Traveling to Georgia (by boat)…

For our summer holiday we decided to take advantage of the fact we are based in Ukraine and explore the region more. So we decided to visit Georgia and Armenia in a two-weeks “quest”.

Days 1-2 – Odessa

We started our journey with a two day stay in Odessa, one of the largest cities in Ukraine, seaside resort at the Black Sea, known for the Film Festival organised here in the summer. It was my first visit, but it is an impressive city, in the sense it is prosperous, there are a lot of renovations going on in the city and they are done in good taste. The old buildings are restored much in the same manner and style they were built, we have not seen flashy glass buildings that disrupt the chromatic and architecture.

Our idea was also to spend a few days at the seaside, therefore we stayed close to the beach, which is slightly out of town and far from the centre. We appreciated the warm water, with temperatures around 22-24 degrees Celsius, and that even though not very modern, they had play area facilities on the beach for children.

One of the highlights not to be missed are the Potemkin Stairs, with the monument to Richelieu; they are built as to create an optical illusion, thus a person looking down the stairs sees only the landings, and the steps are invisible, but a person looking up sees only steps, and the landings are invisible. If you go down on them (there is also a funicular), the viewpoint from the port is also nice. Another place we enjoyed are the City gardens, with lots of nice restaurants, with more or less traditional food and quite affordable.

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Day 3-4 – Boat

The reason we have started our trip with Odessa was that we have planned to go to Georgia… by boat. Therefore, on Friday evening, we took the town bus to a part of the port out of the city, and we checked in for our 2 day trip by boat to Batumi, in Georgia.

The most difficult part of the journey was definitively the check in. As the ship was carrying cargo, the formalities for those took much longer, and to our surprise, there were quite a few other passengers (including families with children) waiting. In total it took 2h, but the real problem was probably the disorganised manner in which they acted, as they did not supply clear information, but finally, after two rounds of stamps on our tickets (no idea for that, but they were “needed”), security check, passport clearance, we got inside the actual boat, and to our cabin. The room was bigger than we expected, the one we found had a bunk bed, a coach, a wardrobe and private bathroom.

Although we have done the formalities on Friday evening, the boat did not sail till early Saturday, when we woke up to the smooth sailing of the boat. The trip itself was quite relaxing, all the food was provided, we dined in servings and we had quite a routine in our mini-universe. There was a TV/bar room with movie reruns of Richard Gere movies (in Russian!), a playroom for children (funny fact: as the company also runs trips to Constanta, a Romanian port on the Black Sea, some of the cartoons were in Romanian) and of course the deck where one could pass their time leisurely.

On Saturday evening we enjoyed a beautiful sunset in the sea, and felt a companionship with the other passengers. There was a sense of community although we did not even speak the same languages, but far away from media and communication, where news apparently did not reach us, they were a sense of anchor.

After this high, Sunday morning started with seasickness for me, as during the night, and as we were advancing to deeper waters, a storm had set and the sea got rough. Well, on the upside, at least the time passed quickly in the morning, and although I skipped breakfast, my appetite returned by lunch and by dinner I was alright, although a bit anxious to arrive.

We arrived on Monday morning in Batumi, at around 6 AM, but with all the formalities to enter the country – the customs officers had taken over the TV/bar room with their computers, and after a few checks, they welcomed us to Georgia – we were out in the port at 8 AM.

All in all, the boat trip was a nice experience, although for me, I think 2 days is the maximum limit for the time I am capable to be on sea… for now.

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Days 5-7 – Batumi

Batumi, one of the Georgian ports and resorts at the Black Sea, came as a surprise to us. It is one of those towns that we probably would have missed if the boat did not happen to end there.

First of all, it is very small, which we enjoyed, because we could walk almost everywhere and is stroller-friendly. Secondly, as it is a port as well, it is very multicultural, hosting Orthodox churches, Catholic one, Armenian Apostolic one, a synagogue, a mosque. Thirdly, and what surely impressed me, is that you get a feel of the Oriental style already, and it is quite a modern town.

We walked along the seaside front, enjoying the modern sculptures and hotels, the dancing fountains, we took a ride on the cable car which offers a very good view of the whole port, but also visited the local marketplace, which takes you back 50 years ago (before supermarkets).

The food is amazing, with local “pies” called “hachapuri”, which are filled with great cheese, or fried egg, very rich in taste and flavour (we barely managed to finish one).

The climate is almost tropical though, and even when cloudy, the air is stiff, and one gets hot just by walking. The temperature of the sea was even better than in Odessa, in the range of 24-26 degrees Celsius, and the only downside for the beach is that it is rocky, not sandy.

We really had a good time there though, and we are looking forward to going there again, especially as we have discovered there are direct flights from Kiev to Batumi!

Next stop – Yerevan, but I would like to write about Armenia in a separate post, therefore see you next time!

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Traveling to Israel…

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One of the easy and exotic destinations that Kiev offers is Tel Aviv, so we decided to try it for the long 1st of May weekend (I love how Labour day is celebrated by not having to work!). Anyway, we packed our sunscreen and turned up to the airport 3 h before to enjoy a 3 day weekend in a place both of us had’t been before

Day 1

Israeli airlines fly at night, so we enjoyed our first night partly in the airplane, partly in the airport, and it is amazing to go out at night to a 17 degrees Celsius weather! For the first day, we decided to spend in Jerusalem, as distances between places are very small, and from Tel Aviv airport there is a direct „shared taxi” to Jerusalem. It leaves from platform 2 once it gets full, and cost 64 NIS to your place of destination – it is a bit expensive compared to the Egged bus, but the latter is not direct from the airport and it was still nighttime.

Therefore we arrived bright and early – around 7 o’clock in Jerusalem. We first explored the market, which was just opening up, and had a nice breakfast in a nearby cafe. The prices are quite high, comparable to Western countries, but the quality was good.

The local market is a space where you can find almost anything, from herbs to shoes, from tea, cheese and sweets to a barber’s shop.

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It felt refreshing to see all those people starting the day, and thought it would be a contrast to the Old city. Oh, how wrong was I… After enjoying a fresh orange juice, squeezed just in front of us, we slowly made our way to the centre, passing by the Russian church and the former British consulate. Everyone in Israel speaks English, from the elderly to the smallest child, and the British mandate which is still within living memory must have something to do with it.

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Not far away, the sight of the Jerusalem fortress makes its appearance. Once entering the small streets, you are lost into a labyrinth of alleys that form a bazaar. Armed with a map (that you can get for free at the airport or any tourist information centre you stumble on), we tried to make our way through. What surprised me the most was that even though the quarters are marked distinctively on the map – Christian, Jewish, Muslim – in reality there is no delimitation, you stumble from one to the other and you find all kinds of people everywhere – we saw Jewish people in the Muslim quarter, Muslims in the Christian one, etc.

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Once we arrived at Via Dolorosa, which in my mind it was a place of pious pilgrimage, I was struck by how tourist-y it was, with lots of shops to sell icons, stars of David or Arab carpets if you’s like, and even outdoor places where you could grab a beer! Groups of chanting pilgrims merged with local children doing tricks on bikes, outdoor vendors and cars coming from both sides!

We have also made our way (slowly, as it is not a stroller-friendly place!) to the Wailing Wall, where religious Jews (divided into male/female) were singing continuous chants. There is security to enter the site, but they didn’t pay too much attention as we had a baby, and once you were in, they were not strict on taking photos, or approaching the Wall to say a prayer and touch it, as long as you were respectful – that goes for women, for men it is harder to blend in, if you don’t wear the appropriate hair covering.

The second main attraction for that day was going to the Chruch of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the most important Christian pilgrimage sites. While I was impressed by the grandeur and the structure of it, the little church where the Tomb of Christ is believed to be was a bit disappointing. The queue is huge, but you can skip in if you are a group of clerics (that happened to us) or elderly and bold, and once you patiently wait in line, you are rushed by a priest that only gives you „10 seconds”. Everything happened a bit fast, but I felt lucky I managed to arrive there.

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For the end of the day, we decided to step into the Armenian Quarter, visibly quieter, and then we witnessed an incredible episode. As Sabbath was starting (you feel it once shops and museum start closing) all religious Jewish people were preparing to go to the synagogue, wearing their traditional clothing, carrying their children by hand, and we saw ourselves slowly making our way back to the Wailing Wall. The sensations were amazing – the place was coming to life, in the light of dusk, the ceremony was carried away and songs were sung. It was really a sight to behold.

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With that image in mind, we made our way to the place where the buses where living to Jerusalem, a small street next to the Russian Church. I was a little uneasy as all public transportation was closed, but these buses ran quite often at only 16 NIS the trip.

Once arriving in Tel Aviv, the atmosphere was really different. Long were the old stones, cahedrals and secular landmarks. But a new, modern city had carved its way. Our hotel was located by the beach and we arrived there with the impression we had lived two lives in a whole day, and with the desire to see more the following day

Day 2

It was a slow, quiet day. Waking up to a sunny and warm day, we took our time getting breakfast and then the aim was walking along the beach and turning into Jaffa. Jaffa is a historical town that was built over 4000 years ago, which made it the oldest place we had ever set foot until now, and which was generally run by the Palestines. The Jews thus built Tel Aviv and the latter got so built up and spread until it came to the outskirts of Jaffa, and now the whole area is known as Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

We stopped along the way on the beach, and had a nice lunch at a local Fish and chips place, where they served fresh shrimps, calamari and other type of fish. After lunch, we took a boat that took us out in the sea from where we enjoyed a nice view of the city of Jaffa.

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The day was enjoyable and passed in a slow way. As the Sabbath was still ongoing, Jewish shops were closed, but Muslim and Christian ones not. That was a contrast to Day 3, where the latter were closed, but the Jewish one, including the tourist information centre had reopened.

Day 3

We checked out of the hotel quite early and actually  had only half a day to explore the cities more. We hit the beach again and what I enjoyed most, besides the fine sand, warm and clean sea, and the fact it was free, were the playgrounds for children and shelters in the shade, which made the place really child-friendly for us.

Enjoying another Jaffa orange juice before we left, and discovering new nice places to eat – one has to be careful not to fall for the tourist traps or get ripped off – we slowly had to say goodbye to the Mediteranean sea and make our way to the train station, passing through Jaffa historical centre.

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The train station is located in a quite idle place of the city, there are no real shops around, and itself is very small and packed with security, which makes it pleasant only for short stays. The trains are quite modern (German trains going on British tracks) and we arrived at the airport quite early, but necessarily so, as Israel has one of the most complicated and cumbersome check-in procedure, that includes proflling.

Therefore, the 3 h ahead were just enough to run to Terminal 3 for check-in although our flight was from Terminal 1, and therefore we got back there, where we enjoyed one of the largest duty free areas in the world!

The trip was a great success, and we are already looking forward to going back, but strangely enough, I did not like Israel for the reasons I imagined. I always thought of it as a pilgrimage site, the equivalent to Mecca for Christians and Jews, but it revealed itself as a place buzzing with life, where the separation between different cultures and religions is not clear at a first glance. It reminded me of America, without the sense of belonging to the same identity, and that surprised me.

Personally, I don’t know if I would be able to live in such a multicultural place – a bit too much even for me – but I was happy to find such a place existed, and in Israel of all places!

Babies and superstitions…

Ukraine has offered us a bright new beginning, in the purest form… we are waiting for our second baby. I have finished the first trimester and both baby and mother are well, albeit the mother a little impatient.

We have decided, as with our first, to wait until the birth to find out the gender – but that does not stop a curious unoccupied mother to research the old wives’ tales regarding gender prediction in a fun post. Please take into account this post is just for laughs, that means that the myths do exist, I found and tried them, but they are not scientifically proven (not at all) and I do not mean to offend anyone by posting. I will make a prediction for my one baby, and be able to shed light in about…. 6 months!

Lastly, there won’t be any morning sickness/form of belly/cravings tell-tale signs, but some that I found more original and “pseudo-scientific”. For some I could also compare with my already born baby, which I will share.

Are you ready? OK, let’s have some fun!

1. Chinese chart/Chinese gender prediction site

This one is one of the most known, and its accuracy is rated on some sites as being as high as 97 %. It apparently began in ancient China, in order to predict the gender for the royalty, and for this you just need the date of birth of the mother and the date of conception. It’s harmless and you only have to check the chart (e.g. http://www.chinesegenderchart.info/gender-prediction.php). The catch? You have to know your Chinese age – in general + 1 year to your ”real” one, but depending on when you are born, it can be two (like in my case).

For my first pregnancy, it correctly predicted the gender. For this second one, it says boy, BUT it is a 1-month window between girls, therefore these data are not the most reliable.

Anyway, the result for this one is boy.

2. Full Moon method

Similar to the Chinese one, it takes one step further – the gender of the baby apparently depends on the phase of the moon when you conceived.

There are online engines to show the phases of the moon for different years, I will show only for 2015:

New                                                Full
2014 Dec 22 1:36                 2015 Jan 5 4:54
2015 Jan 20 13:15               2015 Feb 3 23:10
2015 Feb 18 23:49              2015 Mar 5 18:07
2015 Mar 20 9:39                2015 Apr 4 12:07
2015 Apr 18 18:59               2015 May 4 3:45
2015 May 18 4:16                2015 Jun 2 16:22
2015 Jun 16 14:08               2015 Jul 2 2:22
2015 Jul 16 1:26                  2015 Jul 31 10:46
2015 Aug 14 14:55              2015 Aug 29 18:38
2015 Sep 13 6:43                2015 Sep 28 2:52
2015 Oct 13 0:07                 2015 Oct 27 12:06
2015 Nov 11 17:48              2015 Nov 25 22:45
2015 Dec 11 10:30              2015 Dec 25 11:12
2016 Jan 10 1:31

If the conception date is between the time of a new moon (from the start of a new moon up until one day before full moon) then you carry a girl. If it falls during a full moon and the days up to the next new moon then you will carry a boy.

According to this one, I am carrying a boy. This one holds also true for my first pregnancy, and in a strange way, it actually makes sense for me – again, no 100% guarantee.

3. Japanese Gender Chart

To know the gender of the baby, you will need to know the father’s month of birth, the mother’s month of birth and the month of conception.

Step 1 ~ At table 1 below, find out the number where the father’s month of birth meets the mother’s month of birth. It is the secret number .

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Table 1

Step 2 ~ At table 2, find out the baby gender by crossing the month of conception with the secret number.

Table 2
Table 2

Result for me – boy, although, according to this method, my first should have been a boy too…

4. Russian method, or the “fresh blood” theory

This method, originated by Russian folklorists, which I named the “fresh blood” theory, starts from the hypothesis that blood is `renewed` every 4 years for men and every 3 years for women, and the sex of the baby is given by the parent who has the “fresher” blood.

Example (not our own)
Father’s birthday : May 6, 1986
Mother’s birthday : June 12, 1988
Date of conception : December 18, 2014
———————————————-

Blood renewal on the father : May 6, 1986 ➙ May 6, 1990 ➙ May 6, 1994 ➙ ……. ➙ May 6, 2008 ➙ May 6, 2014
Blood renewal on the mother : June 12, 1988 ➙ June 12,1991 ➙ June 12,1994 ➙ ……. ➙ June 12, 2009 ➙ June 12, 2012

Obviously, the father’s blood is newer than the mother’s, and so a boy is expected.

By this method, I should be carrying a girl. It holds true for my first too.

5. First kick – where does it land?

This one is relatively simple, but it depends on the timing. Where do you first feel your baby kicking? If it is on the right side, then it’s a boy. If it’s the left one, then it’s a girl.

For this pregnancy, I felt kicks on my left side, which would make it a girl. I cannot remember for my first one.

Apparently, there is somewhat scientific evidence if we were to believe this study. Through a sample of 5276 pregnant women that underwent ultrasonography from 1997 to 2007, Dr. Saad Ramzi Ismail found that,

97.2% of the male fetuses had a chorionic villi/placenta location on the right side of the uterus whereas, 2.4% had a chorionic villi/placenta location to the left of the uterus. On the other hand 97.5% of female fetuses had a chorionic villi/placenta location to the left of the uterus whereas, 2.7% had their chorionic villi/placenta location to the right side of the uterus.

6. Hairline of first baby

All right, this one is somewhat restrictive, as it depends on the hairline of the first child. In India, mothers look at the hairline of their children to predict the sex of their next child. When the hairline of their first child is straight, the unborn child she is carrying will be of the same sex; if the hairline is pointed (or V-shape) then her next child will be of the opposite sex.

For my first, the hairline is V-shaped, like in the picture below, which would mean we are expecting a child of the opposite sex, that is, a boy. I will not comment on the scientifically proven aspect…

Pointed hairline and Straight hairline

7. Wedding ring test

This is one of the funniest ones, and I really did it just for laughs. Surprisingly, it actually showed something!

The way it’s done is by hanging an object, usually the wedding ring from a thread and letting it move above your belly button. If the motion is from one side to the other, like a pendulum, you are expecting a boy. If the motion is in a circle, then you are expecting a girl. It is explained by the radio-magnetic field that surrounds your child, and could hold some truth in my opinion.

For me, it moved like a pendulum, therefore pointing to a boy.

If you’d like to have video proof, some people even recorded it!

8.  Instinct

I know it might sound lame, but I would like to close on this note, and apparently when asked to predict the sex of their future baby, 71 % of mothers get it right! So, I’ll take that 50-50% chance, and say… girl.

And it’s not just to even the balance on these tests, but it’s what the “voice” is telling me. Too bad my daughter is not speaking yet, as when asked about the sex of their future sibling, the prediction of the sibling is even more accurate than the mother’s, somewhere around 90%.

On this note, and to wrap up, we have:

Team Blue – 5

Team Pink – 3

We’ll know for sure in 6 months, but I hope it was as fun for you as it was for me.

If you have any experiences to share, or know of any wacky (but safe) methods to predict the gender, feel free to share! As of now, the bets are on!

P.S.Update – my mother’s instinct failed, the tell-tale signs were right – it’s a boy 🙂

Pysanky Festival and Patriotic War Memorial

Pysanky is the traditional art of decorating Easter eggs. On Saturday we had the chance to see some of the decorated eggs at St. Sofia Cathedral! Although the festival did not impress in magnitude – there was only a small collection – it did impress through the work put in it, as each giant egg represented an Ukrainian region.

 

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We even bought a kit to paint eggs at home – you only need a special needle, wax, candle, and of course eggs – there was even a tutorial session on site!

On Sunday, as the weather was grey, we went to visit the Patriotic War Museum at the Motherland Monument – it is impressive as it does not only portray the Soviet „golden days”, but the whole way of displaying is Soviet, like stepping in a time capsule and traveling fifty years back. What we found especially interesting (except the display!) was that, in the midst of debates regarding forbidding any Soviet signs, the museum was selling old Soviet „mementos”, like plates, belts, and even flasks!

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Between tradition and war commemoration, we spent the weekend in the past – maybe trying to understand it better, and taking from it the lessons we need for a peaceful future…

Traveling to Cernăuți

An important part of an expat’s life is the travels he or she makes during the stay in a new country.

On the weekend of 11-13 of April, for (the Orthodox) Easter, we have done such a trip and gone to Cernăuți, a town in the South-West of Ukraine, close to the border with Romania. The town was actually part of Romania for a while, in the period between the two World Wars, which explains why even today the second most common language after Ukrainian is actually Romanian there.

Day 1

Having traveled overnight by train, we have got an early start on Saturday, with the sun on our side. The train was crowded, and full, and most people were going away for the long weekend, but the experience was interesting, and there is a sense of togetherness and comradery, that goes from striking conversations with neighbours, sharing food (or toys in our case) and ends with a cup of tea ”from the house”.

Tea for two

Tea for two

The first day was spent discovering the town, which struck me as old, but well kept. Sweeping people were there bright and early as we arrived, as well as the people in the markets, buying their eggs in order to paint them red (an Easter tradition here), or their ”cozonac” (sweet cake bread) to enjoy with their families on Sunday Easter. The preparations run on Saturday, so on Sunday night people would be ready with their baskets and take them to church where they would be blessed.

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The other half a day we kind of spent looking for the correct bus station to take us to monastery Bănceni, where we decided to spend Easter, an Orthodox community run by a Romanian priest who is well known as the monastery runs a neighbouring orphanage which hosts around 300 children, and whom the children know and address as ”father”.

Finding the right bus station was tricky, but after getting directions in Romanian (instead of English, that was a first!), walking for about a kilometre, and then getting the help of a local Ukrainian who called a Romanian friend to be our translator, we arrived at the correct bus stop, next to „Ekvator” (terminus of bus nr. 9 for future reference). There it seemed we have stepped into a ”mini Romania”, as everyone on the bus, including the driver, were speaking Romanian, and we could ask for directions.

The bus left us at the intersection with the small road that goes to the monastery, and after about 2 km of uphill walk, we finally arrived at this piece of Heaven that is closer to Romania than to Cernăuți. It is actually part of the Herța region, territory which belonged till June 1940 to Moldova, and then to Romania, without being part of either Bucovina or Basarabia. As it happened, it had been occupied by Soviets together with Basarabia and Northern Bucovina, following the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement. After the disunion of the USSR in 1991, the Herța region was attributed to independent Ukraine, as were Northern Bucovina, Northern and Southern Basarabia.

The monastery is set up on a hill, seemingly looking towards Romania, as well as Ukraine. The scenery is lovely, and peaceful, and the buildings are new – the construction of the monastery started in 1994 – and well kept. They welcome everyone, and they even have animals around, the children can enjoy playing with the rabbits and peacocks.

The Easter celebration was very nice, a lot of people gathered in the imposing church, and, on the strike of midnight, all lights went out as the priest exited the altar with the torch, from whom everyone took the light and continued the prayers till morning. For me it was special indeed, as the ceremony was in Romanian, and therefore felt like home, not in a foreign country. These are the things one cherishes more if living abroad.

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Day 2

With a sense of peace and positive thoughts, we left on Sunday again for Cernăuți. We actually got a lift from a Romanian who has been crossing the border for Easter for 3 years now and enjoys spending the holidays in this part of the world. I was a little reluctant to go back, as it seemed to me that Cernăuți would be quiet on a Sunday afternoon, moreover Easter Sunday, which people usually spend in family. Actually, it turned out my suppositions were wrong.

Arriving in the centre again, we discovered the main pedestrian street which opened a new view of the town – and it was then that I understood why the place is also called ”little Vienna”. The architecture here is a more Germanic one, reminiscent of the Austro-Hungarian rule. And it turned out that the town wasn’t deserted at all, but everyone seemed to have decided for a stroll and took advantage of the warm weather. Different street musicians gathered from time to time, including break dancers, to the great delight of the children, who were even imitating – a great view!

As we turned into a nice restaurant for dinner, we didn’t regret spending more time in Cernăuți rather than the countryside. The town was definitely lively and fun!

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Day 3

All right, after experiencing the old, traditional town, but also the more modern, lively part of it, and when we thought the town had nothing more to offer, we chanced upon a leaflet of a fair at the Village Museum. Since it was our last day, and quite a sunny one, we decided to go for it and join the event. It turned out to be my favourite day on the whole!

The Village Museum hosted a folk fair which included live music with different groups, carriage rides, stools with different handmade objects, and of course, barbecues! All in open air – the Village Museum just seemed to come to life. It was an amazing venue for a nice event, I enjoyed the fact that my daughter could run freely (the confines were imposed by the wooden fence of the museum), that the products served were fresh and homemade, that I occasionally heard Romanian spoken or even sung (for those who know ”Dulce-i vinul”), and overall because it was not overcrowded, just the right amount of people with the right amount of spirit to make the event fun, and therefore successful.

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As it turned out, there was not a day that was the best, but each had their own, unique appeal, and left us with a very eclectic and wonderful impression of Cernăuți, this borderline town that seems forgotten somewhere on the map, which does not receive a lot of tourists, and those who come are generally nostalgic after one era or the other, and forget to see the new place that has become, buzzing with life and with young people. Personally, we enjoyed the place and were happy to get this positive vibe to take back with us, and in the spirit of the holidays just passed, I cannot end without wishing you – Hristos voiscrese!

Under construction…

This is the post in which I will add photos of the city, and it will be ”under construction” as I will add them as we go along. I will try to post the old, the new, the beautiful, the ugly, the classic, the modern, the sunny, the cloudy, the graffiti, and everything in between.

Looking for language courses…

Another part of our experience here is looking for a language school to learn (at least) basic Russian. My husband found a promising one close to where we are staying, and I went and visited it. Although a little hidden, it’s an apartment-kind of entrepreneurship (much like the nursery I was writing about in an earlier post), but the people there surprised me as young, dynamic, smart and accommodating. Also, they have been running for a little over a year, but had students from all over the world – they had hung a map, and the only part that still needed covering was Latin America (they probably don’t come here because of the weather, I laughed).

A little embarrassed, I explained our situation, and asked about their method of teaching. You see, as an Eastern European, I was taught foreign language in a thorough manner, but in quite a tedious fashion, lessons and lessons about conjugating verbs in verbal modes and times that even natives don’t know how to use… And although it is a very accurate way to learn new languages, it takes years. Literally. Thus my shyness in explaining that is not what we needed. The teacher stepped in and continued for me. They understand our needs. The lessons are highly interactive, focused on day-to-day conversations (going to a grocery store, ordering a cab). I sighed and we both laughed. It was nice to get that out in the open. Because the truth is, at the end of the day, even though it would be nice, I don’t need to read Tolstoy in Russian just yet. But I do need to pay bills or buy stamps.

In the end, a little anecdote about different ways of learning, and the difference between being a native speaker and learning a language ”in levels”:

As I was studying for TOEFL and looking on a one-choice exercise for phrasal verbs (I believe it was a choice between „filling in” or „filling out” a form, never understood that one), I looked up at my husband, native English speaker, my guru, and asked which was the correct one. ”Both” he replied immediately and nonchalantly. ”But… there is only one correct choice! Which one is it?”, I urged. ”Well, either… I would understand either way!”, he continued and moved on. I laughed, but it was also the day I understood that getting good scores in exams doesn’t mean much. Because at the end of your language struggles, you just want to be understood. And while getting trick questions at language tests might do it, even native speakers aren’t so demanding. Because language evolves in a dynamic way, and in real life, you can express yourself in countless ways, there is no single one-choice answer. It was also the day I stopped asking my husband for language advice; he thought me everything I needed 🙂