“Can’t tell North from South, but no split hairs gonna get me down. I’m stayin above the flat line, I’m ahead of the curve, take a piece of the sunshine with me on a redeye flight to another world” ~ Monsters of Folk: My first week in Kyiv*

I subscribe to the Ferris Bueller maxim that due to the speed of life, if you don’t look around sometimes, you might miss it. Unfortunately, often as I try its remains hard to convince myself the necessity of writing things down. After all-if it’s fresh now surely it’ll be there forever…or at least I think that’s what I thought yesterday.

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My first week in Kyiv has gone incredibly fast. I’ll do my best now to recapture some of the highlights thus not only for my sake, but for the people interested as well. Of course, all others are welcome to read. Some sections may be a bit dry-especially now as I’m rushing to post this-but feel free to skip to a section that pertains to your interest…or you know-just don’t read this.

Internship at ICPS

This summer I am interning at ICPS or the International Centre for Policy Studies in Kyiv. Coming in I wasn’t really sure what to expect; after a week I have more of an idea that it will definitely be more of a collection of projects with my overarching policy analysis paper as the main project.

The people there are from various backgrounds and specialties. I’m not going to delve too deeply into personal backgrounds as I’d fear that’d lead to gossip but I can give you some quick highlights. There are two helpful and kind Fulbright scholars at the moment. I’ve had the opportunity to talk with one a bit more and been blown away by his knowledge on Ukraine as well as Kazakhstan & Belarus (show of support, visit the site he co-edits: www.belarusdigest.com). The general staff are made up of Ukrainians-almost all from Kyiv or the western city of Lviv.** They are well-intentioned people, have a good hold of the English language and speak mainly Ukrainian in the office (normally, Russian would be a bit more common). It’s a bit ironic that they are quite okay with me me speaking Polish (as apparently it now seems that I ‘speak’ Polish since they really do understand…still shaking my head in disbelief) as they all more or less understand that as well.
The director is a woman who has been involved in ?every? important Ukrainian event since 1991 it seems. Have had a few chances to speak with her and enjoyed her insight and the background she offered on Ukrainian bureaucracy and that connection to foreign affairs.

ICPS has a very strong connections to most sectors of government. I’ve been told that when working on my research we can go through a very large list of contacts throughout the government and in other factions. This is ICPS’s strength and I can’t wait to see what opportunities it entails.

What have I been doing: a hodgepodge of different things including a bit of research on my main project. That project is my primary task for the whole summer from my own perspective and making/including an analytical research paper relating to Ukrainian foreign policy will be intense. However, a lot of other stuff also sprung up not really related to what I thought I’d be doing. For example, ICPS needed to prepare a new overall plan so I’m working a bit on that. Additionally, the website is going to be redesigned including the creation of a new news site that will include analysis and a blog. Thus our articles we’ll be publishing and writing. Then, most of this past week has been about writing a proposal for funding on land reform in one regions. In other words, typing this funding proposal along with two of the other general staff, working out ideas on the outputs, indicators of success and steps needed to be taken made me feel like I was doing an SA project (that’s lingo for any Bushies who may be reading this; for everyone else it made me feel that I was doing public management-not international affairs). However, since it was in Ukraine it was a bit of international affairs…I don’t know. I was confused, but I actually really enjoyed it as we finished the completed proposal on Friday.

So basically, a lot of different things relating to domestic and international issues and the enjoyable aspects of making sure its my own responsibility to do more. That, with good people, has been work at ICPS through the first week.

<Picture to come of ICPS>

Thoughts on the City

When I arrived it was 1 am on Saturday and I had no real idea where my hostel was. I thought I was clever by taking a bus to the city and not a cab but unfortunately as I’ve still had problems with cyrillic, and was tired from my trip; I had to take a horrible cab from the bus station to my hostel. He left me a bit randomly in one spot but thankfully I flagged down a nice Ukrainian on his way home and we worked out where I was staying. Since then, navigating the city has been much easier.***

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I don’t have any real deep insights into Ukrainian life as of yet-it has only been a week. I will say, somewhat unexpectedly, that there are lot more comparisons here between Polish and Ukrainian culture then say Georgian culture. Except for architecture. Walking through Kyiv is a bit like walking through Tbilisi (other than the truly historic buildings e.g. St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery or in Ukranian: Михайлівський золотоверхий монастир or in Russian: Михайловский златоверхий монастырь…yep…no problems with the language here {picture below}). A great example are the metros which have the eerily similar soviet facades. One random thing I’ve noticed: a lot of flies. I don’t know, just saying: there are a lot of flies. Hmmm…re-reading this, I don’t seem to mention that…it’s really, really a fun city to walk around with a lot of interesting sights, neat people, blah blah positive/enjoying it. The things I did mention are just the more intriguing things I didn’t expect. More thoughts to come later.Image

Living Arrangement

Since Saturday night I’ve been staying with Kostia and his wife Natasha (although she only arrived Wednesday…part of me was a bit concerned as it seemed every day he was saying “tomorrow Natasha…tomorrow Natasha {in Russian…which then had me thinking that tomorrow Natasha meant something completely else that I didn’t understand}. Then she did arrive!). Anyway, they are good people though full honesty if I saw Kostia on the street I’d probably think he was a hooligan-gold tooth included. Another reason why you should never judge people by appearances I suppose. Natasha is a nice woman who has already made me a meal or two and is very stringent on the policy of shoes off at the door which I now follow strictly. Oh, and the one thing I should mention-they don’t speak any English. As in when they speak English it’s at the, “Hello, goodbye” level. I think this is good though because it’s a great opportunity for my Russian to grow..I think. Or I’ll just get increasingly confused as the other thing is it seems Ukrainians in Kyiv are happy to switch between Ukranian and Russian frequently. Frequently defined here as mid-sentence. By the time I leave I’ll probably speak neither Polish, Ukrainian, Russian or English. I’ll just say “tomorrow Natasha” while nodding.

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(The above is Kreschatik Street which they close on Saturdays so people can walk on…I was going to make a snarky comment how then no one walks on it, but as I was walking away like 75 bikers came flying by for some race. Stuff is going on in Kyiv!)

Random Thoughts

It’s great to be back in Europe. There is something that I really enjoy about this old continent. I realized this before I even got to Kyiv when I was still en route and in Frankfurt (hmmm I’m not sure how this is going to sound with a slight hint of alcoholism) when I was drinking a beer at 3:00 pm. It was in a beautiful square that, even with overcast weather, had a certain feel of relaxation mixed with summer friendliness underlined by business. Image

Probably a mile away (or 1-2 kilometers) was an occupy Frankfurt movement right next to the European Central Bank and yet the square and its inhabitants were peacefully serene. I had been missing that tranquility.

That’s all for now. More to come later.

*It’s Kyiv to Ukrainians, not Kiev. Respect the locals.

** Likewise, it’s Lviv not Lvov. Living in Poland I learned of this semi-large and beautiful city called “Lvov” in Western Ukraine that used to be part of Poland. Of course, when it changed hands (read the history on your own) it changed names…if speaking to a Ukranian, I recommend you call it Lvov. But if speaking to a Pole, I recommend you call it Lvov. Anyway, having visited it in 2010 I visited its-this is a bit morose if you haven’t been there-splendidly beautiful cemetery…Hmmm, I guess just don’t call it Lv-alive.

***Apart from day 1 at my internship where I couldn’t find my building and was 30 minutes late but I’ll tell you this: no one could find that building easily. Anyway, it all worked out.

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One Response to “Can’t tell North from South, but no split hairs gonna get me down. I’m stayin above the flat line, I’m ahead of the curve, take a piece of the sunshine with me on a redeye flight to another world” ~ Monsters of Folk: My first week in Kyiv*

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