A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Archive for alcohol

Birthdays

As soon as I arrived at the office on the day of my birthday, I was greeted by full birthday wishes. What do I mean by a full birthday wish? I’ll give you an example. My friend and colleague Mila hugged me and looked me in the eye and said, “Congratulations! I wish you a life full of happiness and success and money, wherever you are (even if it’s not Ukraine). I wish you to always smile as brightly as you do now, and to stay young and beautiful. I wish you love and soon to be married and have children. May your life be complete and happy and may you have everything you desire.”

This was a comparatively short birthday wish.

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Purim

purim-1

Purim is pretty much the same in Ukraine as in America, with one important distinction: whereas in America Hanukkah is the major Jewish fun holiday, here that award is split between Hanukkah and Purim. In other words, Purim is a very big deal. Just like they did for Hanukkah, each Jewish organization has their own big celebration. The staff of the JCC, for example, put on a large Purimspiel play the Sunday after the holiday, replete with Hamentashen and other treats, which the entire community was invited to. At Sunday School we made a silent Purimspiel film, which was shown at the school’s Purim celebration and at the JCC play (more about the film itself in the next post). Read the rest of this entry »

Defender of the Fatherland Day

February 23 was a Soviet memorial holiday celebrating those soldiers who fell in World War II defending Russia against the Germans. Today it has become a sort of Men’s Day (to compliment Women’s Day, which takes place on March 8). Although many Ukrainians don’t celebrate this holiday, our office takes it very seriously and prepares an entire spectacle and feast for the men. The women transformed the office into a Ukrainian kolkhoz (a collective farm during Soviet times, basically a Soviet kibbutz).

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Packing list for Hillel Shabbaton in Lecnoy

  • coat
  • scarf
  • hat
  • gloves (it’s cold out!!)
  • my badass American snowboots (I’m the only woman in all of Dnepropetrovsk who owns a pair of shoes this ugly, but it’s worth it! This morning, women in skirts and high, high stiletto heels were slipping and sliding in the snow, while I was able to run and jump comfortably through it)
  • jeans
  • 2 long sleeve shirts (although really, I’d only need one. It’s very common to wear the same outfit for many days in a row here. People don’t have that many clothes here, so they wear their Sunday best every day of the week, and if that means that they wear the same two outfits again and again, so be it)
  • sweatshirt (normally, I couldn’t wear something so informal, but this is a group of university kids drinking together in the woods. I think it’ll be fine)
  • 2 pairs of leggings
  • sports bra
  • long sleeve t-shirt (I plan on going jogging. Through the woods. In the snow. I’ll be the only one, and I’ll probably do it hung over, but I don’t care. There’s only one day a week when I’m not working during daylight hours, and therefore can jog, and I’m not giving up my Saturday run just because I’m in Lecnoy!)
  • toiletries
  • Anna Karenina
  • 2 bottles of vodka (for serious)
  • 1 carton of juice (chaser)

Rosh Hashana

Friday, September 26

3 days until erev Rosh Hashana

Since the entire Joint office would have Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off, and since not everyone works on Sunday, the office Rosh Hashana celebration was set for the Friday before the holiday. Someone had heard Sharon talk about making sushi for her family, and soon all the women were asking her to teach them (there are quite a few sushi restaurants in the city, but at least in the office, only Lena really goes to any of them. Many people had never tried Japanese food, in fact). Well, one thing led to another, and Friday’s Rosh Hashana lunch was a homemade sushi feast! We all helped prepare, rolling the maki, preparing the sumka (a type of salmon, I don’t know what it’s called in English), setting up the ginger and wasabi, making a platter of all the Rosh Hashana foods– apples, honey, pomegranate, and challah (the sushi was the fish)– and of course, since this is Ukraine after all, setting up platters of pickles, pickled mushrooms, and olives.

It was a wonderful lunch! Everyone had filled out small cards for at least five other staff members, and we all exchanged these. Drinks were poured, and toasts were made. Wine abounded. Everyone was in good spirits, and lunch lasted quite a few hours (as meals here tend to do). Read the rest of this entry »

Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink

For two days each year, at different times for each bank of the river, the city turns off all the water to clean the system. That means that Tuesday and Wednesday (that’s right, Rosh Hashana) my side of the river had no running water.

Here it is necessary to give a little background information. The city’s water is not potable under any circumstances. You can’t even boil it, because apparently the toxins in it will only get worse with heat. I don’t know the chemistry behind it, and although no one here can explain why, it’s a definite fact that there is nothing to be done with the river water. Instead, everyone in the city has one of those large water jugs, either like mine shown here, or with the two tabs to dispense hot and cold water.

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