally I said "This is God speaking*. Go and fight no more".

*Years ago, my neighbour was mowing her lawn one Sunday mid-morning. She couldn't hear me over the mower so I threw little apples at her over the high fence. between our yards. (Their tree hung over into our yard). She was looking all over for the source of the flying apples and thought maybe "God was after her" for not going to Mass that morning.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Caring for the Aged and Infirm in Ukraine

Folks who self righteously proclaim about how terrible it is in North America that we “lock our old people away in institutions” instead of caring for them at home are usually those who are not now and likely never will have that problem. Lots of families do look after their aging parents, because they want to.

My cousin and his wife looked after his mother for the last few years of her life when she could no longer manage in a senior’s apartment. His father spent the last years of his life in a Level 4 Care home with Alzheimer’s as did my late father-in-law. Both spouses looked after their husbands as long s they could at home.

There are programs to help old people be independent as long as possible: home care, meals on wheels, special buses, etc.

In Ukraine there is no alternative to looking after the aged or infirm except family. Tanya visited my Aunt Jean (90) and my sister’s mother in law (95) in a seniors’ home in Calgary and just marveled at the surroundings and the care they receive. I will admit, that was one classy place and out of my price range. But Ukraine has nothing comparable to even the nursing homes in small town Saskatchewan.

Our friends in P’yatikhatki couldn’t go to Dnipropetrovs'k with us because her mother was too ill to leave alone over night. There is no respite program for care givers.

Our neighbour’s mother is in her late 80’s. She lives next door to us in a rented cottage with coal heat and Lucia lives on the other side of us. At least they both have some privacy that way. Baba is almost totally immobile. Poor circulation has caused what may be gangrene to set in her feet. A Home Care nurse will come and give her antibiotics. She doesn’t want to go to hospital. I doubt she will make it to summer which will be a relief to both of them.

Lucia needs to go to the Cancer clinic in Dnipropetrovs'k as there is fear of recurrence of breast cancer for which she was operated two years ago but she can’t leave her mother. She has not been away from home over night for a long time. There is no one to look after her mother. Tanya has offered to cover for her so she can go to Dnipropetrovs'k this week and I hope that works.

Tanya’s friend Lena lost her husband last fall. Heart attack while recovering from an emphysema attack. Lena has both his mother and her mother to take care of. She couldn’t even go to the theatre with us as she cannot leave them along for long. Her two boys still live at home. Her husband’s mother is turning her apartment over to Lena, likely for the oldest boy. The upshot of that generosity is that Lena’s sister-in-law will have nothing to do with looking after her mother-in-law, though she and her husband are well heeled and their son has his own apartment. (Greed knows no cultural barriers; Canadian or Ukrainian the story plays the same too many times).

Tanya will go to Dnipropetrovs'k this week to help her friend Alexander who has gone recently blind. Alexander worked for years in the Soviet space program and radiation from the computer screen gave a 55 year old woman the face of a 100 year old ghoul, wrecking her eyes and thyroid. Her drunken useless husband, from whom she had been separated for years died last year and she needs to change the title to her apartment. Her drunken useless son refuses to take her because she is putting the apartment into her name and her niece’s name because the niece is going to look after her. Tanya will take her to a lawyer and help her with the document process.

Be thankful that there are facilities and programs to allow the elderly and infirm to live with as much independence as possible for as long as possible and that provide care for them when they are not able. You (and they) have a choice of how and where to provide care as your parents grow old. It is not a trap as it is here where there are no alternatives.

My children will leave me on the ice.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Going for a Checkup

You talk about ugly? I went to a proctologist and he stuck his finger in my mouth. It isn't easy being me. I get no respect.

I had been feeling a bit lethargic lately, just wanting to sleep, no energy, etc. Also to borrow a metaphor from another blogger (you know who you are), I was afraid I might be needing arch supports, so I decided to have them check to see if I had one of those fallen prostates Lorne and I used to sing about in church. We called Ira (EEra), Tanya's nurse who set up an appointment with her husband who had checked me out the time my heart stood still. He set up an appointment with a Dr. friend of his, a specialist with a practice in Dnipro who comes to ZV on alternate weekends.

Dr Valerie (him) ran an EKG and said my heart was much better than last time. Good. Then Dr. Nellie (Can you believe it? Her name wasn't Natasha or Tanya or Galina) did an ultrasound on me. Never had an ultrasound before. Last time I saw that gadget we were pregnacy testing sheep, though the screen and console weren't so fancy. Boldly going where no man had gone before, she at least confirmed that "No, my head wasn't up there" and all was normal. More good.

Anyhow, since that end is normal, I guess all the problems are at the other end. I do take citalopram. It doesn't effect me at all but when I take it, I find that other people stop acting like complete a$$holes all the time and irritating me no end.

Spring is coming and soon I can work in the yard again. Fresh air, sunshine and exercise are what I need.

This picture begs a caption. First prize a week in Moose Jaw. Second prize two weeks in Moose Jaw.

Odds and Ends

Cloud cover was patchy and there was actually sunshine yesterday and today. Must be getting close to spring. A song bird yesterday entertained us with his "tink-a, tink-a, tinka, tink-a" and today Tanya saw a woodpecker busy on our apple tree. A welcome relief from the flocks of crows who kept us company all winter.

Kuchma was not very clever today. He came in this morning, mud to the hocks and was grabbed by the scruff of his neck and held in the sink under the tap until his feet were clean. He proceeded to eat his KitEKat, drink a bowl of milk, sleep for an hour and then went outside again. Two hours later he is home , mud to the hocks and got another bath. Slow learner.

The walk light on Heros of Stalingrad Street in Dnipro is a death trap for the old and slow. When it turns red, the traffic light turns green. You have no grace period to clear the street. Good to know in advance.

Another sign of spring - the roads are full of potholes again. Highway driving is like working cattle at high speed, your car better neck rein and turn on a dime if you are to miss all the holes. Some are new, others are the same ones that were patched last year but the patches were pounded loose with the help of the frost.

The Dafi shopping mall in Dnipro has rubber spatulas now but still no measuring spoons. A cup of coffee in the lounge is $2.00, no refills. But the City of Dnipro provides free wireless internet in the food court that works well. No complaints.

Zhovti Vody has 50,000 people and one stop light, which works only very sporadically. P'yatikhatki has 4,000 people and three working stop lights. Go figure.

Katya stayed at our house while we were away and we came home to it all clean and shiny. Her husband Yuri is here just now fixing our bed. I hate footboards anyhow and the attachment to the frame broke when Tanya stubbed her foot against it. He is also finishing some plumbing work on our outside taps for easier use in gardening season.

Happy Valentine's Day


Friday, February 13, 2009

Life, Tears, Love

The concert was wonderful. Mezzo-soprano Zoya Kaipova and tenor Eduard Spebnitsky, accompanied by pianist Irina Seregina and violinist Svetlana Mikhailech, entertained us with 21 Russian love songs over 75 minutes. All for $2.50 each. The $10 seats were filled. In fact the entire theatre was filled by curtain rise. No surprise that Tanya knew all the songs.

The songs were arranged in a “mini-operetta”. The scene opens with the husband Eduard in the process of leaving his wife Zoya. She is packing his suitcase with the help of the maid Irina. The suitcase is full, Irina goes to the piano, Zoya sings of how unhappy she is; Eduard replies with another song and then they sing several songs of their life together. The interaction is such that you wonder why he is leaving.

Then in comes the “Other woman”, Svetlana, who is young enough to be his daughter and very beautiful. Eduard sings several songs, accompanied by Svetlana on the violin. I think the violin was invented to play Russian love songs. No other instrument can bring out the haunting sadness. At the end of one song, he is on his knees with his arms wrapped around Svetlana’s legs. Tanya mutters “Idiot…need kill”. Laughing out loud at a concert is not a good thing.

Zoya sings a couple of songs of her own while the lovers smooch on the couch. Then Svetlana leaves to wait for Eduard. Three more songs make it plain that he is having difficulty with this whole thing but Zoya dumps a vase over his head and sends him on his way. She has time for one sad aria before (we knew it all along) Eduard is back, suitcase in hand, pleading for her forgiveness and telling her how much he loves her.

Zoya of course forgives him (we knew that all along, too) and after two duets the curtain falls on the happily reconciled couple.

As the performers were taking their bows, various member of the audience lined up onto the stage bearing flowers which they present to one or the other of the singers. Because this concert was sort of a story, they did not interrupt during the performance. During the concert we saw in 2005 with Zoya Kaipova and Maria Stephyuk who simply alternated songs or did the occasional duet, the members of the audience would go up at any time with flowers and present them to the one who was not singing.

We had a great mini-holiday and are not going to wait two years to go to the theatre again.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Off to Theatre in Dnipro

My mother used to say a Highbrow was someone who could listen to Rossini's William Tell Overture and not think of the Lone Ranger. Now mom had no more idea it was by Rossini than I did till I Googled it just now but at least we knew it was the WTO.

At any rate, Tanya and I and friends are going to Dnipro for two nights to go to the theatre. Wednesday night is an opera by Puccini, Thursday is a concert. One of the singers is a mezzosoprano named Zoya something whom Tanya and I heard in 2005 . Tanya has the details. The website is in Ukrainian.

This will be my second opera. My friend Brent and I went to see Giuseppi Verdi's Rigoletto at the Kyiv Opera House a few years back. Referring to it as Joe Green's Rigatoni did not win any marks with my friend Sveta who got us the tickets.

I've also been to two ballets. One every 20 years should not ruin one's character. The first was Tchaikovsy's Nutracker at the (then) Saskatoon Centennial Auditorium back in 1968. Then in 2007 Tanya and I went to see Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake at the theatre in Dnipro. I had no idea what it was we were seeing as I did not see a program until after the show but recognized the music and the dance of the swans in Act 2.

The hero wore white tights and the villain wore black tights...a western on tiptoes. I thought the hero got the girl and vanquished the villain but apparently the two lovers killed themselves and the villain died out of plain cussedness which should only happened in operas but what do I know?

Since 2007 was the Year of the Pig on the Chinese Zodiac, I was hoping that the Chinese National Ballet would do a remake called Swine Lake with 20 pudgy porkers dancing in a mud hole for Act 2. No such luck. As you can tell, I learned about kulcher from Tim the Toolman (and the peasants rejoiced).

Will keep you posted.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Cowboy Poetry

A friend and shirt-tail relative circulated an email copy of a poem known variously as Better Keep in Touch or simply Jake, the Rancher. I Googled it to see if I could find the author but no luck. Chalk one more up to that prolific writer “Anonymous”.

Cowboy poetry as the genre is known has been around for as long as men and women have worked cattle in North America but usually refers to poems written since Texas independence. For those not familiar with the genre I offer this definition which I like but if you check the website you will find some willing to argue:

“Cowboy poetry is rhymed, metered verse written by someone who has lived a significant portion of his or her life in Western North American cattle culture. The verse reflects an intimate knowledge of that way of life, and the community from which it maintains itself in tradition. Cowboy poetry may or may not in fact be anonymous in authorship but must have qualities, content, and style that permit it to be accepted into the repertoire of the cultural community as reflecting that community's aesthetics in style, form, and content. The structural style of cowboy poetry has its antecedents in the ballad style of England and the Appalachian South. It is similar to popular works of authors such as Robert W. Service and Rudyard Kipling."

I like cowboy poetry and don’t have any books here with me, so I followed Google until I found this Cowboy Poetry site and thought it worth passing on to other lovers of poetry.

Modern cowboy poets like Baxter Black have made Cowboy Poetry popular outside of cowboy circles but there were a lot of good poems written in the late 19th and early 20th century. One of my favourite poets is S. Omar Barker whose Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer is likely his best known and made him more money than any other poem.

The following is an example of real Cowboy Poetry and since it is in the public domain, I am not breaking copyright.

The Veiled Rider by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)
It was down at the home ranch, a bunch of cow pokes
Got in an old hoss that was only half broke.
They saddled him up and they hazed him around,
But none of them rode him. They stayed on the ground.
The cook he laffed at 'em and laffed mighty hard.
Then the boys they allowed that the cook wasn't barred.

But it shore did amaze 'em to see the cook crawl
Right up in the saddle, yes apron and all.
The hoss took to buckin' all over the place.
The cook's apron flew up and covered his face.
His stirrups was long and he had to pull leather,
But the cook was on top when they finished together.

One waddy he grins and remarked to the boss,
"Seems they blindfold the rider now, 'stead of the hoss."
The cook looked at the boss soter mournful and said;
"This whole crew aint wuth seven dollars a head.
I buried my face in my apron all right,
But I done it to shut out the pitiful sight.

Them pore rannies hoppin' and yappin' around
Like a bunch of fresh toad frogs that been rained down.
I will own up right now, I'm a cranky old cook,
But there's sights where really upsets me to look.
And an outfit like that would disgust any man
That had been out and cooked for a bunch of real hands."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Saturday Shopping

Our friends Volodya and Valya (from whom we got our dogs last year) are now both retired. They stopped in for three hours yesterday while they were getting their car serviced. Valya and Tanya talk non-stop and Volodya and I just listen. Next week we are going to Dnipropetrovsk together just for the trip. We will rent a two bedroom flat for two nights and go to the Theatre. Last time I was there was two years ago to see the ballet Swan Lake. Can't recall exactly who is there this time but one of the evenings features a Mezzosporano I heard sing three years ago and really enjoyed.

Of course one cannot just GO to theatre. One must dress for the occasion. So today we went to buy a new long black skirt for Tanya. Choosing between chocolate and vanilla ice cream is a major decision so of course she has to try on and agonize over every item of clothing in the store that might fit. Three hours, two ladies-wear shops, and LOK how many outfits, we settled on four new tops. None of the skirts fit that she liked. And the tops were lovely and not too expensive.

I love clothes shopping with Tanya. If I can find a chair. Seriously, it is so much fun to watch. And she gets so excited when she gets a new outfit. Like a little kid. When we got home she tried everything on twice with different slacks and skirts, humming to herself, like she always does when she is happy.

We still need to find a skirt, but more likely in Dnipropetrovsk. There are a couple of stores she likes and then of course the big clothing market with literally hundreds of little shops all under one roof. She and Valya can shop for clothes. Volodya and I will go look at tools. The tool market is just down the street.

Friday, February 6, 2009

True Stories

Tanya has a gift for story telling and enough stories to make it worthwhile.

Her Aunt Anna, in Soviet times, worked in a textile factory with 5000 other people and took the bus to and from work each day. It cost 5 rubles for the bus and it was absolutely packed. The day before payday, she had only three rubles in her pocket after she got on the bus and was afraid someone would take them from her in the crush.* After she got on the bus, she put her hand in her pocket and firmly clenched her three rubles. She felt a man’s hand slide into her pocket trying to unclench her fist. It was so crowded she couldn’t move but just hung on. As she got off the man kicked her in the rear end but she still had her three rubles firmly clenched in her fist. She went home crying and sobbed the whole story to her husband. Her husband listened quietly then told her to check her coat pocket. There were her three rubles. She had put her hand in the man’s pocket and taken his three rubles. Her husband thought she should do this more often. As a loving husband, he added she likely needed the kick in the rear and should have had a smack upside the head too.

Again in Soviet times, her uncle, married to her Aunt Vera, worked on a construction site. One morning one of the men disappeared into the tall grass for his constitutional, followed unbeknownst to him, by Tanya's uncle with a long handled shovel. The extended shovel caught the deposit, leaving no trace once it was withdrawn. The poor man was absolutely mystified when he stood up. He stripped to the skin and examined each piece of clothing separately and carefully. He spent the rest of the day puzzled and worried. Tanya's uncle let him in on the joke on the way home, where witnesses could prevent him from being killed.

Tanya has a good friend in Dnipropetrovsk whom we call Small Tanya. She is short, plump, an incorrigible flirt, with endless energy and a chest like a sack of barley. Small Tanya is nanny to two grandkids and chief cook and bottle washer for her daughter and son in law, who live in the biggest, most opulent house I have ever been in. Son-in-law owns a furniture factory and daughter manages retail. Small Tanya's 13 year old grandson is her friend and confidant. This is the same grandson who assured an admirer on an Egyptian beach that his grandmother's breasts were "real, no silicone".

Anyhow, one of Small Tanya's girlfriends had writen her an email sobbing her heart out because her lover had left her and she was broken hearted and what would she do, etc. etc. Grandson was worried that his Babushka had not answered.

She has emailed you twice, you must answer.
I know, but I have no time.
Then I will answer for you.
OK, but I want to read it before you send it.

So he hammered out an email in his grandmother's name, full of comfort, telling her friend not to cry, she was young and beautiful and there would be many more men in her life and that her real need was to look after her own health. Small Tanya approved and off it went.

The kid has a future as a columnist.

* I lost my wallet in the morning rush hour crush on the Kyiv Metro last year when LynnieC came to visit, prompting her to exclaim, "Dad, you are just blog fodder". Inspiration!!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Where Ah Comes Frum

After having dug to a depth of 10 meters last year, New York scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 100 years and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network more than 100 years ago.

Not to be outdone by the New Yorkers, in the weeks that followed, California scientists dug to a depth of 20 meters, and shortly after, headlines in the LA Times newspaper read: "California archaeologists have found traces of 200 year old copper wire and have concluded that their ancestors already had an advanced high-tech communications network a hundred years earlier than the New Yorkers."

One week later, "Moose Jaw Times Herald", a local newspaper in Saskatchewan reported the following: "After digging as deep as 30 meters in stubble fields near Moose Jaw, Ole Karbaluski, a self-taught archaeologist, reported that he found absolutely nothing. Ole has therefore concluded that 300 years ago, Saskatchewan had already gone wireless."*

In other news, the Swift Current Southwest Booster reported that last evening in dense fog, a Cessna 185 crashed into the cemetary in Hemorrhoid about 65 km south east of the city. By sunrise, rescue teams digging frantically through the night had recovered 137 bodies and were confidant there were no other survivors. Hemorrhoid is located half way between Hazenmore and Aneroid on Number 3 Highway.

The Davidson "Halfway Home" issued a revision of last week's Police Report column. RCMP had stated that a pig farmer, Sven Svenson, from Armpit reported the theft of 2025 pigs. Further investigation revealed the man suffered from a severe lisp and the actual loss was 2 sows and 25 pigs. Armpit is located between Eyebrow and Elbow, about 53 km SW of Davidson. Davidson is home of the world's largest coffee pot and cup.

Ah, Saskatchewan, where it takes all day to go from Love to Conquest to Climax. Some days I miss it.

* with thanks to Garry for inspiration.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Utility Bills

Today we set out to pay our January utility bills and get our garbage, water, gas and electric accounts organized for 2009. This took us 6 hours, including a lunch break while we waited for an office to reopen and about 30 minutes of shopping at the end.

First we went to a bank and paid the accounts. We read our own meters (they are checked occasionally) and fill out our own payment book. We never get a statement nor write a check.

Then we went to sign up for garbage collection for 2009. Last year it was 25 UAH for the year or about $5 USD. This year it was 70 UAH or about $10 USD. The rate had gone up and also Tanya paid for two people rather than just one. They charge by the head.

The electrical contract was still in the name of Tanya’s Ex so it took while to change that, including much photocopying of documents (Tanya carried a full wad of documents with her, including divorce certificate, marriage certificate, house title certificate, house blueprint registration certificate). We had to drive 10 km (one way, on the worst roads ever) to the town office of Marianivka Village to get a missing document saying that two people lived in our house. We will get our new contract next week. The electrical office is in Zhovti Vody but because we live in Marianivka village, the contract has to go to the Raion seat at P’yatikhatki for registration in their office too.

The water and gas contracts were already in Tanya’s name so sorting them out was easier, though the water department needed some documents photocopied as well related to home ownership. We actually had a credit at the gas company so we will pay February in full but then March will not cost us anything.

When we got home Tanya added up our utility bills for the year 2008.
Gas – 3000 UAH or about $600 USD at mid year exchange rates
Water – 700 UAH or about $140 USD at mid year exchange rates
Electricity – 900 UAH or about $180 at mid year exchange rates
Total – 4600 UAH or $920 USD for an 1800 sq ft house (170 sq meters) and 2 people.

Estimated cost for this year, 2009, Tanya figures, will be 7500 to 9500 UAH or $950 to $1200 USD at today’s exchange rates ($1250 to $1600 CAD).

It is OK for us but for ordinary people especially pensioners it is a disaster.

Monday, February 2, 2009

One step closer to residency

Got up at 6:00 this morning and drove our umpteenth time to P'yatikhatki to the documents office. The lady had all our paper work done and needed two more mugshots to complete the package. She was driving into Dnipropetrovsk and we needed to get there early before she left. For $200 USD we will get the internal passport in less than 6 months, otherwise we could wait up to a year. We paid. she will call us tomorrow to let us know how long it will take. I don't dare leave the country until I get this passport or I cannot get back in for 3 months or maybe 6 months. Canadians can stay 3 months with no visa. People were abusing the system by doing a one day turnaround to Poland or Moldova and essentially staying as long as they wanted, so they cracked down and if they leave they have to wait 3 months to come back in. I had been getting permissions to stay which would keep me from being deported but if I left, it would not get me back in.

I like the folks at the registration department here. Unlike Canadian Immigration, they are on our side and are trying to help us meet the requirements and get all the paperwork done right. They don't do this very often obviously as they admit they don't know the rules either and are learning as they go, as are we.

In other news, on the way home we stopped and bought three litres of creamed honey for $10 CAD. Too cheap but that is what he asked. Same price as when we bought from him last fall. Lunch was toast and honey.

I made QoWP's creamed carrot and pepper soup for supper tonight. Great stuff. Tanya was amazed at the lack of "traditional" soup ingredients. No meat? No. No?? No potatoes? No. No?? (There is a hole in it. Yes, its a Bundt cake. But there is a hole in it). She was impressed with the final outcome and thought it was a bit spicy. (After a few bites the chipotle settled down and didn't tickle the back of your throat anymore). Now I need a cream of mushroom soup from scratch recipe.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

I get no respect

Rodney Dangerfield got no respect, he claimed, though he was a master comedian. I was looking for new lines for my email signature and found enough for a lifetime. In a way he is my role model. I get no respect either. Asked my son to describe me in one word, he said "Dangerfield".
  • When I played in the sandbox, the cat kept covering me up.
  • When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them.
  • I said to a bartender, 'Make me a zombie.' He said 'God beat me to it’.
  • On Halloween, the parents sent their kids out looking like me.
  • Some dog I got too. We call him Egypt. Because in every room he leaves a pyramid.
  • The way my luck is running, if I was a politician I would be honest.
  • My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion. He said okay, you're ugly too.
  • My uncle's dying wish - he wanted me on his lap. He was in the electric chair.
  • My wife was afraid of the dark... then she saw me naked and now she's afraid of the light.
  • I told my psychiatrist that everyone hates me. He said I was being ridiculous - everyone hasn't met me yet.
  • I looked up my family tree and found out I was the sap.
  • I looked up my family tree and found three dogs using it.
  • I met the surgeon general - he offered me a cigarette.
  • I had plenty of pimples as a kid. One day I fell asleep in the library. When I woke up, a blind man was reading my face.
  • A girl phoned me the other day and said... Come on over, there's nobody home. I went over. Nobody was home.
  • My cooking is so bad that the flies pitched in to fix the screen door. I leave dental floss in the kitchen and watch the roaches hang themselves.
  • I came from a real tough neighborhood. I once asked a policeman how far it was to the subway. he said, "I don't know, no one has ever made it".