Ukraine (pt 3)

We managed to get a picture of Katya with her Favourite Care-giver. (Behind her, you can see the sheds I mentioned earlier)  This lady, however much passivity she showed, must not have actively mistreated Katya, because, as you can see, Katya looks almost loving. 011

As loving as I ever saw her look towards the care-givers, anyways. All the others she would avoid, and we never saw her ask to be picked up by any of the others.  She’s the lady who taught Katya how to play in the sand-box. Apparently no one had ever bothered to show Katya how. 049

The Favorite Caregiver didn’t bother, either, until she saw Mum and Dad trying to get Katya to play in the sand.  Then she came over and explained it to Katya, who was most enlightened.

And once she was shown how, she really took off.


The stack that Katya built.

sandbox 3

The Favourite Caregiver didn’t do enough, not nearly enough, she could have taught Katya so much.   But she seemed to care about Katya. She inquired  with tears in her eyes, would the Drs in America be able to fix Katya’s head? Would we be able to teach her to talk?     So we liked her.  No, she didn’t do enough.  But from Katya’s perspective, sins of omission must’ve been  better than sins committed. After all, months later, when we showed Katya the picture of her with her care-giver, she studied it, and allowed that she liked her and that she had “gentle hands”.   Katya has too little artifice in her to pretend.

After our time with Katya was over, and we had watched her obediently scream and tantrum her way into the institution, a Ukrainian friend was kind enough to take us to a grocery store.  We had bought some groceries the day before, but food spoils so quickly in Ukraine– a lack of preservatives– that we had to buy groceries every two or three days.      Outside the store, ladies– from young 30-somethings, to “Babushka’s” sit selling their garden produce. Potatoes fresh from the ground, with black Ukrainian soil clinging to them; cucumbers like you wouldn’t believe; and lots of cherries, both sweet and sour, because it was the height of cherry season.

~This Cherry tree was near the orphanage– we passed it going to the bus stop, I think, and it was dripping with cherries. I had to take a picture of this branch.

The store had lots of foreign-to-us things. Not that the content was so strange, most of it, but it was little things that reminded us that we were far from home.  Firstly, the bread. It sat on bare boards, in the open air, where it had been placed after (probably) being unloaded from the back of a truck, and being thrown unceremoniously into an (unwashed) shopping cart, before being taken into the store. I did not see this, myself, but Mother had seen bread being transported that way.


For a raise in price, you could get bread that had been loosely thrown into a unfastened plastic or paper bag.   Now that I think about it, is it *much* worse that what might go on behind the scenes in bread factories, in the U.S.?  To quote General Anna, from Jean Merrill’s “The Pushcart War”,

Who sees whether the man who puts the fruit in the plastic bags has washed his hands? Every customer can see for himself that my hands are clean. You put apples in a plastic bag in the back room of a store– and who knows?

So though I was leery at the time (and am leery now) about eating bread that has been conveyed from who-knows-where by who-knows-who, who’s hands may be in any condition of cleanliness at all,  I was more surprised than revolted.

No, what really made our eyes bulge was this: 020

Mystery Meat. Piled in the freezer loosely, packages ripped, and very little of it identifiable.  We saw tongue (front and center), and I think it was heart at the very top of the picture.   We guessed at kidneys, and maybe brain?   It was rather unpleasant.  BTW, I did not like the meat in Ukraine at all. It stank horribly when fried. I guess it was very stale hamburger, or maybe *something else.*

Random things we noticed:

  • Before you could purchase produce,  first you had to get it weighed and stickered at a little station,   Like taking fabric purchases to the cutting counter.
  • The cherry juice is lovely.  We always made sure to purchase a jug.  (Have you noticed, by now, that I love Ukrainian cherries?)
  • We couldn’t get tinned soup. Apparently Ukrainians don’t like it?
  • It’s funny to have to peel back the translation sticker on items in the “Imports” aisle, to read the original (English) print.
  • The home decorating magazines are very different. We purchased one, and as near as we can tell, it’s touched on renovating small apartments. It had pictures of refrigerators printed with the Union Jack.

I would have taken more pictures, but while it’s one thing to be thrown out of a mall for taking pictures, its another thing entirely to be ejected from a store before your groceries are in hand.  Not to mention, some of those security guys looked tough!  So I was surreptitious, and did not take pictures of people.

After returning to our apartment, if my memory serves me, we took a bit of a walk around the neighborhood.  In my spare time, I would study the maps of Kiev, and figure out where the under-ground street crossings came out; how to walk “home” from the market to save taxi fare; how to get back to our apartment sooner if coming from a certain direction; and just generally learning my way around, to avoid being cheated by the drivers.   We went to the end of the block, and up the hill.  We had a lovely sunset, coming down.051

The next day would be a total contrast to our peaceful sunset walk.

(To Be Continued)


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