The Second Sally

I’ve been back in Lviv for a few days, and another week of free time remains before I start teaching again on February 1st.

International travel creates a strange sort of time warp.  The trip from Chicago to Lviv took about 24 hours, give or take, encompassing the following stages:

1.) Flight from Chicago to Munich, arrived in Munich at about 1:30pm

2.) Flight from Munich to Krakow airport, arriving about 4:30pm

3.) Train from Krakow airport to Krakow bus station

4.) Bus from Krakow to Lviv train station (arriving about 3:30am)

5.) Taxi from Lviv train station to the UCU Collegium, where I live (journey concludes: 4:00am)

International travel creates a strange time-warp.  When moving longitudinally, at least.  The time change from Chicago to Lviv adds eight hours, but by the time I arrived, I’d pretty much given up on keeping track of my perceived time.  I did stay up until about 6:00am unpacking and watching TV because I didn’t particularly feel tired.

The first few days back have been largely just getting caught up on sleep and re-adjusted to my old haunts from the fall (and catching up with a couple people who are also around).  Starting tomorrow, I’m going to start putting in solid working days on doing as much lesson planning and curriculum building as a possibly can before classes actually commence.  I need to re-do my grading scale.  I’m also likely going to be leading a session of English club independently, and so will need to work harder on assembling quality ideas/material for that.

I’ve successfully taught one whole semester before.  I’m still nervous about this one, though, partly because I have a whole bunch of things I’d like to improve on in Round 2.  My goal isn’t just to survive my classes are arrive in June intact.  I want to do everything I can to actually make my courses useful for the students.  I’m increasingly aware that this is easier said than done.

I’m also renewing my commitment to a few self-improvement initiatives.  These mostly involve trying to keep up a balanced schedule that includes plenty of sleep, exercise, and prayer.  This semester, I’m going to try to find a gym, and then set aside enough time and money to go a couple times a week and lift heavy things.

And hey, if I get some writing done too, I wouldn’t complain.

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Farewell to 2015

2015 may have been the hardest year of my life

I say “may have been” because third grade and I didn’t get along.  Sixth grade wasn’t my best friend either.  And the year I spent working in QA at Epic Systems probably elevated my blood pressure the highest.

I think it’s safe to say, though, that 2015 has been the hardest year of my adult life.  I fully intend a twofold meaning for hardest: both painful and challenging.  I won’t air my grievances here, but those who know me well will understand why the first half of the year was so difficult.  In the second half of the year, getting on a plane to start a new career in Ukraine was possibly the most adventurous thing I’ve ever done.

I’ll focus on the second part.  Teaching in Ukraine has been fantastic.  I’ve had the opportunity to learn teaching in an environment that’s simultaneously supportive and challenging.  I’ve helped a whole bunch of students improve their knowledge of a language that will open uncountable doors for them in the future.  I’ve experienced living in a new city, country, and culture, with all the discoveries that entails, and made new friends I never would have had a chance of meeting otherwise.

So while 2015 was hard, it was also good.  Every year brings ups and downs, but looking back from my current perspective, I can see that my life has been on a net upward trend from year-to-year.  2015 was the year a year of personal struggle, but it was also the year I earned my first-degree black belt, made new strides in health and fitness, sought adventure in distant lands, and began to learn uncountable new skills.  It was the year I became comfortable delivering a presentation to an audience of 60+ students and the year I admired swans at dawn on the river Wisla.

None of this would have been possible without the achievements and growth of prior years.  Self-improvement is the real super-power, and I’m happy with the progress of made, and the opportunities I have for the future.  God has been good to me.

I’m looking forward to seeing what 2016 will offer, beginning with another semester in Ukraine, and beyond that only God knows.

Happy New Year!

The Crowning of the Year

The 1,000 page novel Don Quixote is divided into (as I recall) three different “Sallies”, or three separate occasions on which the titular knight ventures out into the world.  My projected time in Ukraine can be divided into two sallies, roughly corresponding to the semesters of the academic year.  Now, with December advancing, I’m a week away from the conclusion of my first sally and my return home to spend Christmas, New Year’s, and the better part of January home in Madison.  My final week of teaching will be a whirlwind of final projects, final exams, and giving my room a thorough cleaning with whatever chemicals and tools I can piece together.

The last week or so has actually been quite relaxing.  I’ve been spending more time than usual just hanging out in some of Lviv’s many coffee shops, drinking a series of excellent lattes and reading or writing.  I’ve adopted the habit of writing in a journal during my international travels, and I have a very nice leather-bound one I bought off Etsy before leaving the U.S.

Lviv coffee is fantastic, but it’s European style, focusing on a variety of espresso drinks rather than honest, old-fashioned drip coffee.  As a result, while I love a good espresso concoction, I’m actually looking forward to having some good, old-fashioned, burnt-bean Starbucks java when get home for the holidays.

On the other hand, the cafes in Lviv are quite a bit more comfortable than comparable ones in the U.S.  They extend deeper, with more nooks and crannies to hide in, and have plusher chairs and softer music.  The decorations and the overall sense of aesthetic tend to be more lavish.  I suspect a Lviv-style coffee house could do good business in a booming city like Madison, particularly if we managed to put a literary spin on it by having a robust lending library.  Something to consider if I ever decide to be an entrepreneur.

Do I have any thoughts on teaching, now that the semester is nearly over?  None that are very cohesive.  I’ll have time to meditate on it next weekend, which I’ll be spending in Krakow.  At the moment, I’ll just say that I feel I’ve gotten pretty good at the basics: putting together a class and running it.  Next semester will involve more goal-setting and work to have a class that’s not only functional, but optimized.  Basic competency is a good and necessary thing, but there’s a long way to go beyond it.

I don’t think it’s what I want to do full-time for the rest of my life, but I do enjoy teaching quite a bit.  I plan to make it a permanent feature of my life going forward, even if its only as a side gig.

That’s far from the only thing, or even the most important thing, I’ve learned in my first 3.5 months in Ukraine.  It’s just the easiest to put into words.

I’m heading out again to the city center for another couple hours on the books ‘n’ coffee train, followed by shopping with some other English speakers at Lviv’s Christmas market.  Hopefully I can get everything crossed of my list (I’m checking it twice), and come home with a full sack of Christmas cheer for my clan.

A joyous Advent to all!

 

Giving Thanks

I had the most interesting Thanksgiving celebration of my life last night.  There’s a Polish priest who says mass in English at the Latin cathedral in the city center, and I believe his family actually lived in the United States (Connecticut) until his father’s generation.  Apparently he’s felt a huge nostalgia for the idea of Thanksgiving ever since, and with a blend of natural energy and sheer cheerful stubbornness, he managed to put together a simple Thanksgiving celebration for various Americans (and one Brit) plugs himself and three nuns, who successfully cooked a turkey for the first time in their lives (with a little help from Google).

So we ate turkey, drank Coca Cola or cheap Ukrainian beer, and sang the songs of our people.  Ukrainian nuns are better singers than intoxicated Americans trying to piece together all the words to “American Pie”, but we did okay on “Country Roads” and “Amazing Grace”, not to mention “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

Thanksgiving has never seemed like a huge deal for my family.  We get together and do the traditional meal (prepared with consummate skill by my mom), but our most significant day to rally the clan has always been Christmas, with New Year’s Eve usually being the biggest convocation of extended family.  Ukrainians are fascinated by Thanksgiving, though, for reasons I don’t fully understand.  They don’t have an exact equivalent, but they have plenty of their own holidays which include feasting as a centerpiece.

Anyway, I thought this was as good a time as any to reflect in publicly available writing on what I’m thankful for.  I won’t say this year has been the hardest of my life, but it has presented at least three colossal challenges, and I’m literally thousands of miles (and metaphorically millions) from where I thought I’d be last November.

The semester is drawing to a close, and honestly I’ve been feeling exhausted.  But muscles only grow stronger by being pushed to their limits, and the same is true of personalities.  So, I’m ultimately thankful for the challenges I’ve been given, because–so far–I haven’t been found wanting in my ability to meet them, and past experience tells me that I’ll be a better man for it.

So, I’m thankful for the hospitality of everyone I’ve met at UCU, for my students (even when they exasperate me), for Burn energy drinks, for the support of my family and friends back home, for the wonderful new friends I’ve met here, and for the many opportunities I’ve been given.

Happy Black Friday, y’all!

 

Journeys and Japes

I refuse to be that guy who begins every blog post by apologizing for not updating more often.

So, completely free of apologies, here’s an update!

I just returned from a weekend in Krakow consisting of 16 hours on buses and about 36 hours actually in the city.  Pictures to come (I’m still feeling too slothful to do a proper photo post), so today’s travelogue will take the form of a bulleted list.

  • The old city of Krakow is pretty much set up as a playground for English speaking tourists.  You’ve got your football bars, your dance clubs, your strip clubs, and your souvenir shops broken up by KFC, McDonald’s, and Starbucks.  All the service people I talked to spoke English.
  • When I say English-speaking tourists, it seemed to be mainly people from the UK.  My travel companion, Andrew, was able to identify a girl from his dad’s hometown from hearing a snatch of her accent carried on the wind.  Apparently flights to Krakow are cheap.
  • I don’t mind.  It was pretty relaxing not to be clutching a Polish phrasebook, or hoping my tiny Ukrainian toolbox is mutually comprehensible.
  • The St. Mary’s Basilica on the market square is another contender for the most beautiful church I’ve ever been inside.  I’m subtracting points because, honestly, it was so gilded, painted, and tiled that that overall effect was distracting and a bit garish.
  • The Wawel castle (just south of the Old City) is much more of a proper castle than anything I’ve seen in Ukraine.  It has actual ramparts to be watched o’er.  It’s also apparently the home of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Girl with an Ermine”, but we were too stingy to actually pay for admission.
  • The walk along the Wisła River is awesome, and very serene.  On the whole, the Krakow skyline is picturesque, with no buildings rising much beyond ten stories.
  • Auschwitz is worth visiting, but is an incredibly draining experience.  The weather was fitting–cold, wet, and gray.  I consider myself fairly jaded, at least intellectually, but the room where they have a massive case full of human hair shaved off murdered prisoners and later packaged for sale to German textile manufacturers still made me nauseous.  Possibly the most awful thing I’ve seen with my own two eyes.
  • It was sobering to look through a book of Polish prisoners shot or worked to death at Auschwitz.  Plenty of surnames shared by my friends and family.
  • We met a Polish taxi driver outside Auschwitz.  We didn’t drive with him, but just chatting with him reminded me intensely of my grandpa Jimmy (who isn’t Polish).
  • The Hungarian ghoulash at Krakow’s Dog in the Fog pub is the best thing I’ve eaten since arriving in Europe.  I need to learn how to make it myself.
  • Mulled wine is incredible.  I need to make that too.
  • The tiny cross-section of Polish people I interacted with (waiters and shopkeepers, mostly) were incredibly friendly and quick to smile.  Even Burger King workers.  You’re God’s folk, Poles.
  • On that note, churches in Poland appear to be jam-packed for Sunday mass.  As it should be.
  • Mulled wine, man.

In summary: I’m glad I visited Auschwitz, although I don’t think I’d ever want to do back.  Krakow, on the other hand, is a place I can’t wait to visit again, and I’ll have my chance on my way home in December.

Cowboy Up

I’m not going to lie, folks–the last couple weeks have been tough.  I’ve heard teaching family, friends, and acquaintances talk about how much work it is, but like so many other things in life, I didn’t truly understand until I experienced it.

I have 9 classroom hours a week, plus 3 hours running various English clubs around the university’s three campuses.  I also have about 6 hours of private lessons that require varying degrees of preparation.  On paper, it’s not a ton, but when I factor in the time spent walking and riding buses back and forth, as well as the long evenings it takes to grade homework and prepare material, I’m working pretty substantial hours.

More than that, it isn’t work where I can slack off and let someone else take up the slack.  I’m solely responsible for preparing material and running my various class sessions (except for the English clubs–Andrew does a lot with those).  If I don’t do enough prep over the weekend, my classes on Monday are going to be painful indeed for everyone involved.

And, of course, once I’ve crossed the threshold of just getting through class, there’s plenty of room for improvement.  Classes should not just happen, but should also be effective in actually improving the English abilities of my various students.  There’s also the various stresses associated with living in a foreign country, getting enough sleep, and working on personal projects.

In short. . .it’ll be something of a relief when the semester ends, and winter break arrives.

I keep thinking about the phrase I used a title today: “cowboy up”.  Pure, golden American English, conveying a pithy but profound idea.  When you feel like Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders, there are really only two options.  You either break down, or you cowboy up.  Get back in the saddle.  Die with your boots on.  Okay, maybe not that last one.

I remember having a moment in my second-to-last semester of college when I was returning to class after a week spent recovering from swine flu.  I still felt like garbage, and had a bunch of make-up work to do, particularly in my 8-hours-of-class-a-week Japanese course.  In that moment, sick, behind, and weighted down with 17 credits, I was seriously tempted to just give up, let the semester go to pot, and either drop out, or take an extra semester to graduate.

But I pushed through, and before long, I was caught up, and actually starting to feel healthy.  I graduated college on schedule with a very respectable GPA.  It worked out.

Here in Ukraine, with slightly more than half the semester still to go, the time has come to cowboy up once again.  “Take it one day at a time” is a cliche, but most cliches have their status for good reason.

I’m trying to embrace, in my life, a philosophy of continuous learning and self-improvement.  I recently told one of my classes that my favorite quote was from the movie Kingsman: The Secret Service, where Colin Firth tells our young hero: “A gentleman is superior to his former self.”  These are words to live by.  Learning to teach on the job, and learning to get by in a foreign land, are just two more challenges that, when I’ve mastered them, will leave me superior to my former self.

A Blessing of Coke

No, you  merry wags, not that kind of coke.

When I got back from the city center after seeing Rigoletto at the opera house, it was about 10:45pm. . .and I had a hot, blazing need for a chilled Coca-Cola.  I mentally ran through the options, and ended up slipping into the local grocery store (the name transliterates to Furshet) 10 minutes before closing to pay 8.5 hryvnia for a 500ml bottle of Coca-Cola “Light”.  It wasn’t quite chilled–more like cool.  But when I broke the seal and took my first swig. . .pure magic.

There’s big pleasures in life–reading a wonderful book, being stirred by a masterful opera performance, making a new friend, the butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling after a great first date.  But I’ve realized that there’s a real beauty to small, day-to-day pleasures, as well, whether it be a cup of strong coffee, a hot shower after a hard work-out, a pleasant stroll by starlight, or a slightly cool bottle of Diet Coke to quench a burning thirst.  These small pleasures are cheap-to-free and nearly always available in some form, and in a properly managed life, you can easily find several per day.

I think the key to truly appreciating them is to avoid overindulgence.  If I spent all day drinking bottle after bottle of Coke, that late-night hit wouldn’t have been half as good.  One morning sleeping in is wonderful if you usually get up early, but it becomes enervating to sleep late every morning.  Work hard, face what must be done in life, and then relax with a beer or a cup of tea at the end of the day, and you’ll be living well.

I’ve discovered times in my life, and especially since coming to Ukraine, when a few dry grocery-store cookies might as well be a top-flight pastry, for all the enjoyment I get from them.  This might mean I have low tastes, but. . .hey, it seems to work.

Observations, Recorded from the Eagle’s Beak

I’ve been taking pictures on my iPhone, many of them rather grainy, but haven’t sat down and uploaded anything yet.  So the next photo post is still in the future.

What I’d like to set down here are some general thoughts on what Lviv looks and feels like after spending a month here.  Some good, some bad, some merely observational.

First, I’ve noticed that, compared to the Americans I’ve been surrounded by for my whole life, Ukrainians are a quiet bunch.  I very rarely here anyone talking on the bus, and public spaces–even once the Hours of Beer have come–are typically very quiet, with most conversations held in a comparatively muted tone.  People don’t quite call out to each other, or laugh raucously, the way Americans do.

Of course, that’s a generalization–people _do_ occasionally have public altercations, or a hoot of irrepressible laughter.  But the whole feel of nearly any place I’ve been in Ukraine, from buses and supermarkets to a small-town festival, have been noticeably quieter than their US analogues.

When the silence is broken, it’s often by a busker.  Sometimes they play guitar, sometimes they play massive stringed instruments I have no name for.  One particularly talented gent was playing trumpet with a speaker providing backing tracks.  Some of them are groups of teenagers singing soulful, off-tune English lyrics.  Most of them (mainly barring some of those teenagers) are fantastic, at least to my tone-deaf senses.  I’ve dropped a few hryvnia in their cases.

There are also gypsies.  I went to mass at the University chapel this last Sunday, where I had to stand outside and listen to 80 minutes of Ukrainian liturgy though a bullhorn, and at some point a little gypsy girl started walking around, silently begging with her hands clasped in a praying position.  She was quite theatrical, with dirt smeared on her cheeks and a filthy sweater over a clean dress, and didn’t say a word as she made her rounds, with her mother watching from just outside the church enclosure.  The first time I shook my head no, she reached out and tapped the wallet bulging through my jeans.  Point taken, little girl.  Early in my stay I gave 10 hryvnia to a gypsy busker playing guitar, then had his son chase me down to pitifully recite the Ukrainian words for “eat” and “drink” while holding out his hands.

I hate that they use their children.  I hate the idea of a whole lifestyle built around emotional manipulation.  But it does make it hard to say no.

Lviv has supermarkets which aren’t too different from their equivalents in the US, but it also has open-air markets, where a warren of stalls offer everything from toys to organ meats spread out on tables and overseen by small dealers.  Also the sidewalks, you can sometimes find old ladies who just have a sack or two of produce on offer.  I’m told that a lot of the elderly are in serious plight here, abandoned by their children and with no social services to fall back on.  Having seen some of them reduced to selling bruised apples on the street, I know I won’t have quite as much sympathy as I once might have for arguments against Social Security.

I think this is partly a Lviv thing, but Ukrainians love photo-shoots.  It’s hard to wave your arms in the city center without hitting someone snapping a picture of their girlfriend/friend/daughter/bride, often using an iPad or something just as unwieldy.  Apparently there’s a series of locations around Lviv where it’s traditional to get professional wedding photos done in full regalia, and it’s pretty common to see couples walking the streets together, the bride lifting her gown’s skirts above the cobblestones.

For some reason, every souvenir shop sells cheap wooden nunchucks (mostly sized for children).  Either there’s something I’m missing, or there’s an untapped market here for a dojo teaching Okinawan kobudo.

A lot of things seem just slightly more haphazard.  I’ve commented on the adventurous parking jobs people pull on the crowded streets, and the short buses (mashrutkas) are sometimes audibly groaning under the weight of their passengers.  At a town festival, the only public restrooms were pit toilets in a cold basement, overseen by a lady taking one hryvnia per use–not exactly worse than Port-A-Johns, but certainly different.  There’s a lot of variety in the style of sidewalks where there are any sidewalks at all, and a lot of infrastructure is visibly in need of repair.  The city parks I’ve been in tend to have an overgrown feel, and schools look dismal (from the outside, at least).

That said, I have noticed that, even in the absence of a regular park cleaning crew, there’s hardly any litter.  Ukrainians seem like public-minded folk who will almost always take their wrappers and bottles with them.  This is generally true of the city streets as a whole.  They’re cracked and full of potholes, but they’re incredibly clean.

A handful of buildings in my hometown of Madison date back to the city’s founding.  For man-made structures older than that, you need to look at some Indian mounds.  By contrast, Lviv has churches that were originally constructed in the 14th century, cannonballs from an Ottoman siege in the 16th, a section of the original city wall standing intact, and various reminders of occupation by the Polish, Austrians, and Nazis (who destroyed most of the city’s synagogues).  It’s not as though older equals better, but it’s very interesting for me (particularly as an American) to have the chance to see things from the distant past.

Seeing how openly religious the Ukrainians are makes me realize how genuinely secular American life has become.  Here, jewelry stores also do business in gold-plated icons, and all the bus drivers have various icons, holy cards, and rosaries scattered around their cabs.  When I met with a development manager at a local software firm, she showed me a picture of the Greek Catholic arch-bishop holding a liturgy to bless their new office building.  Some of the plazas have life-size crucifixes that, in the US, would long ago having been torn down by the Freedom From Religion Foundation or some similar crew.  For Ukrainians, it seems like some small amount of religion–however sincere private belief might be–is simply part of the air they breathe.

Apparently, I look Ukrainian until I open my mouth.  This means I can get through a lot of public interactions, such as one with a ranting grandma on the bus, by smiling and nodding, without revealing that I’m a foreigner.

There’s a different set of rules at work for restaurant service.  The wait-staff will approach you exactly twice, unless you signal them: Once to give you a menu, again to take your order.  They won’t come back to ask “How’s everything tasting?” or “Can I get you folks anything else?”.  Partly, this is because tipping isn’t really common practice.  They won’t even present the bill until you explicitly ask for it.  Normally, I like it, but it can get a little annoying when you’re trying to leave, but all the staff have disappeared into the walls.

Anyway, that’s all for now!  Photos to come soon.

A Barber in Demand

I caught my first show at the Lviv Opera House last Friday night: the endlessly popular (with good reason) Barber of Seville.  With the opera sung in Italian, and the supertitles projected in Ukrainian, I didn’t understand much of the dialogue, but opera isn’t really about the plot.  The plot is just a skeletal frame to hang whatever passionate emotions or comic snafus inspire the music, and that music, sung by incredible voices, is the real reason to see opera.

My only solid references for what a European opera house should look like are The Phantom of the Opera, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, and other such examples of highbrow cinema.  The one in Lviv didn’t disappoint, although I suspect it’s built on a somewhat smaller scale than comparable theaters in larger cities.  The ceiling was painted with the Muses arrayed around a central chandelier, and pretty much everything that could be a sculpture was a sculpture, from lamps to box dividers.

At the end of the show, after the curtain call, four Ukrainian army soldiers came out onto the stage.  I spent a few seconds wondering if I was about to hear a declaration of martial law, or an announcement that the royal censor had henceforth banned Rossini, but instead they delivered thank yous to three old women in attendance who, apparently, had bolstered the spirits of soldiers on the eastern front with a steady stream of letters.  It was quite touching–the three women looked like they were about to melt into tears–but was also a grim reminder to me that Ukraine remains a nation at war.  I’m grateful that war hasn’t spread to the western half of the country, and God willing it won’t.

Over the last week, I’ve felt some sympathy with Figaro’s famous aria:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkMuv0Le3ko

Which expresses basically three sentiments: He’s happy, he’s incredibly busy, and he’s happy to be busy.  That about summarizes my own condition.  Teaching, English clubs, Ukrainian lessons, private tutoring, and socialization are taking up most of my weekly hours, and when I do have large blocks of free time, there’s almost always lesson planning, studying, or organizing to be done.

It’s a good place to be.

Strolling through life

I’ve been snapping iPhone pics at a pretty steady rate, so I’d better throw a few up here while taking them is still recent memory.  Captions below the picture!

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One of my main goals in Lviv is to see at least one opera, preferably more, in this magnificent theater.  I think Aida is coming at the end of October. . ..

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Lviv seems to be the host of a revival in Ukrainian language publishing and bookselling, ranging from serious scholarly works to serial fantasies with incredible, over-the top covers.  Here’s an example I found that I particularly liked.

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Aphrodite in modest shadow, another installment in my set of all four statues around Rynok Square.

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Most Ukrainians don’t seem to know what to make of the Hare Krishnas, and honestly neither do I.  I should probably sit down and read the Wikipedia article.  Their song is pretty simple, at least: “Hare, hare, hare, hare-hare krishna.  Repeat x1,000,000,000.”

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Many of the streets seem optimized for horse-drawn wagons, not cars, so parking requires some ingenuity.  The cars in the middle here are parked between opposing lanes of traffic (which, themselves, also contain trolley tracks).  It’s common to see any null space in an intersection or round-about filled with parked cars, and many sidewalks are narrowed by cars with two wheels boosted up over the curb.

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Vanity shot of what I look like heading off to class.  Note the tie-bar bringing the outfit together.

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The corvids in Ukraine are different from the crows back home.  They’re about the same size, but a little scruffier, with a more prominent beak that’s large enough to handle big spherical nuts.  Does that make them ravens?

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The Catholic seminary, where I teach one class.

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Just today me and Andrew (my colleague from the UK) took a walk to Lviv’s High Castle, which is a hill looking over the city.  Apparently an actual castle stood there in the distant past, but today there’s only some old masonry supporting a viewing platform.  The views, thankfully, are spectacular.  This shot is looking down over the city center, or the historical district.

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The highest object in the city is, of course, a Ukrainian flag.  If you ever catch yourself thinking Americans are too zealously fond of our flag, come to Ukraine and witness true devotion.  Ukrainian flags fly from every balcony and hang in the lobbies of many business.

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Yeah, these pictures are out of order.  We’ll get more High Castle at the end.  For now, King Danylo on a sunny day!  This is one of the more prominent monuments in Lviv, and is apparently a key meeting place.  I will hopefully learn who King Danylo is when I actually crack the volume of Ukrainian history I brought along.

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I also don’t know who Ivan Franko is, although he must have loved books, because an open-air book market forms at his feet whenever the weather is decent.  Almost everything is in Ukrainian, Russian, or Polish, but it’s still fun to wonder through.

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The Dark Lord of the Sith pauses to converse with a local.

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This is the family tomb for a Hungarian merchant clan, right next to the Latin Cathedral.  It’s open to the public most days, but I haven’t yet been inside.  The front has some wonderful carvings of Christ’s passion.

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A sorrowful Christ is perched on top of the sepulcher.  He has a striking look of sheer weariness.

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I’m going to need to remember this place.

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You know, I’m really bad at remembering Ukrainian street names.  This is possibly linked to my problem remembering Ukrainian words in general.  So, while this lovely square has a name, I can’t remember it for the life of me.  I think it starts with an “S”.  Note the freestanding crucifix.

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I thought this was clever branding.

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Back to the High Castle!  This is Andrew, and I wanted to get a shot of the budget conscious bench he’s resting on.  Could a weary travel ask for more?

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The steps up to the top, featuring a genuine Ukrainian couple.

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A pile of ruins.  I wish I had something more profound to say about them.

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I noticed this stray cat creeping around the viewing platform, apparently trying to stay out of sight.  I’ve actually noticed a number of feral dogs and cats around Lviv, and they all seem to range from friendly to mostly harmless.

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Some kind of industrial structures on the horizon opposite the city center.  Many of the old Soviet buildings in Lviv seem to be abandoned or semi-abandoned.

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A residential district from a king’s-eye view.  Most of the ordinary folks in Lviv seem to live in massive, Soviet-area apartment towers.  They’re unsightly, but presumably functional.

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There are some wooded hills stretching away from the High Castle that don’t seem to have anything built on them.  This is the most nature I’ve seen in weeks.

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A rare full-body shot of the author, photo credit to Andrew.  I positioned myself so I’d block the gratuitous PDA taking place right behind me.  Lviv is known as the Paris of Ukraine, and not without reason.

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Hat.  You can see one of the major highways cutting through Lviv in the background.

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Sans hat.

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There’s a European romantic custom in which couples attach a padlock to some scenic monument or bridge, to symbolize the eternity of their union or some such garbage.  Here’s one that had names written on it: Katya and Max.

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That’s all for now, folks!  Here’s to another glorious week of teaching and Chernihivske beer!