The African American Sea

Class has been really interesting.  I’m very impressed with this school.  We have been learning the nuances of the language like, shoot, can’t remember the English word, but it’s when one letter, depending on morhpology changes into another letter, чергування in Ukrainian.  I love it. Although yesterday we talked about shifting word stress in the various cases and I was so overwhelmed.  Word stress is my weakness in Russian and it’s pretty fixed.  Ukrainian word stress is all over the place.  Oh well, I’ve been getting along just fine not knowing perfectly where to put the word stress.

I see this building from a distance on my walk to school. It turns out it used to be a synagogue in the early 1900’s and now it’s a hospital. Interesting.

But most of all I love learning about the local dialect.  In a future post I will write some of the words that are different in the local dialect.  My fellow nerdy linguist/slavophile friends will get a tingle of pleasure down their spine.  But that’s for later.  Right now I want to talk about this wonderful place and its people.

All the buildings are really cool looking and very ornate.

There are so many churches and interesting buildings in this city.  In the center there no buildings that are alike, that is, every building is unique.  Everywhere you look there’s a different church for a different religion from a different time period.  I’m hoping to do a post on all the different places of worship that you can find in Lviv, but in comparison to the fun I’m having with friends and the interesting topics that get discussed I may not get around to it.  The stuff about churches you can read in a travel guide.

Another really cool church.

I can’t imagine this trip without the friends.  I can’t imagine what this trip would be like if I just signed up for classes, went to class, and walked around the city by myself afterward.  I’m to the point that I love these friends so much I don’t actually even care about site-seeing.  I just want to hang out, speak Ukrainian, and learn about peoples’ lives(and attend to the bottomless pit of questions about American wages).  By the way, I would recommend, if you’re traveling to Ukraine, to somehow compose a list of average salaries for various jobs: policeman, professor, buisnessmen(all different types because Ukrainians just don’t realize how vague this term is in English), construction workers, garbage men, burger flippers, pooper scoopers, and of course, prostitutes.  This way, when people hound you with these questions about how much they could make doing a certain job in America, you can whip out the list, trace your finger down the paper and say, ‘ah ha! A businessman who sells rip off Louis Vuitton bags from China makes…”  I really regret that I don’t have such a list.

So anyway, after this trip I can’t imagine traveling and not having at least one local friend.  It’s an entirely different world and an absolute must if you’re learning the language.

This greeter with the lantern was much less intimidating than the one with the gun

So yesterday after class I met up with Ihor (sorry before I spelled his name as Igor, which is the Russian way, in Ukrainian g=h) and went to a café called Hazova Lampa, ‘gas lamp’, a café made in commemoration of the man that invented the gas lamp, who was supposedly from Ukraine.  He brought along one of his colleagues, a fellow professor of economics at the University of Ivan Franko.  We went to a café and talked about….can you guess? Wages in America, how much a professor makes and so on.  They are both very educated and speak Ukrainian very correctly.  The friend Ihor tried to speak English but he of course did the low ‘uuuhhhhh’ mumble between each word that Ukrainians and Russians always do. I putt-putt (stutter) when I speak Ukrainian because I’m always double checking in my head to make sure it is in fact a Ukrainian and not a Russian word that I’m saying.  And then you have to construct sentences with the cases and I still haven’t (I’m ashamed to say because I always chew out my students for this) buckled down and memorized them perfectly.

When we were walking around they told me that there is a little folk belief here that if you are walking between two men with the same name (Ihor and Ihor, for example) you can make a wish and it will come true.  I wished that I would be able to live in Ukraine someday.  Oops, maybe I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone.

With Ihor the First

But we were having so much fun talking and I was doing pretty damn well in Ukrainian.  At one point everyone, seriously everyone on the terrace, where we were sitting went silent and just stared at me as I was telling some story.  I thought maybe I was talking too loud but the Ihors said it was because they were probably amazed that a foreigner was speaking Ukrainian so well.  So I was flattered, but it was still a little awkward nevertheless.

We got talking about the problem of political correctness in America.  I told them a story I had heard on a WNYC Radiolab podcast about some computer software that automatically (all in Ukrainian I’m saying this, pretty cool, huh?) corrects words and phrases that are considered politically incorrect and replaces them with the softer version.  For example, there was a story about a guy named Tyson Gay, and the headline of the article read “Tyson Homosexual wins the race”.  Another such instance with some lady named Caroline Black, or something and the computer changed her name to Caroline African American.  They liked this story because they think we are pretty ridiculous with all of our political correctness.

About an hour later Ihor the First pulled out his computer and showed me some of his pictures, one was near the sea and he said (jokingly) ‘this is me at the African American Sea’.  It was funny.  Good Times. I love it here.

3 thoughts on “The African American Sea

  1. You sound so happy! I don’t think Don is having nearly as much fun doing bathroom remodeling. I’m also impressed that your friends got your sense of humor, even in Ukrainian. Love you.

  2. Janey, for how long you are studying Ukrainian? I an following this blog since I started learning Russian and now, after living 2 months in Moscow, I speak pretty well. And then I realize that you are now speaking Ukrainian. And actually Ukrainian is a language that I would love to learn, so I would like that you can say some shortcuts on the process of learning Ukrainian. Do you know any good website?

    1. I’ve been studying Ukrainian for about 8 months, but I have a background in Russian of about years. There are some good videos on Youtube with dialogues that you can listen to and read and then I definitely recommend that you connect with some Ukrainian speakers on or That is where I made my friends who I later met up with and just had a great time with.

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