Archive for May 3rd, 2008

A Refreshing Perspective

Posted by Darryl Melanchuk on May 3rd, 2008

I often “pinch” myself while walking home from work as I look around at the Ukrainian buildings and check to see if this is a dream.  Of course it’s not all fun and games, but it’s neat to walk through the beautiful architecture and realize that we’re living in Eastern Europe. 

It’s also been interesting to learn and compare the attitudes and values and how they differ from our perspective.  I think generally people are much more liberal in thinking, closer to Western European mentality (especially concerning hot topics such as  abortion, religion, and war).  However, Ukraine is also a little unique because it’s looking closely at its future and trying to lay the foundation for a strong country. 

For instance, people here are looking hard at the core values of its youth and are realizing the importance of family, health, religion, and education perhaps more than its Western European counterparts.  I’ve had several discussions with the young professionals here in the Kyiv office about the importance of a strong family, fidelity, the need to curb alcohol and cigarrete use and the importance of religion.  For example, I think Amanda has mentioned how popular juice is here.  This is a result of people becoming aware of the need to be healthy.  I find these discussions are much more common than my experience with a similar group of pressionals in the Seattle office.   People in Seattle think about these things, but are just not as passionate and proactive in making a change in their country. 

Of course, I realize there are problems.  Even with this attitude, alcohol, and cigarretes are much much more widely used here in Kyiv than in Seattle.  I read the statistics are as high as 75% of men and women currently smoke.  Walking to work I often find myself holding my breath to find some clean air since so many people are smoking as they walk.  Also, it’s not uncommon to see young and old drinking beer at the bus stations as they wait for their bus.  However, I see great changes in the future for Ukraine, simply because these professionals, who will be leading and guiding this country, are quite concerned about their future and admitting that traditional values will in many cases be the key to their country’s successful future.  Unlike their European counterparts, the Ukrainians seem to have the ability to look back into their past and examine the current status of the surrounding countries–and recognize the good and bad to help them make better decisions.  Although there still is a long way to go and perhaps many social problems to address, this general attitude of change and progression is quite refreshing to me. 

Another refreshing perspective is the general attitude of conservation.  In Canada and the U.S., I’m again reminded of how much we waste and abuse the natural resources we’ve been given.  Perhaps because of the many years of prosperity and cheap resources, we have become lackadaisacal in our social responsibilities and have lost the perspective of conservation that seemed to be so strong just 2 generations ago.  I think of my grandparents using every scrap of food and letting nothing go to waste.  I think of their attitude of walking to conserve gas for their cars (remember all stories about walking uphill both ways…).  I think of the small home where they utilized all the space in a very efficient manner.  And only 2 generations later (and I’m totally guilty of this, too), our society has come to expect enormous homes (in comparison) and where we ignorantly waste food, water, electricity, etc. 

Here in Ukraine, I’ve noticed a very different attitude.  Somehow this “old” attitude of conservation has not only been maintained in society, but pervades even the simplest of products and ways of life.  Here are some things I’ve noticed:

2-Flush Toilet

Toilet–The toilet always has 2 options for flushing.  Half or full flush.  If our bodies have a “Number 1″ and “Number 2″ why not our toilets?  Most of the time, you just use the half flush, which uses much less water.  I think this is so simple, yet makes so much sense and really helps conserves water.

 Cars–In an attempt to save fuel, people refuse to turn on the air conditioner in the summer or the heater in the winter.  Most of the drivers in our office follow this unofficial policy.  Up until recently, this kind of drove me crazy, because I’m either freezing or sweating whenever I’m travelling in our office cars (the office maintains a few cars and drivers to taxi us between client locations and the office).  Then recently I was wondering about the price of gas here and it quickly changed my attitude.  It’s currently between $1.18-1.36 per litre (which converts to about $4.50-5.18 per gallon)!

Walking–Although at first glance it may not seem this way because of the awful traffic in Kyiv, but people walk everywhere.  I’m amazed in the mornings how the streets are absolutely full of people taking public transportation and walking to work.  It takes me the same amount of time to get to work as it did in Seattle, but it’s so nice to relax a little between the commute and enjoy the sights.  

Paper in the office-It’s common practice to use both sides of the paper here.  There’s always a stack of extra paper by the printer ready for use on the second side.  This was always recommend in the Seattle office, but very few people actually follow this policy.

Lights in the office–Often I will come into the office or go the client and the lights will be off.  Even in the offices where people are working, the lights will stay off until late in the afternoon when it’s totally dark.  

Escalators–At most metro stations, there are huge escalators that take you to and from the train platform.  Usually there are 4 (2 for each direction).  However, at most times during the day, only 2 are in operation (1 each way).  The other 2 stay off until the lines reach a critical length.  Then they are switched on briefly.  If I were to ask why they just don’t have all 4 running in anticipation of the crowds, I would suspect it is to try and lengthen the life of the machinery.  Now, this makes perfect sense to me, but is still a little frustrating when it takes several minutes just to get on and there are 2 escalators idle.  :)

Drying Rack Cupboard

Towel Holder Heater

Space–The little inventions built into the apartments to save space always amaze me.  I just think they are so inovative.  For example, the cupboard above the sink doubles as a dish drying rack.  In addition, in the bathroom, there’s a towel rack that is also a heat radiator.


I think this conservative perspective comes in part from the Soviet Union where resources were limited and people had to ration everything they had.  I also think it’s much more of a European mentality where things are generally more expensive such as electricity, water and especially gas for your car.

I really like the shift in attitude and I hope I can remember these things when we return home again. 

Easter Celebrations

Posted by Amanda on May 3rd, 2008

The Easter Bunny came on Saturday morning.  He left a little treasure hunt for Kathryn and Amelia, and another one for Darryl to find their Easter baskets.  He even left one for me, which he always does!  Besides candy, Kathryn got this puzzle.  Amelia got a ball from the Easter Bunny.

New Easter PuzzleEaster Puzzle

Here we are before church on Sunday.  Kathryn was excited all week to wear her pink dress to church.  We tried to get one of just the girls, but Amelia was running everywhere.

Easter Family Picture

Easter Family Picture

We had a delicious Easter dinner, and an “Easter cake”.  They started appearing everywhere a couple days before Easter, so we decided to buy one, too.  Most people also bake them.  I heard that a small one takes 6 eggs, and people usually make several, so that is one reason they were buying so many eggs.

Traditional Ukrainian/Russian Easter Cake (Paskha)

Everything was closed Sunday, and most things were closed Monday.  Darryl had Monday, Thursday, and Friday off work.  Many people had the whole week off work.  Although, I think the Thursday and Friday off work were for May Day and International Labor Day.  Our friend Katya’s school semester ended the week before Easter. 

We kept meaning to dye eggs with Kathryn, but kept not having time!  We finally did on Tuesday after Amelia went to bed.  Kathryn thought it was quite cool, and has been asking to do it everyday since.  She even ate a hard boiled egg right after we dyed them. 

Coloring Easter EggsEaster EggsEating Her Easter Eggs

Easter Preparations

Posted by Amanda on May 3rd, 2008

We celebrated Easter last weekend, along with Ukraine and a few other countries.  We started by attending a stake musical presentation on Thursday night (and got a babysitter for the girls).  We have really wanted to try to be more involved in the stake here, and we were not disappointed.  It was wonderful!  First, there was a stake choir, which we had just heard at stake conference.  Then there were several different musical performances.  From primary children singing songs to beautiful opera-like singing with orchestral accompaniment.  There was a family that sang a song, with a young boy (I would guess 8 or less) playing the violin like it was the easiest and most natural thing ever.  Katya had told me that a member of her ward played the bassoon in the National Orchestra here.  So he played Eine Kleine along with 2 violinists and a violist.  They also accompanied the amazing singer.  It was a wonderful evening.

On Saturday morning I went to help clean the church building (yes, we do that here, too!) while Darryl stayed with the girls.  Near the church is a big market, and I decided to stroll through before going home (since I was by myself and could go at my own pace).  There were lots of extra kiosks/stalls set up for Easter.  The whole sidewalk area was crowded with people and venders.  Everyone was buying green onions and radishes, so I did, too.  Okay, I was planning to buy them anyway because I wanted to have a salad on Easter.  Lettuce is not abundant here, and I had seen some good lettuce at our market so I really wanted to make a salad.  But seriously, every vendor had radishes and onions, and everyone was buying them.  That and TONS of eggs.  I found egg dye, so I was excited to bring that home, as well.  My favorite part of the morning was the holiday excitement in the air.  It was so tangible and so fun.  A week earlier, I hadn’t really seen any signs of Easter outside.  But now everyone was getting ready and everyone was so excited.  I love that about holidays in Ukraine.  There is not a lot of buildup (commercially), but the excitement is so tangible right before the holiday.