What Kate and Kris did in September 2017
It’s September already. Where has the year gone? Many of you will already know that we moved to Kyiv/Kiev in August to work for the same school we worked for in Odessa. We will be writing blogs on interesting things to see and do here, but we also want to do monthly updates of what we have been up to.
So here’s the first one. Here goes…..
Working abroad often involves some kind of medical check and this has been no exception. In Thailand, the annual health check involves checks for HIV, syphilis, elephantitis, mental retardation (whatever that means) and alcoholism. You may be wondering how they check for some of that. Well, obviously there is a blood test, and then an interview with a doctor. The doctor pokes and prods you a bit, and then asks:
Do you have any signs of elephantitis?
Do you have alcoholism?
As long as you are not so drunk that you accidentally answer ‘Yes’ to any of these questions, you get your health certificate.
In Ukraine, we got taken to a narcologist. This was a first. I’ve never met a narcologist before. Is it a common specialism offered at medical school? We went to a old medical centre and into a corridor with a lot of closed wooden doors and people mingling outside. One door was open, and was where pregnant women were dropping off their urine samples. I don’t know why. The samples were all in open glass containers, in rows in the office. I’m not going to describe the smell to you.
The narcologist was in a different office. We were each ushered in, along with our Ukrainian translator. After a conversation in Ukrainian, and a blood test, we were asked to stand up, hold out both arms, close our eyes and stick out our tongue.
And then sit down, as the certificate was signed off. The narcologist just looked slightly amused.
No idea what that was about. Perhaps if we were really pissed we wouldn’t be able to do it. We will have to check that one weekend. We have a certificate that says we are not alcoholics. I think. I can’t actually read it.
Chernobyl Museum, Kyiv
Having visited many sights in Kyiv on previous visits, one of our first trips was to the Chernobyl Museum. As I’m sure you know, on 26th April 1986 at 1.23am, Reactor Number 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power station, about 140km from Kyiv, exploded. The cost to human health and lives and to the environment has been catastrophic.
Situated in one of the fire stations that assisted in the aftermath of the disaster, the Chernobyl Museum in Kyiv holds thousands of artifacts from the disaster, including photos, paperwork, clothes and toys.
Coming into the Chernobyl Museum, the entrance hall is a commemoration to the most recent nuclear disaster at Fukushima. After paying the entrance fee, plus 50 hrivnas to take photos and 100 hrivnas each for the audio tour in English (well-worth it) we went up the stairs, past rows of street signs from all the villages that have been evacuated to form the 2600km Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. This is part of the tragedy that we weren’t so familiar with. The radiation levels around the plant are so dangerously high that no one can live there, and the half-lives of the nuclear material are so long that the area is not expected to be safe for living for around 20,000 years.
The inhabitants of Pripiat Town, largely workers at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and their families, were given 3 hours to evacuate the town after the disaster. In the following years, the Exclusion Zone has been extended and around 350,000 people have been forced to leave their homes. The room to the right of the stairs of the museum really put that into context, although I’m not sure we can ever imagine the scale of it.
The room is filled with parts of churches from the exclusion zone, including religious statues, paintings and altars. In the middle there is what looks like a carved wooden boat, hanging from an altar, filled with soft toys that had been left behind by the children. The floor appears to be made of metal parts of the reactor, or at last, replicas, and the walls are covered with displays of the various communities that completely disappeared because of the evacuation.
Imagine, villages that had existed for thousands of years, spending days farming and growing their own produce, trading with each other, generations of children raised, suddenly gone. The exhibition is set up in a very arty way with the objects lit with coloured lights, giving a childish yet haunting feel.
If that room is a memorial to the lost communities caused by the Chernobyl disaster, the room to the left is a tribute to those who died because of it. The walls are covered in passport-style photos of all the power plant workers, firemen, coal miners and other people who died as a result of the disaster, either immediately, during the cleanup or afterwards, due to radiation poisoning and cancer, particularly thyroid cancer.
The audio tour tells personal stories of the disaster through the eyes of these people, from the disaster to what happened after. There are also TV showing loops of news footage, videos of the cleanup and promotional videos from the nuclear power plant. Another thing we didn’t realise was that the power plant continuing to function after the disaster, and many workers returned to work there, despite the radiation levels. It did not shut down for good until December 2000.
What Kate and Kris Ate – September
Back in Ukraine, we’ve been catching up with the Ukrainian food we’ve missed during our time in Thailand. A common Ukrainian dish is vareniki. They are dumplings, not dissimilar to Chinese dumplings really. The crescent-shaped dumplings are filled with things like potato, cabbage, cheese or cherries and then either boiled or fried.
Katysha (pronounced Katoosha) is a chain of Ukrainian restaurants specialising in vareniki. The decor is 1960s Soviet and cool. There is a big old-fashioned TV showing Soviet cartoons and film clips. It’s cool. You can watch them making the vareniki and they also have a deli counter selling food to take away. You can find more photos on our Facebook page.
Where Kate and Kris Drank – September
We’re loving exploring this new city and all the great bars and pubs there are. Craft beer has exploded here and there are lots of places brewing their own beer.
So far we’ve spent the most time in Pilsner, a Czech bar on Pushkinskaya Street, which is mainly underground but has an outdoor terrace at the moment (we assume this will disappear when it gets cold). Pilsner sells a selection of Czech beer, as well as a craft beer Tsypa from the Transcarpathian region. They have different types each week and one is half price each week too – althought since it’s about £1.30 a pint normally, it’s not completely necessary!
Kiev has quite an extensive metro system and some stunning metro stations. There are lots of unique stations and we’ve started a blog series looking at some of the most impressive. The first is the nearest metro to our flat – Teatralna. Check out the blog post.
Blog posts we published in September 2017
Seeing in the New Year in Ayutthaya – well, we published this at the end of August, but who’s counting? Back in January, in Thailand, we went to see the temples at Ayutthaya and enjoyed lots of great live music for New Year’s Eve.
Mugged By Monkeys in Lopburi – After Ayutthaya, we went on to Lopburi, another town with great temples that is also full of monkeys.
New Teacher Tales: Richard – Richard talks about how he started teaching English abroad, about working in Saudi Arabia and Italy and the perils of students relying on Google Translate.
Blogs we appeared in in September 2017
Life As A Nomad – What it’s really like by Feet Do Travel – lots of expats talk about the highs and lows of living abroad. Feet Do Travel also have a great Facebook group, if you are interested in all things travel.
18 Awesome Places to visit in Ukraine (that are not Kyiv or Lviv) by Megan Starr – we promote Odessa in this blog, but other travellers recommend a whole range of fascinating places that we’d love to visit.
We put photos of stuff we are doing, eating and drinking on our Facebook page regularly, so check it out if you want to see more. If you do ‘Like’ it, and you want posts to appear in your News Feed, make sure you ‘like’ posts you see, so Facebook knows that you want to see more.