The Art of Doing Nothing

Okay, I know it’s not a real Art.

Alot of people have asked me what I’m going to ‘do’ here in Kyiv. You know, get a job or volunteer. Maybe work remotely. Maybe work for NATO. Do I want to meet up with the policing community here and start up something with them.

I don’t want to do any of that – mostly because I don’t want the contraints on my time. I’m too busy. Doing nothing in particular takes up a surprisingly large amount of my day.

When asked, I recently told someone that I was too busy doing projects to fit in a job. I didn’t actually have any project on the go let alone many. So of course he asked if I’d mind giving details about my projects. Busted!

Now when asked, I’ve gotten in the habit of just being direct and saying what I didn’t really want to say before – nothing. Yes, I want to do nothing. I don’t want to do anything.

Wow, I’m a bum.

Rob sometimes asks me what I did during the day. What!? Was I supposed to have done something? I’ve stopped feeling guilty about it. Well, I’ve tried not to feel guilty about my lack of something concrete. He is crazy busy after all.

I didn’t do much of anything today. I had a leisurely coffee and got Ben off to school. I did domestic chores. Right now I’m making dinner. Earlier, I walked to the grocery store. I met a friend for lunch. I read a bit. I booked a bit of travel and got sidetracked by a new destination. I surfed a bit – damn blogs. I was mindful for a time. I did a bit of finances and corresponded by email. I played with the cat.

I wrote a blog post! And I’m almost finished.

I only procrastinated a bit. I didn’t get everything done today that I wanted. There aren’t enough hours in the day. I’m optimistic I’ll have a tomorrow. I really enjoyed today and want to do more of it.

I may be boring. But I’m not bored.

I recently told Rob that there are not enough hours in the day. And that I know it’s partly because I don’t use my time efficiently. Though I think I was wrong – I’m doing exactly what I want to do. It’s just not maybe what you would choose to do. Or even what I want to say I do. Where’s that last one come from?

Did you know it takes at least three hours to make a pizza from scratch.

I’m curious about your thoughts on where that pressure of constant productivity comes from. Or like me, maybe just the guilt that comes from the awareness that I should have it?

Thanks for reading and warm thoughts from Kyiv!

P.S. I started a six months update post today. And (almost) finished it. Though clearly I got side-tracked with this one.

I still need to add photos to that last one but I can hear the fan on my (not-ancient?) desktop whirring away. It’s only a 2011 and there are no more updates to the operating system!? So this post will have to do.

I just need to find a header image. Gah!

Kyiv versus Paris !?

Expat Kyiv Ukraine Fall Colours Walk in the Park

Paris for Reading Week – That was our original plan. Hannah, Ben and I would meet up there. And it made logistical sense too, being somewhat halfway between Ottawa and Kyiv Ukraine. I had the hotel picked out on the Rive Gauche and just as I was confirming flights, Hannah asked if she could come back to Kyiv instead.

I’ve never been to Paris. And I certainly want to visit. Hannah has though and she absolutely loved it and has always wanted to return. She lived in France for a three month language exchange and our meet up in Paris included plans to visit her host family.

This summer, Hannah moved with us here to Kyiv and stayed a month before having to return to Canada for her first year of university. So arguably, she has an idea of what the trade off is in choosing Kyiv over Paris.

Hannah really missed Kyiv. I suspect there is some recency bias there. Regardless, she opted for a 15 hour three segment flight over the more direct and much shorter trip to France for her brief Reading Week break.

Kyiv Ukraine really is all that.

Well, she did want to see Crisp.

Oh, and Dad who also had to stay in Kyiv.

Ah yes! That’s right – she also came back for the food. Specifically, for the Georgian and Ukrainian restaurant fare. Oh, and the bread! Seriously good bread here in Kyiv.

Yes, there is really good bread in that paper bag.

Rob makes the best borsch. Ever! She came back for our home cooking.

Eastern Europeans have an almost overwhelming reputation for giving an unfriendly first impression. You can clearly see that Ukrainians have a soft side when you see their bits of whimsy. And it’s all over the place.

Fun art hangs from tree tops and trunks. And restaurants and parks are more often funky than not.

You can find this tree creature in Golden Gate Park.

Hannah particularly likes this piece of metal art – a girl holding wire trash baskets.

We all love things that are ‘lost in translation’. There’s lots of it here in Kyiv. Hannah took this cool picture of a glass entrance door to a business. Maybe the doorway is for stuff instead of staff. Either way pretty funny.

I can’t imagine ever getting tired of the wall murals here in Kyiv.

Hannah and I strolled all over town and we ended up in the usual places. Andriyivskyy Descent was much less crowded than in the summer.

We took the funicular down into Podil for the first time. It wasn’t this busy at the top.

There was hardly anyone else at St Sophia’s Cathedral on this gorgeous fall day. We did the full tour of the property without any crowds at all.

St Sofia’s Bell Tower doesn’t seem that imposing from the outside?

View from the lower platform.

Hannah made a great go at making it to the top of the Bell Tower. She made it up to the middle platform despite her very deep respect for heights.

Upward view from the middle platform. This was actually the less intimidating set of stairs.

Hannah loves to clown around. But this is a completely candid photo of her dilemma. My heart used to ache for her quite a bit when she was a little girl at the top of a staircase.

I thought she was over her fear of heights. Remember she jumped off the highest bungee bridge in the world.

Umm, yes. I left her and continued to the top.

Can you see Hannah down there?

So we were tourists in Kyiv again. There is still a ton we have to do. Not enough hours in the day – Or days in the trip. Though we also did a road trip this visit. And lots of lunches out. Hannah brought gorgeous weather with her. It was sunny and warm the whole week.

Hannah is back in Canada now. Despite the jet lag, she’s looking forward to returning to Kyiv again. Though I’m not sure if next time she’d choose Kyiv over Paris for just a one week break.

Thanks to everyone who invited Hannah to Thanksgiving dinner. She loved all those invites even though she had to turn them down to come visit us. Please keep them coming.

J! Thanks for having an early turkey dinner. And for meeting Hannah at the airport. You’re awesome as always.

And thanks to everyone who is watching out for her back home. It means a lot to us and you’re all simply fabulous.

Hannah! Thank you for coming all this way. I am missing you like crazy already.

Oh, I almost forgot. Crisp on Hannah’s bed. Can he look any more pathetic?!

As always, thanks for reading!

Kyiv – Space Heaters, Fall Colours & Silly Logistics

Those fall colours out my window are at their peak in that image above. There was more green and much more foliage a few days ago , so I think this is as good as it gets. My view out the window that is. Perhaps the fall colours in the country-side are much more spectacular. I soon shall see.

Foliage a few days ago.

We’ve been very busy here in Kyiv. Rob especially. I’ve spent too much time on email updates so figured I better do a post. It’s funny – our day to day lives here in Kyiv seem pretty pedestrian to us since, well, here we are. I forget that maybe it’s not boring to you. And someone else’s day to day life in Kyiv certainly would not have been boring to me a few months ago before I arrived here.

It’s Cold and Sunny in Kyiv

It’s been cold here the last couple weeks. Monday’s high was 5 °C. And it’s only October. At least it is beautifully sunny. I heard a rumour that today will be a high of ten so hopefully we’re back to warmer weather for a while.

Our apartment is a bit chilly. We’ve got the space heaters on and they’re not really making a difference. In fact, I’ve got one right adjacent to me this morning. Slippers. A sweater. A little brrh.

Like most in Ukraine, our apartment is heated by hot water radiators. I’m told the city actually controls the flow and Kyiv hasn’t turned the hot water on yet. I’m curious to know if we’ll be toasty or always chilly this winter.

We’ve got five large radiators spaced throughout the living / dining room. And another long one in the kitchen. I’m hopeful that if we close up the two sets of doors we can at least heat this space comfortably. Though like every room in the apartment, the living room is huge. That’s a dining table for eight right now. We put the extensions and extra chairs away.

Our grand gallery of a hallway has no radiators at all. So it may be a chilly walk from the bedrooms to the living area. Who knows. Maybe we’ll be able to keep the doors open and heat the hall as well.

I’m not sure if you can get an idea of the scale in that photo. I think the hallway may be as long as our house in Canada. I took the photo from the centre of the end of it. There’s still a bit more.

Yes, we’re still waiting to hang the art.

Did I tell you it takes me two hours to vacuum?! Okay, it’s a crappy vacuum but…

Uber & One Stop Shops

Another expat spouse and I took an Uber to a large store – Metro Cash & Carry – kind of like a Costco. It was pretty much a one stop shop for me that day. Though we could only buy what we could both fit in an Uber ride back home. And then again, only what we could each carry from the Uber up to our apartments.

Uber is pretty cheap here. The forty minute trip to the Metro was ₴130 (less than $7 CAD). The store was less than 7 km away. We set out at ten in the morning and I got back home four and a half hours later.

Overall? – Silly logistics really.

Even when I take an Uber loaded with groceries from a central well-stocked store, it’s a good forty minute drive through traffic. A route easily walked in twenty minutes. So I try to avoid the overloading.

Our personal vehicle arrived with the sea shipment and is parked in the garage waiting for Ukrainian licence plates and registration. It’s been two weeks now and I don’t have any idea when I’ll be able to drive it.

I’m looking forward to some autonomy. I don’t think a personal vehicle is going to cut down on my shopping woes but at least I’ll be able to make multiple trips up to the apartment with groceries I can leave in the car.

Yay, I get to see the girls soon …

So that’s just a quick update on a few things. I can’t really talk about what’s upcoming, public platform and all. And I do really hope to share more of the last few weeks with you. Though, if you’ve read about it in an email … meh!

I get to see Hannah and Emma soon. Though I’ve pretty much adjusted to them being away – alarmingly fast – I’m looking forward to seeing them.

Anyway, thanks for checking in. The chilly morning air here smells just like Canada. I am missing the glorious fall colours back home though.

As always I’m thinking of you all,

Routine Schmoutine – Pitfalls of the New Expat

This has always bugged me about myself. It takes me forever to find efficiencies in a new routine. When my schedule changed at work, it took me months to fall into a good personal routine. I’m talking about big changes like from day shift to afternoon shift. Or to a new reporting location. Stuff like that.

Of course some things just happen naturally – like morning coffee. I’m not sure when that started. But long long ago, Rob brought me a coffee in bed and I’ve never looked back. Neither has Rob since it gets him a lot points.

I would love to report that I have more of a routine then coffee in bed. Oh, and I see everyone off for the day. But I’d love to have more of a routine. I’ve imagined what it will be like when I finally fit everything in.

Why Do I Even Need a Routine?

I don’t know. It seems like a good idea. I like efficiency. I’m even quite efficient.

Gah! Somehow it takes me months to make an ideal schedule. I know there’s an easy solution to it. I just need to forget the routine. But…

Okay, so I’m about to make my excuses about why I haven’t taken up running in the morning. Or haven’t done yoga in the afternoon. Or even found a gym here in Kyiv yet. It’s part of my ideal retired lifestyle you know.

In addition to my apparent procrastination (and laziness), there are simply too many things that wreck my plans. Here in Kyiv especially.

Lunch, Brunch or Breakfast

Take lunch out with new friends for instance. A lunch date is quite time consuming. Since we’re all spread about, lunch often requires a 20 minute brisk walk to get to. While I’m quite fond of the three cheek kiss here in eastern Europe, it does take some time, especially shared amongst four or five of us. Then there is chit chat. There always seems to be one more piece of valuable intel to share. Reading the menu takes a ton of time in between conversation. It takes me quite a bit longer when the menu is Ukrainian. Forget it if it’s cursive Cyrillic – I have to ask for an English menu then. Eating generally doesn’t take too much time but goodbyes take forever. Really, its lovely to have so much fun chatting and laughing and I’m not complaining at all. Inevitably, the goodbye three cheek kisses always lead to more talking.

It doesnt’ help that Kyiv has an amazing restaurant lineup. Or that lunch out at a pretty hip place doesn’t often come in over ten bucks. Canadian!

Wonderful Expat Community

I’ve only met a few locals with whom I can speak with enough to have any type of relationship. And of course it’s because they’re proficient in English. I’m working on it though.

I’ve got a circle of new friends through Rob’s job. And of course, you can guess they’re a ton of fun. They’re mostly women and overwhelmingly from eastern Europe.

I joined a local bookclub and we’re meeting next week to discuss our first book. Dinner out of course.

And I think most new expats do this at least their first year in Kyiv – I joined the International Women’s Club of Kyiv. They meet often and have an extensive event list. There’s way too much to do there.

The Grocery Store is an Event on its Own

Simple logistics take me way longer here in Kyiv. And grocery shopping is a post on its own.

Sure, they have large chain grocery stores with aisles of produce and bunkers of meat. You’ll have to trust me on this one. I’ve tried several different ways of making the task of feeding us from the grocery store an easy thing. It’s just not. Kyiv has online grocery shopping and even that takes a good hour. And there’s still the problem of picking out the fresh meat.

And there is no one stop shop here. Well, there (kind of) is but it’s far from our downtown apartment.

I go to the a grocery store every day. There are lots of little convenience stores nearby. I can only shop at the nearest big grocer if I don’t need any meat. Some days there is an outdoor market open and I buy beautiful salad greens and vegetables. I take a pass on the meat there as well though because of the flies. Well, and its not refrigerated. I recently added in a stop at the Carnivornia that I found. It’s the nicest looking meat I’ve seen here. And the store smells good.

If I need something ‘special’, then I may need to visit a few stores. Or save it for an online shop. Or just forget about it since it’s often a crazy price.

I can’t stock the fridge with a weeks worth of fruits and vegetables because they simply won’t keep. And the baked breads here are so yummy that I couldn’t possibly substitute a bagged loaf. So, you see how it is. Time consuming.

I’m Loving My Expat Life in Kyiv

Kyiv is my first expat experience. Life here is mostly easy – in a challenging kind of way.

It’s a ton of fun. And I can see the appeal of being a long term expat. My highschool bestie moved to Hong Kong for a job decades ago. She goes back to Canada pretty much every summer but the lifestyle keeps her in Hong Kong.

So, back to my time management – I’m not getting any better at it.

I mentally scheduled two hours for my most recent 10 a.m. brunch. I was finally headed to the grocery well after two. I barely made it home to unlock the door for Ben. That was six and half hours of my day.

I’m not complaining.

The header image is a picture snapped from our apartment window. It’s one of the sections of the Dnieper River that we can see from our living room.

Thanks for reading!

Kyiv Street Art – Wall Murals

Kyiv Street Art - Upside Down Girl

Kyiv has some amazing street art and I love being surprised by these gorgeous wall murals – especially the ones that are scattered about my neighbourhood. I’m particularly delighted by the ones that I didn’t see the first (or fifth) time I walked down the street because it was behind me.

I’ve seen an easy dozen (at least) but didn’t always think to take a photo of them. These are just some of the wall murals that I see pretty much every day.

Kyiv Street Art
Ukrainian St George by AEC
Kyiv Street Art - Blue Birds

I think this one is my favourite:

Kyiv Street Art
Traditional Girl
Kyiv Street Art - Time for Change

I got in a bit of trouble for standing on the grassy curb while admiring this one. The security guard was not impressed.

Kyiv Street Art
Kyiv Street Art

A quick google search shows several walking tours that are on offer here in Kyiv. I’m officially on the look out for wall murals now but I still want to be surprised so I’m forgoing the $45 official tours and will stick to being delighted by coming upon them myself.

So I won’t be walking down the same old sidewalks anymore. Though there is some sense to that since some of them are in pretty rough shape. I’m looking forward to seeing how frequently these pop up.

How Much Things Cost – Kyiv Ukraine

Well, I think that $45 is a bit steep for a walking tour here in Kyiv. I also think that the 300₴ for the yoga class that I’ve been invited to is more than a little absurd – $15 !?!

Barber shops are a new thing here in Kyiv. It’s quite the fad. And locals and expats alike pay $20 for a shot of whisky and a cut. They’re all over the place.

Traditionally men’s cuts are done in the regular hair salons right with the women. Rob got his hair cut at the перукарня (perukarnya) in our neighbourhood for 100₴ (five bucks). He didn’t get a shot of whisky but it was a very nice cut.

Kyiv Ukraine men's hair cut 100 ₴

Hannah and Emma went to the same place a few days later and enjoyed a wash, cut and style for 300₴ each (just over $15). It took a couple hours and the hair dresser was friendly, gracious and attentive. No english. Both girls were delighted with their new sleek hair styles. And I people watched while waiting – none of the half dozen men tipped for their cut. And our hair dresser tried to make change for the 700₴ that we gave her for the girls. It was a well-deserved tip IMO.

Wrap It Up!

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous here. We’re going on six weeks now and have had one rain storm and two days of cold snap. Otherwise, the sun is shining and the temperature is pretty warm with a high of 27 degrees or so. Fortunately the mornings are cool now and there is most often a breeze.

I haven’t got tired of the view. Every morning I marvel that its mine to enjoy.

I only went out for lunch twice this week. It’s nice to meet up with other expats and I prefer the company. But I’ll likely head out on my own today.

Our air shipment came in yesterday so I lost a good portion of the day unpacking the little we had sent that way. Good kitchen knives!

Though we should have, we did not maximize our allotted air shipment. Our apartment still looks like a huge hotel suite – some furniture. But no colour and nothing on the shelves. I’m actually looking forward to a bit of clutter.

Enjoy your weekend friends! I’m thinking of you all.

From Kyiv with love,

Daily Expat Life in Kyiv, Ukraine

View from my Home Office Kyiv Ukraine

This is my morning view. Unedited (of course) from this morning. It took me a good three weeks to move my desk area from the kitchen table to this ledge under the large bank of window in our main living space. The kitchen table has a nice view on it’s on, but not like this.

The weather has been phenomenal. And our apartment seems to have its own efficient climate control There is air conditioning in each room but despite 30 degree beautifully sunny days, we can still throw the windows open and enjoy cool breezes without it. It must be the concrete walls.

My daily life as an expat in Kyiv has settled into a lovely routine. Admittedly, it’s a little boring. I wake up to coffee in bed. (Thanks Rob, as always – It’s mostly why I stick around.) Breakfast. Putter around. Put on a load of laundry – It literally takes all day. Walk to the grocer. Go out for lunch. Back at home for Ben’s school bus. Make dinner. Relax. No matter where we are, the days just fly by. There are really not enough hours in a day.

Over the last four weeks, Hannah, Emma and I had an excursion planned pretty much each day – With a destination in mind. We rarely made it to where we intended. Hannah was a bit dismayed by our lack of progress and called us Lazy Travellers.

I’d like to point out – We took the leisurely scenic route. And at this particular time, we’re not travelling. We’re living here.

What’s Up with the Electric Unicyle

I can’t count the number of times that I wish I was fast enough to snap a pic of some dumbass doing some stupid dumbass thing. You too? Yeah!

Really I wish I got a photo of this.

This morning I’m walking down the sidewalk to the grocery store . It’s a busy sidewalk. Crowded with parked cars, fruit stands, pruned tree debris, sidewalk cafes. And people! And potholes and lifted cobble stones. Most of the people are looking at their cell phones while walking. What can they possibly be watching?


There is this guy on one of those electric unicycles. And he’s motoring. He’s also zigging and zagging around things. I might have got a photo if I hadn’t been so surprised that he was going at top speed down the sidewalk while looking at his phone. The dumbass! At least he was glancing up occasionally.

Always a bright side.

I wish I got a photo.

I decided to take a picture of any of the numerous uni-cyclers here in Kyiv. Just so you’d know what I’m talking about. Usually I see several on any stretch of sidewalk here. It’s not one with the stick. It’s just the motorized wheel. One wheel.

Of course there weren’t any around. Here’s a picture of the sidewalk I’m talking about:

Top speed. With his nose in a cell phone.

What Things Cost – Kyiv, Ukraine

Tomatos and eggplant have been much cheaper than this. This morning, I went to the more upscale grocer twice as far away. Nothing I bought was on sale. So I guess these are just every day convenience prices.

Tomatos – 23.02₴

Or $1.20 CAD for this bag of six nice sized and super delicious Ukrainian tomatoes.

Ukrainian tomatos from an upscale store

Eggplant – 13.63₴

That’s about $0.70 CAD for these two medium sized eggplant.

Eggplant - Expat Life in Kyiv Ukraine

Mango – 42.99₴ per piece (a little ! )

This is a shopping error on my part The sign said they were less. I was thinking $1.50 per piece when I put them in my cart but they rang in at $2.20 or so – each. That’s far too much for a $0.99 mango.

Overpriced Mango - Expat Life Kyiv Ukraine

What to do? It’s not like I can return them. I only speak a little Ukrainian. And most people I encounter at this grocer speak only Russian.

Silly tourist!

Ah well. I look at the total cost of my groceries and am quite pleased.

Pineapple, Sesame Seeds & Fish Sauce

I haven’t snapped a photo yet. But I do see pineapple all over the place. Just yesterday it was $8 and a bit. My store has canned for $4. That’s for a small can.

I’ve been on the hunt for sesame seeds and fish sauce. I saw sesame seeds today. Four bucks for a small jar of white plain ‘ol seeds. It was packaged kind of like saffron. It was in the sushi making section so it must be really good stuff!

I haven’t found anything that looks like fish sauce yet. Hannah’s back in Canada now so the pressure is off for Asian cooking.

Wrap It Up

I should probably be starting dinner right about now. But it’s just Ben, Emma and I so we’ll be heading out for supper tonight. We have a request from Ben – wait for it – we’re looking for a really good hamburger.

We’ve enjoyed too much Ukrainian and Georgian food these last four weeks. I’m not saying that burgers are any lighter then varenyky, katchapuri and kinkhali (yummy stuff) but he’s been a sport so I give.

It’s been quite a few months since we’ve posted here. I was very pleased to see you all stopped by yesterday.

As usual my friends, thanks for reading!

All the best to you, Colleen