Thursday, December 28, 2006

Attempted to go buy some food at the market by Universitet subway station, but got impatient waiting for the trolley, crossed the street and went the other way, to the center.

I'm so happy we've moved. I used to love Moscow's center, and I still do, but to live there with Marta would've been a nightmare. Kyiv, no matter how much it's changed for the worse in the past year, still feels like a cosy village compared to Moscow's center.

But walking there on my own, without the stroller, I felt that the city was still its usual self: crazy, dirty, noisy - and energizing in a way that Kyiv is not.

It feels good to be back, though I know this nice feeling won't last long.

Also, there's a new dimension to the fear of getting stuck in a traffic jam now: the image of Marta, hungry and furious back home, and poor Mishah not knowing what to do with her. Like most of them, this fear is irrational - because Marta and Mishah are getting along wonderfully, and there isn't much to worry about here.

***

Trolley drivers, both males and females, are dressed as Santa Clauses now. One was smoking a cigarette as he drove.

***

At Ostozhenka, some inner devil pushed me inside an organic food store. I had no idea it was a fancy-schmancy, expensive place, but once I was there, I couldn't resist buying something: a box of Duchy Originals Orange Biscuits and a tiny glass can of Masala Chai spices.

Cost me slightly more than $20 (around 600 rubles) - outrageous.

But here's the funny part: before accepting my 1,000-ruble bill (approximately $35), the cashier girl asked me if I had some smaller denomination bills.

She basically demanded it: "Pomel'che ne budet?"

It really cracked me up.

They usually order you around like this at shitty stores - that they have no change is your problem, not theirs, and if you end up leaving without buying what you had to buy because they couldn't give you the change, it's your problem and the store's owners' problem, but not theirs, either. And you expect it at shitty stores and try to give them the exact change whenever possible.

But a place with a guard, a restaurant downstairs, a Japanese-looking saleswoman and exorbitant prices... Eventually, she did find the change for me, though.

Moscow can be so amusing.

Happened upon the Russian Nostalgia channel today - among other things, watched a re-run of the main Soviet news show Programma "Vremya".

Absolutely overwhelming.

I've no idea how they choose which old newscasts to show, but today there was one from the end of 1989, and the main theme was the revolution in Romania. Very Soviet-looking and Soviet-sounding Soviet reporters seemed rather sympathetic towards the revolutionaries - even called Nicolae Ceausescu a tyrant a few times.

There was also an item on Manuel Noriega - he was about to surrender at that time.

And - a piece on Western Ukraine and the conflict between the Russian Orthodox and the Greek Catholic churches: unlike the rest of their stories that day, the tone of this one was hostile, indignant, strangely familiar from both the Soviet times and from today's Russian news. Despite it being 1989, the Orthodox clergy seemed like part of the establishment - a weird feeling, but not surprising. Filaret, the current patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchy), was shown at some high-level meeting - and it reminded me of the 1991 article in Ogonyok that claimed that he had collaborated with the KGB, using a code name Antonov (the Wikipedia entry on Filaret mentions this bit of info, too, by the way).

Soviet anchors were simply phantasmagoric. Especially that bespectacled woman. She and the male anchor shared the common idiocy but looked differently enough to resemble a couple married unhappily for too long, forced to tolerate one another, possibly because of kvartirnyi vopros (the Soviet curse of having to share the same tiny apartment with half a dozen generations of one family). What a leap it must've been for Leonid Parfyonov to re-introduce male-female teams on NTV a few years ago - two teams in which both anchors acted as if they were buddies, almost. And how awkward they looked at first, how unnatural - must've been the burden of the Soviet past...

Sports host Vladimir Maslachenko, on the other hand, was allowed some freedom: he was dressed in a hip-looking checked suit!

Anyway, I'm hooked and will most likely watch Programma "Vremya" regularly from now on. I'm not feeling nostalgic at all - but I am very curious. Curious about the time I wasn't paying too much attention to because of all those stupid boyfriends and other teenage distractions... :)

Marta, on Dec. 27, 2006: New Year's dress rehearsal :)))

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

From our window on the seventh floor, I could tell that the guys in orange jackets down in the backyard were Tajik: the street sweepers. This is a "very Moscow" thing.

Komsomolsky Prospekt is like Khreshchatyk - three lanes in each direction. Only the traffic seems to be not as intense as it is in Kyiv now - unbelievable.

Also, this neighborhood is so much neater than Bessarabka...

Monday, December 25, 2006

The first thing I heard as we stepped out of the train in Moscow was an anti-terrorist warning: a recording of a rather melodious woman's voice, saying that as a precaution against terrorism, we should not accept passages from strangers.

They've had this recording for a long time, but after a year in Kyiv, it did sound crazy. And - it was the first taste of the perfect Russian they all seem to have here (in Lviv, the first taste of the perfect Ukrainian also used to happen to me at the train station).

***

The cab driver said Kyiv was beautiful, we said there were too many cars there now, and then he asked this: "What do khokhly call those we call 'the new Russians'?" (For those who don't know, khokhly is a somewhat derogatory term for Ukrainians - I choke on it but also believe it is often used not to offend, but to avoid sounding too politically correct; "the new Russians" - noviye russkiye - are the nouveaux riches.) We laughed and Mishah at first said that there was no special term, but then clarified: "We, too, call them 'the new Russians'."

As we were unloading, the cab driver asked how life was in Kyiv. "It's okay," we replied. "Just like anywhere else." "Good," he said. "Because from what they're telling us on TV, you'd think it's some total nightmare over there."

***

There are two elevators in our building - one opens where the apartments are, the other stops half a flight of stairs down and opens to the other side: one for the wife, the other for the mistress, to keep them from running into each other, as Mishah has explained.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The move has gone very smoothly, so smoothly I still don't fully realize I'm in Moscow. Except that our new apartment here is so very lovely - Mishah did an amazing job decorating it and all that. I feel like I'm visiting someone else's terrific place, cosy and with so much to explore: it's been a year and two months, so I only have a very vague memory of some of our stuff. Marta slept like a baby on the train - too bad the bunk was too narrow for me to really enjoy it. I can't stop feeling terrible about having left my parents behind, but I try not to think about it all the time. Also, with Marta, I couldn't be of any help to mama, so at some level, it's not a great loss to her. But she'll miss Marta a lot... Well, this is life, I guess. And we'll be back in Kyiv in about three months.

Thank you all so much for your comments and wishes... And - merry Christmas!

More later.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Papa's first day back home, mama's second one in more than two weeks, and we're moving to Moscow tomorrow. Papa's condition is breaking my heart - how he has changed in just one year, how totally helpless he is now. As for our move, a huge part of me is pretty heartbroken over it as well, but I'm so sick of Kyiv, and though Moscow is normally a lot worse, at least there'll be no hills to climb every time we go for a walk. But leaving my parents is tough, especially now. I'm so tired of always having to move... I hope Marta, unlike me, won't be cursed with this curse.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Was trying to take my mind off the sad things, did a quick GV translation, and found this photo in the process - at the Wikipedia's Maidan Nezalezhnosti page:



Supposedly, this is what they are planning to build in place of Hotel Ukraina (formerly, Hotel Moskva). I hope it's some kind of a joke...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Papa's condition seems to have gotten worse: he eats and then sleeps, but isn't really responding to anything on an emotional level. I'm very depressed. Please think positive thoughts/pray in our direction every now and then. Thank you.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Can't ignore this comment about cars left by Petro Rondiak over at Michelle Knisley's blog:

Ukrainians are registering 35,000 cars per month (official DAI data we buy via Auto-Consulting). 33% of those are in Kyiv and 30 days in an avg month yields, incredibly, 385 cars registered in Kyiv each day. This is 91% more than prior year.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I've just finished a huge Global Voices translation and feel I can still go on and on. Strange, because I'm more used to falling asleep while I type now...

***

Sorry for this silence, and thank you all so much for the kind words and thoughts... It's been a very tough week for us here.

***

Papa noticed a newspaper at someone else's table today - and asked mama to borrow it for him. We're not sure if he could read or understand anything in the paper, but that he is interested in the outside world again is a very good sign, we hope... Inshaallah. Interested in something that he loves - the news. Is obsessed with, actually... Something other than tennis, which still is the subject of what we thought was delirium, but what the doctor called "lexical crumbs" today...

Mama spent the Monday-to-Tuesday night at home - the only one so far, since last Wednesday. Papa was sleeping through most of the night then, with the help of some sedatives, and there were also new patients in their room, some with their relatives, and there was only one bed left (occupied in the daytime by a man who illegally leaves the hospital in the evening and returns in the morning for treatment).

This hospital stay is a good example of how one can get used to just about anything. By now, mama is on friendly terms with a few people in the room: they're all prepared to help each other out if necessary. Maybe it's even good that they don't have rooms with more privacy at this hospital: how would mama be able to leave papa for a few hours if there was no one but him in the room? Someone has to be there to call a nurse - that's the way it works here.

One man is from a town 100 km from Kyiv - his son is taking care of him, and he told my mama some horror stories about their local, small-town hospital and the doctors there, and compared to that, this Kyiv hospital is luxurious, almost. (An aside: the guy is 43 years old and he's got two grandkids already. His second wife is just three years older than I am, 35... His father is my mother's age - and twice a great-granddad. Crazy.)

Still, it's a horror, what's been happening to papa this year, and the state of health care in this country. It's even more disgusting now to listen to all the political bullshit on TV (and on top of it, to suffer through the daily slalom between their Lexuses with Marta in a stroller). Also, at one blog today, I read someone's comment on Mikhail Khodorkovsky: how the Russian people are responsible for what's happening to him, and I thought, God, but the man had a $15-billion fortune, right, and do they really expect people who survive on $100 a month to stand up for him now? When you are at a hospital here, you better watch how a nurse fills your syringe with the medication you need or else she'd steal it and resell it and you'll get water instead - and you expect these people to go to rallies to protest Khodorkovsky's imprisonment? (It's an incoherent rant, but you know what I mean.)

***

The tariffs war is continuing here, there was another fight at the Kyiv City Council yesterday, but I missed it, and they seem to have agreed to lower the rates by 10 percent, though I'm not sure I've got the figure right. On Wednesdays, they have live broadcasts of public executions of the Kyiv district authorities - a freak show, really. Some Kyiv residents who come there with their problems are totally clueless: one relatively young-looking guy said he and his family was homeless - including his 8-month-old granddaughter - and would they still have to pay the communal services fees? Surreal, isn't it.

***

And the infamous Nestor Shufrych (can't find a link that would provide a good portrayal of the guy, sorry) now heads the ministry of emergencies. Absurd. As absurd as the translation of the ministry's full title:

Friday, December 08, 2006

A brief note on today's City Council mess:

Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky is a blend of Kuchma and Yanukovych, a real shame. He sounds as retarded - slow and content-free (though there is some hope here, as both Kuchma and Yanukovych imroved somewhat over the years). He speaks a terrible mix of Russian and Ukrainian (I do that often myself, too, adding some English to the cocktail, but I horrify my family and friends this way, not the whole fucking country). He likes to switch into prosecutor/thug/mafioso modes, sounding inappropriately menacing in all three of them. He looks repulsive, too, but that's a matter of taste, I guess.

There's a pro-mayor majority in the City Council now - 70 deputies from Chernovetsy's Bloc, the Party of the Regions, Lytvyn's Bloc and some other entities. At least three defectors from BYuT. That sucks, obviously. And it also emphasizes the importance of all those tiny election winners - whores.

Today (well, yesterday) there was another rally by the City Council, which I couldn't attend, but I watched the live broadcast instead. From the window, I could see that the rally wasn't as big as the one a few weeks ago - because cars continued to run on both sides of Khreshchatyk.

Inside the City Council building, they spent a few hours congratulating each other on the Civil Servant's Day and failing to agree on the agenda - possibly waiting for the people outside to lose patience and go home. Which is exactly what happened around noon.

Yulia Tymoshenko's Mikhail Brodsky (also quite repulsive in manner and appearance, even though he's on "our" side) is the rebel hero of the tariffs war. He kept yelling something from the back of the auditorium, trying Chernovetsky's patience, until they deprived him of the right to speak from the podium for the day. A punishment for "naglaya morda", as the mayor put it. (How would you translate it?)

I'm too sleepy to continue writing now, so I'll just mention that the thuggish-looking guys who allegedly started the spectacular fight that I managed to catch on TV as it was happening, could've been Chernovetsky's bodyguards. Also, the opposition is expecting mass protests at the beginning of January here, when people receive the new communal services payment forms in their mailboxes and are expected to pay 3.5 times what they are paying now. Who knows. The pro-mayor majority have voted to look some more into the tariffs issue, but even if they do agree to change something, it won't be more than 10 percent off. The opposition wants to cancel the new tariffs altogether (if I'm not mistaken).

A daily dose of Kyiv hospital horrors:

Mama finally showed up around 6 pm, for the first time since around 1 pm on Wednesday. She ate (I had ordered pizza, for the first time in my life here), fed the cats, cooked something, did some laundry, played with Marta, packed four huge plastic bags of food, clothes, medication - and a toilet seat, a not-so-tiny personal luxury - all this in two hours or so - and rushed back to the hospital.

Unlike the other two hospitals, this one is huge and rather deserted; finding a nurse is a feat. Before leaving today, mama went looking for some staff to ask them to keep an eye on papa in case he decides to wander off. She, of course, was prepared to pay the nurse on duty for such a favor. But the bitch (my age, approximately) yelled at mama as she was about to enter the nurses' room: "Don't go in here, stay where you are!" Despite this initial rudeness, mama explained the situation to the bitch: that she had to leave to buy medication, among other things, and that her husband might get up and try to go somewhere, dressed in nothing but underwear, and if they saw him, they should know that he was from room #19, and they should catch him and lead him back. To which the bitch replied quite hysterically: "Man, doesn't he understand anything or what?!" Very calmly, mama said to her: "Excuse me, but have you forgotten where you work? It's a hospital, the floor for people with strokes, and some are in better shape than others, and you are here to help them all." The bitch was more polite after that and promised to look after my father. She didn't get any money from mama, of course. Kurwa.

You know, when I was having Marta at that wonderful, clean and expensive hospital last year (Isida), I made this observation: the nurses there were really, really sweet, which isn't surprising, considering the conditions they work in, and, perhaps, their salaries, and, definitely, the competition they faced in getting and keeping their jobs. But: I could easily imagine most of those women working at some totally shitty, average place - and still being as sweet and helpful. It does happen here sometimes, I know.

Anyway, my mother's spending the second night at the hospital, and it's good there are vacant beds in papa's room for now. We do fear that when it's this hospital's turn to accept emergency patients, they'll fill the room up, and mama will have to sleep on a bench in the hallway or something. Leaving my father on his own is out of question for now.

What's also breaking my heart is that Marta and I are moving to Moscow very soon, and neither mama, nor papa are able to enjoy Marta's company for these last days.

Most journalists couldn't get past the sanatorium checkpoint, especially the TV people with their heavy equipment. But a few brave souls pretended to be assistants of various politicians and did manage to slip through. Ha-ha. They should have asked the locals to show them those secret holes in the fence, thanks to which the sanatorium beach used to be quite crowded on hot, sunny days this past summer, despite the guarded checkpoint. God, how I miss summer.



(As for the "Our Ukraine" vote, Victor Baloga now heads its political council. Baloga is also head of Yushchenko's administration.)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Ah... Yushchenko's "Our Ukraine" is electing its head and political council at Pushcha-Ozerna, the sanatorium we spent the summer walking at... That place was very nice.

Some pretty serious fighting has just broken out in the Kyiv City Council.

Not sure if Klichko is involved, though :)))

Oh, they've stopped live broadcast...

It was wrong to praise those ambulance nurses yesterday: in an attempt to lower my father's blood pressure, they gave him something too strong, and the pressure dropped from 150/something to 110/something within minutes.

This must be the reason he got delirious later; his delirium was tennis-themed, something about someone not letting his teenage students in to see some important game - he was trying to convince someone that this was the only way for the kids to learn, etc., and mama had, at some point, to start playing along: she told him the game was already over.

It is heartbreaking.

Mama spent the night at the hospital, in a six-bed room with only two other male patients in addition to my father. He is much calmer now, so the night was calmer than the previous one at home, too. She's still there, waiting to get the doctor's opinion.

Marta and I were home alone with our two black cats last night. Funny how our apartment has always felt way too crowded, but yesterday it was so uncomfortably empty. I must've changed since Marta's birth: I used to love having the whole place to myself, but not anymore. Or perhaps it's because the reason why everyone's away is so different now.

Marta woke up around midnight again and stayed up till around 2 a.m. This totally screwed up the translation I was doing for Global Voices: by the time I managed to get back to it, I was too sleepy to think or care about what I was writing.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

My mother is my father's nurse again - for the third time in one year...

She hoped to get him a single room at the hospital he's been taken to, but they only have those (for an extra fee, of course) at Surgery Department. None at Neurology. I saw their Surgery floor a few years ago: at the common bathroom there, the sight of a woman wiping her ass with a newspaper instead of toilet paper was not unusual.

At another centrally-located Kyiv hospital (as central as it gets, actually), they used bathrooms shared by the whole floor to administer rectal exams to their male neurology patients. Also there, they almost got my father - age 73, post-stroke - climb to the third floor: not because the elevator was broken, but because the nurse didn't feel like walking over to it.

But today's ambulance nurses were very nice - three women, one big enough to lift and carry an average-sized man. My father can walk, though: he keeps trying to walk away somewhere all the time, even when there's an IV in his arm...

Calling an ambulance means having to let them take your father to what's basically a random Kyiv hospital - and this is part of the reason we've been wasting so much time, waiting, hoping he'd get better on his own. No signs of improvement yet, high blood pressure, other things. Getting someone packed for a hospital here feels like packing for a police interrogation with not much hope of return.

Hate this fucking country and its health care.

Tough, depressing times.

My papa's condition has suddenly gotten worse today.

The wake for the acquaintance who died in a car crash - I didn't have the guts to attend it, even though I was in the neighborhood at the time.

My friend who lost her husband to cancer a month ago told me how she had forgotten what he looked like before he got sick, but now she has put up his pre-illness portraits all over the place and it is beginning to feel better. Their baby is due in less than two months.

***

I'd rather be in Istanbul now...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Surprisingly and unfortunately, I don't have many pictures from Marta's birthday, and the few I have aren't too good. But it was a wonderful day, and Marta must've felt the special atmosphere. I still can't believe that I have a 1-year-old kid...

Someone we had a great deal of respect for died in a car crash today. May he rest in peace.

(Hurts a lot.)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Marta's one year old today!!!

(Thank you, everyone, for your wishes! We love you!!!)