Sunday, August 25, 2013
Yesterday was Ukrainian independence day. I wish I could report that Yulia and I did something special, but, in truth, we did not. We did work though. I continued on what may very well be western Ukraine’s heaviest door (more on that in a later post) while Yulia worked on a path she is making out of bricks. She lays down two bricks at a time, making a sort of stepping stone. Eventually we plan to have a lot of our property made up of garden paths. We want the garden to not only be a place of work, but to serve as a living space as well, outfitted with outdoor rooms and corridors. Yulia’s stepping stones are the beginning of what will be an outdoor corridor. We plan to use plants—like flowers and herbs—to help define those corridors. Here is an example of what we would like one of our paths to look like:
A lavender path
We have a few outdoor rooms already. The well under the arbor is one. The patio under grapevines is another. And we already have a sleeping area—the hammock under the linden trees.
But I think I should use the 22nd anniversary of Ukrainian independence to talk a little about us and our blog being Ukrainian (and, conversely, being American). Namely, I want to discuss the language of our blog and our hope for both a Ukrainian and American audience (among other countries, of course).
It’s about time I say something about the language of our blog. We are obviously writing in English right now. That’s for a couple of reasons. Our computer, for one, is only outfitted with keys using letters from the English alphabet. We could, if we wanted to I guess, write our blog in Ukrainian using Latin letters. There is an established system for translating letters. Ale ya ne dumayu shcho to by lekhko bulo chytaty (But I don’t think that that would be easy to read). Google Translate does have an option that would phonetically translate Latin letters to Cyrillic ones. I guess if we really wanted to we could try translating blog entries like that. It’s an idea we’ll keep open for the future. It would take us much longer to do. Writing in Ukrainian using Latin letters is awkward, though I’m sure with time we would become more proficient. If we were to get access to a Ukrainian keyboard, both Yulia and I would have to learn where every letter on it is. Watching either one of us type in Ukrainian is painful. We are agonizingly slow at it. Again, maybe with time that will become a possibility.
I am also much more comfortable writing in English. I am used to expressing complicated ideas using the English language (over, say, painting or interpretive dance). I have taught college composition and have had to write many essays in the English language (I was an English major, after all). Over the years I think I’ve become OK at writing. Yulia is also really good at writing in English. She writes on the same level as me, with the same (if not greater) speed.
That being said, we plan to get something up on our blog in the Ukrainian language very soon. We are still not sure what form it will take. We could translate each entry, but because of the aforementioned problems due to typing, we’d need some time to teach ourselves the Ukrainian keyboard. I realize we could just plug our blog entries into Google Translate, but we have found that the translation of whole sentences using a machine is not very accurate. Translation involves interpretation and that requires the human touch. We could also split the blog into two sections—Ukrainian and English. The Ukrainian section would be much smaller because of the difficulty we have typing in Ukrainian, but at least it would be there.
We want a Ukrainian section (even if it’s short) because we want a Ukrainian audience. Even if they cannot read every blog entry of ours, our Ukrainian readers could at least find out something about us. We understand that our future neighbors will probably be Ukrainians, and we want to get the word out to them that we are here and searching for neighbors now that we are done with the search for our house. The short Ukrainian section could be for these potential neighbors. It would introduce me and Yulia, explain what we are doing here, and give our email contact.
Simultaneously, we want an English section because we want to share our joy in living at our new home with friends and family, and most of them happen to speak English. Like many other travelling bloggers, we want to share our thoughts and show where we are and what we are doing. Instead of sending out dozens of mass emails, the blog form allows us to do so in a convenient way. Ukraine is very different from America (and the other countries where our readers may be from), and we want to tell people what it is like and how it is different. Reading our blog could take on the form of armchair travelling, something me and Yulia like to do at times. I’ve always loved looking at maps and wondering about all the different places there are to see in the world. One of my favorite writers is Robert Kaplan, a journalist who has traveled the world writing about different cultures. He evokes a vivid image about the “edge of Europe” at the beginning of his newest book, The Revenge of Geography. In it his considers the Caspian Sea as the cultural border between Europe and Asia. On the western bank of the Caspian, he states, one sees the last remnants of Roman inspired architecture end. After crossing the sea and arriving in Turkmenistan, one is abruptly in cultural Asia. This description about the end of a continent is so much better than simply saying that Europe ends at the Ural Mountains, an almost arbitrary boundary. We want to evoke equally vivid images about Ukraine and get past the tired news media focus on business and politics. Ukraine is more than its politicians and the occasional athletes that attract media attention. Let us show you.