Dangerous Strangers and Masochists
July 14, 2011
After class on Tuesday I met up with Ulyana and was went to the grocery to buy goods for the American style dinner that I was making that night.. I’ve been amazed at how little I spend each day. I bought all sorts of stuff for the American style dinner that I promised to make for Ulyana and her boyfriend, Oleh. I rounded up all sorts of stuff for the store even bought a new pan to bake the brownies in (I brought some from America). They were really surprised to see me just piling things into the cart. Meat is actually pretty expensive here. A whole fryer chicken cost about 8 dollars for a small one, the same thing would only cost maybe $5 in Utah.
So anyway, I spent about a total of 200 hriven on the whole thing which is maybe 25 dollars. So I’m pleased with how little money I’ve been spending. Furthermore, if you’re going anywhere with a guy here don’t even bother trying to offer to pay for yourself. The men will pay, even if you’re married like me and there is no prospect for him to get anything in return. The men pay. Period. Although if you’re in a larger group you can expect to pay for yourself, usually.
So because people are so generous here and because everything is so cheap I’ve been averaging(with the exception of the dinner expenditure) about $4 a day, maybe less.
Oleh arrived for dinner with a flower for each of us and it was very sweet. Which by the way, is pretty custom. If someone has invited you over for dinner you need to bring something as a gift: flowers, chocolate, wine.
For dinner I made an American-style chicken roast with potatoes and carrots and a mushroom gravy. I made them an Americn style salad with lettuce(which most people here think is only rabbit food) and a slap-dash, improvised attempt at ranch dressing. I had to use fresh garlic and fresh onion and fresh parsley and kefir(which is a really common drink here) instead of the buttermilk. They liked it alright I think.
Also, as an appetizer I made kind of a bruschetta with roasted red peppers. Ulyana was so concerned when I had the peppers in the oven. She kept walking past the oven in distress. When I pulled them out of the oven all black she thought they were ruined. I put her at ease that that’s how they were supposed to be.
Then for dessert we had brownies which I made from a mix that I brought from home. There are two foods I like to bring over for people to try and that’s brownies and peanut butter. The brownies were a hit (how could they not be?).
After dinner we were talking and I was saying something and I think I said a bad word because Ulyana cried out in delighted shock and just laughed hysterically. But they wouldn’t tell me what I had just said.
They have noticed a couple of things about me: that I drink a lot of water and that I have very white teeth.
So I explained that the water is because I live in a very dry climate and I start to feel tired and because Ulyana has that irresistible water filter. One new phrase that Ulyana has learned with me and gets a lot of practice hearing in English is “I need to go pee”.
For the teeth I explained that you brush your teeth twice a day, to which Ulyana interrupted and said, “Noooooo, you brush them more than that….” I really don’t, though, maybe three times at the max, but I think maybe it just seems like I’m always brushing my teeth to her. Also, I emphasized the importance of flossing.
On several occasions, here and in Moscow, I have been suspected of being a spy. I guess it’s so atypical for an American to want to live in Russia or Ukraine and because I learned the language pretty fast. Even Roma, my friend about whom I’ve already written, admitted to me that he had often wondered if I was a spy. On Tuesday night we were talking about something and I remembered a word that they had just taught me the day before. They were amazed that I remembered it. Ulyana said that I quickly memorize things and Oleh said, ‘just like a spy’. So, there you go with the spy jokes.
Oleh took us out for a drive around Lviv at night. It was very beautiful. The churches are all lit up. Then we went to a place called Vysoky Zamok or ‘High Castle’, a place on a hill from where you can see the whole city. There is no longer an actual castle there just a television tower. We walked up a bunch of steps. It was night time so really all you could see from the hill were the lights of the city but nothing in all that much detail. Around you on the lookout platform you could look around at the scenery of young people getting drunk and making out. It was romantic. (sarcasm)
Our teacher is so nice. She always brings all sorts of things for us to snack on and drink. I was delighted that she brought big bottles of water for us to drink. The university is kind of on a hill and so by the time I plunk myself down in the classroom I’m usually quite parched. So right when I sat down I drank several cups of water. But for the rest of the lesson I was restless and couldn’t concentrate. I had to go pee so bad and I was dreading the toilet hole. So I spent about an hour and a half not really listening or registering anything the teacher was saying, all I could see in my head was that urine-besplattered hole in the ground and dreading the task that inevitably awaited me.
After class I met up with a friend that I met online and he ended up taking me to a deserted part of town and chopping me into pieces. No, but I’m sure that’s what some people thought was going to happen when I told them that I would be meeting up with people I had met online. So in your face, haters. Not only did he not chop me into pieces, he didn’t hit me, didn’t hit on me. As a matter of fact he was ridiculously kind, generous and respectful. He took me to a REALLY nice restaurant and opened doors for me and paid for everything. Let me clarify a couple of things that are difference between our cultures that I’ve noticed. 1) Here it is totally acceptable to have friends of the opposite sex. I know a lot of people whose best life-long friends are of the opposite sex and there have never ever been any sort of ‘benefits’. 2) Here men are very chivalrous, they open doors for you and they pay for you. They don’t expect you to put out in return, like they do inAmerica. These guys know that I’m a married woman. But it’s just not acceptable for a guy to let a girl pay for herself, especially a guest to the country. Moreover, people are so interested and happy to talk with foreigners that such an outing is not based on attraction as it is curiosity.
So judge me if you will for spending time with these friends of the opposite sex, but I can tell you that it’s just different here. There are not the same expectations. And people are just extremely generous.
I knew about this Slavic generousity and call me naïve but I believe that most people in the world are good people. So I had absolutely no fears or doubts in planning this trip, knowing that I was going to be at the mercy of strangers. No fears whatsoever, and this terrified my mother.
So I met with Vitaly, who drove me around in his car which I greatly appreciated. But driving in Lviv is somewhat of a pain because ALL the roads are cobblestone. So it gives the city a super quaint, historic feel but it’s super annoying to drive on. We drove to several different places, walked around, went to cafes. He knew all sorts of interesting little places and details about the city. For example, a building(from the 18th century) where the decorative stone-carved pattern is of a man pleasuring himself. And while I’m on that note, we passed by a statue in commemoration to Leopold Ritter van Sacher-Masoch. This was the man from whom we get the word ‘masochism’. He was born in Lviv and enjoyed a spankin here and there. The statue is pretty subtle but you can reach down into his pocket and there’s a special surprise for you to feel. I’ll let you get imaginative about what it could be. Let’s put it this way, it’s not a roll of quarters. I just took Vitaly’s word for it that that’s what’s in there. I’m a married woman, I passed.
So Lviv has a perverted side, I’m realizing. But don’t we all?