This afternoon, I had the pleasure of shopping with Sveta (with whom Alex works). We took a taxi to a big mall a bit outside the main city. It was fantastic--not only is the exchange rate heavily favoring the US dollar at the moment, but there were Christmas sales all over! I primarily got wardrobe staples, since my lost suitcase still hasn't arrived and there is some doubt as to whether it will ever show up.
For those of you who are curious, my take-home loot included...
- 1 pair of earrings (huge, dramatic, black = awesome)
- 12 pairs of socks (dude, I couldn't resist a pack of 7 pairs for under $3!)
- 2 pair of underwear (one with Felix the Cat comics all over them... just because)
- 4 sweaters (2 black, 1 plum, 1 orange)
- 1 3/4 length sleeve t-shirt, black
- 4 long-sleeve t-shirts in assorted colors (they were about $2.50 each!!)
I also had fun chatting with Sveta, finding out things like New Year's is more heavily celebrated than Christmas (which they celebrate on Jan 7th, which suddenly makes that whole "12 days of Christmas" make a lot more sense--it's from the 25th to the 7th). I asked Sveta what she likes to do for fun--she said in the summer she loves being outside and barbequeing, but that in the winter it's so dark and cold she likes to sleep and watch TV! I told her I totally understood that.
We also talked about colleges here and at home, and we had a big laugh over the apparently universal fact that women love to shop, and their husbands worry how much they spend!
We briefly looked at big long awesome coats (I'm hoping to find a leather coat with some kind of fuzzy lining), but we're going out again tomorrow to just look at coats in the local shops.
Then I spent a few hours relaxing at the hotel before Alex picked me up to meet a couple of friends and go to Stargorod for dinner and the football (y'know, soccer) game. Stargorod is a kind of sports bar and grill that heavily reminded me of German restaurants in New Braunfels--heavy wood, dark interior, lots of sausage and meat and barbeque and amazing cabbage, and gigantic mugs of beer (the biggest are apparently called "The Professional" and look more like a barrel!).
There were two gals in tank tops, tiny sport shorts, and knee socks dancing with pom-poms on a stage in front of one of the gigantic TVs--they had three huge screens and a bunch of smaller ones all over, tuned to the Kharkiv football game. Then these two guys--apparently not part of the endorsed entertainment, just goofy fans--in shorter shorts than males should legally be allowed to wear--got up on the stage and started dancing. Wow. If that's not a blinding display of the international phenomenon of the white male lacking rhythm, then I don't know what is. (Nor would I want to see it!)
The food was amazing, and the atmosphere was crazy--I thought I'd been in loud places, but I hadn't been in an enclosed space with beer and football fans before! There's also a door at the end of the bathroom that, when opened, reveals a full-length mirror, a big cushiony seat, and another... door... that turns out to open into the men's room. It's called something like the "relaxing room." Hmm. Well, if that's what you want to call it...
The only disappointing part of the meal were the buffalo wings. Sergiey had told Alex that he couldn't get any spicy food in Kharkiv, and he loves it--so he wanted Alex to try the wings and see what he thought. They were barely spiced--I mean, I get more tingles on my tongue from Chili's chicken sandwich, and I am not even kidding. Alex said they should be called "kitten wings" instead.
Sergiey called us a taxi and told it where to go, but either the driver didn't listen well, or just doesn't know the area--it seemed like it was taking awhile to get to the hotel, but I thought I don't really know where I'm going anyway. When he took us over a river, though, Alex and I gave each other a sidelong glance. Then when there were less lights and more shabby buildings, we gave another sidelong glance, this time of the "oh crap, I hope we're not being kidnapped by the Ukranian Mafia!" variety. Then after a bit more driving and Alex trying to reach Sergiey on his phone, we ended up in front of a hotel that is in no way our hotel. We explained to the driver that no, we're at the Aurora... he called dispatch and apparently got it straightened out, and a few minutes later we were back! But man, for a few minutes there I was cursing my obviously-American hairstyle and the trouble it had got us into!