Yesterday after our first visit and Sofia's morning nap we took another walk to town. This weekend is a big holiday weekend here in Ukraine and the weather is beautiful, for the first time we saw a bunch of people in short sleeves outside enjoying the weather...and children without snow hats!!!
We've wandered back and forth almost every day since we've been here from our apartment nearby the orphanage to the town center about a mile away. This town is about 30 minutes outside of Dnepropetrovsk...but we think it's still considered Dnep. We walk through a wooded section to get to the town center which consists of some apartment buildings, some government and business buildings, a supermarket, a couple bars, an outdoor market, a post office, a small mall (which consists of open stalls of various goods), a notary office and a bank. I'm sure there is much more than this but since we can only travel by foot this is what we've discovered.
Inside the supermarket, there is a bar. An open beer bar with no seats where you can get a freshly poured draft and continue on your shopping excursion. We found the same thing at the "open air" market...right when you enter there is a bar with beer on tap. Beer is EVERYWHERE. People walk around with their beer bottles...instead of bottles of soda.
There are quite a few cars but it looks like people walk more than anything as a mode of transportation. We've seen some scooters and motorcycles, many bicycles and then a few old cars speeding by. What is fascinating is that immediately next door to the orphanage, with a shared wall with barbed wire, there is a state of the art sports complex where the Ukrainian soccer team lives and trains. Immediately across the street from the orphanage is a huge walled and gated community which must be where some of the staff live for this soccer team. There is a stark contrast between the people and the cars in town versus the people we've seen coming out of this gated community. The cars that enter and exit these places are high end new cars...think Mercedes, Infiniti, Lexus, etc.
On the other shared wall with the orphanage is another interesting place that we haven't quite figured out. It may be a school as we've seen kids on the property at times. Or it may also be a vacant building. Some parts of this building are literally "bombed out" and there even appears to be a bomb shelter door leading underground at one spot. Very interesting place...besides the few kids we've seen playing adjacent to these buildings, the place is totally vacant.
We plan on spending some time this weekend exploring town in more depth. It's a 4 day holiday weekend and it's one of the bigger celebration weekends here in Ukraine so I'm sure we'll see some action. It's there version of Labor Day and May Day combined. Cars drive crazy here and pedestrians do not have the right of way and are not regarded as important so we'll try and be as careful as possible. The parks are full of people this weekend too. LOTS of picnics and barbeques. Hector is always so eager to see what they are cooking. I think he's getting hungry!
We would love to get the nerve to go into maybe one of the bars and see if there might be food associated with it. There is a local dish, a soup actually, that we are so eager to try. It's called "borscht" and we are craving it! If we can't find it in town (and we couldn't find it in the grocery store), then we might ask our landlady who lives below us to make it for us. She's a cook at the orphanage after all!
Speaking of our landlady, we adore her. I wish we could speak with her more. Today, she rushed out the door when she saw us leaving for the orphanage and said in beautiful English..."How are you?" She was SO proud of herself and went on in Russian how she studied that all day today. She then taught us how to say "Fine" in Russian. Love her!
We run into goats all the time here...munching away at the fields nearby. That's the only livestock we've seen. Also, dogs run rampant in this town. There seems to be a HUGE stray population of dogs here. Cats on the other hand are few and far between and the few that we have seen are definitely pets not stray. Very interesting! It's kinda scary to come across a pack of wild dogs on our walks home.
People here do NOT smile readily. I haven't let that stop me from smiling at them. It would appear that most people here look grumpy and unkind and uninterested. That may or may not be the case. The checkers at the grocery store are downright mean! The staff that we've got to know at the orphanage and our adoption facilitators (Marina, Serge, Nikolai and Yulia) and our landlady have been incredibly lovely so I'm thinking that it may just be an exterior front that you just have to break through to see the true spirit and personality of a Ukrainian.
Many of the older women in Ukraine dress very traditional in skirts and layers and scarves around their heads. The younger women of Ukraine...well...that's a different story entirely! The women dress in VERY short skirts, hose, high heels and tight fitting and often revealing tops. They also wear a lot of makeup and have "big" or brightly colored hair. The men all kind of look the same in very typical and familiar jeans and sweaters or sweatshirts.
We'll see what the rest of the weekend brings for us! Maybe, just maybe, we'll find some "borscht" for Hector...it's become our running joke!