Wednesday, 30 September 2009

All the things unsaid

I was talking to a friend on the phone tonight. She’d infected me with a good business idea, I gave it a thought and now it seems we are building upon her idea. If everything goes well, we might end up having a successful business together. I also gave her a short summary of all my love affairs, flirts and dancing adventures (most of it remains unsaid on this blog) and she advised to put that all on paper. She thinks I’ll be rich beyond my dreams if I sell my story to a soap or film script writer.

Even though I like to be very open about my life, relationships and feelings, there are many things I don’t mention on my blog. I don’t want to cause trouble for anyone. And writing about some relationships might (and does) influence and change them. Now it feels like I’m living a double life – a real life and a blog life...

<-- Eye candy: I made this photo some years ago during a lunch break near the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. I love picturing big architectural and industrial structures.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Dancing season

Just a reminder for those who came in late and all those shy, lazy or very lazy – there is a poll waiting for your vote. I can’t decide what to do with my hair – HELP!

Today turned out to be different from what I’ve anticipated. Instead of intensive preparations for the Ukraine Day (Oekraïnedag) I did a pep talk and then a therapy shopping (healthy balance!) with a friend (for her, not for me). I have to admit I find the latter more fun than organising activities of any kind.

Tonight I’ve been to the second ballroom beginners lesson (the first was yesterday). I will be taking the lessons from now on every Sunday and Monday evening. Fridays are for Salsa lessons. Free dancing (ballroom) will be every second Saturday and hopefully I can go to the salsa parties on Wednesdays. Partners problem seems to be fixed – fingers crossed!

I’ve just realised I will have a huge problem next weekend because I’m going to Brussels on Friday and will probably not be able to make it to the Salsa lesson. I will also have to return early enough to attend the ballroom lesson. Pfff! Logistics - tomorrow.

Sunday, 27 September 2009


Кто такой? (Who are you anyway?)
Вовка (Vovka)

Чего пришел? (What the hell are you doing here?)
Любопытно ( Just curious)

А Саша тебе кто? (How are you connected to Sasja?)
Кузина (I’m her cousin)

Молодой? (Are you young?)
Смотря для чего. В четвертом десятке. (Depends. Over thirty.)

Женат? (Married?)
Временно нет. (Temporarily not.)

Чем на хлеб зарабатываешь? (What do you do for living?)
Пишу программки. (Write computer programs.)

Что ты больше всего любишь есть? (Favourite food?)
Мясо. Любого вида, формы, цвета и вкуса. (Meat. Any kind, shape, colour and taste.)

А пить? (Drink?)
Воду и пиво. (Water and beer.)

Вредные привычки есть? (Any bad habits?)
Смотря сколько пива налито. (That depends on the quantity of beer.)

За что ты себя любишь? (What do you like about yourself?)
За скромность. (Modesty.)

Девиз? (Motto?)
Не воздевизь себе девиз. (You shall not make for yourself a motto.)

Еще чего расскажешь? (What else can you tell?)
А вы спросите. (What else can you ask?)

Перед ним в очереди стояло еще четыре человека...
Это был один из многих придорожных магазинчиков, в которых по выходным, когда большие магазины закрыты, можно приобрести разные вещи. Впрочем, этот был несколько бóльшим, и ассортимент товаров здесь был побогаче. В принципе, здесь можно было приобрести почти все, что могло неожиданно понадобиться на выходные: продукты питания, батарейки, столярный клей, аспирин, шурупы, презервативы, велосипедные покрышки кросс-кантри, белую акриловую краску для стен, кислородную подушку, бейсбольную биту, газовые баллоны, карликовое бутылочное дерево с надписью по-армянски, клетчатые моющиеся обои, музыку ветра и ловцов снов, двенадцатиместную палатку, мотоциклетный шлем с блютус, DVD с непроцензуренной версией "Похотливых домохозяек" с Роксаной Холл в главной роли, надувной резиновый матрас, оружейное масло, карты таро, электромясорубку, беговую дорожку с изменяющимся углом, набор стамесок из каленой нержавейки, лыжные ботинки сорок второго размера, трехмиллиметровый неопреновый серфинговый костюм, готовальню "Эрик Краузе" с логарифмической линейкой впридачу, складной биллиардный кий, бронзовые фигурки Гуань Гуна, Юань Гуя или Гуан Иня, отцветшие кактусы-маммиллярии, репродукцию "Маленькой мечты в красном" Кандинского размером семьдесят на шестьдесят и множество других необходимых предметов. Дальше...

Some extraordinary music from Yakutia: Ayarkhaan - Devine Young Ladies

Ayarkhaan is coming to Amsterdam 20 November 2009 (20:30 in Tropentheater Amsterdam).


No Settlers of Catan for a change. Today we played another game. I liked it a lot, but I forgot the name. I will check it with Kim and let you know tomorrow. It took ages to play and at the end everybody had 40 points except for Bas who won with 43 points. Tough! After that I was teaching my guests to play a very popular Russian card game named ‘Durak’. It surprises me that Jeroen didn’t know the game after spending so much time in and around Ukraine. The aim of the game is not winning. It’s not losing that’s important. The one who loses is called durak. Apparently the game differs too much from what Dutch are used to do with cards, aside from the fact that it’s played with a deck of 36. The rules are quite simple, but it took two or three times trial playing before Bas and Jeroen understood them. Kim was clearly too tired because she still doesn’t understand the rules. This is highly irregular! I think everybody has been durak at least once today and we agreed to continue practicing.

I have finally received my Le-Clochard and Le-Trottoir bed linen – YAY! So now I can “sleep under a cardboard box so a homeless young person doesn’t have to”. Although this was not the reason I bought it. I just love the design. According to the sleep facts on the website of Snurk men are more often in a bad mood in the morning than women are. Nearly a quarter of all men aren’t fit to talk to in the morning. Young people in particular seem to be grumpy in the morning. Am I young or manly? Anyway, I’m off to see how comfortable sleeping on the street under a cardboard is.

Saturday, 26 September 2009


I went to the dentist today. I had two teeth that had to be fixed. Nothing serious, just two little holes that had to be filled. “Do you want anaesthesia?” - the dentist asked. “What are you planning to do?” “I have to drill a little.” I was amazed by this question. It seems dentists apply anaesthesia more and more easily. I never had anaesthesia in my mouth until the age of 23 no matter what needed to be done. I lay in the chair with all this machines and tools around me and the dentist was holding my jaws open with his fingers. This felt like a very intimate thing. At that moment I have entrusted (a part of) my body to a man and felt very confident he wouldn’t hurt me or do me any wrong. The feeling is not new to me, but usually this feeling occurs during sex. I was surprised to realise that this feeling is also possible outside of erotic context.

I’ve had my three hours of dancing tonight.. What a joy!

Sueli has mentioned The Idan Raichel Project on Facebook and I checked it out. What a beautiful video! Hakol Over (This Too Shall Pass):

Friday, 25 September 2009

10 ways of dealing with your emotions

Emotions suck. Let’s face it. Negative emotions are never good. Nobody likes them. Everybody is trying to avoid them or at least everyone complains about them. But positive emotions are also only good to a certain extent. The fiercer they are, the less joy they actually bring. There are many ways of dealing with one’s emotions. Next time you’re struggling, try some of the following:

Avoid – prevent an emotion from happening. Lead a quiet, boring life, try not to meet new people, agree with everyone, don’t have any hopes or expectations. You will see, emotions will not bother you so much. Not my way, but seems to work for some people.

Cry out – share your emotion with everyone. Don’t deny or suffer, just tell it like it is to as many people as possible. Use your blog for that too. Along with ‘rationalising’ – one of my favourites.

Deny – declare in front of a large audience that you don’t have the emotion you’re suffering from. Tell this to everybody and repeat this to yourself when there is nobody to talk to. Look for the proof that you don’t have this emotion. I tried this several times, but I never seem to make it to the winning end. I give in and end up experiencing the emotion in it’s full force anyway.

Dismiss – decide for yourself your emotion is not real, not serious, not deep or not an emotion at all. Have to work on this one.

Enjoy – dive in and love every bit of it. It takes training, especially for negative emotions.

Ignore – “Emotion? What emotion?” – and carry on as if nothing has changed. I know some people who are very good at it. I would love to master this technique!

Observe – watch yourself having the emotion. The whole process is quite amusing. Works well for fighting material jealousy.

Rationalise – dismantle the emotion and find good reasons why you are experiencing it at this very moment. I am very good at it. I call it ‘understanding’.

Suffer – give yourself hostage to the emotion. Don’t try to fight! Again, some people are very good at it. You most probably know someone who is good at suffering, even from something that seems like a positive emotion. I admire the skill those people have.

– whenever an emotion evolves – do your best not to show your emotion and engage in all kinds of activities leaving no room for the emotion in question. Fanatically cleaning your house may help for a couple of hours. Filling your diary with appointments and social matters works better for the long term.

Got more? Shout!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Thymus and pole dancing

I went to a trial pole dancing lesson tonight. I told an ex of mine I was going. “Pole dancing, wow! But isn’t it hard and tiring?” There is only one dance school in The Hague that offers a pole dancing course. And it’s situated at the end of the world (in terms of The Hague) – about 30 minutes by bike. The closer to the school I came the less inspiration I had to take the lessons. I was late because I got lost a couple of times. When I walked into the room full of girls aged between 17 and 25 I felt rather disappointed. What are the odds of finding a friend among them? The fact that there were only two poles and you constantly have to stand in line waiting before you can try a move didn’t help. I watched it all for some 20 minutes and left. No pole dancing for me. I had another ex on the phone when I came home. “You were going to do what?! Yeah, it’s like acrobatics, but then with a pole and without clothes! Just stick to ballroom, will you?” He made it sound so ridiculous, I’m glad I didn’t talk to him before I went.

I talked to my mother tonight and she said one of the neighbour girls is seriously ill. She is 19 years old. There is something wrong with her thymus. According to my mother it’s similar (or the same) to what my sister Lena had died of. Apparently it’s treatable, but they’d discovered it too late in Lena’s case. When Lena died I was too young to really understand what her medical condition was. And afterwards we never talked about it. I cannot ask my mother because it makes her upset. But I feel such a strong need to know. I’ll be surfing the net on this topic.

This is the beginning and the end of the short children’s evening programme “Spokojnoj nochi, malyshi” (which literally means “Goodnight, kids”). I used to sing this song to Lena to make her sleep.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


I decided to wear something formal to work today. As opposed to the usual free style/casual outfits everyone (including myself) wears at Versteegh. Here’s my formal look (I wore a fuchsia jacket over the t-shirt) ;) -->
The project is getting on people’s nerves now. We have planned sessions of one, two or four hours to discuss all the implementation issues in different groups. Some people have to sit through several meetings a day which makes them cranky. Today’s morning felt like a rainy Monday morning. Everyone was complaining or making very sarcastic remarks in my direction. I just ignored all of it with a friendly smile. It got better in the afternoon. Next Thursday will be one more of these days. Hope they’ll be more relaxed after a ‘non project’ day.

One more piece about Café Kiev – AD Utrecht from 14 September 2009. They mixed up the names of the girls! And apparently Wouter finds high heels appealing.


I need to watch more TV. I never watch TV and cannot participate in many everyday social talks because I haven’t seen a show or don’t know what music is played in commercials. One can argue that as long as I read good literature, listen to good music, go to museums, etc... Well, lets face it, TV is a part of contemporary culture that cannot be replaced by literature and art. Moreover, you cannot always talk about serious subjects. TV offers easy entertainment and light topics to talk about at the lunch table. And after all one should be able to converse with people who don’t read books or go to museums. Thus I need to watch more TV.

The problem is – I don’t have the patience to watch TV. I have to sit in front of it and watch whatever is on. There is of course a choice, but at every moment in time still very limited. To make sure I see something I actually find interesting I would need to look it up beforehand and actually keep track of time to make sure I don’t miss it. Pfffff!!! I get tired just by the idea of it all. How do you do it? Any tips? Please?!

Ukrainian overkill: from left to right Natasha, me, Tania

Monday, 21 September 2009


I needed to bring more balance into my life so I decided to go shopping. I bought a pair of boots and a pair of a little wicked red shoes. I hate shoes shopping: they have to fit well, be comfortable, stable (especially high heels), beautiful and fit more outfits. It’s like looking for a sheep with five legs! But today was a success: two pairs of shoes in one shop and I only spent two hours looking. :)

Високосный год – Метро

This song is old enough to be on Radio Retro, but not old enough for me to know it from the time I lived in Ukraine. It’s funny how I tend to divide my life into ‘before’ and ‘after’. ‘Before’ is larger, but it will not stay this way. In twelve years ‘before’ will be smaller than ‘after’. I wonder how the division will feel by then.

Sunday, 20 September 2009


1. the practice or system of using certain conventional marks or characters in writing or printing in order to separate elements and make the meaning clear, as in ending a sentence or separating clauses.
2. the act of punctuating.
3. punctuation marks.
Russian has a very elaborate set of punctuation rules. There is also something known as “author’s punctuation” meaning the author uses punctuation according to his own logic. I love punctuation. Too bad English and Dutch have hardly any rules on punctuation.

A couple of days ago I walked into a second hand furniture shop (a strange mixture between a thrift store and an antiques salon) where I bought a lamp some years ago. Every once in a while they have nice things there, so the shop is definitely worth checking. Now I am looking for a couch for my living room. I hope I will spend more time there if I have a couch I like. They didn’t have a couch for me. But I have spotted something else. A chair. It looks more like a throne and I am afraid it’s not comfortable at all. But look at the decoration!!!!

Friday, 18 September 2009


“So, how’s life? You too are arnonised?” I had to laugh at the term ‘arnonised’. (He said ‘gearnoniseerd’.) Am I? I checked which keywords I use on my blog most often to see whether there is a reason to worry. I used most keywords on my blog only once, some twice. Every once in a while there is keyword used three times. There are only nine keywords that I use more often.

Here’s the top 5 of my obsessions:
Apparently I’m really obsessed with ‘dancing’ (dûh!) – I used this keyword in my posts 15 times! Dancing is not surprisingly being followed by ‘Kiev’ – 12 times. ‘Ukraine’, ‘Moscow’ and ‘Odessa’ share the third place in the chart - used 7 times. ‘Shopping’ – was used only 6 times. ‘Arnon Grunberg’, ‘job interviews’ and ‘Saratov’ share the fifth place – I used these keywords 5 times each.

Well, I think I’m ok. No need to worry as long as I talk more about shopping than about Arnon Grunberg. :)

English Surgeon

A friend texted tonight: “Ned2 beautiful film”. I switched on the TV. It’s a documentary called “The English Surgeon” (director Geoffrey Smith) about a brain surgeon Henry Marsh who comes to Ukraine and gives free consultations and surgeries to people with brain tumours. I cried my way through the film.

Henry Marsh is an extraordinary man, I would love to meet him one day. Just for the sake of one short conversation...

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Café Kiev impressions

I finally managed to get some sound and pictures from Café Kiev last Saturday. The most memorable moments are not available in pictures, but I can give you some impressions of the talk-show and the speed date where Tania and Natasha made the guys’ first acquaintance. The photos by Rene den Engelsman and Moon Saris are a courtesy of Theater in beeld.

Café Kiev

Arnon reading a piece about his “dating” experience in Ukraine.

Talk-show (in case you didn’t recognise me – I sit next to Arnon)

This guy looks very enthusiast on the picture, but he didn’t play the dating game. Probably didn’t like the girls. ;) I don’t remember his name (something starting with an “R”, obviously)

Wouter – one of the two winners. I was very impressed by his performance during the game!

Aurel (did I spell this right?) – not a serious contestant. He participated for fun or out of solidarity with Arnon. His wife and kid where watching him from the audience.

Alex – the other winner – is trying to shake Tania’s hand. This is his first experience of cultural differences with Ukrainian women. Russian and Ukrainian women don’t shake hands. Never. They don’t know how to do it. All they can do is hold your hand. You can see it on the photo.

What is he telling her?
Find John in this picture and I will make you an apple pie!

The rise and fall of Bandi

Oog op morgen from 12 September. The fragment about Café Kiev is called “De minuut”. It starts on 00:09:55 of this sound clip and lasts exactly one minute.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


When I was a kid and did not decide about my haircut (this lasted quite long), my mother would always make sure my hair was cut very short. “Like a boy” – she would tell the hairdresser. When I turned thirteen, I started growing my hair. I had long hair for some five years before I cut it quite short again. From then on I was changing the length of my hair every two or three years. But it took many years (until I was about thirty years old!) before I cut my hair VERY short again. The effect was very surprising. People didn’t recognise me and when they did, they would say: “Oh, what happened to your wonderful hair? You look very good, though!”

My hair reflects my character very well. I am never satisfied with what I’ve reached. Once I get what I want, I need to move on immediately. When my hair is short I feel like growing it very long, but I never have the patience to let it grow really long – I change my mind and cut it anyway. Half-a-year ago I cut my hair very short again. And what surprised me the most is that during this half a year I’ve been to the hairdresser two more times for an even shorter haircut. I was not ready to grow my hair! Apparently I needed a stop. And now I’m in doubt. I can’t decide whether I should cut my hair again (in two weeks or so) or let it grow.

HELP! Please fill in the poll on the right side of this blog and help me decide what to do with my hair this time. Just for your reference, here’s long haired me several years ago.

Please note: if I don't cut my hair, it will become longer, but I will not become younger!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009


Last May I was in Kiev and tried to see as many friends as possible. I tried to fit as many appointments in a day as possible. Usually it would go like this: “Let’s meet tomorrow around three.” “Sure!” “Please, call me tomorrow morning.” Tomorrow morning we would shift the appointment from three to eleven or five. And then I would call someone else to meet at three. In Kiev you plan today for today. My friends were laughing at me, because I have a diary where I note my appointments even when I’m on vacation. They use diaries to mark birthdays of everyone they know.

In the Netherlands there are as many diaries as there are bicycles. More than people. My front yard needs some tiding up. Last Friday I was trying to pick a day to do that with three kids from the neighbourhood. “I have to work Monday through Wednesday and I will be too tired to do this after work. Let’s do it on Thursday. 17:00?” “No then I have my swimming lesson. It ends at six and we’ll be home around seven.” “Ok, let’s do it at half past three.” “No, It’s my choir day. I’ll be at school till five.” “Ok, what about Friday five o’clock?” “No, that’s my swimming day.” “Half past three?” “All right.”

And today I was talking to a girlfriend of mine. “Can you organise an evening for Russian speaking girls? I will bring some music, we will have some girly talk and cry together.” “Sure. I am I a little busy with Oekraïnedag now, but after 17 October...” “Oh, no. October is bad. It will be too busy. And I will have to travel to India and China in November.” “OK, I will pick a Friday night in December.” “Oh, yes! December would be perfect!”

Сурганова и оркестр – Я теряю тебя

Timeline: I don’t want to go on with timeline anymore. I hardly ever enjoy writing that part of my posts. Sometimes it’s difficult to deal with my past. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember something worth writing about. Very often I just feel timeline doesn’t fit the topic. As of today there will be no daily timeline. Complain in the comments.

Sunday, 13 September 2009


Tanusha you stole my heart
i love you
please send me an mail

Poor Bandi hasn’t even reached the second round of the competition in the Dating Game at Café Kiev. He wasn’t the one who couldn’t name the official capital of Ukraine, was he? Anyway, I’m afraid he doesn’t have much chance on Tania contacting him any time soon. She and Wouter seemed to be really happy with each other. The girls got extremely lucky yesterday. The winners were two very good looking and quite sensitive friends – Wouter and Alex. Wouter has won a date with Tania, Alex – with Natasha. I was truing to seduce Alex during the game, and I think I almost did. But he did not use the possibility to leave the competition before it was over. That would have been very wrong. I think Natasha would have been really upset. Now both girls are happy and the guys seemed to enjoy their victory too. I wonder whether these dates will grow over in serious relationships. I think after the talk-show the guys do have an idea about what to expect when you get a foreign partner.

The talk-show preceded the dating game. I liked the way Arnon prepared the show. Everyone got approximately the same time to talk. All questions together covered the topic very well. It wasn’t boring or too complicated. And there were quite some questions from the audience. Loads of compliments to Arnon!!!

The most memorable moments of the day:
1. Sander in his pink glitter suit! (Please, anyone, pictures!!!!!!)
2. Wouter in the “barkrukken” race with the beer coming out of his nose and mouth + his spectacular fall.
3. Disco dance contest (I was dancing and the contestants had to copy me).
4. Me drinking from a vodka bottle on the stage after Alex and Wouter were selected as winners by the girls. (There was no vodka in the bottle, just water.)

Oh, I forgot to tell you: I was helping Sander to present the dating show. After I announced Café Kiev I got a dozen suggestions that I should participate along with Tania and Natasha. Me presenting the show was a good compromise. ;) I was wearing my daring top and a bright pink boa. When I was cold (the daring top hardly covers any skin) I put a fur coat on.

My inspiration for the disco dancing contest:

There is one thing that I need to get off my chest: Alex, I really like you! And I don’t care about your car, I was just doing my “job”.


Or actually yesterday. I've just came back from Utrecht after a day of Café Kiev. I am VERY tired. And I'm loaded with impressions. I hope the organisation will have some photo's. There's so much I would like to show you.

Saturday, 12 September 2009


I have to call some people to make sure they arrive on time and without any problems. I need to pack my chique clothes (I will change after the discussion). I have to put the Dutch sentences Sander has sent me onto cards along with their Russian or Ukrainian equivalent. That’s after I polished my nails. Then I have to pack the CDs and vodka. After that I’m ready to go. I’m really looking forward to (if not to say excited about) Café Kiev tomorrow. It’ll be fun!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Goed Nederlands

Today I received a compliment about my Dutch. “How long have you lived in the Netherlands? Your Dutch is so good!” Well, after twelve years in China my Chinese would probably be quite ok too. I still have quite a strong accent. Actually, NOT getting compliments about my Dutch would be the best compliment. I wish my Dutch was as good as her English:

Timeline: October 1991 – I was still lucky to go to ‘kolkhoz’ in my first year of university. There was this a bit strange tradition to send all first year students of universities to different collective farms to help. We had to cut the leaves off the beets and put the beets in large containers. I am not sure we were of much help there, but we definitely did have fun! I don’t think any students went to kolkhoz in 1992 or later.

Thursday, 10 September 2009


<-- I’ve received this in my post today. It’s amazing how much information one can fit on a half A5 page (is it A6?).

The more I read the paper the more I discover. It’s been a source of instant joy for me today. Just think about it: this man can make my headaches disappear in just 30 minutes! There's one thing that bothers me: what if he mixes up his operations with the hand (or my body misinterprets the signals) and my breasts disappear? There is no breasts enlargement on the list... Help in relationships: getting your boyfriend or girlfriend back 100%! Should I give it a try? What if he returns a wrong boyfriend? :-o

Next time I have a headache I’ll call him between 22:00 and 23:00 for a free healing. And I am seriously considering becoming his “free pupil”. I think he can turn me into a witch!

Timeline: 24 August 1991 Ukraine becomes independent. The chaos was already so big I didn’t even notice that. Nice time to leave school and start your grown-up life...

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


cor•vee de; v -s werkzaamheden van huishoudelijke aard, beurtelings te verrichten

Ik heb een nieuw woord geleerd – corvee. Het komt tegenwoordig maar zelden voor dat ik een nieuw woord leer. Een aantal weken geleden had ik ‘rooien’ geleerd. Iemand die ik ken was aardappels aan het rooien. En nu dus weer een woord bij – corvee. Ik had vandaag corvee. Ik moest de vaatwasser een paar keer inruimen, aanzetten en uitruimen. En ik moest de lunchtafel dekken en na de lunch weer opruimen.

Alles bij Versteegh is geregeld. Werk begint om 8:30. Het heeft geen zin om eerder te komen, want dan is mijn kamer nog op slot en kan ik niet werken. Om 10:30 gaat de bel. Dan drinken we met z’n allen thee en koffie beneden. Daar staat een kwartier voor. Mensen die jarig zijn (geweest), trakteren dan op gebak. Om 12:30 gaat de bel weer. Deze keer voor een halfuurtje lunch. En om 15:00 krijgen we nog een kwartiertje voor thee en koffie. Om 17:00 gaat iedereen naar huis. Dan moet ik ook naar huis, want alles moet weer op slot, mijn kamer ook.

Naast de keuken hangt een lijst waarop je kan zien wanneer je corvee hebt. Ik heb er halfjaar voor moeten ‘vechten’ om daarop te komen. Ik wil ook corvee hebben. Dan hoor ik erbij. En vandaag mocht ik het voor het eerst doen! Ik heb een projectvergadering om 13:30 gepland in plaats van 13:00 zodat ik tijd had om de lunchtafel op te ruimen. “Waarom beginnen we niet om 13:00, meteen na de lunch? Dat is toch veel handiger?” – vroegen mensen aan mij. “Ik heb corvee” – antwoordde ik trots.

Timeline: May-July 1991 – exams! First final exams at school, then entering competition for the university. I had private lessons English and basics of law. For Ukrainian I was preparing myself. My Ukrainian was in a horrible state. Not that it’s better now...


Sunday, 6 September 2009

Minus 16

I’ve seen a preview of this performance during the Uitfeest Den Haag today. Very impressive! Now I’m looking for this very version of the Echad mi yodea song. Can anyone help me?

Timeline: May 1991 – Vovka (my cousin), his parents and his grandmother emigrate to Israel. When he was leaving, he was approximately as tall as I am. He is slightly bigger nowadays. ;)

What if

My professor of constitutional law at the university said in his first lecture: “If things with birth, death and emigration will not change for better, Ukraine as a nation will cease to exist by the year 2040.” That was in 1992. I left the country in 1997. Many of my friends have left around that time. And those who stayed are planning to leave in the nearest future. To Poland, Czech Republic, Canada, wherever as long as it’s away from Ukraine. There are still people who don’t plan on leaving. Those have a little more than thirty years to change their mind.

A friend said to me: “I don’t know about Ukraine, but Russia will certainly fall apart by then.” I’m not that into Russian politics, so I don’t know what he meant exactly. It’s just somehow my mind enjoys painting various scenarios of what could happen. Disappearance of Ukraine doesn’t seem disturbing at all, but Russia is a different story. Fort Kaliningrad. When Russia falls apart, no one will care about Kaliningrad. They will ask Germany to take them back. Oh no, wait, Kaliningrad doesn’t even share a border with Germany! Tuva gets independence and doesn’t know what to do with it. Before they know, they’re a part of China. Will they even notice? Whoever gets to keep a piece of Siberian forests will have to get as much profit from it as possible. Let’s throw away the Kyoto Protocol already now. It’s cheaper. How wild will Far East get? If there are still people living on the East coasts of Russia, they’ll be in trouble. They already think they live on an island. I wonder how fast they’ll reach America. And don’t forget – there are 140 million people living in Russia at the moment. When Russia starts to fall apart a considerable part of the population will emigrate. This will be the end of Europe as we know it. Well, we still have about thirty years to enjoy it. I think I’ll go dancing tomorrow.

The Hague from my window (three years ago)

Timeline: May 1991 – I go to the USA for a two-week school exchange. We had to fly from Moscow, because there were no flights to America from Kiev yet. Most children in the group have never been to Moscow before. I found it difficult to imagine. Strangely enough, I had no cultural shock during our stay. It was a small town near Baltimore, I can’t remember the name. I’d felt no discomfort at all. Several children were discussing the possibilities of escaping from the group and staying in America. I though it was such a stupid idea, I didn’t even argue.

Saturday, 5 September 2009


My mother and I had a long conversation today. There were some good news to share from both sides. We went on discussing different things and I told her about my conclusion that sex reveals the true intentions of your partner. She agreed, we talked about this and some other things a little more and then she left to have dinner with my father. I thought how lucky I am to have such an open relationship with my parents where there is so much trust and everything can be discussed.

I have more contact with my mother, but when my parents were visiting me in July I suddenly noticed how much I resemble my father. Several times I caught myself walking, talking or doing things exactly the same way my father does. I was very amused. I thought I was supposed to become more and more like my mother. I was discussing this with a friend just yesterday. He said he was becoming more and more like his father and his wife resembles her mother more and more. Maybe later I will move in the direction of my mother. There are many things about my mother I don’t really like. I hope I won’t start behaving like her in every aspect.

Timeline: 1991 – there are many school exchanges at my school. Children from the USA and Germany are frequent guests. Children from our school get to travel. I get involved in one of those exchanges. We get an American girl, Heather, at our for two weeks. Her Russian was unbelievably good!

Friday, 4 September 2009

Single men wanted!

Single men are wanted for Café Kiev on 12 September 2009. Café Kiev (a project of Arnon Grunberg) is part of the festival Uitfeest in Utrecht. There will be a talk show about immigration politics and mail-order brides. I’ll be there on behalf of SPS N-O. In the afternoon there is a dating game for men who are interested in marrying one of the two ladies from Ukraine. Mr. Grunberg personally selected them from hundreds of women he’d met during his trip to Ukraine in search of a Ukrainian bride. The competition for the heart of these ladies will consist of a quiz, a love letter writing contest and a dancing skills check. Maybe something else, you never know with Grunberg. Single men who are interested in entering the competition can apply by e-mail to the Uitfeest organisation ( or to me (, I will forward your application to the organisation).

There are two things you should take into account while making your decision whether or not to participate:
1) It’s an art project. You will not have to actually marry the girl if you win. You don’t even have to be single, just make sure your partner is ok with this.
2) There will be no TV cameras around, don’t worry.

Consider applying with a group of friends or colleagues – this is a perfect team building event. Also very suitable for bachelor parties!

More information on Café Kiev is available here and here.

The prizes:

Please forward this information to anyone who you think could be interested. Thanks a lot!

P.S. I’ve spent four hours in a ‘swimming paradise’ today!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


“And look, there’s the sea!” “I know, I’ve seen it already.” “Come on, you are supposed to say ‘wow!’. Give me that pleasure - you’re a woman!” It was the end of our first day together in Odessa and he started to lose his patience for me. Not that he is so impatient. It’s just that I was behaving too much not the way he is used to. I am direct, I argue, I like to have the last word. Apparently Ukrainian women don’t behave like that. I would have labelled him as a macho and moved on if I haven’t heard this from my mother so many times: “The woman is the one to give in in a discussion. She is the wise one.”

This discussion on Arnon Grunberg’s blog doesn’t seem to have an end. We keep on reacting to each other’s statements. We’ve probably annoyed all the other readers with our smug remarks. I’ve read his last response and thought up a dozen different answers to that. But I won’t react. I will let him have the last word. I’ll be a woman this time and let him be a man...

Timeline: 1991 – I have no other photos of me revealing my Jewish roots so well. This was the time when I had to decide which ethnicity would be stated in my passport. I chose Russian, but it was a tough choice.


We cannot have the numbers generated the same way as before anymore because we have decided to use new colour codes. If we want the colour to be visible in the number, we will have to change our numbering system. This means we will have to apply new numbers to the thousands of articles we have in stock here and in showrooms. We don’t want that. We can use old numbers and use the seven-digit number that doesn’t contain any information on the colour. In this way we won’t have to put new stickers on the current stock. We have to get used to the thought that number doesn’t contain any information about the article except for the main group it belongs to. But if there is no colour indication in the number, and every article in a different colour gets a new number, how do we know which articles have the same design in different colours? This is important to know to be able to suggest different colours to the client. We haven’t thought of this yet. We need to integrate this in the new system. Besides, the main group numbers now contain information on the kind of article as well as the material it’s made of. But we have decided to split this information in the system (which is rather obvious). How are we going to automatically generate the numbers? I LOVE puzzles. In our project meeting today we’ve spent at least one hour trying to solve this problem. And just when we thought we found the solution, two new problems popped up. I love my job!!! (I mean it – I really enjoy working on this project.)

It’s amazing how a message about James Ensor exhibition could cause such a discussion about sex! And how that discussion could get so out of hand and end up in Arnon Grunberg and me discussing having sex with each other! I’ll have to be more alert next time I post a comment on his blog.

Timeline: 1990 - a great film by Georgi Daneliya – Pasport

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