Sunday, October 17, 2010

Shopping at the Bazaar, Cooking Ukrainian Food, Pottery Class, and Teaching my First English Classes!

So since I’ve been limited to posting updates only about once a week, this post will be quite lengthy… but I promise I have tons of awesome pictures! Warning – if you are a vegetarian or opposed to seeing raw meat being prepared, you may want to scroll down past the pictures of us cooking Ukrainian food. 
Standard Myspace-style photo!
I’ve been working really hard in my Russian class and learning a lot of new things about grammar that I’m pretty sure that I have never heard of before – like the Instrumental Case, the Genetive Case, the Dative
Case, the Nominative Case, etc. Our Language teacher’s apartment is getting a little crazy!

Language classes are hardcore.
I’ve been eating lots of traditional Ukrainian food at home… meaning soups like Borsch at every meal and some weird things like these little salty smoked fish. My mom plopped one of these down on my plate and I had no idea what to do with it. She showed me how to rip off its head and tail, then peel off the skin and pull the meat off of the bones. I replied in my broken Russian that it seemed to be a lot of work for such little fish meat! It wasn’t that bad though, just tasted fishy and really salty.

I was very pleasantly surprised that my mom made mashed potatoes!
This is what I eat for breakfast almost every day – a sandwich with butter, cheese and sausage with a cup of tea (chai). My host mom slices the butter just about as thick as she slices the sausage. I don’t quite have the heart to tell her not to put any butter on it, so my cholesterol will probably be well over 200 by the time I get home from Ukraine. Check out my Xena Princess Warrior cup… my host mom told me that this is my designated cup in the house because the cup has some resemblance to me haha.

Boot-terr-brrrrrod! Thats Russian for sandwich.
My Ukrainian town is relatively small compared to everywhere else that I have lived, since it only has a population of about 12,000 (that’s smaller than the number of undergraduate students enrolled at Georgia Tech!). We have about 3 main streets, 3 cafes, 3 schools, 3 banks, 3 internet clubs, 3 mobile phone stores, 1 church, 1 river, 1 tank, 1 train station and 1 bus station. And yes, we really do have a tank. And I am pretty sure that it is real. The tank is located directly across from the train station. All the locals probably judged me hardcore for taking this photo with the tank, but I am just really excited to see a real tank! From what I’ve heard, it is relatively common to see a tank on display like this in Ukraine.
Its already in the minus degrees celsius here.
One of the cafes in our town sells real coffee, they actually grind the beans and it tastes just like Starbucks. Okay, maybe not exactly like Starbucks but it is not bad, much better than the weak instant coffee packets that they sell here. Monica and I are enjoying our latte and espresso!

Theres nothing like hot coffee on cold Ukrainian days.
 We also have a bazaar which is very similar to the open-air street markets commonly found in Southeast Asia. Our bazaar is basically like a very spread-out Walmart store, and it is only open from 9am to 1pm. It has one part that sells food products and the other part sells non-food items such as clothing, shoes, rugs, kitchenware, hardware, etc. Here is what the main entrance to the non-food part of the bazaar looks like. 
The Bazaar reminds me of Chinatown.
As you walk further into the bazaar, you can see that each stand has its own specific products. These stands are probably all family run businesses, and they simply rent out the space at the bazaar to sell their goods. Monica and Nathan are checking out some of the Russian-style fur hats (shopkas). They were really expensive at this stand, so none of us bought one. But I am definitely going to shop around when we get to travel to Kyiv and see if I can find one there.
$700 UAH for one of these hats?! Thats like almost a whole month's salary!
 In our spare time last Sunday, we had a little pottery class with our Language Teacher’s daughter Alina. Alina is 23 and just graduated from one of the universities in Kyiv. She taught us how to make pottery out of the clay dirt that came from Nathan’s backyard.

Nathan, Monica, Larysa (our language teacher), Alina, and Heather!
Pottery in progress.
Monica and her sweet alligator... Chomp chomp!
 I haven’t made any pottery like this since art class in high school (in Arizona), so that was like 5 years ago! Everyone worked really hard on their pottery. Here are the finished products! Can you guess which one is mine? Actually I made two of these pieces.

I made the bear in the back and the 3 stacked cubes.
For lunch, we cooked a big pot of Pelmeni (пельмень). Pelmeni is a Ukrainian dish that is basically like little tortellini filled with meat. And by we, I mean that I bought a bag of frozen pilmenye at the grocery store and boiled it in a pot and served it to everyone.

Cooking on a gas stove, the kind that needs to be lit by a match.
Lunch was awesome! We managed to feed everyone for about $4 UAH (or 50 cents).

Om nom nom.
Looks like tortellini, right?
In Ukraine, they use these old-school fly strips to catch bugs inside their house. It is essentially a long strip of two-sided brown packing tape. Funny story – Laura stood up from the lunch table and somehow managed to get this tape full of dead bugs stuck all in her hair. I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to capture the look of disgust on her face, but here is Jakob and Jun putting the bug catcher strip back up onto the kitchen light.

The Russian language teacher at our linked cluster has some interesting decorations on the wall. Granted, it is a house rented out by the Peace Corps for her to live in, but these decorations are still unusual. From what I understood, it is apparently its an old Ukrainian tradition for men to lead battles with these… 
Our cluster cooked Goluptse and Vareneky together with Nathan’s host sister Tamara and Jakob’s host mom, Tanya. Goluptse are like cabbage rolls stuffed with ground meat and rice, in a tomato-based sauce. Vareneky is just like the Ukrainian version of Chinese dumplings, we filled ours with cabbage and potatoes. We went to the Bazaar as a group and bought all the ingredients in the morning, then cooked everything from scratch! The meal turned out to be about $10 UAH per person, or about $1.20 USD. 
Tanya is totally a babushka.
I’m going to write about how we cooked Goluptse first. The first step in cooking Goluptse is to slice the core out of a head of cabbage and cook the leaves until they are soft. We peeled the potatoes, onions and carrots with a knife… they don’t use potato peelers here! And they definitely do not sell ground meat at the Bazaar here – you have to grind it yourself! Tanya showed Nathan how to use a meat grinder. 
You can buy really fresh vegetables here at the Bazaar.
Laura peeling potatoes with a knife.
Nathan loves grinding.
The next step was to mix the ground meat with some spices, chopped onions and rice. We cooked the rice on the stove while Nathan was grinding the meat. Then we scooped some of the meat-and-rice filling into the cabbage leaves and rolled them up like egg rolls. While we were preparing these, the tomato sauce was simmering on the stove. We put the cabbage rolls into a pot and poured the sauce on top. Then we left the pot on the stove for about 45 minutes to cook thoroughly.

Mixing the meat and rice for the filling.
Heather and I rolling the cabbage into eggroll shapes.
Pourng the tomato sauce onto the pot.
Making Vareneky (варе́ники) was fairly easy, mostly because it was so similar to making homemade dumplings! I make dumplings with my mom at home :) To make Vareneky, first we mixed and kneaded the dough. I forgot to write down exactly what went into the dough, since I was peeling potatoes but here is Laura kneading the dough. Rolling out the dough was a team effort!

No rolling pins here... we mean handmade when we say handmade!
 After you roll out the dough, the next step is to slice it into small portions – each chunk was about 1in in diameter. We flattened out each of those small chunks to become the skin of the Vareneky. No rolling pins here, we just did it the old school way by patting it down with the palms of our hands.

Tanya was great about being teaching us how to make vareneky!
Nathan slicing the dough.
After the skin of the Vareneky was made, we scooped some filling into it. Laura and Tanya’s dumplings are filled with cabbage that has already been shredded and cooked. The last step in making a Vareneky (is Vareneky plural or singular? Ugh, I have been studying Russian and English grammar for too long) is to pinch the dough shut with your fingers. It is very important to seal the dough together, otherwise it will explode when its cooking in the pot.

This is the part that really reminded me of making dumplings with my mom at home.
Laura is hard at work, sealing the edges of the vareneky together.
We made a lot of Vareneky, enough to feed all of us and quite a few leftover for lunch the next day! The Vareneky was kind of steamed in a pot, over a towel and in some boiling water. This was interesting to me, since at home my mom and I either boil our dumplings or stir-fry them as potstickers.

See, these could totally be mistaken as dumplings!
Tanya cooking the vareneky in the pot.
Here is our goluptse (on my plate) and the vareneky in the pot, yummy!
We taught our first lessons at School #3 this week! It was really exciting to prepare our lesson plans based on the material that the regular teacher was scheduled to cover. I’m sure that the students were all very excited to hear English from native speakers – many of their school resources here are based on British textbooks and CDs. Heather and Jakob taught the 6th and 11th form students.  Jakob is presenting some new vocabulary to the 11th form students.

Jakob forgot his tie.

An activity where the students were to each read a sentence from a paragraph, in the correct order.
Nathan and I taught about positive and negative sentences to our 11th form students. We set up the chalkboards with some dialogs written on the back of pink wallpaper. Buying wallpaper is cheaper than buying white poster paper to use in the classroom. Us poor Peace Corps Volunteers have to purchase and bring all of our own teaching supplies, but this is standard here since nothing is really provided by the school – the students even have to purchase their own textbooks!

We have brown boards instead of blackboards at our school.
 We presented some new vocabulary to our 10th form students. It is so strange to think of these everyday words as vocabulary being studied in school. And I promise I wasn’t scary in the classroom, this is me in action… pronouncing the vocabulary words loudly and enunciating clearly for the students.

Try explaining these "surveillance" words in laymens terms to non-native English speakers haha.
 We also checked out another one of the cafes in our town and actually met a few other Americans that live here in our community. It was fun to hang out together outside of going to school to observe lessons and our Russian language class. I actually practiced my Russian a bit to order food at the cafe and introduce myself as a Peace Corps Volunteer :)

I missed the memo on wearing maroon, whoops.
Monica and her host sister Oxana... look at Oxana's fancy chinchilla fur coat!
Everyone here likes how Americans smile in pictures.
And how we take pictures like Asian tourists.
We finished out our week here by visiting a local history musem at our linked cluster's town yesterday... pictures and details to come in next week's post though because I forgot to transfer those photos onto my flash drive, sorry!


Angela said...

I learned the Russian word for sandwich the other day too! Apparently you can use it to mean hamburger (causing me some confusion after hearing a chicken sandwich called a burger)

Bi said...

Ahahahaha, love the mug! I never would have thought it, but you DO resemble Xena! ;)

Sally K said...

- love your middle school myspace pic!
- yay mashed potatoes! i never ate potatoes while i was in mexico...
- i'd be offended if my host mom gave me an asian cup
- tank!!! you know, i was driving down 75 one day after work and saw one of these "overload" or "wide load" trucks on the highway... with a tank on it! it was the coolest thing!
- the tortellinis look like asian boiled dumplings!
- hey, the bug strips aren't old school... i still use them sometimes :/
- we still make homemade dumplings... we're so asian

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