Sunday, December 4, 2016

Only REAL UKRAINIANS drink rosehip tea!

Only real Ukrainians drink rosehip tea!

Want to be true, authentic Ukrainians like Yulia and me?? Then you MUST brew tea from rosehips and drink it when winter comes 'round!!

Don't drink/like rosehips? Hmph! You're not Ukrainian!!! Ha! Yulia and I are going to put on our vyshyvankas and go eat all the varenyky ourselves!

*    *     *

OK. So I'm obviously just joking about the whole rosehip thing. It doesn't actually make you a real Ukrainian, so put down that cup of tea right now and read this!

'Tis the season in Ukraine to start posting about eating "salo" on social media. Salo, by the way is raw pig fat. Some people consider it one of the quintessential foods in Ukrainian cuisine. It's believed that eating it in winter is especially healthy. Other people will even go so far as to claim that you are not a "true" Ukrainian unless you eat the stuff.

And that makes Yulia and I raise our collective eyebrow.

You see, we have a particular kind of radar for bullsh*t. When people start creating arbitrary rules for membership in a tribe or begin hyping the more macho parts of their identity without actually changing their behavior, we become suspicious.

Yulia and I left what we were doing in America five years ago, not because we wanted to display how patriotic we are, but because we wanted to actually do something good for Ukraine. Similarly, we didn't start this blog just to broadcast cherry picked images and ideas about ourselves. We want to show what we're doing to inspire and network with other people who want to do similar things.

On the one hand, we do think there is some use for symbols--wearing vyshyvkas or flying Ukrainian flags can be great shorthand ways to display to yourself and others that you are a Ukrainian patriot. It says, "I spend my time caring for Ukraine, and this shirt is a symbol of that care I have."  It's like saying "please" and "thank you." These words signal to the other person that you respect them. You don't have to actually respect them to use these words, but that's at least what's supposed to be behind them. It's the same thing with national symbols. Vyshyvankas are not just embroidered shirts. They represent Ukrainian culture--color, care, creativity, beauty, and hard work. If you're wearing one it probably means that you care about at least some of these things.

Unfortunately, for many people, patriotic symbols often become ends in themselves. People will wear vyshyvankas on a holiday, go out for a picnic, and throw their garbage on the ground. This says, "My convenience matters to me more than actually caring for my homeland, and this shirt is an empty symbol that I wear to disguise the fact that I'm doing nothing for the good of Ukraine. I'm just trying to fit in, so leave me alone."

Which brings me to the question: How the hell does eating salo or drinking rosehip tea make you a real Ukrainian? It doesn't, does it? It's just a bullsh*t empty gesture people use to feel better about themselves.

Do us and Ukraine a favor. Save a pig's life and go plant a tree instead. And as you're walking home, pick up the empty bottle of vodka that a "real" Ukrainian threw on the side of the road.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Where were we??

We apologize for not posting on our blog for a long time. Yulia and I were on vacation during the first half of the month. ...And, boy, did we need it! We've been working so hard the past three years (since we moved into our house here) that we just needed the kind of vacation where you sit on a warm beach and do--nothing! And it was great! Just what the doctor ordered!

During our trip to Miami, we got to see my parents and experienced American culture again for the first time in--you guessed it--three years!

We made many observations during our time there. Americans are so friendly and easy to talk to! I forgot just how aware many people are when they are out in public. "I'm sorry. Did I get in your way just now? ... Were you waiting here? I didn't mean to get in front of you." America exports so many things around the world. I wish it could export its common courtesy. Some people--though not everyone by any means--could use it in Europe!

But what stuck out the most--and this isn't a positive reflection--is just how judgmental Americans are of each other. I get the sense that this is mostly among people who don't know one another--in the comments section of newspapers, in politics, social media, etc. It's hard to believe that a group of people can simultaneously be so friendly and so nasty.

Come on, guys! Don't like Trump supporters?? Get to know a few. They're not all walking stereotypes. Don't like people who are too politically correct? Get to know someone who advocates for women's rights or Black Lives Matter. They're not all out to get you. Maybe they just need to be listened to.

I could go on and on. People in America right now seem to really be out to get one another. It seems like every group has its own negative stereotype. Spoiled college students. Isolated country bumpkins. Haughty city slickers.

We think that the most important thing right now is unity. There seem to be a lot of forces working to keep people at odds against one another. But look at what Ukrainians were able to do when they all joined together in the winter of 2013-14 in what is now known as the Revolution of Dignity. They were able to radically change the course that the country was headed in. And Ukrainians did it together.

University students were some of the first people protesting in November of 2013. I didn't hear anyone putting them down for being lazy or feeling entitled. Instead I heard older people praising them for caring so much about the country's future. The protests brought together people from different political parties and persuasions. Different religions. Different ethnicities They didn't even all speak the same language! Ukrainian speakers joined with Russian speakers. Muslims joined with Christians. Right joined Left. East joined with West.

I hope to end on a positive note and hope you find it just as inspiring as I do. Let's see what we can do because of our diversity, not in spite of it!

*     *     *

If you're on Facebook, please be sure to "like" our new MY Pichka Facebook page! We'll post shorter updates there with lots of pictures and short videos: https://www.facebook.com/mypichka/

Here's a video from Facebook that we just shot this afternoon! Enjoy!







Saturday, October 22, 2016

Friday, October 14, 2016

Harvesting Rosehips in the Ukrainian countryside


If you ever need to get out and be "in nature," we recommend picking rosehips. They're ripe this time of year. 

After you pick them, take them home and dry them for storage over the winter. When you want some tea, mash them up and soak them in water.

We've found that an infusion in cold water makes for a darker tea, interestingly enough. To make a cold infusion, put the rosehips in cold water, and place them on a windowsill for 24 hours. After you drink the tea, you can boil some water and make a hot infusion as well. 

If you just want a hot tea on a cold winter day, you can do that as well. 

Rosehips are loaded with vitamins and are great for those times when you don't have any fresh fruit!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Changing the roof over the future laundry room

We learned that the roof over our future laundry room is leaking. Since we want to insulate that room before winter, we have to re-cover the roof so it doesn't get the insulation wet. The leaks are also causing a lot of rot--and no one wants that!

See our progress after two days in this video!