Emma's Life in Ukraine, According to Me

My friend Emma moved to Ukraine at the end of spring, because that was the first exciting and far-flung place where she was able to find a job, although the people running the American English school operation were not super convincing in their capabilities to run a business and employ people of international origins. Emma didn't take a freighter there, which is her trans-Atlantic transportation preference, though she has not yet tried it out. When she traveled from Pittsburgh to Poland it would have taken too long; always, it will take too long. It only cost her about $400 to fly to Warsaw from New York, though. One-way flights...they are scary in concept, but more affordable than coming home again, at least if you have a guaranteed income-source in your new host country. I'm not sure Ukraine would consider itself her host, though. Something about visas...

In any case, now my best friend lives in an eastern Ukrainian city by the name of Запорі́жжя. That's Zaporizhzhya. Yes, that's right, two zh's in a row. I generally just call it Zaporizhia, though, which is less funny and more normal. To me.
Things I "Know" About Zaporizhzhya   
  • I am choosing to remember the story this way: the first thing Emma (and therefore, I) knew about Zaporizhzhya was its deeply toxic, industrial nature. (Possibly a little harsh, here; I've never been to the place!) She started out in Kiev, you see, training to teach English, and she expected to be placed there, or in Odessa, if she was lucky. Instead, she learned she would be moving to Zaporizhzhya, and when she told her students, one of them helpfully told her: "You want see red snow? Go to Zaporizhzhya!" When I heard this, I was afraid she was destined to die a bloody death, but apparently it is a joke about the amount of pollution in the precipitation. At least I think it was a joke.
  • Zaporizhzhya has "only one street." The entire city is one big road, which will take you out of the city (as roads tend to do, I guess). I hear the city's not much, although Wikipedia says it's the sixth-largest in Ukraine and it is much bigger than Ann Arbor, MI. I think Emma walks along this road until she leaves the city sometimes. She knows a graffiti artist who used to live in the bedroom in the apartment in the giant Soviet apartment block she lives in, and who taught at her school, and he knows some people (also graffiti? artists?) who live in a house which may be a dacha or may be something else, and it is on the edge of town.
  • Emma's hair gets dirty, sooty, from the air. Or was that a story about 19th-century Pittsburgh and Detroit? Oh, no, I think it's true of all three. One day she said to me "my hair is so full of dirt by the end of each day." I thought this was exceedingly strange, but then I found out it wasn't, really.
  • Zaporizhzhya is, like Kiev, on the Dnieper River. When I asked Emma if it was polluted, she replied, "Jesus Christ, I can't believe it's not. It's black. Absolutely." There are at least four conversations we have had wherein Emma hasn't had hot water in days. The water has heavy metals in it. When she first moved to Zaporizhzhya, she bought water from an old woman who sells water on the side of the road, or something.
  • Emma: something in the water is destroying my stomach
    Marisa: nooooooo
    Emma: even though I paid for it
    Marisa: you mean bottles?
    Emma: there's this little booth in the side of a building with an old lady in it
    and she fills up your bottles
    I think it's filtered but it's definitely not boiled
    and it's slightly yellow

    Marisa: uh, ew
    Emma: but my roommate, and everyone else, is fine
    she was like Oh you probably maybe just have giardiasis
    and I was like Oh I'm gonna destroy the earth, no worries
I take it you are here for pictures of food I have already eaten.In his school days R. S. Feller wrote a 13-page paper on the superiority of Ukrainian bread.  I am reviewing his findings.
More Zaporizhzhyan tidbits: While the weather was still warm, Emma and her fellow teachers and their students were always going to tents (on the river?) so they could eat grilled meat and drink. Like all the time. Other than that, the internet record suggests she mainly survived on fruit. Apricots, melons, strawberries, tomatoes. Figs! But now it is cold and we can only presume that Ukraine's supermarkets are empty in the winter. Emma also likes to always eat at the same restaurant chain, which serves lots of starchy delights like varenyky (Ukrainian stuffed dumplings) and bread. But maybe that is only when she is in Kiev. Which doesn't happen as much because the rabies thing is all taken care of!

Tomorrow Emma is going to Dnepropetrovsk, which is a city also on the Dnieper, I assume from its name. I know this name; it is the city where all the oligarchs are from, and the oligarchs rule Ukraine. Something about the mob? Also, Pink Pants Dima (a student in either Emma's or her roommate's class who only has one pair of pants? and they're pink) has a very nice Honda, and that is how they are going to get to Dnepropetrovsk, apparently. I always imagined a bus or a train. Anyway, that city has better shopping than Zaporizhzhya, so Emma can work on expanding her exclusively black and, I think, probably largely ridiculous Ukrainian wardrobe. Yay for Fridays!

Photos stolen from Emma via She Eats the Country She Devours the Land.

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