What Kate and Kris Did in October 2017
It’s November already. Where is the time going? We’ve been living as expats in Kyiv and teaching English here for over two months now and this is the second of our monthly updates.
Winter is Coming
The big change this month is the weather. In the last month, we seem to have moved from summer to winter, with the shortest autumn ever. I mean, the trees changed colour and those autumn things happened, but the temperature dropped noticeable, week by week.
When we arrived in Kyiv at the end of August, it was hotter here than it was in Bangkok. The temperature was in the 30s every day. Restaurants are bars all had outside terraces and weekends were spent on the beach (yes, there are beaches in Kyiv, even if they are river beaches).
One month later it was cooler – in the teens, but still nice weather coming from the UK!
Over the last couple of weeks it has gone below zero. It’s already snowed a couple of times. Ok, it didn’t stick, but there was snow. The hats and thick woolly scarves have come out and everyone is in big coats.
The outdoor terraces that were outside every bar and restaurant have been dismantled, leaving the bars looking strangely naked outside. What was obviously a big eating and drinking establishment before is now a door to a building, often leading down a set of stairs. It seems that many of these places were actually always underground, but you didn’t notice because of the outside area. The al fresco dining spots have now become basement drinking dens with low ceilings, wood paneling and a maze of different rooms. Often you have no idea of the size of the place until you venture through that door and down the stairs and experience it yourself.
One downside to the outdoor areas disappearing is that there seems to be less seating space. Some places we were going to regularly have halved in size and consequently, we can never get a table. There is a massive culture in Ukraine for booking tables. It’s not just restaurants, people book for bars and coffee shops and for every day of the week. It’s not strange to see a reservation sign on a table in a pub for 3.15 on a Sunday afternoon.
Central Heating in Ukraine
This month the central heating came on. Ukraine is not like the UK. People don’t traditionally have their own boilers with a thermostat which you set to come on at whatever time, and whatever temperature you want. Central heating to many buildings is centralised. The government decide when it comes on in winter, and when it goes off again in summer. And between those dates, it is on continuously. It doesn’t matter if you have a warm spell in March. You still have the heating on, you just have to open the windows.
It’s a very similar system in other ex-communist and communist countries – Russia and China for example. In China, the heating is centrally controlled and you only have any heating at all if you live north of the Yellow River. If you don’t, no heating. Shanghai is on the dividing line between heating and none, and buildings don’t have it. The winter we were there it went down below zero for several weeks. There was no heating, so we had to use hot water bottles at night, and leap into our clothes in the morning. Having a shower was freezing. There was a weird light fixture above the shower to try to warm it up a bit, but it really only affected your head. The trick was to get out of bed and into your clothes, set the shower running and leave it hot for five minutes or so, until the room was full of warm steam.
Back in Ukraine, in Odessa we had our own heating system, which was unusual. Here we don’t. For a couple of weeks, we were sitting in thick jumpers to keep warm, but it wasn’t so bad. We were glad when our heating did eventually come on though. The heating in the university where our school is has not come on yet. The classrooms we use are heated with electric radiators so we have to wait in our coats at the start of class until it’s warm enough.
Luckily in Kyiv we do have our own hot water boiler. This is important because others have centralised hot water as well, and it can go off for weeks at a time. Someone we know has not had hot water for the last three weeks. It’s about 5 degrees outside. Not nice. A student told us about an apartment they lived in where the hot water was pumped into the buildings through pipes that went outside. By the time the water had passed through the snow-covered pipes, it had lost the heat and still resulted in cold showers.
We continued our exploration of the impressive Kyiv metro stations this month with Zoloti Vorota, or ‘Golden Gate’, because we had been told that it was the most beautiful in the city. Designed to look like an 11th-century building, the station is covered in spectacular mosaics depicting ancient Kings and old buildings, as well as historical and mythical creatures. The lights look like chandeliers and the vestibules look like small castles. It’s pretty cool. Check out our post – Zoloti Zorota: the most beautiful metro in Kyiv
What Kate and Kris Ate
As a child, I ate a lot of chicken Kiev. I never wondered what the name meant, it was just the name of a breaded chicken dish filled with garlic butter. Now we live in the home of chicken Kiev. It actually is a famous dish here.
Recently I had lunch with some friends in a restaurant called Chicken Kyiv. So, of course, we all ordered chicken Kyiv. I would have been rude not to, eh? The chicken was molded around a bone, so it looked like a chicken leg, although it wasn’t. Inside was a LOT of butter and some herbs. No garlic in the original apparently. It was served on truffle mash with more butter, and with salad and pickles. Delicious
Where Kate and Kris Drank
We finish work late on a Friday night, and the centre of the city is generally very busy. It’s hard to get a table anywhere, especially now the outdoor seating has all been taken down. There is a bar though where we do seem to be able to find a seat, so it has become something of a regular haunt. It’s called Kupidon (Cupids) and is at the end of Pushkinskaya street. I’ve heard that it’s been there for years and years, one of the first bars in the city.
It’s a quirky place with lots of different rooms and balconies, full of mismatch furniture and decoration. Each table has a sketch pad and a set of pencils on it, for the artistic among us. It’s regularly full of people playing board games. The beer is local and cheap – Lvivski 1715 and Lvivski Dunkle, and there is good local food.
Blogs we published in October 2017
A popular post on the Teaching English side of our blog was one on How to get a job teaching English in Bangkok. There are so many questions about how to find TEFL jobs in Bangkok that we put together all the advice we could think of, from types of jobs and how to contact schools, to what to wear and how to find an apartment. Hopefully, it helps some people.
Amy, a fellow English teacher here in Kyiv, who blogs at The Wayfarer’s book, did one of our New Teacher Tales interviews for us, talking about how she started teaching English and her life in Ukraine: New Teacher Tales: Amy
If you haven’t already, check out what we go up to during our first month as expats in Kyiv in September 2017, including finding out we weren’t alcoholics, and visiting the powerful Chernobyl Museum: What Kate and Kris Did: September 2017.
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