My Underwear and the Green Stamp
We arrived in Kiyv a month ago – Nov. 16, 2009 Today is December 27, 2009. During that time we have waited patiently while the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry putzed around with our residency document s (I still don’t have any as of this writing!) More important I wanted to have a normal wardrobe – a real change of clothes and that meant being able to finally have access to our shipment of household goods which have been in the customs lockup since December 5th. I have been living in two pair of jeans, two pair of underwear and wearing my wife’s athletic socks and three long sleeve T-shirts – alternating shirts or wearing one or all three depending on how cold it was. I’ve now gone to two job interviews dressed in jeans and my seedy shirts. Lucky me, I’ve been called back for follow ups so they ARE looking at my mind and how I can contribute to their organizations and not my wardrobe! Yesterday we slammed into yet another road block on getting our shipment. Seems the outbound expediter in Yekaterinburg forgot to stamp our documents that we were not transporting any pesticides. Well silly us, thinking our honest faces would get us by. Not to happen, we had to visit yet another customs/public health unit and there they extracted a blood oath from Sophie that we had not brought any bug spray or other products that Rachel Carson might find harmful. In exchange a nice but bored lady dutifully affixed the missing green stamp that we were pesticide-free……I am stuck in my limited wardrobe for another 3 or 4 days until the stamp is recorded on a computer system…then maybe some new cloths to put on. In the meantime…I love my jeans; I love my jeans, I LOVE MY JEANS!
We owe dollar denominated obligations back in the States but it is impossible to open an account so we can transfer money to pay our bills. Never had this problem in Russia. We get the royal oligarch treatment………the Ukrainian government quakes in its boots thinking Mike and Sophie’s $1,000 a month we transfer can somehow be as harmful as the Billions of dollars being spirited out by the ruling elite. Yachts are denominated in dollars too! Our needs are more simple like credit card payments, student loan payment, etc. This too can be remedied like getting my underwear from Customs but we need to find the right person with the right stamp! Colorful round and rectangular stamps are magic here.
The Central Market
Sophie and I journeyed to the Central Market today for “Salo” – the Ukrainian delicacy designed to satisfy your pallet but put you in an early grave via an elevated cholesterol count. Salo, my good buddies is marinated pig fat. This is not on the diet of those fellas looking to find 72 virgins when they blow themselves up. Pity, Salo is divine. You drink a little vodka or cognac with it, eat some dark bread; it is to die for (virgins not included). My favorite salo is marinated in garlic and cherry juice, followed by a garlic/pepper medley.
Speaking of Virgins….
This silly Nigerian guy, Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up the Norwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam, as it was approaching Detroit, sounds like he roasted his private parts when the bomb misfired in his lap. What a shame. He didn’t get to be a finalist in the “Search for 72 Virgins” contest nor does he now have the equipment necessary to satisfy these girls properly. Such are the chances you take when working for al-Qa-ida. I’m sure that he will get out of this anyway. He was probably being discriminated against…his own father had told the FBI his son was a radical and thus he went on a “watch list”. Watch lists are easy ways for cops to do their jobs in counter-terrorism but give guys like this a chance to walk when they get to court. But it seems that he won’t be able to produce any little terrorists to follow in his footsteps having roasted his gonads. That’s a good thing! High fives to all the heads up passengers on Northwest Flight 253 who helped subdue this Islamo-Facist Cowboy.
Politics Ain’t Bean Bag”
‘Tis the season. Ukraine is trying to elect a new President and they have enough candidates running to make up an entire NFL team! Our family favorite is Yulia Timoshenko. I call her the "Maniacal Matroyoshka". She has great campaign ads and this mother earth/Ukrainian peasant image she’s cultivated. She’s a nice looking woman, maybe even beautiful but she’s a shark. The favorites in the race are just waiting their turn to harvest as much money as they and their cronies can lay their hands on and reform the country as little as possible. Those back in the pack like Sergey Tigipko are new faces, have less baggage and want reform thus they do not curry favor from the old guard and reap less money to throw at their campaigns. Control here rests with a handful of oligarchic thugs who want no part of reforms but just keep skimming the gravy. The IMF has poured huge amount s of money into Ukraine with the stipulation that reforms in government processes and bureaucracies happen now. But both the current President Shevchenko and Prime Minister Timoshenko give the bloated bureaucracy a holiday pay raise instead of firing half of them which is exactly what need to be done. And they have the guts to simultaneously tell the IMF they need another $2 billion to keep the circus running.