Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
What kind of woman would I want to spend the rest of my life with?
- Well, she would have to be very special as she would also want to spend the rest of her life with me, not an easy thing to ask of any woman.
- She will be a strong independent woman, but not so strong or independent that she doesn't need me for the something that I bring to her life that makes her feel complete. I do not know what that something is but she (whoever she is) will know. Maybe it is humour, maybe gentleness, kindness, shelter from the world that she can come to when the world is too much for her to bear. Maybe it is firmness, someone who will stand up to her and not be pushed around by her.
- She needs to be someone strong enough not to let me push her around either. Temper is OK as long as we can yell at each other then forget it when the storm is over. Passionate, emotional, alive.
- Well read in subjects which interest her. Curious and interested in what is going on in the world - politics, current events - and who wants to travel and learn about other places and people.
- Cynical yet wishing and hoping the world could be perfect. Someone driven by a desire to leave the world a better place than she found it by doing something that helps others grow strong and learn to help themselves.
- A "people person", generous with her time and as finances allow, with money too. A home that is open to any and all. Lots of visitors around the table. Spare beds for adults, and kids sleep on the floor.
- Someone who loves kids, dogs and me. Expects the best from all of us and helps kids, dogs and me to be better than we are. Patient and forgiving with my weaknesses but expecting me to grow stronger with her help.
- An organizer who will keep me organized; who believes in me when I don’t believe in myself; who can balance encouragement with butt-kicking and knows when to apply each.
- Someone who will accept 40 “I love you”’s a day and 40 hugs too. Someone who will give them back without prompting, who will reach over and take my hand for no reason, because I need the reassurance and the touch of one I love who loves me.
- Someone I am proud to be with and who is proud to be with me.
*When Tanya and I first started talking about possibilities for the two of us, she asked me to tell her what I was looking for in a wife. She wrote what she was looking for in a husband. We had the documents professionally translated by her friend Natalie and exchanged them by email. After almost two years, I have to say, I found what I was looking for. And much much more.
Monday, October 27, 2008
P’yatikhatki is a railroad town. It has a lovely little railway station with several other buildings (administration etc.) located on a well maintained landscaped yard. There are about 24 tracks in the rail yard where the station is located. The problem of course is that the station and related buildings are all in the middle i.e. there are 12 tracks on each side. Up 50 steps to a pedestrian walkway and then down to the station yard/platform. And of course the walkway is as far from the station as it is possible to put it. A brisk 15 minute walk from parking lot to station. Younger folks can do it in 10 minutes.
I will take the Saturday morning Express train to Kyiv, arriving at 12:30. Kostia, our taxi driver, will pick me up and we’ll drive to Boryspil Airport to collect Berny at 2:00 assuming he clears customs and immigration. One problem. The Express does not stop in P’yatikhatki.
BUT it stops for 20 minutes at a non-station about 5 km out of town for crew change, technical matters and to let another train go by. The platform serves as a stuffed toy market with several stalls serving customers who hop off the train, make their purchase and hop back on. Legally, it is not a “stop” so new passengers cannot get on nor existing passengers leave the train at that location. However this is Ukraine. Andrei will get me onto the train.
My ticket is from Dnipropetrovs'k to Kyiv and cost 96 hrivnas or about $22 CAD at today’s ATM exchange rate for a 5 hour train ride in a comfortable coach.
My friend and colleague, Berny, arrives in Kyiv on Saturday. He and I are members of a small loose knit Saskatchewan-based NGO called Canada Ukraine Agrarian Development (CUAD).
CUAD’s goals are
- To support, foster, promote and develop patterns of sustainable agricultural production in Ukraine.
- To jointly pursue the development of appropriate structures for agricultural management and marketing
- To pursue the achievement of empowerment with people involved in the ownership and operation of their farms
- To mutually enhance the quality of farm operations in Ukraine
- To encourage farmer leadership
- To foster hope and enhance the lives of Ukrainian people through social development.
Berny is coming to follow up on a previous project, sound out a number of people for ideas and needs for new projects and introduce me as a CUAD member living in Ukraine to all his contacts. Our hope is that I can prove to be a useful contact for Canadians and Ukrainians in needs assessment, development and implementation of new projects. We have 10 days of meetings beginning in Kyiv, then in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
Zaporizhzhia is where the Mennonites settled in Russia at the invitation of Empress Catherine in about 1770 and from whence a large number emigrated to Canada beginning in about 1870, with the last major group, including Berny’s parents in 1924. There have been and still are a number of projects in Zaporizhzhia sponsored by people with Mennonite roots. CUAD is not limited to working in only one oblast but began in Zaporizhzhia as that was where their contacts were.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
We let the pups out of their yard to play whenever someone is outside. They range about a block in all directions returning home every so often to check in. Chicken hunting is no longer a problem as long as the chickens don’t get so close they are irresistible. The marsh is east of us, there is a vacant garden lot grown high with weeds to the west of us, beside our garden. The road and pipeline make a boundary to the south. Down the road to the north live a number of dogs, a couple of which also run free on occasion and hang out with ours.
One of them is a little golden haired dog who has become Bobik’s girlfriend. Volk hangs around them but is mainly ignored. The other night when I went out to shut them in their pen, Bobik had decided to bring his girlfriend home for the night. Much as I am pro romance, I was afraid the old Babushka who owns her might worry. Bobik walked her home like a true gentleman and then came back to our yard for the night.
They love hunting in the reeds by the marsh and to their everlasting satisfaction, flushed a couple of pheasants one day. They get all wet, then walk home through the fresh ploughed garden and arrive looking like pigs. And the weeds in the vacant garden lot are home to many mice which keep the dogs hunting for hours. Doubt they ever catch any but it amuses them to no end.
I’m sure my missing slipper is out there somewhere, too. Volk loves to steal slippers. Not shoes. Too heavy. He doesn’t chew them, just carries them around, playing keep-away with Bobik until he gets bored and then drops it. I found it once but not this time.
They are now almost 10 months old, well furred out for winter and pretty well behaved, all things considered. They are no guard dogs but good dogs never the less.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Photographers and painters seem to like abandoned farms:
Weather-beaten grain bins, gray houses and stone barns,
Wagon wheels and rusted trucks, discarded farm machines.
Can’t people see the sadness of someone’s broken dreams?
What farmer hasn’t dreamed his farm would always carry on;
Or children planned to farm the land, when it became their own?
But quarrels, death or markets; hail, drought or early frost,
A dozen things take farm or farmer and the dream is lost.
Where people once planned next year’s crops with hopeful smile or laugh,
Another empty farm house stands, to paint or photograph.
Abandoned farms have always bothered me because they once were somebody's dreams now gone. Yet they are glorified in paintings and photographs as something beautiful. Maybe they are but it is a dark beauty if you take into account the human factor. My Toronto brother or his then girl-friend took the picture of our old house in 2005 and I wrote the poem the next year.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
My father was born in that house in 1921, youngest of four, on Dec 18 and first came downstairs Christmas Day for dinner. Claimed he never missed a meal since. The four of us kids were born in the hospital in the nearby “big” town, but the old house was home.
Under the stair well was a trapdoor that opened to the cellar; a dirt hole under the house that held our vegetables and preserves. It also was home to a couple of salamanders or geckos. My little brother who was a bout 6 at the time could imitate their clicking sound perfectly and he and the salamanders would hold conversations to the amusement of the rest of us. There was another trapdoor in the “backroom” but I think the cellar had caved in or something, as I don’t ever recall us using it for anything.
The upstairs had two bedrooms. The bigger of the two was where the three of us boys slept. Mom and Dad slept in the “East Room”, a small bedroom in the south east corner, with the stairs and hallway cutting back on their space. The furnace pipe came up through the floor of our room and provided heat but Mom and Dad’s room had no heat. The house had no insulation and on bitter cold winter nights with a SE wind, they would have to sleep on the couch downstairs just to survive. When my sister was born, she slept on a cot in the folk’s room until she was six. Then I moved downstairs to the livingroom couch and she got a curtained off area in the “West Room”.
Dad always planned on building a new house. Dad always planned on a lot of things. Finally, in the early ‘60’s, Mom’s dad gave us an old house in good condition and paid for the moving and much of the renovations so mom could have running water and some warmth and comfort. I can’t remember the exact year they left the old house but it was mid-60’s because I was in University. Dad never did finish the “new” house. The nails on the trim around the windows were never countersunk and the holes filled. Maybe my brother will do that when he retires and moves back to the farm from Toronto.
He did tear down the veranda and lean-to on the old house and always planned on tearing down the rest but I think he didn’t want to as there were too many memories associated with it. So it sits empty, full of musty old junk. The rest of the farm sits empty too, waiting for my brother.
Chicago Black Hawks won the Stanley Cup, beating Detroit Redwings. The playoffs were in early April in those days, not in June. I had chicken-pox in October and got to listen to the World Series (we didn’t have a TV yet). New York Yankees beat the Cincinnati Reds. Yankee pitcher Whitey Ford was the hero along with first basemen Bill "Moose" Skowron. Roger Marris and Mickey Mantle had been in a tight race all season to beat Babe Ruth’s home run record. Marris won, hitting 61 homers. Because it was in more games than the Babe, the “record” was disputed ever since.
Mostly I remember my Grandma Johnson died on December 30th. I was 14 and had all four grandparents to that date, which I was told was pretty special. Grandma had not been well all summer though exactly why never was diagnosed that I know of. Grandma’s family got together that summer. Mom’s two sisters Aunts Betty and Leone and most of Mom's cousins on Grandma’s side all lived within easy driving so family get-togethers were not uncommon. (Grandpa’s relatives were all in Iowa so we hardly ever saw them). Uncle Vince was a grain buyer and Uncle Frank was a farmer like my dad. The three sisters all had teacher training but as was usual in those days they were stay-at-home mothers. All we cousins were pretty close and I loved to visit with them. Family pictures were the order of the day.
Our big after-Christmas treat was to go and see Ben Hur at the Roxy Theatre in Wilkie. It was the third movie I had ever seen; Old Yeller and The Ten Commandments being the other two. Being good Christians we didn’t go to picture shows. When we got home, we got word Grandma was gone. First time I realized that people I loved could die.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
My dad never worked on Sunday, other than the necessities of looking after the livestock. Spring seeding and fall harvesting were the temping times. Technically there were three weeks in spring to get the crop in the ground and two weeks in the fall to get it in the bin. But it always took us longer. In those days we had a 12’ International Harvester discer and an Oliver 88 gas tractor so it required long days.
When farming was done with horses, Sunday rest was obligatory because the horses needed it, even if the farmer didn’t think he did. But once tractors replaced horses on Prairie farms, Sunday off was a matter of religious observance, not practical horse management.
Our neighbours, Volga-German Catholics mostly, would get permission from the Priest to work Sundays after Mass in spring and fall. Dad always stopped at midnight Saturday night and didn’t start again until Monday morning. He said there was no need to work Sunday; there was always another day and if there wasn’t, then it really didn’t matter, did it?
That is not to say he was not pragmatic. He rented land for a few years from an eccentric elderly spinster (there is no other word to describe her) who was very religious. So religious she had a ten year old cow which had never had a calf and was very proud that the cow had been able to maintain her virginity. Dad was seeding late Saturday night and had less than an hour left to finish. He knew if he went past midnight, the woman would have a conniption. Then he remembered that she was on Mountain Standard Time while everyone else in the province had switched to Daylight time. (Saskatchewan switched in those days). So he finished the field before midnight by her clock and all was well.
Another time, he was working late and had less than half an hour to finish the field. He thought he would finish it off. The tractor ran out of gas at 11:55 pm and he had to walk home. Our close neighbours had been watching his light and knew how much dad had left to seed. They were so impressed that he would quite at midnight with so little left to finish just so he would not work on Sunday. Dad always laughed about that. He said, “You never know who is watching or what impressions you leave so best always stick to your principles”.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Tanya took pictures to send my kids or post on my blog. No, I don't think so. No one wants to see a picture of a Gorilla pounding hell out of a Beluga. and it is a family blog so my bare behind is off limits anyhow. (Speaking of which, LynnieC, I see you took your picture off your blog).
Sergey and his wife are Protestant Christians. His grandparents were both Protestant Christians and his grandfather did 20 years in Magadan Gulag for owning a Bible and preaching the Gospel.
Sergey would like to go to Canada where his wife is but his parents are old and need looking after. Tanya told him that we would certainly be willing to help look after them so he could go. There is no one or no place here to look after old people except family. Tanya says Canadians are so fortunate that our elderly can get such good places to live where they are looked after.
In other news, Masha started Kindergarten yesterday. She said it was "embarassing". Her mother had to threaten to take her home if she didn't eat her lunch. She ate. She is so happy to have so many playmates. She has been a very lonely little girl.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Two days later the back muscles stiffened up. I could walk, sit or lie. But moving from one to the other was torture. Yesterday I went to what passes for a chiropractor here. I'd been to him in March. Professional clinic - chiropractor, dentist, optician, not sure what else. After a 30 minute work over and with 9 more times in the works, starting Thursday, I was worse than before. I knew after a few more treatments it would be OK but I was in agony so Dr. Tanya, Veterinarian, wanted action.
Andrei has a friend who does massage and chiropractic. House calls. So Tanya decided we'd try him today and not wait for Thursday's appointment. Sergey is a young man, about Andrei's age, sturdy, as they say. Diploma's from Moscow and somewhere else. His wife lives in Toronto three years now, has completed a two year course at a Canadian College and wants to open a private massage clinic with Sergey who is in the process of immigrating. One can only hope they don't rub each other the wrong way.
Anyhow, Sergey told me to peel down to my socks and lie on the bed. Then he took his shirt off revealing a barrel chest and more hair than a silverbacked gorilla to borrow a phrase. I am wondering exactly what kind of back treatement I am in for. No worries. Russian massage is not a career for the physically unfit. This guy was dripping sweat like an Irish step-dancer in Lord of the Dance as he worked my back over for 30 or 45 minutes.
Sergey will be back tomorrow. And I don't have to do yard work today.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Our neighbours finished taking beets, carrots and cabbages off last weekend, too. Pumpkins, squash and fodder beets are all home safely, most for pigs or cattle. The small cornfields are picked and the stalks cut and hauled home for cattle feed. Our neighbour down the road, with several cows and a small tractor, hired three men to haul manure and spread it on the cornfields. The manure had been stockpiled since last fall so is pretty rank. I do hope they get it ploughed down soon.
The chestnut trees turned brown a while back and are dropping leaves all over the streets, keeping the street sweeping ladies busy. The birches are beginning to turn yellow and many trees are still green. Fall colours here are much like home, mostly golds and russets. Not many of the beautiful crimsons associated with Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. But there are some – Virginia Creeper, Mountain Ash* and several others add colour to the fall. Even rose hips.
Choices are limited:
- Conservative Reform Alliance Party (CRAP)
- Natural Governing Party of Canada (NGP). (I dion' like them much anymore).
- Notionally Democratic Party (specializing in anti-economic theory)
- Block Heads du Quebec (specializing in blackmailing Canada by threatening NOT to leave)
- Watermelon party (Green on outside, Red on inside)
Personally, I suffer from electile dysfunction. I just can't get aroused by any of the leaders of any of the parties.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
A. I have completely lost my mind.
B. I fell in love with and married the "only" woman in Ukraine who doesn't want to live in Canada (or in the USA).
C. It is a beautiful country filled with warm friendly people and I love it here, even though the politicians are truly criminals and the economy is struggling towards "free market".
D. All of the above.
I first came to Ukraine in 1997 and have been here at least once a year almost every year since, usually related to beef or dairy cattle projects intended to help improve livestock production and createa market for Canadian genetics. Tanya was a participant in a course I taught on beef cattle production in 1999 as part of a CIDA-funded STEP-managed Canada Ukraine Beef Forage Development Project. She came to Canada the following year with a group of the top students from the project. We became friends and stayed in touch over the years, exchanging emails two or three times a year, visiting whenever I was in Ukraine. She was back in an advanced course at the end of Beef Forage project in 2002.
The reason we became friends was that I found out she had done her University degree in Krasnoyarsk, a city of 1 million people in central Siberia. Krasnoyarsk was a city/region I had long wanted to visit, just because it seemed like somewhere no one in their right mind would go. She was delighted that a Canadian not only knew about the city but wanted to visit and she offered to arrange the trip any time.
We finally made the trip in 2006. We visited Krasnoyarsk, then I met her family who live in Abakan, in Khakasia, 400 km south of Krasnoyarsk. I asked her to marry me. She said "Yes, but".
The "but" was that I had to move to Ukraine, not she move to Canada. She has two sons, both with partners, one with a three year old daughter (who is now five). I've got four kids, one married, no grandkids. Costs the same to fly Ukraine-Canada return as vice versa. Either I miss my kids or she misses her kids. No win-win there. And my family could visit me here but her family could never visit us in Canada. (Canadian Immigration are terrified someone might want to stay in Canada).
We could remodel her house in Marianivka and live better on my pension here than in Canada. Here she has friends and she is "somebody". In Canda she would be "just another immigrant woman", too old, she felt to begin a new career and accomplish anything. And I can find consulting work here or anywhere and home is wherever I can get half decent internet.
So we got married in Canda and I moved to Ukraine (except for most of my stuff which is still in my daughter's custody). We are "almost" done with the house and next year we'll maybe have money to travel. We didn't got to Abakan this year either.
All I can say, Dana Wyzard, is "Life really is GOOD!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Since there are no "prescription only" drugs, drug stores stock whatever they want. There are little drug kiosks and mini stores everywhere. Everything is Over-the-Counter*. Doctors write prescriptions so you know what to buy but it is for you, not for the druggist. If you want real medications, they are very hard to find sometimes. When I had Bronchitis, trying to find a 10 day supply of the same antibiotic in Zhovte Vodi was an exercise in frustration. One "druggist" said unless I had a fever I didn't need antibiotics. Doh!
While we were there we decided to look for running shoes for both of us for winter wearing. We found what we wanted in a store called Sportmaster which had all kinds of sports shoes. But didn't stock spare shoelaces or shoehorns, in fact no accessories at all. We found those next door at a shoe store called Intertop which didn't sell sports shoes but sold shoelaces for sports shoes.
Then we went to McDonald's for lunch. It was 3:30 and the pancakes (with REAL maple syrup, thanks, Judy!) at 9:30 had worn a little thin. There is a sandwich at McDonalds here called Big Tasty, much like a fancy Quarter Pounder. Not sure if it is sold in Canada or not. In Ukrainian it is spelled Bolshoi Teisti which does not make me think of a hamburger at all.
We ate outside and watched the kids on the playground equipment. In the absence of adults to annoy them, kids make up their own rules. There was a large red tunnel slide, with a set of steps up to an enclosure and another set of steps inside the enclosure to the entrance to the slide. A four year old boy joined the group and immediately started climbing up the outside of the equipment to reach the top. Much more of a challenge. Soon all the kids were climbing the outside, ignoring the ladder, over the top of the enclosure and down the chute. This kid was a born leader.
* I have a program inside me running 24/7 scanning for possible double entendres. Sorry.
Does Viagra work?
Can you get it over the counter?
If I take two.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Baby carrots from our own garden, oven roast in butter and garlic (Used up the butter the cat licked :) :).
Beef Stroganoff, my own version, in mushroom gravy with half a tub of sour cream added for good measure. (Half a tub of sour cream improves virtually anything, I think. Right, Lyn?).
Some kind of pasta. It is all really macaroni when you come right down to it but this stuff was about 3 cm long, round and hollow.
Apple crisp for dessert. Took a second one over to Lucia and Zhenia too.
Tanya was impressed and promised to buy more beef for me to cook with.
Our friend, Volodya, was here on Sunday for supper on his way home from somewhere. He brought me a 30 cm good luck statue of Buddha, replete with all the usual Chinese lucky tokens for money, family, health etc. all explained on a note glued to the base. The note also said if you rub Buddha's tummy, your wish will be granted. Tanya now rubs my tummy and says, "I wish my husband would work harder".
But not Much
Tanya fixes my hair before I am allowed out in public. I cannot do "European hair", all pouffy and partless. So she approaches me with two hands full of Allaflex styling foam and says "SIT!" She learned that from watching Bronwyn with Montel. Woof, woof!! She says my hair is getting thin. I said, "Well, I could grow my eyebrows long and comb them over my head". "Yes, and your nose hairs, too".
Friday, October 3, 2008
Last night Kuchma meowed to go out and when I opened the door, went out. Without grabbing a few mouthfuls of food as he ususally does. His dish is by the door. This morning I found out why. There was this 2.5 cm wide x 1 cm deep groove routered 3/4 the length of a 400 gm pat of butter. If I could have found him, I would have drop kicked him down the stairs to the basement but we don't have a basement. He didn't show up till noon which saved his life.
Our gas range is lit by an electric spark triggered by pushing down on the control knob as you turn on the burner. Anyone can do plumbing and there are no inspections. Electrician is a recognized trade and they inspect the fuse box (what can burn down in a concrete house?). But gas is taken seriously. Houses and apartment blocks can and do blow up with occasional concurrent loss of life and limb.
So this nice yong man comes to check the burner pressure on our gas range. He takes off the top of the burner and holds his testing gizmo over the little pipe. Then he tells Tanya who is busy doing something to turn on the gas. Yes, she "accidentally" pushed down the control knob as she turned it on and zapped him with 50,000 volts.
The white knee-high boots on the lanky brunette were obviously inspired by Western or cowboy boots. Except maybe the 10 cm spike heels. I commented. Mistake.
"You love beautiful women!"
"I looked at the boots."
"You love beautiful women!"
"Yes, I love beautiful women. And you love beautiful men." (same word in Russian apparently for both).
"I love clever men."
"Poor you. You got a husband who is neither beautiful nor clever."
"To me you are beautiful and clever......sometimes."