It's 5. 2 hours till I run. Killing time since I can't see any more apartments today. Just stumbled across this and found it completely fascinating: a perfect description of exactly why I hate non-sandal type flip-flops, that cram in between your toes.
For them to stay on, you are forced to cramp your toes into the rubber sole to maintain some sort of grip. Pebbles, sand, grass, anything on your path will jump right in and grit and poke and generally annoy your feet, which are already having enough of a time just keeping the damn things on.
Granted, they do make a rather fun click-clack sound. Unless of course they're wet, in which case it's more of a squeak-shlook, and your already tenuous grip is fully gone as they swivel left and shlook right, the rubber rod ramming the toes, while your heels tramp alongside.
Their inability to be worn comfortably in the presence of sand and water makes one wonder how it is they are so ubiquitous on the world's beaches. Maybe it's because they float. Maybe more shoes should float.
Posted by Dakota on 3:59 PM link |
Ever wonder why the hell newspapers refer to Saddam Hussein as Saddam? If that's not the functional equivalent of calling Bush 'George' in major publications?
And ever wonder how the hell one actually pronounces it, if one were to, for example, actually speak Arabic?
Look me in the eye and tell me this isn't fascinating: Words: Woe and Wonder
Posted by Dakota on 3:53 PM link |
It's 2:36 on a Tuesday and the City Paper classified ads don't come out for another 24 minutes. How does one go about killing time? The obvious answer is to re-organize the blog. For starters, links now open in new windows. That in and of itself is exciting. That said, we're working on reshuffling the books of the year by how much I liked them. An easy task? Not at all. That said, with 24 minutes to kill, anything is possible.
Posted by Dakota on 1:36 PM link |
Seen so far: 2 shining apartments.
"This is a really nice first floor apartment." I'm still thinking Europe, where first floor is above the ground floor, 2nd floor to Americans. This could be ok.
(the elevator descends.)
"Wait. The first floor is underground?" "Not underground, sir. Semi-subterranian." "So... underground." "Well, yeah."
Posted by Dakota on 3:22 PM link |
I question whether I'll ever find a place to live.
In related news, there are quite a few landlords out there who are idiots. For example, calling a cell phone number and getting the message, which repeats the details of the apartment: one bedroom, washer drier and price per month and various other miscellania, and then adds that there's an open house on the 4th at which everyone's welcome.
Neither the ad nor the message give the address of the apartment.
In related news, everything in this city had already been rented. Fighting the urge to cry? I also!
Posted by Dakota on 1:38 PM link |
In related news, almost everyone I know who's started it or (even managed by what they term 'herculean effort' to make it through it) completely HATED it. But Prague, by Arthur Phillips, was a STUNNINGLY good book and REALLY hit home for me.
I feel like the potential audience who WOULD enjoy the book was quite slim. But I identified with just about every sentence in the damn thing, and would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone, even though I'm completely aware of just how many people detested it.
Posted by Dakota on 8:56 AM link |
My-oh, for the first time ever, I'm having major Blogger issues. Unexpected. Crushing me.
Posted by Dakota on 8:28 AM link |
And while I'm here in a complaining mood: I don't read the Onion all that often any more-- both because I'm abroad and not working, and also because it's generally filled with so much suck.
But I was perusing it today, and this I can say: that new format thing they've got going is REALLY irritating. I mean, honestly. Do you have to require so much clicking?
Posted by Dakota on 10:54 AM link |
This was typed yesterday, but massive meltdown at the internet cafe prevented it from being posted until today.
Ukrainians and pretty much all Russians are incapable of typing; they're universally hunt-and-peck sorts of people (primarily, I think, because cyrillic keyboards don't have a universal shape; some have more keys than others, and while the letters stay in roughly the same place, it can be difficult to touch type in English. So I do sympathize).
Anyhow, normally I request the Z.I.P. room in the internet cafe (ZIPzal, one word, two syllables, zeep-zaahl), which provides slightly more privacy than the main room (which is overrun with kids playing Counterstrike and generally being loud and obnoxious and my god I hate kids); but today the VIPzal was full or broken or something and I can tell you: I've attracted quite a little following of people who have been STARING at my fingers with womderment and sheer amazement as I type this.
Earning celebrity status for knowing how to type is not something I foresaw happening, but simultaneously, I'd like to retrospectively thank Mrs. O'Neill from 7th grade Word-Processing Class, who in large part made this celebrity status a reality.
And now I'd like the UkrChildren to stop staring at my fingers. Thank you.
Posted by Dakota on 10:50 AM link |
A brief anecdote for the blog but not for the general public:
I was staying for a while in Kirovograd, central Ukraine (5 hours south of Kiev, K-Grad, affectionately) and studying with a tutor named Natalya, who was ferocious. Before we get any further, to lend this little anecdote a little regional flair, I'll mention that Russians often take the english letter H and turn it into a G, giving American history books Aleksandr Gamilton, and taking current children's literature and turning out volumes and volumes of Garry Potter.
So then, when I finished up my time with her (my Russian having improved more or less none, it being the hardest language I've ever ever ever come across on this earth), the Peace Corps friend who was hosting me informed me that I had a DUTY to come back to Natalya and keep studying--because I was, completely unbeknownst to me, playing the role of cultural ambassador; the Peace Corps people who worked with Natalya informed her before I came that I am a normal American with a languages background willing to pay her fees. And, that I am a Gomosexual.
Natalya had never met a gomosexual before. Natalya, like all Ukrainians, was a certified Gomophobe before she met me. I had no idea that she knew, and she treated me with the same vicious harshness that she treats all her tutorees (occasionally making Peace Corps folks cry by leaping on every error--as a good tutor should).
That said, every time I'd leave her apartment, I'd be replaced by one of the two Peace Corps folks who study with her, and she'd pour out her heart to them: he seems so normal! He's not lispy or feminine or girly at all! And he's so smart! (This was of course a mistake on her part -- although she was impressed with how quickly I learned Russian grammar, she later figured how slowly I learn vocabulary and how little progress I made in the 2 weeks with her).
She later when on to reason out that: he's a gomosexual. And he seems really smart. Therefore, all gomosexuals must be really smart. The Peace Corps folks tried to dissuade her of this (going for a line on the order of 'gomosexuals are just like all other people except in sexual habits'), but she refused to be convinced.
So, courtesy of me, a lonely Ukrainian woman in K-Grad is now fully under the impression that all Gomosexuals are extremely smart.
She later commented that I 'write like a girl.' (My handwriting (gandwriting) in both english and russian is IMPECCABLE, thank you very much). She now thinks that all gomosexuals write like girls, but I'll take that minor defeat along with my equally minor victory.
Posted by Dakota on 12:28 PM link |
Yes, I am certainly biased, in that I love love LOVE anti-Bush propaganda. But sometimes you just come across a snippet that's so damn well-written, it makes you shiver. For example, this.
Hell, it's getting so you can't turn a corner or have a nuanced, humane thought without confronting another hunk of undeniable proof that what these media documents say is true: The Bush administration is quite possibly the most economically destructive, environmentally devastating, ethically corrupt, internationally loathed, deliberately tyrannical, worst-dressed administration in American history.
What, too harsh? Hardly.
When the professors and other intellectuals and the artists and the social workers and the mystics and the truly spiritual among us are appalled and mournful, and the homophobes and the rednecks and the religious zealots are cheering and shooting their guns in the sky, this is how you know.
When America has become a global punch line, a petulant and screeching child in an oversize Texas cowboy hat throwing oily little tantrums on a WMD whim, and the global community can only sit there, stunned and enraged, as every ally withdraws all offers of support and overtures of concern for our well-being, this is how you know.
Posted by Dakota on 6:19 AM link |
Plane ticket: in hand. Coming home: the 21st, as the previous itenerary stated.
T-minus 8 days, and I'm on a plane. I am jittery with the thought of coming home.
Posted by Dakota on 8:15 AM link |
So, the good people at the United States Department of State just sent me a list of 'recommended reading' on Diplomacy, the history of the Foreign Service, and general what-have-you.
And courtesy of Amazon.com, most of those books are rocketing towards me.
Most, and not all, because 2 of the books were going for no less than 49 dollars, one was going at a flat 99 dollars, and one was selling at 190 bucks. 190! I ask you: is any book worth that much money?
I also ask you: can I borrow 190 dollars?
Quixote: more books rocketing towards your mailbox. Be advised.
Posted by Dakota on 5:23 AM link |
It has just come to my attention that for $10 -- yes, ten bucks, ladies and gentlemen, or 50 Ukrainian Hryvnia -- I can get a text ad on Haloscan that will be viewed at least 100 thousand times before expiring.
100 thousand! For ten bucks!
I mean, can you imagine how many more people would take a moment to stop and Face the Sun? This is the kind of publicity I need.
Yesterday I made chocolate chip cookies. Today, I make brownies. In 9 days I get home, and Chipotle does NOT know what's about to hit it.
Posted by Dakota on 5:01 AM link |
Well, we've made a gigantic step in the right direction. That said, the good people at Carlson Wagon-Lit travel sadly mispelled my name on the ticket reservation, ending it in D rather than G.
Business class: not eligible from Ukraine; flight time is under 14 hours. Sadly.
My itinerary as of now:
Air Austrian Air , Operated By: UKRAINE INTERNATIONAL AI
Flight 7172 Booking Code:Y
Date: Saturday, August 21, 2004
From: Borispol Arpt, Kiev Ukraine
To: Vienna Intl Arpt, Vienna Austria
Departs: 8:00 AM Arrives: 9:00 AM
Air United , Operated By: AUSTRIAN
Flight 9465 Booking Code:Y
Date: Saturday, August 21, 2004
From: Vienna Intl Arpt, Vienna Austria
To: Washington Dulles Intl, Washington DC - U.S.
Departs: 11:00 AM
Arrives: 2:40 PM
Posted by Dakota on 4:38 AM link |
Well, finally the ball is rolling on getting the HELL OUT OF UKRAINE.
Last night I got my travel orders to DC from Kiev, a piece of paper that authorizes people with the Department of State to 1. help me get home, and 2. help me in general, it seems, and 3. try to be a little nicer, I guess.
The long and short of it is that they told me who to call to get home (it's back to the embassy tomorrow), and will theoretically be helping me. That said, they also included the email excahnge between embassy staff to try to figure out who in God's name was responsible for helping me. It took five emails back and forth before they got it straightened out.
Anyhow, hopefully I'll be home soon.
Of course, I haven't bought any suits yet, and I'm having trouble finding suits that fit me somewhat kinda close, and the tailor balked at having anything less than a month to work with (I mean, honestly, are you not familiar with the sweatshop concept? Hire some children, for the love), so it seems that I'm going to work naked.
I do hope that the intrinsic sarcasm in that 'hire some children' statement came across; I'm not actually pro-sweatshop. (I can't believe now that I'm a month away from being a 'diplomat,' that I now feel the need to cover my ass with such things).
Posted by Dakota on 9:13 AM link |
Also, in a completely unrelated vein, let me say this:
Kill Bill Volume I was a stunningly good movie, and as such it makes me CRY to think about how much the second one sucked.
Posted by Dakota on 3:44 AM link |
Let me get this off my chest: my GOD am I not afraid of you two.
I speak you this: Drowning The Addiction, by some bizarre turn of fate, actually worked. But now whenever I want a cigarette I have to buy a bottle of water. It's really odd-- I managed to convince myself that I'm thirsty all the time-- but regardless, I haven't had a cigarette in days. Mental flipflop. I didn't think it was possible.
So then, that's right, ladies and gentlemen. Cold Turkey. In UKRAINE, a country where turkeys don't exist, but cigarettes do. Obviously, I would've preferred to go Cold Turkey in Turkey, but we can't have everything we want, now can we.
I have run every day for the past three days in a row.
This morning, I hit my stride. Finally. After running 22 minutes a day for the last two days and then collapsing, legs quivering chest heaving into a pile somewhere near my shower, this morning it finally happened: my body finally remembered how it's done. And oh, yes, this is how it's done. 68 minutes after I began running, I went home and showered.
All I need now are for my lungs to bounce back into shape. For this, I'm developing a cartoon-like bellows-apparatus.
So, then, let me re-iterate: I am not afraid of the blustery would-be running nincompoops who make so much noise vis-a-vis their running abilities.
I am TERRIFIED of the quiet ones, though (oh god, Mageek, please don't tear me to shreds! I know you're like the commonwealth queen of the physical fitness underworld, but for the love, show some mercy!).
Thank god she hasn't moseyed into the betting arena just yet.
Although, if she wants to raise the stakes, then I welcome her.
So then, this is my decision: I will accept more or less any bet that comes my way, so long as the parties involved recognize that I'm coming back flat broke and won't get my first check from State until sometime near October; thus, while I'm willing to pony up to paying for beer or chipotle or even delicious, delicious meals out, I won't be able to do so until three weeks after the race.
To Walnut and his little Red Sage bet, though, I say this: rather than just accepting outright, I'd like to up the ante. As stated before, dinner at Red Sage (which we should define. shared appetizer? two appetizers? two entrees, obviously, but then dessert? espresso?) and the drinks consumed therein. Fine, fine. But tack this on, if you can handle it: BEFOREHAND, a Pomegranate Margarita for each contestant at Rosa Mexicana.
Are YOU up to it, sir? God knows I am. Bring it.
And trust me when I say: anyone who thinks it hasn't already been BROUGH'-EN is severely mistaken.
Posted by Dakota on 3:15 AM link |
One of the things I dislike most about Ukraine is that the food here, in a word, sucks. Honestly. It's all the same, all very rich, but all very, very bland, and I am, in short, tired of it. And god knows where the State department is going to send me, but chances are it isn't going to be a culinary mecca.
When I get back to DC I'm going to be, more or less, rolling in cash, between my salary (and several thousand dollar raise compared to what I was previously making), and of course per diem.
Now, here's what I'm thinking:
I'm going to buy a Zagat's guide-- THE restaurant bible-- for DC. And once every week or two or three, depending on cash flow, I'd like to go to one of those super fancy, fancy pants restaurants in DC. And in between, I'd like to go to the less fancy pants restaurants. And depending on how long I spend in DC, I'd like to hit just about every restaurant in that book.
Now that I'm not saving for any particular big trip or anything of that nature, and since I'll have few expenses after paying off my credit card, I think now's the time to get on this.
Let's get started. Who's with me?
Posted by Dakota on 10:10 AM link |
Finally: I have received my travel orders to get me from Kiev to DC.
Theoretically, I should know when I'm coming home by the end of this week.
Posted by Dakota on 9:52 AM link |
In related news, I will theoretically be home within a month. This is soon enough that I have begun fantasizing about certain foods which do not exist in this part of the world.
And I speak you this: at this point in time, I would honestly commit murder for a slice of key lime pie.
Posted by Dakota on 9:28 AM link |
5k training has begun. For the second day in a row, I dragged my ass out onto the freezing streets of Zhytomyr, Ukraine (it has rained every day for the past 2 weeks; it is currently on the order of 55 degrees, and pouring).
This much I can tell you: I have forgotten how to run.
This much, also, I can tell you: There's no way I'm winning this 5k.
Simultaneously, there's no way I'm losing this 5k. It's a sad catch-22, and I'm stuck in the middle, gasping for breath and determined to win. (Ukrainians, if you're wondering, do NOT run. They do, however, enjoy staring at people who ARE running. The best part about it is that they think I'm Ukrainian. With my neo-Marine haircut (kak Yozhik, kak yozhik) and shiny adidas track suit, I look very, very Ukr. That said, still so out of place).
Posted by Dakota on 9:20 AM link |
I love it, I love it, I love it.
The FBI hires crap translators who do a bad job and then fired the one who attempts to blow the whistle. God bless the Feebs.
That said, this makes me all the sadder that I was turned down by them.
Posted by Dakota on 6:09 AM link |
Attempt #468 To Quit Smoking: Drowning the Addition.
So I've thought through this whole smoking thing. Whenever I'm smoking, I want to be not smoking, and whenever I'm not smoking I'd kill for a cigarette. Because they're delicious.
That said, people who don't smoke really don't understand what it's LIKE to quit smoking. They hear the word 'craving' and think that it's like when you say, 'I'm really craving a plate of lasagna,' or 'god I could go for some buffalo wings right now'. (In related news, spicy food doesn't exist in Ukraine, and I'd KILL for Buffalo wings).
But the craving for a cigarette isn't like the craving for a food. It's not just some abstract desire; it's an actual PHYSICAL feeling, in the back of your throat. The closest comparison is when you're REALLY REALLY thirsty and would be anything for a glass of water. Being really thirsty is MISERABLE. And so, for that matter, is quitting smoking.
Once I drew the connection between smoking and being thirsty, it occured to me: if the feelings are somewhat similar, why not give quitting smoking a try by fighting that oh-so-thirsty feeling with water? And so I decided: whenever I wanted a cigarette, I would have a glass of water.
As of now, (it's 6:30 pm), I've had 2 liters of fizzy water and about 7 liters of still water. I have not had a cigarette. I have gone to the bathroom more times than I can discuss, on the order of about once every fifteen minutes. I am going stir cray, and would still kill for a cigarette. But I am out of the house (in the internet cafe) and thus can't have any more water.
Ironically, I still feel vaguely thirsty.
I am wondering if this will stick, or if I'll break down on the walk home and buy a cigarette.
That's another reason why quitting smoking in Ukraine is so damn hard: you can purchase individual cigarettes, rather than whole packs--allowing you to cheat without the mental burden of buying a whole pack.
But if I'm going to win this 5k (and believe me, I am), then I've GOT to quit.
Let's get started.
Posted by Dakota on 10:27 AM link |
Let's go ahead and get this out of the way:
Thank god it finally happened. Furthermore, welcome.
Posted by Dakota on 10:25 AM link |
Oh, it just got better: an out-of-office Autoreply from my Travel Technician. Honestly, I'm going to scream.
Hopefully I can find someone in Zhytomyr who wants to have a beer with me, because I'm going to be having one regardless.
Posted by Dakota on 10:26 AM link |
God knows when I'm going to make it home.
Problem 1: The flight home.
Contacted State. Quoth they: wait till Tuesday of this week and contact your travel technician to get a flight home.
Quoth travel technician: Contact the embassy to get a flight home. I'm working on your papers.
I: To the embassy, in Kiev, 2 hours from the place where I'm living.
Quoth the embassy: Who are you?
Quoth the embassy: What? (The woman who was speaking to me through the glass had this extreme-squint thing going on. Also, she kept turning off the speaker so she couldn't hear me or talk to me, and in general, I will say this: speaking to someone through four inches of bulletproof glass is somewhat frustrating. And by that I mean: makes me homicidal).
I go through it again.
Quoth they: Oh, you'll need to pay for that out of pocket; we don't do that.
I re-explain that State told me to contact them.
Quoth they: I need to make a phone call.
Half an hour later, quoth they: Leave the building, turn right, turn right again onto the street with trolley tracks, look for building number four, go past the armed guard after showing your passport, waving it in the air and yelling 'fandango!' three times loudly, and contact this woman, 'Natalya'. She can help you. (I was waiting for: 'Be sure to say, 'The crow flies at midnight! MIDNIGHT!')
Quoth Natalya: Congratulations on passing the exam.
Quoth I: Thank you.
Quoth she: I need to see some proof of hiring, your passport, and any suspicious moles or birth marks you might have.
She takes said items to HR. They come back to me circled in blue highlighter. Quoth she: you need to fax these to the State department before I can help you.
I: I did. Two weeks ago. Thank you for the help, though.
She: Where are you being posted? I can't help you with flights until you know where you're being posted.
I re-explain: I don't KNOW where I'm posted. I need to go to TRAINING. State is PAYING FOR ME TO GO FROM KIEV TO DC.
Quoth she: Oh. Well. Do you have any documentation for that? Why are you here?
I: They told me to make a reservation.
She: Oh. Do you have an email address? I'll... I guess, I mean, I'll get back to you.
I: Gee. Thanks.
Problem 2: Mail.
Sooo, you see, State sent me a bundle of very important papers. They SAY they're very important. God knows I don't know what they are. State, you see, FedEx'ed them to my address ("my" address, but still the place where I'm living) in good ol' Zhytomyr, Ukraine, as I instructed them to do.
FedEx tracking indicates that: 1. FedEx does not deliver to Zhytomyr. 2. My address does not exist.
Oh but it does. Really. I promise. I LIVE THERE, FOR THE LOVE OF HAYSUS.
So then, at the embassy today, I say: listen, the United States Department of State -- as in, the people who make this embassy happen -- is trying to hire me. To do so, they're trying to send me some papers. I can't get them in Zhytomyr.
Quoth the Embassy: we can't receive a package for you unless you work here.
I: But, but but but but but but but BUT!
They: don't you know anyone in Kiev? Friends or something?
I: No. (Only barely holding myself back from screaming NOT EVERYONE HAS FRIENDS IN KIEV, DAMN IT!)
She: I would check with that Natalya woman.
The crow flies at midnight.
Quoth Natalya: I'm going to have to check with my supervisor. I'll, umm, I mean, I'll get back to you.
This is, as far as I see it, one of the greatest catch-22s of my life: you can't get papers delivered to the embassy unless you work at the embassy. Sadly, the papers that they won't allow to be delivered to the embassy are your hiring papers, that would allow you to work at the embassy. I mean, can we discuss?
Honestly, I feel like plunking down my credit card and just buying a stupid ticket home.
More from me as events unfold.
Posted by Dakota on 9:38 AM link |
After a minor mishap with a portly Ukrainian barber named Annushka, my hair is now shorter than it ever has been before. Upon seeing me, you might feel an overwhelming urge to salute. Feel free to act on that urge. In all honesty, I now look somewhat like a Marine recruit (delicious), and somewhat like a pre-op lobotomy patient (extra delicious).
Posted by Dakota on 8:20 AM link |