Setting: It is 32 degrees, raining, and I’m waiting at a stop light to cross the street. There is a middle aged woman and an older woman waiting with me. The middle aged woman crosses the street before the light has changed.
Old Woman: Blah blah blah blah blah? Blah blah blah blah blah blah? (My interpretation: Did you see that woman cross the street? Why didn‘t she wait for the light to change?)
Me: Huh? (Blank stare)
Old Woman: Blah blah blah blah blah? (Look on her face: are you stupid?)
Me: (Nervous laugh and a dopey grin that say “yes, I am stupid”)
Old Woman: Blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah? (My interpretation: you don’t speak Ukrainian, do you?)
Me: No (Nervous laugh as the light changes as I quickly cross the street).
So where did this scene take place? Ukrainian Village in Chicago, of course. Today I took a little field trip (I know, I picked the most disgusting day weather wise I possibly could). Due to weather conditions, I didn’t do as much exploring as I would have liked, but I did make it to the National Ukrainian Museum (www.ukrainiannationalmuseum.org), and spent a few hours looking around the exhibits. I would highly recommend it to anyone who lives in Chicago. They have several cultural exhibits displaying clothes, jewelry, and art work, as well as exhibits about political events that have occurred in the country. Plus, because I think I was the only visitor, I got a private tour of the museum. Not too shabby for the $5 suggested donation. Everyone I met who works there speaks English and all the written material in both Ukrainian and English. Seriously, check it out!
After the museum, I wanted to walk around a bit, and I stumbled into a Ukrainian grocery store (by stumbled in, I mean I followed my nose to the bakery in the back). I figured perhaps I would try something. I saw some powdered borscht that I thought of purchasing for this cold day, but decided instant soup was pretty lame, so I made my way to the back where the deli/prepared foods were. I was kind of just browsing, but not surprisingly since most people don’t just browse in the deli department, the women behind the counter gave me a look to hurry up and make my choice.
I’ll leave you with one more script.
Me: What is this? (pointing to a plastic container containing the colors white, pink, and yellow)
Deli Lady: (looking alarmed that I had spoken to her in English) Um, uh…It is one part onion, one part potato, one part fish, and one part uhh…. (yells at another girl across the store to get the word for something….the response is beet)
Me: (In my head: Beets are gross but I guess I’ll have to get used to them eventually). Okay, I’ll take it.
Deli Lady: Good. You like pork?
Me: (giving her my skeptical eyes) Yes.
Deli Lady: Good you take pork too. (She puts a deep-fried pork something in a Styrofoam container).
I didn’t really want pork, but hey, it was already in the Styrofoam and everything…I proceed to the checkout, pay $6.09 for my two items, and walk away from my first taste Ukraine.
Speaking of a taste of Ukraine, after returning home, I had to taste my items. So far I’ve only been able to get myself to have one bite of each. Unidentified-deep-fried-pork-ball actually isn’t that bad, but it kind of tastes like fish. I’m worried about a pork product that tastes like a crab cake, but we‘ll see. Plastic-container-filled-with-various-products is a different story. After further investigation, it kind of looks like that seven layer Mexican bean dip you buy at the grocery store. Here are the layers: VERY salty fish, grated potatoes, onions, beets, a very thick layer of sour cream, and what looks like crumbled hard boiled egg yolk. I’m going to try to work up the courage to take a second bite of this one, but I don’t know that it’s going to happen.
So there you have it. My first taste of Ukraine. During my two years of service if you ever find yourself pining away for me, just hop on down to Ukrainian Village and take solace in the fact that we are enjoying the same food, language, and culture.
That’s all for now. I hope you’re all doing well. Hope to see many of you before I leave.