Sunday, November 25, 2012

Circus Circus!

Every so often my department at Kharkiv National University organizes events for the foreign students and this month we all went to the circus. While most Americans think of the circus as a summer time event most places in the former Soviet Union have permanent venues and arenas for circus shows that happen year round. Here is the arena which says цирк the Russian word for circus.
 This inside of the arena which was not very full.
Our seats were the cheap seats in the last row of the arena but they cost like $5 and we were able to move up after intermission. They even had real popcorn which was tasty and I am clearly very excited about it!
The biggest animals they had were small Shetland ponies...I was hoping for a elephant but maybe next time!
This was a family of male acrobats...not sure where the women were but they were pretty good.
This was a weird magician with four identical assistants.
 The whole cast of the circus at the finale.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Holodomor Remembrance Day

There are always exciting things going on in Freedom Square which is a block away from our apartment. Usually I walk by and there is something going on that I don't really understand so I just take pictures and then go home and read the newspaper. Today was no different when I walked by and there were all these candles and a news crew there video taping the speeches. 

It turns out that today was Holodomor Remembrance Day. If you remember from an earlier post, the holodomor was a man made famine in 1932-1933 where more than 4 million Ukrainians we systematically starved in order to force the farmers to collectivization their land. People in other parts of the Soviet Union started to death as well but the worst part of it was in Ukraine with Kharkiv topping the most affected list. Of course this is debated by historians and I have seen people almost come to blows when discussing this theme so take my opinion on the event as it is. The holodomor is an even sadder event when you consider that Ukraine is the bread basket of Europe so having millions of people starve to death in such a fertile area of the world is tantamount to genocide (a label which is hotly contested as well). During Soviet times this event was brushed under the rug and it wasn't until 2006 after the Orange Revolution that people started officially memorializing this event in Ukraine. Needless to say I was happy that I could glimpse the memorial ceremony to this horrible atrocity and listen to people remember it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Rotary Visitor

I am the first Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar that the clubs in Kharkiv have ever hosted. This means that everyone has been wonderful and welcoming to me since I arrived. There is one more scholar in my district 2230 (which makes up Poland, Ukraine and Belarus) who is based in Poland. He had a hard time contacting clubs in Poland so he decided to come to Ukraine and meet with clubs here since they are so great! I was able to set up meetings for him at the all three clubs in Kharkiv and attended the meetings in order to translate his speech and answer questions from the Rotarians at these meetings. It was nice to bring a guest to the meetings and we had many people asking us questions about life and politics in the US!

This is us meeting with the Rotary Club Kharkov City.
And our meeting with the Rotary Club Kharkov Mriya.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Research in Kyiv

During my visit to Kyiv I also did a number of interviews for my research with non-governmental organizations and attended a workshop sponsored by La Strada, one of the big counter trafficking organizations in Ukraine. The workshop was on the practical aspects of working with the changes to the new Ukrainian law on human trafficking. It was conducted in Ukrainian and let me just say that all those people who tell you Ukrainian and Russian are practically the same language are WRONG! I probably understood 50 percent of the workshop but it was still a good chance to learn about how the changes to the law would affect service providers in Ukraine and network with people. Let's just say after the workshop I am very excited to start my Ukrainian lessons next semester. Here are some pictures from the workshop.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Rotary Club-Kyiv International

While we were in Kyiv, I stopped by the Rotary Club-Kyiv International and gave my speech for the first time in English. Since the club is made up of mostly expats and foreigners from Scandinavia, Germany and Canada, hence the international in the title, their club language is English. It was very interesting to hear the impressions of other foreigners on life in Ukraine and hear all about their philanthropic ventures. The meeting was also in a Radisson which was fun for me to visit because I worked in a Radisson Hotel during high school and much of college so I enjoyed seeing how things were done in Ukraine.

 This is me and the club president Jesper Lindholt, he is originally from Denmark.  
Giving my presentation!  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Kyiv Tourism: Part III

Here is the epic conclusion to my fun touristy things in Kyiv post! We had a lot of fun and didn't even get to see half of the things on my list! Hopefully was are going back in February for more research and sightseeing!

Matt and I on the balcony of our apartment in Independence Square.
Walking to the Kiev Pechersk Lavra founded in 1051, it is one of the most sacred places in all of Orthodoxy.
A nice man wanted to take our picture...most of the people going to the Lavra are pilgrims going to pray in the caves beneath the lavra which were dug into the mountain side by monks who were persecuted from practicing above ground.
The controversial monument to the Ukrainian famine or holodomor on the way to the Lavra. It is controversial because many people argue that the Soviets did not systematically starve Ukraine, the breadbasket of the Soviet Union in order to collectivize the farmers. They say a lot of people starved from 1932-33 in the entire Soviet Union and that it was not aimed at just one ethnic group. Considering I took of a photo and wrote about the monument I am assuming you can guess what side of that argument I agree with!
Inside the upper part of the Lavra.  As I said it was built on a hill so there are two parts and walking on cobblestones coupled with a steep incline can make walking difficult!
After coming out of the caves where over a hundred people are buried and their bodies have been preserved
The Rodina Mat or Mother Motherland (yes, that is the real name not my mistaken translation) World War II Memorial. Despite the fact that it's a woman I still think it's hideous! The museum underneath her tells about life in Ukraine during the war and was very interesting even though it it has a clear Soviet bias!
And that concludes the tourism part of our trip to Kyiv! Stay tuned for more fun posts on my research and Rotary presentations! This last picture of a monument in Independence Square says its on 409 KM to we will definitely becoming back for more fun and adventures!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kyiv Tourism: Part II

We had so much fun in Kyiv that it didn't fit in one blog post. Here is part II of Kyiv touristy things! My friend Josh who is a huge hockey fan told me that the qualifying matches for the Olympics were going to be in Kyiv while we were there so we went to see Ukraine play Spain. As you can probably guess since Spain doesn't really have ice, Ukraine crushed them 8-0. The first period was really close and then Ukraine took over. We had really great seats that cost $5!

Vanessa and I enjoying our wonderful seats!
This is how close I could get to the ice!
Vanessa and I visited the ethnographic museum on the outskirts of Kyiv. At this museum you can see architecture from all different parts of Ukraine so if you can't visit the whole country you can go here and feel like you did!
Also there are huge pysanky eggs!
Enjoying donuts in Independence square!
Sponge Bob and I having a chat...he wanted to know where I was from!
The Golden Gate, the old entrance to the city that was destroyed partially by the Mongols 1240.
Yaroslav the Wise who helped the Rus become great...maybe that is why they call him wise because it kind of all went downhill after him!
Future research projects...with bad spelling!
The outside of St. Sophia's
The inside
St. Andrews juxtaposed with Domino's Pizza!
And yes we did eat there for lunch! It was the first real pizza with a crust I have had in two months...don't judge me!
The Chernobyl Museum... interesting and very short if you don't pay 10 dollars extra for the audio guide!
More Chernobyl Museum...
On the weekends Kreschatik, the main street in downtown Kyiv, is closed to motor vehicles and it was all lit up because the started decorating it for the holidays.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kyiv Tourism: Part I

We traveled to Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine November 6-11 to meet my friend from Kansas who was visiting Ukraine. I also conducted some much needed interviews with non-governmental organizations and international organizations. Because so many exciting things happened on our trip I am breaking the blog posts up into categories (like a good political scientist). This blog post is dedicated to the fun touristy things we did in Kyiv. 

This is my first picture of Kyiv. Independence Square and the sight of the 2004 Orange Revolution. It was a pretty amazing moment for me standing here for the first time!
The view from our apartment balcony of Independence Square!
Our first stop after the sight of the Orange Revolution was the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament. Sadly, this is about as close as I could get to it!
Another picture...but I told Matt when we were there that I would get an interview inside that gate someday! 
Overlooking part of the city.
Me and some pysanky eggs, traditional Ukrainian painted eggs outside of the Ukrainian house!
St Michael's Cathedral destroyed by the Soviets but rebuilt in the late 1990's.
Vanessa and I at St. Sophia's founded in 1011...luckily this church was saved from Soviet destruction.
We like to visit orthodox churches! Here is Vanessa and I at St. Andrews church.
Hanging out with Bulgakov who was born in Kyiv and lived there until he was 28.