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Archive for August, 2009

kfc bucket of chickenAfter a rather grueling border crossing I have landed in Krakow, Poland. My nose is constantly running thanks to allergies and with three months worth of gear to lug around I feel a bit like a snail — slowly wandering around with my home on my back leaving a trail of mucus behind me. But things are comfortable. I can drink tap water again and people speak English here.

What is uncomfortable is the tough decision I had to make yesterday.

arbeit_macht_freiWith only three days here, I decided to go on the tour of near-by Auschwitz site. I’ve long been interested in WWII history as well as Jewish history. I’d heard great things about it; moving, emotional… all of that. A must see for any Euro-history buff.

But then a funny thing happened. I discovered the Krakow shopping mall.

You have to understand the difference between Poland and Ukraine has grown massively in the past 15 years. Immediately after you cross the border the roads are smooth, everything is clean, vehicles have AC, and the level of consumerism sky-rockets. In fact, Poles have embraced American-style conspicuous consumption in a way that Germans, the French et al. just haven’t.

This mall had it all. H&M, Mexx, KFC, tacos, escalators, braying toddlers on leashes. I almost cried. People must have thought I was on meth because of the smile in my face. I was truly happy. My inner-North American was unleashed and he was loving it.

And this is where the difficult choice came in. To spend the day educating and improving my understanding of the human condition in the haunting remains of one of this centuries most iconic testaments to the depths of human malice… or… spend the day devising a strategy to eat KFC with both my hands and my feet just so I had more digits for lickin’. What to do?

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EJECT!!!

Eject_eject_ejectGah! So……….. It looks like I have to leave Ukraine tomorrow. The Ukrainian government has decided to exact a measure of revenge for the humiliating visa regime other countries have leveled on Ukrainians by restricting visitors to 90 days only — no re-entry.

Shouldn’t I have looked into this? I did actually, about two days before they changed the rules. My fault really, but now I have 24 hours get the hell outta the country. Let’s just hope I don’t pull a “Goose” at the border crossing.

So I am scrambling at the moment, trying to get my things together, say my good-byes and buy all of the cool shit I’ve neglected to buy.

Probably won’t be posting for a while. It’s time to get my Littlest Hobo on. hoborock

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bitchen 1People always laugh when they visit my place here in Lviv for the first time and see that the bathtub is in the kitchen, so I figured ya’ll might enjoy it as well.

My first week here it did feel strange showering where I cook, but I’m used to it now. It actually used to be worse. Our original water heater was decades old. It sprouted flames, shot sparks and occasionally emitted searing steam instead of hot water. Now we have a fancy new gas heater.

As far as ettiquete goes — roommates and guests just give a heads-up if they want to shower and anyone clears out of the kitchen. What’s a little more irritating is the lack of water pressure. Lviv is infamous for its terrible plumbing and the city shuts off the taps every night at 12am, and turns them on again at 6am.

bitchen 2Some days there just isn’t any water at all so it’s important to have plenty of buckets on stand-by in case this happens. We learned this the hard way. Not washing dishes for a day I can live with, not showering for a day can be liberating, not being able to flush the toilet… can be a little humiliating. There is just something creepy about pooping on top of someone else’s poop.

That said, I’ve heard of worse commodes here in Lviv — shared and outdoors.

Here are some pics and a video. I’m filling up buckets because the pressure is too low for the shower head to work. I kinda like the buckets. They save water and you get a better rinse. One warning though, I flash a little pelvo-sizzle, so ladies, you might want to sit down.

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Ukraine’s got talent

Really it does. If you are in the mood for something you have probably never seen before; check these videos. Kseniya Simonova the 24-year-old winner of the television program Ukraine’s Got Talent has developed a unique art form using sand and a back-lit table. The following two videos tell the story of Ukraine’s nearly unparalleled misery at the hands of the Nazi’s during WWII — in sand form! Trust me. This is truly beautiful.

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For the next little while I won’t be posting much as my friends Peter Row and his new wife Miwa are in town, then I’ll be taking my brother on a tour of Ukraine for a couple weeks. I’ll try and post at least twice a week though. So for now I’ll leave you with this…

While in the western Ukrainian city of Ternopil I found these amazing articles of clothing at a market in the bus terminal. The first is a dress featuring Lindsay Lohan drinking a Starbucks coffee with a bedazzled “cup-sleeve.” The second is a tank-top emblazoned with Eva Longoria-Parker. Enjoy.

lindsay lohan dressEva Longoria sexy

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stop signOne of my goals while spending the summer in Ukraine was to learn some Ukrainian.

I had hoped to be able to carry on a conversation with my Grandmother when I returned to Canada. I have learned some “survival Ukrainian” but sadly unless my Grandmama is now working as a cab driver or selling Camel lights at kiosk I might have trouble putting coherent sentences together.

That said, I did manage to learn the Cyrillic alphabet. It was surprisingly easy, and once I did so a whole world opened up to me. My first morning after learning, I walked down the street like a little kid pointing at signs, “hey! That says “bank!” That says, “products!” That says, “stop!” Many words in Ukrainian are the same as English, simply spelled with different characters.

If you have ever wanted to learn a new alphabet this is the one. It only takes about four or five hours and you’ll have an amazing party trick for the rest of your life — converting people’s names to something that looks vaguely menacing, thanks to years of cold war propaganda. So, if you’re bored at work, and want to learn something new, just follow the simple instructions below.   (more…)

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Whells Fall offI want to give a huge shout-out to a friend I met in Warsaw while I was there in April. For the purposes of anonymity I’ll just refer to him as Brandonzev. Brandonzev let me crash at his place for a week after we disclosed our mutual love of the band Rural Alberta Advantage over a few beers. In dizzying week he versed me in the vagaries of romancing Polish women, taught me the basics of setting up a blog and showed me a side of Warsaw I never would have found otherwise. As he put it, “we rocked it until the wheels fell off.”

Most importantly he provided a stellar soundtrack to what has been an amazing summer. Brandonzev is the mastermind behind the music blog The Burning Ear [TBE]. Do yourself a favour and check it out… now!

For those who don’t know what a music blog is, it’s quite simple. The author of a music blog shares his/her favourite tunes with readers by writing a short blurb on why you might like a song, then posts a link or a downloadable mp3 of that song. The key is finding a blog run by someone with the same taste as you.

burning ear headerFor me the second best thing about TBE is the writing. He’s a Califonia guy, so the tone is always sunny and clever. He doesn’t go to the trouble of posting songs he hates just because he thought of a few nifty phrases he could use to make fun of the them. He’s not sarcastic and mean-spirited (like this asshole) and unlike a lot of music writing he doesn’t tell you why you might like a jam by using fucked out phrases like “jagged guitar riffs,” and “surging baselines.” Instead he suggests, how you might enjoy a track. For instance:

Speaking of danceability, Pitchfork fave “Keep It Goin Louder” is fun, but in that sort of mindless, silicon & spray-tan kind of way. The kind of song you can make eyes at a drunk girl from across the club to. You probably wont remember it the next day but you’ll know you had fun.

Of course, the first best thing about TBE are the tracks themselves. The Burning Ear may lean heavily on upbeat party music, but really who doesn’t want to be at an upbeat party? TBE does a great job at mixing genres like, dance, indie rock, hip hop, R&B, remixes and mashups. You’re not likely to find a lot of self-conscious folk anthems for born again bedwetters here.

spacehogCurrently TBE is running a series called <<Pre-Millenial Flashback>> It’s a weekly look back at the songs and bands we loved in the 90s. Trust me, there are lot of great tunes you’ve forgotten by now. Spacehog anyone? Score these jams, or any of TBE’s suggestions, toss them on a stereo the next time you’re entertaining a group of single 25-35-somethings and create so much love, fun and good vibes you’ll be guaranteed to get into Jewish heaven.

So if you’re anything like I was a few months ago, staring at your iTunes stumped as to which tired worn-out track you should get dressed to, go to his blog. Have a read, download three tracks and make them the soundtrack to your thank you note to me. Well, to him actually.

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