10.23.2008

Kyiv First 100 Days: Light

Our first few evening walks with the boys (when our bodies still felt like it was mid-afternoon and we needed some diversion before trying to go to bed) ellicited the same expressions of surprise and a little apprehension from Calvin and Henry as I felt the first time I was in Ukraine eleven years ago: "Why is it so dark? Where are the lights? This doesn't look like a good place to be at night."

There are more street lamps now than there were then, but they are dim, many are irreparably broken and many more are simply and eternally waiting for a light-bulb change. It makes even relatively busy thoroughfares seem like dimly lit alleys and none of the signage is visible after dusk.

We aren't out much with the boys at night now that jet lag has eased, but as the winter months ensue and it starts getting dark at 4:30 in the afternoon, that old feeling of being in a bit of a seedy back alley type of place might settle in again at times.

On the other hand, our apartment is amazingly outfitted with huge - HUGE - windows. In every main room. All of them have ceiling to floor lace sheers hanging in front of them, but several rooms have no blinds. So when the sun comes up, our place is bright as day. The sunlight has created some waking at dawn habits that don't make me really happy. And then there's the problem of the extreme glare on the TV, DVDs being our prime form of indoor entertainment until toys arrive on the slow boat. But come winter, I know I will be loving any little bit of sun I can get from the gray world outside.

The big windows have also led Calvin to declare that lots of people in Kyiv must be nocturnal: "People here don't sleep, either. Just like in New York City." There are lights on all night long in the apartment windows of the large building across the way. They shine into his windows while he is trying to get to sleep, like a slowly blinking patchwork of twenty or thirty nightlights. One night last week when I was wondering the house nocturnally, I was surprised by an intensely bright blue strobe light flashing from the window of an apartment across from us. Party city.

Speaking of parties, fireworks have apparently become easily accessible and very popular at the late-night festivities for weddings and birthdays. October and November are very popular times for weddings here (much like June in the States), and celebrating birthdays in a big city-wide way is especially popular among the wealthy oligarch set. Almost every weekend night since we arrived and some mid-week nights as well, we have heard the rumble-boom of distant fireworks and have sometimes been able to watch the displays from our balconies.

I'm an avid lover of fireworks, but these amateur pyrotechnics are a little unnerving to me. And of course, it would be Henry who was most thrilled to find a large section of fireworks for sale (the kind that only professionals and/or the fire department would handle back at home) at the supermarket. He keeps asking if we can go back and get some sometime so we can have our own fireworks. I'm positive Henry could really light up the night for sure, if only we'd let him.

But as far as light in our new home goes, Charlie is having the most fun with it, by far. All of the light switches on the walls are only 2 1/2 feet from the ground - perfectly within reach for the little guy. They also click loudly whenever they are turned on or off.

But the best part is that the switches for the bathrooms are inexplicably on the outside, in the hallway. This is true only for the bathrooms: all of the bedrooms and the living room and kitchen have the switches within the room to which they belong.

So Charlie has developed supersonic hearing for when someone switches a light on and closes a door. He bolts down the hall and begins to light-flash torture whoever is trying to do their business. He especially likes to tease Henry this way, because he gets some good screams out of him. There have also been a few completely dark showers because the bathrooms are the only rooms without any window at all, and no one can hear us calling for someone to turn the lights back on after Charlie clicks the switch and runs giggling away.

Now that's a party.

6 comments:

Gabriela said...

That is so funny about Charlie his light tourture. Ohhhhh, my boys would drive eachother (and me, I'm sure) nuts with that kind of set up!!! (that is such a cute picture of him reaching up)

Can you get black out curtains? We have them in all the bedrooms and it helps keep them asleep a little longer, and blocks out the nightly light pollution of a big city.

Ah, yes, fireworks. They're not so much into it here, except in the favelas when a drug shippment is arriving or the police are going to raid, but in Venezuela... now there's a country that LOVES fireworks. Not a day went by there without them. And Christmas Eve? Sounded like a war. Seriously.

megachick said...

learning to use the potty in the dark is a very important skill....

love reading your stories about kyiv!

Shannon said...

Light switches 2.5 feet above the ground? That's surely evidence of a cultural sense of humor.

Informal surveys at my house have led me to conclude that most countries in the world put bathroom light switches in the hallway. So far, here's the list of countries where I have reports of this phenomenon: Portugal, Cape Verde, Germany, Japan. That's a sampling from three continents.

My theory is that the switches are outside the bathroom because bathrooms tend to be the wettest/most humid rooms in the house and are therefore at greatest risk for electrical shorting.

In Jordan, the contradiction to that theory is that although the electricians are careful to put the lights outside the bathrooms, they have no qualms about burying electrical cords for the lights in your yard without using any plastic tubing. So guess what happens when you water your yard after and the summer sun has been burning the earth all day long? Our front lawn has had fireworks of its own!

Andrew and Linda said...

I love it! I think I would relish a shower in the dark some days... other days, not so much. The dark shower only serves to hide what i put off for a week... the cleaning and the perpetual summer ring around the tub.

And we had a house here in the good old US of A that had a switch outside the bathroom. One can only imagine why...

Katrina said...

Charlie's antics have me giggling!

And I love that you are recording and sharing all of this. To someone like me, who has barely stepped foot out of the U.S., it's been very educational and eye-opening.

Janice said...

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