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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Jerden - Purple Glitter Nail Lacquer (a.k.a. random nail polish I found in Ukraine)

In an attempt to spice up yesterday's manicure, I layered a purple glitter over top. I like the effect; the glitter is quite fine and sparse, which gives a kind of speckled robin's egg appearance.

The brand is "Jerden", but other than that, I can't tell you much about the polish. The label is in cyrillic, and I purchased this while on my first visit to Ukraine. If anyone understands Ukrainian/Russian, here's the label:

At most, I can make out what looks like "Lak Manicure" at the top, but I don't have any clues as to a name for this polish. I was in Ukraine for an academic conference, and while travelling through the city of L'viv I couldn't resist popping into a drugstore to scope out some foreign polishes. I came across this pretty, and it came home with me. I did find it a bit funny to explain to an older, male professor why I simply HAD to see what Ukraine could offer in the way of nail polish. I told him that it was my "thing".

I also wanted to include the above picture of one of my very favourite necklaces. I bought it during my second, longer stay in Ukraine; I had the chance to do some travelling, and while in Odessa I saw it and became quite enamoured with it. It reminds me of some very happy memories of a beautiful city. Odessa is definitely my favourite place that I visited while in Ukraine. Fascinating harbour on the black sea, the Potemkin Stairs, beautiful city centre with great shopping and restaurants, and some truly stunning architecture. For example, check out the Odessa Opera House! Gorgeous.

I have wonderful memories of my time in Odessa; however, I have to admit that getting there was a challenge. Travel in Ukraine isn't always the easiest, and certainly it isn't a terribly accessible country for a foreigner who doesn't speak Ukrainian or Russian.

The first leg of the journey was by bus, which my lovely Ukrainian friend assured me would be "very comfortable". In fact, it was incredibly cramped, stuffy, and kind of... smelly. Ukrainian roads aren't the smoothest ride.

Another challenge was changing from bus to train in a small town around midnight. There was all of one cab available at the bus station around 9pm when the bus arrived, and negotiating a fare to the only reputable hotel in town (a safe place to kill time and grab a meal before heading to the train station at midnight) was a process. One thing (well, one of many things, really...) that you should know about Ukrainian taxis is to agree on a fare before getting into the taxi. Chances are that there won't be a meter (and there almost definitely won't be seat belts, fyi); if you don't agree on a price before getting into the taxi, you'll get totally screwed when you arrive at your destination. If you're a foreigner from the West and an anglophone, avoiding speaking English.

After successfully navigating the taxi ride to the hotel, the next three hours were spent eating borsch and vareniki at what appeared to be a mostly deserted (with the exception of the staff) hotel, and watching a movie on a small TV in the corner of the restaurant. Which happened to be a Russian-dubbed version of the late 90's sci-fi horror flick "Virus" starring Donald Sutherland and Jamie Lee Curtis. If you've never seen Virus, here's what you missed out on (caution for strong language and mild gore):

Ahh, Donald Sutherland. Yeah, I have no idea what accent he was supposed to be approximating there. Any guesses?

So it was like that, but with Russian dubbing over the English. It was an intriguing three hours spent watching this with the hotel staff. This was followed by a mile and a half long walk in the dark (street lights are sporadic in a lot of areas) to reach the train station.

The train station was very atmospheric. It was a good Soviet-era structure; blocky and grey, but with a certain imposing splendour. The train was another matter. Ukrainian trains are an experience all on their own. Four people to a compartment: two bunks on the top, two on the bottom. Train trips in Ukraine tend to be lengthy, so people get to know each other. All the main rail lines were built heading towards Moscow, so depending on where you're situated, and where you want to go, you may end up heading away from your destination before you head towards it. This means a journey which you might expect to take 5 or 6 hours to drive by car, could take 18 hours by train (they're not the swiftest trains). There is a certain camaraderie among the car occupants- it's a genuinely shared experience, and usually people are curious to know you, talk to you, find out what you're doing/where you're going. I really liked that about Ukraine. English speakers are a rarity, so people tend to be curious and welcoming, unlike more touristy countries where the influx of English speaking tourists is met with a cooler reception.

However, if you think you're going to see the countryside from your train compartment, no dice. The windows are long fogged over from decades of travel, and they are bolted shut. With brings me to my major problem with train travel in Ukraine. Ventilation and temperature control. On all my train trips, the train has been unbearably hot. The heat being pumped through the train car was oppressive. It was a sauna. And it wasn't just me sweating away and gasping for fresh air- it was everyone. Everyone was just simmering away in their compartments in the sweltering heat. Sure, there was a slight chill to early Spring air outside the train, but inside was unbearably, unnecessarily hot. I thought it was strange that no one complained to the train car attendant. Finally, after working up my courage and looking up the translation for "very hot", I went and knocked on the train attendant's door.

Me: "Duzhe horiachi!" (Very hot!)
Train Attendant: "Tak, duzhe horiachi!"  (Yes, very hot!)  *door slams*
Me: "..... :("

After relating the story to a Ukrainian friend of mine, she told me a Ukrainian proverb, by way of explanation: "The steam won't break the bones". More or less, it's better to be too hot than too cold. In my opinion, it's better to be neither too hot, nor too cold.

Anyways, to make what turned out to be a very long story short, I loved Odessa, and Ukrainian people can be wonderful, but sometimes the getting there can be an ordeal. Not one that I would have changed, but just one I'll be mindful of in the future.

I hope you enjoyed my story of Ukrainian nail polish and Ukrainian travel,

The Lacquer Tracker


  1. Great stories! That's typical Ukraine alright, especially the "tak, duzhe horiachi!" *door slams* part. For some reason I really like the idea of traveling by train in Ukraine but every time it happens it the experience is just like you described.

    The necklace from Odessa is beautiful- did you get it on the street or at a store?

    1. Yeah, I think there is something quintessentially Ukrainian about travelling by train. It's a fascinating experience, and it's kind of neat to meet people in close quarters; often the people you meet are so excited to meet a North American they call their family on the spot to tell them. Pretty cool. That said, yeah, it's pretty uncomfortable as well.

      I got the necklace from a store in the city centre of Odessa... definitely check out Odessa if you haven't! It an awesome city, I really love it there. My favourite place in Ukraine (of those I visited).