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More on Kyinka and Food

April 8, 2010

Today we met with the “mayor” of Kyinka and learned more about the village in which we are staying. We found out that Kyinka has a population of 2617 and that the city council for Kyinka also oversees two smaller villages, Zhovinka, with has 510 people, and Khoshena, which has 108 people.  She was rather positive when speaking of Kyinka, telling us that when she first became mayor seven years ago, there were only 19 people born each year in the village and now there are 27 people born each year. Because it is a “suburb” of Chernihiv, people live here and commute to the city using the matrushka or bus. Although they do not have any “industry” they have 124 entrepreneurs registered (and the entrepreneurs do things like grow and sell crops on a small scale, as well as run the three stores in town) and apparently others who are not registered.

Kyinka has a kindergarten with 88 children, and a school with 265 kids. The school goes to grade 11, which I take to be when they graduate here? Kyinka also has a family clinic with one doctor and four PA/Nurse/Med Assistants.

Kyinka has a lot of charm, and the more I walk around, the more I do like it, even though I am at heart a city person. I have started taking photos of the wells I am running across, which have been five so far but certainly there are more than that. The people have started to return my greeting when I pass them, and I believe they are soon going to get used to seeing me walking about with my camera in hand. One man already stopped and said “New York Times!” (How I wish THAT was true).  There are also more chickens than I can count, many roosters with their harems, ducks, geese, and today we saw turkeys – one tom and a bunch of hens. That is in addition to the horses, dogs, pigs, rabbits, cats, and other animals I have not seen yet (other than birds, of course). There are dogs everywhere in certain parts of town. My part of town is closest to the main road to Chernihiv, and perhaps that is why there are fewer animals out running loose. The further away from the main road a person walks, it seems the more dogs one runs into, not all of which are friendly. But so far I have only been followed by a friendly looking dog, and the mean ones appear to be locked behind fences (with the appropriate beware of dog sign).

I am the furthest away from our teacher’s house (where class is held) but that is generally fine with me as I could use the walk for exercise. The other four members of my cluster like to go running, and I do not/cannot.  So my exercise is walking, and I have a couple of times found excuses to walk to other peoples’ homes, then backtrack to mine. Not only do I get to work on my community mapping that way, but I get the additional exercise.

About the food. I feel I have to write something because I just had what is effectively ham soup, which means I have been eating pork for about seven days in a row. Or eight – I am losing track. On my first evening here, Luba and I were going through food, and I was writing down the Ukrainian words for the different items. She took out the mayonnaise and quickly discerned that I do not like it. Since then, when she makes a “salad”, she pulls some aside for me and makes it without mayonnaise. With a hefty dose of oil, but without mayonnaise. I am so grateful for this kindness, as I was worried about offending them by not wanting to eat mayo. They are pretty easygoing about my eating – they don’t try to overfeed me, and when I avoid something (like the salted fish still with the skin and tail but only missing the head, or the salo), they are really nice and do not get offended. I have been complimentary of her cooking, which is good. Her borscht is fabulous and I am bummed that it disappeared after only one meal, as some other items hang around longer. Everyone who told me Ukrainian borscht is NOT like the stuff they call borscht in the U.S. were right! It had beets, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, tomato (a little bit), and probably other things I cannot remember, AND she used parsley and bay leaf. She seemed embarrassed that they were dried but I was just fine with that.

I am probably eating more organically than I ever have – while I have not had milk, I have had the cheese curds she made from the milk, and I see that she is also making sour cream (which I will not be trying) from the milk. As I mentioned I am eating pork, and lots of it – pork every day since chicken the first night. But it is pork they raised and slaughtered. She also makes compote from the fruit she grows (so far I have discerned that she has cherry and apricot trees, chokecherry bushes, and strawberry plants) and the other day when I was dying for produce, I bought some in Chernihiv at the bazaar – never has an orange tasted so good. So I am eating a lot more potatoes and pasta (mostly potatoes) than I usually do. Basically my eating habits have taken a 180 – whereas I used to eat mostly veggies and fruits, and much less starch and meat, now it is just the opposite. They are much more easygoing about the food thing than some of the other families, who appear to always be trying to get the other people to eat, and/or drink quite a bit. So far once shot of wine my first night, two shots of vodka on Easter (one with the first breakfast, the other with the second breakfast), and that’s it. I am not eating nearly as many sweets as I used to, which is probably also for the best!

The weather so far has strongly resembled the Pacific Northwest – the first day we got in it was sunny and beautiful, then a bunch of days of rainy grey, then a day of sun, then more grey, and today it was beautiful again. However, I do regret forgetting my black cardigan at the hotel in Minneapolis my last night there, and had I known I would be in Kyinka I would have brought some sort of boot!

The language learning is coming along – we all have our speed of learning, rate of retention, etc. and I am not worried about it, as thus far I am okay with my progress. Of course I want to speak more sooner but am realistic enough to know that it will come in time. I was able to reach fluency rapidly in Denmark, but that was 20 plus years ago and in a language that is grammatically much simpler, with the same alphabet (for the most part) as English. So it may take longer here but I have every confidence that it will happen.

By the way, I have started a web-based photo share, so if you care to see some of the photos I have taken so far, it is in Picasa. I am still figuring it out with limited time. I tried to make it unlisted rather than public or invite only. I am attaching the link – if it does not work, give me a few days to figure it out…

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Gail permalink
    April 8, 2010 6:56 am

    Sadie says hi – she misses you – she didn’t like the fact that there were chickens everywhere and thought the chickens in the picture looked scary – i’m glad that your host family seems nice and that your adjustment to food is going well – we were excited to hear that you are learning Ukrainian – at least your time in Ukie school was beneficial.

  2. April 8, 2010 12:17 pm

    Hello, Karin! I sent you an e-mail reply as well as this. I now have Skype and need you to let me know what to do to “see” you. I have a new baby–her name is Chelsea [Lately]. She is 3 months old and 3.9 lbs. I sent you her description at length. She is a love and just what we needed.
    I’m sure as time goes on you’ll sample more of the food. I think the fish tails would be very crunchy and maybe flavorful. I agree about the mayo but home-made sour cream in a dish would probably be very flavorful as well. You need to distance your senses from the process and just try the flavor. I got used to Polish food quicker than I thought–found it to be kind of Germanic in style. I think the fact that your host grows so much food and uses her own spices should be commended. I’m sure you’ll get used to it soon and it’s a good thing there is no sugar–they must be leaner and more healthy.
    Am excited to see you live when we can work it out.
    Love, Mom

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