Log in


There is a new member in the family. Her name is Zaphira. She's the new queen here.

La Sagrada Familia


Sometimes it hurts so much that the only thing you can do is focussing on breathing.

Kiev in the springtime

How to fail in pretending you're Ukrainian

Yesterday I had the perfect plan in my mind. I was going to use Russian with unknown people, in an easy situation. I'd prepare what I'd need to say, and it would look so perfect that no one would notice that I'm a foreigner. My aim was to talk with enough insurance so that I could pretend to be a local.

I had to go and buy a stamp at the post office to send a card to my family. I had prepared what I had to say, checked the grammar, repeated my part out loud in the apartment until I was satisfied with my accent, and prepared myself for whatever answer or comment it might trigger. No one could be readier than I was. I was going to rock in that post office, yeah!

Of course it all went wrong, all because of a cultural mistake. I had prepared for it: I knew, for instance, at which counter to go (that's a common mistake that I did before, and you have to queue again). But I had forgotten a peculiarity of Ukrainian habits.

When I arrived at the post office, there was a huge line of people waiting at that counter. I was a bit surprised, but decided to stand in the line nevertheless. I didn't want to make a fool of myself again standing in the wrong line. As an average French person, I stood behind the last person of the line, making myself as broad as possible, defending my territory, because that's what standing in a line is about, at least when you're in France. If you don't look determined enough, and potentially aggressive about what might happen if someone ever thought about cheating and taking your place, you can be sure it will happen.

And then he came. A tall guy arrived and stood behind me. I had noticed him and ignored him. But he started talking to me, which wasn't part of the plan at all. I was hoping no one would talk to me, because that augmented the risk of being “caught” as a foreigner, and the aim of my game was not to be caught. He said something I understood, yet didn't make sense to me, so I asked him to repeat. He repeated the same thing: was I here to get my pension? Well I know I don't look that young anymore, but I didn't think anyone would assume that I can get a pension. I said no, in a slightly offended tone. Immediately, the people around me started looking at me with a surprised look. Assuming that nothing could go wrong with my accent by just saying нет, I understood that there was something wrong about me not being there for a pension. But it was the right counter, damn it ! Then the guy who stood in front of me turned himself around and asked me what I was doing there. Mentally fulminating against him, I politely replied that I wanted to buy some stamps, in a perfect Russian (I had rehearsed enough), yet feeling that things were rapidly going out of control. He said that I could go to other counters, and I replied that I knew why I was standing here. That wasn't part of the rehearsed part, and a big red spot came out of nowhere and an alarm rang in people's head: foreigner detected!

And I immediately became the center of attraction. The man standing in front of me decided that as a foreigner, I should skip the line and be the next at the counter, and he started to explain loudly that I just needed a stamp. I flatly refused. I told him that it wasn't correct towards the people in the line, and that I could wait. On that note, a woman came to talk to me and asked me something that I didn't get. She wanted to know if I was with the man in front of me, was talking about my place in the line. I repeated to her twice that NO, I wasn't with that guy and that yes, I was waiting for my turn. She seemed irritated, people started talking, I heard someone saying “she doesn't understand, she's a foreigner”, which made me angry. So much for infiltrating the post office discreetly.

After 15 minutes of waiting in the line and people asking me where I came from, which city, how far is it from Paris etc., and after having realized that most people were there to get their pension and not to buy stamps, I finally was about to reach the counter, when that woman who was irritated by me started to maneuver in order to pass in front of me. I was so angry of the whole situation that I thought I'd roar at her if she dared to do that. I guessed she could feel it, because at the last moment, she sighed loudly and made me a sign to “offer” me to go to the counter. I grumbled an abrasive “thank you”, thinking that it was my own right, so why would she do as if it was her turn and she was giving it to me?

Finally, the trumpets of paradise resonated in the post office, as everyone was listening when I gloriously recited: “I need a stamp for France, by airmail, please”. I was almost expecting them to applaud. The woman at the counter was surprisingly courteous and helpful (it's not the main feature of employees in public places in Ukraine), and I think it's because I had refused to skip the line and she had heard it. She put the stamp for me, helped me to go to another counter in order to get a rubber stamp on my letter, told me where to post my letter. Pfew! I was done. I left the post office with the dignity that I had left, trying to look as cool and innocent as possible.

… it's only about an hour later that I remembered that in Ukraine, people entering a public building where there is a line ask who is the last person in the queue. Then they don't have to stand in the line at all. They may even leave the building. It's understood that their place in the line is granted forever. They are way too disciplined to try and cheat; other people would put them back to their place anyway. So that woman was just trying to tell me that I didn't ask who was the last person, and that it was actually her, theoretically, who was standing in front of me! And she gave me her place out of resignation.

… Oh well, at least, I was given the opportunity to speak in Russian much more than I expected!

December in Kiev

Another futility

I had forgotten to reinstall Adblock plus, which allowed this gem of advertising stupidity to land on my pen pal page:

Oh, we wouldn't want to miss that, would we?

Back in Ukraine

I'm back to Kiev for a few weeks. Bad timing, according to my mom, who is worried about what is going on in the streets of Kiev right now. Actually, I get the news just like everyone else: with the media. It's as if all of this was happening in another city. We hear about the metro stations closing because of bomb threats, rumours say that the schools are going to close. But basically it doesn't change a lot if you don't live in the centre.

In the city centre, it looks like this:

whereas in my area, the main source of interest/joy/excitement is the snow:

I never get enough of it :-)))

I haven't bought my return ticket yet. It feels good to enjoy a few days of insouciance with dobryi_dohter, even though we both know it won't last. Well, who knows? I might not be making History with the revolutionaries down town, but we might make our own little history these days.

Tu vas me manquer

Je t'aime, Benia.

Adopt a vortex

Last night, the first storm of the season swept the whole north of France (as well as the south of England, the Netherlands and part of Germany). Lots of wind here, but no damage. I was surprised to hear on the news that the same storm had a different name in the UK and in France. I wondered who chooses the names for storms. My mom told me that some people actually pay to have storms named after their own name. I thought it was a bad joke, but it's not. Some sick people do pay to see their name displayed on massively destructive events such as storms. Shit, people were killed last night!

I checked and found confirmation of what my mom told me. It's Berlin's Institut für Meteorologie who does that. I find this absolutely disgusting.


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Katy Towell