Thursday, September 16, 2010

Soup Tales and Russian Women

Hurrah!  When the temperature reached about 85 degrees, they took Aaron's sweater off!  He is still wearing an undershirt and the long john tights but we are making progress.

Guess who loves Thomas the Tank Engine?


On Tuesday our dear Miss Valla walked into our room dressed up in her finest to let us know that she was going out for the day. She wanted us to know that there was soup and kasha in the fridge for us, even though she wouldn’t be there to serve us. Eat. Eat. Yes? We hugged her and wished her a fine day, and then looked at each other with smiles on our faces. No soup for lunch today! Oh joy! We had a feast of grilled cheese sandwiches, noodles, yogurt and fruit. We were happy, and our tummies were happy. Not that we wouldn’t have traded up for a quarter pounder if we had the chance!

When we returned from our afternoon visit with Aaron, dear Miss Valla met us at the door, horrified. She had checked up on us, and knew that we hadn’t eaten the soup. How could Julia not feed Robert his soup? He will starve. He will be sick. He will wither, become emaciated. Valla fussed in every language she could manage. She mimed swatting Julia on the backside. Meekly, we went into the kitchen and sat down. She rattled her pots, fired up her burners, set the table with gusto. She filled our bowls, served herself a bowl and sat down in a huff. Lesson learned. We ate soup and kasha. It was good.

Side note: Some people have heard that these folks put mayonnaise on nearly everything they eat. What Miss Valla uses is something called “Smetana.” To us it’s more like sour cream than mayonnaise. She expects us to use it in every bowl of soup, in borshch, and even on pastries. Whatever it is, it’s fairly mild. It makes soup and borshch creamier, and it moistens the pastries, which tend to be a bit flat and dry. We actually like it, but we don’t think we’ll add it to our home menu.

(Rob writing) On the evening before court, Julia and I dined out at our second favorite local café, which we have dubbed “Pork, Pork or Pork.” This café’s fare has been going steadily downhill since we arrived, and we only go out now about twice a week. When it was time to go, Julia left me to pay the check and gather our bags of toys so that she could run next door to the supermarket for bottled water.

On this particular evening, one of the café’s side rooms was occupied with a child’s birthday party. The party favors included the usual balloons and toys, but there was also an item we found a bit unusual: vodka. The kids at the party were drinking juice, but the women were drinking some more adult beverages.

When I went to the bar to pay the bill, there were several women gathered there: two adult women, a girl in her late teens and one pre-teen girl. My language skills got me no farther than “check, please.” I think the older women must have seen the inside of my wallet, which of necessity holds a lot more cash than it ever would at home, because suddenly I became a person of great interest. All of the women were speaking their native language to me full speed, as if I might understand them better if they repeated themselves often enough. I made my apologies and went to gather my bags. One of the women followed me. No, she gestured, don’t take your bags, don’t go. She took my arm in hers and led me back to the bar. One of the girls conjured up some high school English: “Do you like beautiful *native* women?” she asked. Only half understanding her question, and not wanting to be rude, I answered in the affirmative: “Da.”

Most of you probably know that Eastern Europe has a thriving industry centered around arranging marriages between American men and Eastern European women. America has men who are lonely, and Eastern Europe has poor women who are willing to forego real love in exchange for a shot at the opportunities America offers. The industry provides matchmaking services, flower and card delivery, translation, transportation, apartments to use while couples are getting to know one another, and so on. This is so common that when many folks over here see an American, they immediately assume that he’s looking for a date.

So I suppose that’s what these women thought. I knew just enough native language to dig myself in a bit deeper. I tried tapping my ring finger, which doesn’t bear a ring because of my work. Apparently I tapped the wrong hand; these folks wear their wedding rings on their right. “Vremya?” one of them asked. “Da, da,” I replied, thinking that she had said the word for “wife.” Wrong again, professor. “Zhyena” is wife, “Zhyenschina” woman. “Vremya” means “time.” She thought I wanted to set up a time! Luckily, the woman who had my arm had let go of me. I went for my bags and hit the bricks to find Julia. I was waiting outside the supermarket when the pre-teen girl from the café closed in. What time, what time, she wanted to know. I was still struggling to explain things to her when Julia appeared. The girl went back to report to her friends, and I dragged Julia around the nearest corner at a jog to get out of sight. We beat feet back to Miss Valla’s. Julia was a bit confused at why we were running at such a pace. When she discovered what had transpired in her absence, she decided that I could not be trusted by myself anymore.

Side note: We even met a man who was pursuing an Eastern European bride on the plane trip over here. We didn’t get to talk to him much, but we did learn that he was on his second trip in pursuit of the same woman. Just like international adoptions, international marriages follow a certain protocol, so they may require more than one trip. He was a little embarrassed to admit the purpose of his journey. I felt sorry for him, but then I reflected that without the grace of God, I could have ended up as lonely as he was. At least he’s doing something about it instead of sitting at home planning a shooting rampage. And who can say what good may come from his journey?


  1. I am so glad you can have these funny stories to bring home and remember forever! I can totally visualize the whole scenario and I'm just roaring. I'm glad I never learned any of the language...nothing to mess up...just looked ignorant all of the time :-)

  2. Oh, I love sour cream already, and while I don't add it to everything at home now I LOVED using it over there. My daughter still puts sour cream and a sprinkle of sugar on her pancakes. It actually was an argument at the breakfast table. EVERYONE decided it was gross except those of us who had been to Ukraine..... ENJOY your soup....not too much time to go!!!!!

  3. ...Ya'll are so funny. We still eat borscht and smitana around here. :)
    We too met men on the plane and in town that were there for one reason. Finding women.
    We figured, the only people we met who were Americans were in Ukraine for 2 reasons. Adoption, or wife hunting. LOL
    The first apartment we stayed in in Kyiv was interesting. It was a "wife" apartment and the pictures on the wall were, well..... ummmm....Embarrassing!
    What really cracked me up was this old, fat bald guy said, there were no beautiful women in America interested in him...... ummmm You think?
    Valla sounds like a lovely lady. And you too can forgoe your flu shots for the year this year. She will have your immune systems built up to withstand any or all illness for the next year!

  4. Ok I read this blog from work, next time, add a warning because I literally laughed out loud at the soup story... How funny! You are not going to get away with anything with Miss Valla around!
    I didnt know whether to laugh or cry about the women... Its sad that they are so desperate to leave that this is what they think they should do...
    Your days in a foreign land are winding down... stay strong!

  5. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Sorry . . . but both stories are side-splittingly funny to me . . . having traveled in both Russia (multiple times) and Ukraine . . . I can ABSALUTELY see both of them along with likely forms and figures for the characters at the restraunt! LOL!!!! Aren't you glad you two decided to stick the whole time out TOGETHER instead of one of you going home?!

  6. Oh my, Rob. Julia's going to have to put bells around your neck so she knows where you're at!

    You'll probably be eating a lot more soup and a lot less pork, pork and pork cafe after that one!

    hee hee he.

  7. Smetana... yum! Try it on some vereniky! Once when we were on a missions trip to Ukraine, our kind host family left us some "meat" to eat while they were out for the day. Unfortunately, it was a few steps below gross sandwich bologna! We knew we'd offend them if they came home and found it uneaten though, so their scrawny dog got a great snack that day!

  8. Hey guys,
    At first I didn't read the (Rob writing) part so I thought Julia was still writing-that was a very interesting story indeed!
    p.s. I knew Miss Valla was not going to let you get away with no soup! No brainer!

  9. Too funny! Joel has been asked twice already if he met me here. It's as if American men only come here for one reason! :-)

  10. Are you kidding Gretchen! Sour cream and jam is the BEST on pancakes. I'm Danish and that's the way they do it :) that I think about it there isn't a food out there that isn't enhanced by sour cream!

    The Ukrainians have it right!!! :)

  11. laughing so hard...! oh my.... julia you must have one catch there!!

    hang in there you guys. you are so close and soon you will all be reunited to live happily ever after!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Your posts (esp.about soup) make us laugh! But praise the Lord for all he's done in Aaron's life and your journey to him. We follow your blog and read it eagerly. We're working on bringing an orphan home, too. Hope you reunite with your boys soon! Lord bless you!

  13. Don't know if my comment posted, i'll say it again - your posts make us laugh, esp. about soup. I am from EE originally, so it doesn't surprise me, it's just funny how other people who are not used to it react to it! We're working on bringing Sophie home. Praise the Lord for what he's done in your journey to Aaron. God bless you.

  14. I lived in UA's neighbor to the west for 2 years and people used to ask us for the time ALL of the time! It was like code to see if you were a foreigner and if you spoke the language. Esp kids would ask us, so they probably just wanted to hear your awesome accent! Keep having fun and eat some extra borscht with smintana for me!


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