The Return

March 25, 2010

I have been away for a few months and have made a flying visit back to Kharkov to remember how good things are and to see my friends. It is kinda cold and icy. I seemed to have missed the hardest winter in 4 years which is not something I will cry over. The pavements have not really been cleared of snow, and hence everyone walks like a penguin. Hands out to the side, wobble from side to side as one moves forward.

One day I meet a friend in the cafe Paris, well known for being a favourite of every Ukrainian devushka, making it the kind of place no western man would want to go to. But, my memories of the bad coffee had faded, I was ready to give it another chance. I ordered an espresso macchiato, carefully describing, as is my custom in Ukraine, my expectations, an espresso with a touch of milk. My companion ordered a coffee mocha. The coffees duly arrive, and it is difficult to understand which is which. Presumably the one nearest me which resembles a cappucinno is mine, and the espresso looking one is the mocha. We carefully sip and decide we have them round the wrong way. Hers is bitter and mine is milk. We swap. I am a bit surprised the macchiato has no milk but I know how things are in Paris. After draining half my coffee I am rewarded with a big lump of chocolate.

Later I go for a CT scan. One of the advantages of Ukraine is the cheap prices compared to the west for certain things. Obviously Gucci et al are not cheaper, but a CT scan in London would cost me 500 pounds. Here a scan costs about $80. Normal Siemans scanner, the staff seem to know what they are doing, and they give you the scans straight after. At which point you retire to your home country to see the doctor.
Whilst I am waiting for my scan, the receptionist comes over and starts saying something which I fail to comprehend. She makes me stand up in the waiting room and repeats faster and louder. Seeing my lack of comprehension she calls for reinforcemsnts. Two more of the technical staff appear and now I have 3 girls all speaking very quickly and loudly at me. At this point one of the other waiting customers intervenes and mimes out what they want. They require me to take a deep breath and hold it. Unfortuantly it is not explained that they want to time how long I can hold my breath so I fail miserably at holding for long enough. Second attempt I manage a good time. I like to entertain the other customers.

The Taxi ride
I’m in a taxi coming back from Saltovka and we pass a multi car accident. Lots of guys shouting at policemen, no doubt they did not agree as to whose fault the police decided it was. My taxi driver is explaining to me that the roads have black ice on them and they drive too fast. No doubt the roads have deteriorated badly this winter, in one place the traffic is reduced to walking pace to negotiate the holes. Later on, as we approach the center at high speed, the driver hits his brakes just as the car comes to some black ice and whooosh … we go sliding through the red light, though he did manage to avoid the parked cars. I try and detect dome irony from him but it is not to be. I need a stiff drink shortly after.

I am in the fancy chemist shop. I pick my provisions and go to the kasa, which is unmanned (undevushked?). The administrator helpfully calls over the devushka to serve me, but alas as she approaches another customer approaches. My purchases to be are sitting on the counter but the other woman goes staright for the kill and hands the arriving devushka her purchase, an eye liner pencil. I accept my fate, this is Ukraine. Unfortuantely the pencil has no price and the devushka vanishes to the back to ascertain the price. Minutes pass, and finally she returns, rings up the price at which point the woman says it is too much and walks out. Whilst this plays out another woman arives at the kasa, the big strong type, and pushes in front of me. I am ready, I push back and pick up my items to thrust them towards the server, but the woman is more experienced. She pushes my arm aside and pushes her purchase towards the devushka. I have had enough. Pojalsta !! I push her out the way and ignore her look of outrage and I am served. I need more practice.

DIY Coffee

May 13, 2009

I am thinking of writing a play.

Customer enters coffee house.

[Customer] A cappucinno please.

[Staff] No.

[Customer] Why ?

[Staff] There is no milk.

[Customer] Umm, but there is a shop next door that sells milk.

[Staff] Yes there is.

[Customer] Umm, so couldn’t you go and buy some ?

[Staff] No.

Exit customer.

Today I asked the administrator ( Russian for the manager of a restaurant, normally female, who sits and does no administrating all day) why they have no milk. She says as the supplier has not arrived, and there is no method to buy milk from the money in the till. But today I had my revenge ! I went and bought my own milk and for the reward I received a free coffee! I wonder if I should start taking my own food to restaurants now ….

Addendum: I return in the evening on the way home. The wonderful Anastasia has preserved my milk in the fridge. It is my milk. Moloko Marka ! Hooray, cappucinnos for me. Oh. What’s this, they have run ot of coffee ??? A coffee shop with no milk and no coffee !! Sacre Bleur ! This is almost as bad as the pivo bar that ran out of beer last week…

Near my office is a small shop called Stock. It is one of many Second Hand shops. Shops which acquire second hand clothes from somewhere in Europe and resell them.

Every Monday there is a biq queue outside this shop so it was time to investigate further. The shop it appears is re-stocked every Monday with ‘new’ second hand clothes. I saw sweaters from M&S and jackets from the rubbish bin. Hence the rush every Monday to find the best stuff, or shall I say wearable stuff.

But the best bit is the pricing. The clothes are sold by the kilo. This of course demands me to buy silk and other light clothes. I remarked to my devushka that as she is quite small and tends to buy XS sizes this store is perfect for her as her clothes will weigh less and be cheaper 🙂

But that is not all ! On the Monday the clothes are 100UAH a kilo, which drops each day by 10UAH, so 90 on Tuesday down to 40UAH a kilo on Saturday. If only coffee was sold this way …

My language revenge

May 11, 2009

Russian is not my strong point but sometimes English has its torture too.

When my Devushka and I were in London, I mentioned that we may go shopping at Selfridge’s. I did not notice the  confused look on her face. Later at my parents’, the subject again came around to shopping, and devushka said, why are we going to a shop that only sells fridges  to look for a dress ?

Today she asked me what a sandwich course was. He who laughs last laughs longest.

I am in the Rost supermarket where they have a juicing stand.

As I ponder the menu a woman pushes in front and orders a kiwi juice. I wait patiently.

I order an apple and carrot juice. There are no carrots available (this is a supermarket..). OK, I’ll have an apple juice then. It will taste horrible she says, as she just made a kiwi juice. Ok I say, then maybe clean it first? She looks at me in a strange manner. She says she cannot as she has no water.

I do wonder if I could make this stuff up sometimes.