I actually kind of dislike taking manicure pictures while holding the tiny miniature sized bottles... so instead, you'll get this:
Yep, that's a mace. A Ukrainian "bulawa", to be precise. I got it during my first trip to Ukraine; I couldn't resist it, because honestly, how cool is that?! Don't worry, I didn't attempt to bring it home in my carry on luggage. I think that might have raised a few eyebrows.
Early on in the lifetime of this blog, I wrote a post about some of my experiences travelling in Ukraine; I think I'd like to tell you a little more about my first impressions of life in Ukraine. The second time I visited Ukraine, it was to spend a semester teaching at a university. When people ask me what the biggest adjustments to life in Ukraine were, I often talk about the apartment I was living in.
Okay, so admittedly the trees weren't at their most photogenic, and the pavement was pretty ripped up, but after awhile I began to realize this was a pretty good area of town. Very close to the city centre, and a lot of the buildings were lovely old relics of the Austro-Hungarian era, but unfortunately in a state of disrepair.
Arriving at my apartment very late at night, and after a long couple days of travel, I wasn't exactly heartened by my first view of the interior of the building. Nor was the natural gas I could smell in the entryway very reassuring (especially in the older areas of the city, natural gas is the main way of heating buildings- with gas lines running everywhere, there is often a small leak here or there).
The shower was another big adjustment for me, coming from the land of instantly available hot water from every tap. In order to have hot water for showering, one manually lights a gas fire under that metal cylinder of water, and then waits for it to heat up. After about 45 minutes, the water will be hot, and you'll have about 10 minutes for a shower. Additionally, when it comes to water, drinking from the tap is a no-no; only drink bottled water in Ukraine.
These gas burning furnaces were the method by which I could heat my apartment (apparently this style of heating is very common in the older areas of the city, but they do have more modern features in newer areas). They were quite inadequate for heating my apartment during the colder parts of winter, but once it turned into spring, it wasn't such a problem. It was a huge adjustment for me, to learn how to manually turn on the gas and light it safely. I was so worried about not doing it quickly enough and letting too much gas out! My elderly landlady laughed at my squeamishness, and I did get the hang out it eventually, but on my first night in the apartment it was a lot to take in. I was very careful to listen for the sound of the flames while I had the gas on during a windy day, because sometimes the flame would blow out, and then gas would just be running... not an ideal situation!
These were the bigger challenges I experienced initially while adapting to Ukrainian life. Eventually I did adjust to the differences, and I'm very glad I spent time there! I met a lot of kind people, and it was very interesting to immerse myself in a different way of life.
I'll leave you with a quirky picture I took while in Ukraine; I often saw these teapots-on-a-fence-post around town, and I'm not sure what the deal is with them. If you know, please tell me!