Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Morality police

A minute away from home I felt a touch of cold wind on my back. The combination of low waist jeans and waist jacket might help to show off my slim structure, but it has its shortcomings. I pulled the hem of my top down to cover my bare back just to feel the cold wind half-a-minute later. I repeated this another couple of times until I finally gave up. Once I get off the bike the problem will vanish, why bother for the ten minutes through the half empty streets?

I’ve almost reached the station when I heard someone talking behind me. A woman caught up with me. It appears she was talking to me. “Ma-am, your underwear” - she said with a stern look. “Ah, thank you!”- I replied pretending I didn’t know my knickers (the same colour as my shoes, mind you!) were showing. I pulled down the top once again while she’d overtaken me and disappeared around the corner.

Was she from the some kind of morality police? My, how much a country can change in two weeks!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Survival skills

The queue at the registration desks for the flight to Amsterdam this morning looks like it’ll never end. I walk past it to the ‘Baggage drop’ desk. No queue whatsoever. I was ready within two minutes as opposed to at least 30 minutes all the other passengers seemed to be willing to spend.

Next stop: security and customs. People clutter before the entrance doubting whether they are allowed to take the line with no queue. Some decide to avoid it and opt for the lines with a queue. I walk right past them. Another two minutes. Of course knowing what NOT to put in my hand luggage and what shoes NOT to wear helps as well.

Last obstacle – passport control. Several long queues for Ukrainian citizens. Two shorter for the foreigners. One window for foreigners is open, but nobody is lining up. Ukrainians avoid it because they are not foreigners; foreigners don’t realise it’s open because there’s no queue. I walk through saving another ten minutes.

I just saved about forty five minutes that I can spend to have a breakfast and buy a women’s magazine. As I chew on my way too expensive croissant with cheese I wonder why people tend to follow the crowd even though it rarely contributes to their advantage.

MOVITS! - Swing För Hyresgästföreningen

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


Saturday I was at a restaurant with my classmates to mark twenty years since we left school. A curious thing happened there when we ordered coffee. I asked for a cappuccino, but the waitress said they couldn't make it. She suggested a coffee with cream. I agreed. She brought espresso with a little cup of cream. One of my friends asked for the cream too. "We are out of cream" – the waitress said. This never happened to me before!

Last night I went out for a dinner with a Dutch group (ten people) visiting Kiev on a fun trip. They ordered wine. After two bottles the waitress said: "We don't have this wine anymore. Would you please choose another one?" After three bottles that other wine was gone too. We found that quite entertaining.

We are so used to live in the state of total abundance of everything that even the idea of a deficit makes us laugh. Isn't this actually sick?

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The answer

Russian TV has brought the news the other day: scientists in Japan have successfully teleported a 'piece' of light. A brief online research has revealed this news is not very fresh, but that's not the point.

What's important is that this success brings quantum computing closer. And a quantum computer is able to perform any operation much faster than a contemporary computer. Very much faster. Different sources say a quantum computer is thousands or even a million times faster.

That is very good news! Let's assume that a quantum computer will be 500,500 (average between 1,000 and 1,000,000) times faster than a computer as we know it now. This means that we can get Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything just in some fifteen years!

I can't wait!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Almost ready

Yesterday I came in the part of the city, where the Olympic stadium is being rebuilt up to UEFA standards for the EURO 2012. Great construction sites are great photo venues. I wouldn't have been me if I didn't climb the hill to get a better view.

I found a good spot, shot a few pictures and was ready to explore more of the city. The only problem was – I couldn't find the way out.

"How do I get out of here?" – I asked a construction worker who was passing by. He was not at all surprised to see me there. Some minutes later I understood why.
"Oh just go down these stairs and that way to the metro" – he waved his hand in the direction of the metro station.
I took some steps down the stairs to find myself right in the middle of the construction site with dozens of men laying stairs, digging holes or planting trees. The way ahead looked even more of a construction zone. In the Netherlands I wouldn't be allowed to enter.
"This is the right way" – I heard the voice of 'my' construction worker behind me. "Come, let me walk you to the exit."
"It will be very beautiful when you're finished" – I started a social talk.
"You bet!" – the man sounded very fond of his work. "The only question is: when will we finish?"
"It's all supposed to be done by 2012." – I said.
"They won't manage" – he answered.
"No. Look now you go left and you'll see the exit."
That's when I saw some other people clearly using the construction site as a shortcut to somewhere else. That's why nobody tried to stop me – strangers passing through is perfectly normal here. I thanked the guy and headed for the exit.

Now I think I should go back and actually enter the stadium to make some photos from inside. Although, my mother is concerned about my safety.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Kiev observations

On the way from the airport to my parents' place I saw many blank billboards - alcohol and cigarettes advertising is finally prohibited in Ukraine.

The price of electricity per kWh rises if you use more than 150kWh per month – electricity problems?

Many men walk around in training suite and dress shoes. Sometimes this outfit is finished off by a laptop bag.

Regularly one can see women drinking beer from bottles right on the street. It seems to be quite fashionable here, but I find it repulsive…

Depending on the weather I might go downtown tomorrow and make some photos.

Thursday, 12 May 2011


He was the sort of person you don’t like to be confronted with. A kind of guy you understand has the right to exist, but still hope you’d not see many of them too often. You don’t dare to admit this, but actually your life would be lighter if these people were out of your sight: homeless, hopeless drug addicts, mentally disabled...

His worn out clothes used to have some sort of meaning to them, but that meaning is no longer visible under layers of dust and stains. A necklace was hanging around his neck as the last token of that lost meaning. You could see he either didn’t like or had no possibility to wash himself often. In his dirty hands he carried a pair of rosaries and his face was covered in green and brown paint – remains of the same lost meaning. He looked preoccupied with some thoughts, detached from here and now. I was sure he’d start talking in himself any moment. I also anticipated on holding my breath to avoid the smell.

We were heading towards each other on a relatively narrow pavement. Avoiding bumping into each other would need a slight effort. I was determined to make that effort because I figured he wouldn’t.

I took a step aside to let him pass. That’s when I discovered that he was perfectly aware of the world outside of him. He took a step aside too. He made a step in the same direction so we still ended up facing each other not able to pass. I couldn’t help smiling and at the very same time his face lit up in a open and warm smile.

Light-footed I headed on. Some minutes later I realised I forgot to hold my breath. :)

Monday, 9 May 2011

Modern life

“What’s a quote?”
“It’s when you say or write something and other people like it, they start passing it on.”
“How’s that different from retweet?”

Carla Bruni - You Belong To Me

It’s complicated

My friend was late for our lunch yesterday. While waiting at the terrace of a cafe I was listening to a woman at the next table explain a rather complicated structure of her family to her two companions. The story was so amazing – I took notes. If that were my family, I’d explain it like this:

Friday, 6 May 2011


Nearly fourteen years ago I came to the Netherlands from Ukraine blissfully unaware of the feminism and gender issues. Women pursuing a career seemed quite natural, so did the kindergartens and equal pay. I hear things changed a lot in Ukraine since then, but I haven’t experienced those changes.

Now I know considerably more about emancipation, although I suspect the picture of emancipation  gathered from the Dutch society is rather distorted.

You see, just several decades ago women in the Netherlands where considered rather secondary creatures. They were not to study and not to work, but to stay home, take care of their family and not complain. Even as recently as in the early seventies women would get fired at work right after they got married. It took me a while to get used to the fact that mothers of most of my Dutch friends all had the same profession: housewife.

But then something happened. A great change. I don’t quite understand what had caused such a drastic change. If somebody has a clear answer to that, please do let me know. In a very short time as far as public opinion is concerned, women in the Netherlands went from subordinate beings to super humans. The kind that pursues professional career, drives cars, buys houses, decorates them and makes sure they stay clean one way or another, gives birth to children, raises them up, manages the household, prepares outrageously sophisticated dinners for Easter and Christmas, uses make-up, wears high heels, works out, drinks beer and lifts heavy things. All at the same time. While on a diet.

How they do it, I don’t know. Almost fourteen years long and I’m still puzzled. Because even though I use make-up, wear heels, own a house and pay my bills, I wouldn’t know how drinking beer, working out and maintaining a diet and a family could fit in my schedule. And even though I have enough brains to do a job similar to that of other men it still hasn’t helped me to be able to lift an object as heavy as half of my body weight up above my head.

I never hear Dutch women complain which sometimes makes me feel inferior. An uncomfortable feeling I must admit. But yesterday I saw this sign in the bicycle parking -->

‘Gentlemen, please use the upper rack if possible. Thank you.’

A public appeal to men to be real men?!! Maybe there’s still hope for me.

More of my musings on:
Emancipation (men on the planes);
Emancipation (demasculisation);
and Emancipation (fathers in control).

Thursday, 5 May 2011


Ik spreek regelmatig mensen die zich wat minder thuis voelen in de zee van sociale media en zich afvragen waarom ze Twitter zouden moeten gebruiken. Alle redenen die ze aangedragen krijgen,vegen ze met één zin van tafel: “Ja, maar ik heb geen zin om al die berichtjes gaan lezen van mensen die een broodje kaas zitten te eten!” Hoe vaker ik dit hoor (erg vaak!) hoe meer ik me daarover begin te verwonderen.

Wat is er toch mis met een broodje kaas? Iedereen eet wel eens een broodje kaas. Zelfs ik. Ik ken twee mensen die geen broodjes kaas eten, omdat ze geen kaas lusten. Die mensen kun je gerust gaan volgen dan. Oh, ze twitteren niet. Bummer.

Waarom is men zo bang om te lezen dat iemand een broodje kaas eet? Wordt je eigen broodje kaas minder lekker daardoor? Ben je bang dat men verkeerde kaas op verkeerd broodje eet? Of krijg je het gevoel dat ze te veel kaas eten en dat de kaas straks op is?

Ik heb even de tweets van mijn timeline teruggelezen om te kijken wat mensen die ik volg zoal eten. Gratis appeltaart, witbier met bitterballen, pannenkoeken met alles, thee met zelfgebakken muffins, borsch, kip Siam, dandelion pancakes, Indische rijst, gehaktbal van gerookt hertenvlees en gefrituurde minivisjes uit een vennetje in Lapland. Geen broodjes kaas afgelopen twee weken. Dus mensen wees niet bang en (tw)eet lekker mee!

Follow amirskikh on Twitter @amirskikh

P.S. Ik eet zelden een broodje kaas. Zo zelden, dat iedere keer zeker een tweet waard!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Seat cover fuss

You know bicycle is an important part of your life if:
  • you sometimes forget to lock your back door, your front door or a door of your car, but never ever forget to lock your bicycle;
  • finding a free, convenient and legitimate parking space at the station makes for a good start of the day;
  • seeing a bicycle with a tag ‘homeless’ does not surprise you;
  • coming back from work and finding your bicycle with a new seat cover makes for a good start of the evening;
  • you get upset if your seat cover is stolen;
  • you steal a seat cover to replace the stolen one;
  • the one you steal was placed on a ‘homeless’ bicycle by the police.
Also, if you recognise yourself in all or most of the above situations you most certainly live in the Netherlands.

Dutch Cowgirls found this seat cover at the station in Delft. Exactly the same cover was stolen off my bike at Den Haag Centraal station.

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