(there are no Day Three or Four entries)
Lviv continues to inform, astound, and impress. Today I've found a swelteringly hot but blisteringly modern cybercafé – an expensive one by Ukrainian standards, at $1.25 per hour. So I'm guiltily indulging myself in a little blogging and uploading what I was compelled to write a few nights ago.
I'm really becoming more comfortable with the group – I'd like to say the reverse is true, but I'm pretty sure they've always accepted me. They also are quick to inform me that they envy me for how many friends I've been making in Ostroh. Hmm. I should note that, in my last program, our group spent a lot of time together. In this program, we're lucky to be all together even once during a week. So I think we bond a lot more slowly than most CWY groups, but this mid-project has been helping a lot. The girls especially were so well organized and executed their sessions very well. I've had a great, productive time.
Unlike other CWY programs, we're not encouraged to go purchase groceries – well, not that we're discouraged, but our food allowance (CDN$11.76/day) is great enough to eat out very nicely twice or more a day without having to spend past one's means. So we've had the opportunity to eat at some interesting places:
- New York Street Pizza, an amusing Ukrainian chain that attempts to make Western-style pizza. It comes out undercooked, but still quite tasty, and they have all manner of drinks and salads to purchase as well. If you fancy lemon juice, a shot of vodka, some chicken salad, and a 10" pizza simultaneously, this is the place to go. But mostly we went here because it was so close to our hotel.
- Some place that just sells vareniki (small perogies). Some of us went there for breakfast once, and we ordered perogies and tea. Really tasty and very cheap. There are high tables, but no chairs – you're expected to stand – for me, the height of the table was fairly appropriate, but for some of our vertically challenged participants it was a little daunting.
- A neat chicken-grill restauraunt near downtown. We had our end-of-mid-project feast there last night (perhaps to make up for our missing Thanksgiving except to say “Happy Thanksgiving” - many of us forgot the day entirely, as it's not observed in Ukraine), and we had salads, fries, and – best of all – real grilled chicken. It was almost as good as Swiss Chalet back home. I licked and tore my bones clean and then offered that service to what remained of my fellow diner's pieces. I hadn't had so much fun eating in ages – well, probably since the McDonald's in Kyiv.
- Naturally, McDonald's, but it wasn't as big a deal this time around.
- Red Bull Café, an mildly expensive place that catered to tourists, with menus in English and Polish. I only had a beer here.
- and, for my money, the best place of all: The Ukrainian pizza chain that has two or three locations in Lviv. It's cheap, fun, fast, and tasty. The servers are really friendly, and here they actually cook the pizzas. You can get them with ingredients you actually like (unlike most pizza I've had in Eastern Europe, NYSP above excepted), and the result is simply great Ukrainian pizza, much better than the attempts they make at Western pizza at other places. They consider sausage to be diced hot dogs, but whatever. It was still freaking delicious. And they have very nice washrooms to boot.
The operetta was nice; the Opera House itself was worth the trip. It was simply goregous. I took hundreds of pictures. The operetta was incomprehensible, as it was in pure Ukrainian, but it sounded beautiful. The ballet component was limited to some brief scenes in the second act, but it was impressive nonetheless. I really loved the performance, even when I had to wage mortal combat with a large head of hair seated between myself and the stage during the first act.
I met a guy here a little while ago who was from “south of San Fransisco,” and was in Ukraine teaching English. He assumed I was diaspora and was surprised at the real reason I was here. Oh, we met another English speaker downtown on our tour, who claimed he was from Canada and visiting on business, but his clothes and manner didn't fit the tale. They all thought he was Sketchy (caps intentional), and I was the only one who shook hands with him. I know I'm a poor judge of character, so while travelling I just stay on guard all the time instead of deciding whether someone is trustworthy or not.
So today I'm just walking to and fro, enjoying streets I haven't seen and conemplating excursions to outlying parks. I intended to do more today before I meet Shelley for dinner, but the computers sucked me inside.
Shelley and I are looking to go to the Carpathian Mountains with her cousins, although hearing them described as “hills” by a groupmate from Saskatchewan is a tad distressing. Still, the scenery is said to be unrivaled. I'm also seriously thinking of popping off to Odessa, perhaps even exclusively of the Carpathians. We'll see what happens. Planning is the way to go, and there are plenty of tourist bureaus (they're just nearly impossible to find because the signs are tiny).
As for Ostroh, I'm looking forward to going back. Shelley and Amy gave me some invaluable advice on dealing with the opposite sex – apparently if you're interested you're supposed to gently steer conversations toward topics like “are you seeing anyone?” I honestly had no idea, and I am looking forward to trying this on a particular person who I really like, who seems to like me, though I'm afraid to assume too much from the eye contact and frequent touching (from her). Updates as events warrant. I also need to hang out with Vadim more, as he calls me his favourite Canadian – we meant to do some Canadian cooking with Anik from the other program, but our plans fell through.
Well, time is short and getting shorter. Thanks everyone for your attention while I sort out my life and try to understand myself and other people. It's been an enlightening challenge so far!