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!

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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.

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