In the grocery store the egg lady mocks me openly. My vegetable lady only speaks a price and nothing more. The flour, sugar, and spice ladies always seem to be so upset that I make their day longer. The meat woman always tries to haggle a price and I get so confused that I want to hide. My milk woman always tries to make an extra Grieven by selling me the expensive brand - which is funny because I always say no and get the cheaper brand anyway. The toilet paper ladies are displeased that I take so long and always buy the cheapest toilet paper. But the egg lady laughs loudly when I approach. She's large and in charge. Her gold toothed grin smiles broadly in my presence. I prefer open mockery to outright dismissal - ALWAYS. She laughs at the way I pronounce my numbers. She laughs as I try and do the math. She chuckles when I give her exact change shouting "молодьец." "Good for you." She says it in a foreign accent like when white people say "Herro" to Japanese people. She outright cackles when I give her the wrong amount of money - slipping money back into my hands. Her hand has an old, old tattoo. Maybe it's just a bruise, but where her rolled up cuff meets her skin there appears to be another old, old tattoo. I love her laughter. If she's one of the survivors, and my clumsy Ukrainian skills gives her one ounce of happiness she can laugh all day.
And on my way to work I pass the place where the ugliest crows in the world seem to always roost. The homeless there look no better. The tallest one reads every book that people throw out, or at least it appears that he reads every book. Perhaps he is brilliant, perhaps he is just crazy. The oldest woman seems to move so slowly. She may be in her 70s or even as young as 50. Life ages everyone differently, it seems.
In Kriva Lipa, a courtyard named after a big shade tree, teenagers and people who act like teenagers sit under the tree and smoke and drink at noon. Everyone always seems to be sitting too close to everyone else for my comfort. Girls and boys share tongues for hours upon hours. People have weird hair and orange pants and Andrij and I make vague plans to go and sit in the courtyard some day to meet these people. Some day.
In the center square the old people gather like moth to flame. Old men sit and play chess like it's 1985. Sometimes an older adult will begin to sing and soon others gather around. Their circle emits the most haunted songs the soul could sing. The woman to my right is clearly well trained in Opera, but the woman leading songs is clearly not. The men look like Gorbachev and other Soviet heroes. One man has glasses so big and thick that he could have traveled to the moon wearing only them for protection. As the circle grows I try to step out of the way. They sing in Russian about the beloved motherland, and most of our students don't have the same warmth and affection for Russia.
At McDonalds the young people with disposable income dispose of it. Their skinny jeans and designer tops let the world know that they have arrived. The rest of us eat dollar menu hamburgers and 25 cent ice-cream cones. My frumpy sweatshirt and jeans that are now two sizes too big let the world know that I don't care what they think of me.
I've begun wearing a pedometer. I'm averaging 15,000 steps a day - which puts me in the category of "very active" and I wanted to share some of those steps with you.
Very active seems to sum it up nicely.