Sunday, September 30, 2007

There are several advantages to staying here for an extended period of time. One of them is that you have to go to a local hairdresser to remain respectable, and the other is that you meet acquaintances from other villages which you established over the years.

Yesterday Linda went to a hairdresser in Tokmak, a neighbouring town. She had done the sensible preparatory work by admiring the haircut of a doctor friend, and asked her where she got her hair cut. Quickly an appointment was set up with Tanya who works in a “salon” above what we understood to be a restaurant. In speaking to a woman who knows some English on where that restaurant could be located we almost had a reservation for a meal and not a haircut. But we enlisted the help of Lilly, a German missionary, and found the place.

On a previous occasion Linda had given clear instructions to the barber to cut only half an inch off Ben’s hair. The barber had nodded and Linda gasped when the first cut revealed that only half an inch would remain on Ben’s head! So this time she was somewhat wary and asked Lilly to make her instructions very clear. She did; Linda was pleased with the snippets that dropped on the floor. Then she wondered what was happening when a plastic sheet was draped over her shoulders after the haircut. Fortunately Lilly was watching and with a few “nyet’s” stopped the woman from applying hair dye! We were afraid to ask what colour it could have been. The hairdresser just assumed that Linda would want to get rid of her grey and replace it with possibilities such as rinse-blue, Halloween-orange, or the common wine-burgundy.

We love going to the Tokmak market on Saturday mornings. Usually we run into some friend, either at the fish market or when walking the alleys checking out the caged ducks perched on the front of a bicycle or watching the street vendors sell their books, knives, etc. We even found a small clothing shop which specializes in selling out-of-season clothes from Germany, and Ben bought two nice sweaters for the equivalent of $10 each.

Money seems be common when you are in the market area. You can get your pictures printed, visit a florist shop, buy Suzuki motorcycles, have outdoor coffee, buy live hens or turkeys, buy any fruit or vegetable in season, buy fresh fish of all shapes and sizes, remodel your kitchen with new cupboards and countertops, buy all the computer gadgets you need, get your watch battery replaced, buy bread, go to a modern grocery store, etc., etc. In the cities and towns the country is overflowing with consumer goods.

The problem, however, is that there are whole groups of people who aren’t making enough money to buy, so they are taking out loans at high interest rates, trying to keep up with their neighbours. It’s both a blessing and a curse. A blessing to see so many choices available, however the curse of enslaving materialism and accompanying debt is just starting. This week we noticed that, while some people are buying trendy items, others can’t pay for surgery, medication, or even school supplies.

Today is parliamentary election day. For centuries Ukrainians didn’t have the opportunity to vote, and now they are facing their 3rd election in 4 years. They seem to be weary of having too much of a good thing. Apparently there is a law not allowing polls to be taken or published in the weeks before an election, so there appears to be an element of some uncertainty regarding the outcome. We attended two rallies in Tokmak – one featuring the current Prime Minister Yanakovich and the other with opposition leader Julia Timaschenko. We thought that the opposition leader drew the larger crowd even in this area which in the past has been more supportive of the Russian-oriented Yanakovich. In spite of the political in-fighting, the economic situation of many people appears to be improving. In the Mennonite church this morning Jakob Thiessen encouraged people to vote and also to accept whoever God allows to lead this country.

We suspect that when our Mennonite leaders built the “Zentralschule” in downtown Halbstadt, they had not envisioned this being the Molochansk voting location for parliamentary democratic elections in an independent Ukraine, and furthermore, held on a Sunday!

Ben and Linda.


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