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May 13, 2013     Pancakes and Policemen

Many people have asked me what restaurants I like in Kiev. There are very few I would consider. Although Kiev recently forbid cigarette smoking in restaurants, the presence of loud music and shocking video screens take away my appetite. Also since we live ten miles outside the city, it takes us an hour round-trip to go into the center where most of the better restaurants are.

We did find a Chinese palace restaurant twenty minutes from our house into the country. There were never any customers, but the first time we ate there, the food was pretty good. So we asked if we could call someday and order take-out, paying when we arrive to pick it up. A week later we tried this plan, but the food I had ordered tasted old, and made me a little bit sick.

I find that the best meals can be purchased at the gas station restaurant called Borscht, (only 10 minutes from us), the cafeteria at the Home Depot store (where we often shop for home improvement items), or the grocery store Mega-Mart.

This week I was at Mega Mart picking up groceries, and Roger was delayed in coming to pick me up. So I decided to sit at the little in-house caf? and order blini (which are Ukrainian pancakes) stuffed with ham and cheese. "Would you like mayonnaise with that?" said the cute, well-uniformed girl behind the counter. I'd never had mayonnaise on pancakes before, but there is always a first! I topped it off with a double cappuccino. I sat on a high stool with a comfortable back, at a square, high table, sipping my cappuccino, which was served with a macaroon cookie. (Free dessert!) People were strolling down the aisles leisurely shopping with their carts, as the background music was Puccini-----"O Mio Babbino Caro" from opera Gianni Schicchi. I was in heaven. Where else could I get such a scrumptious treat, beautiful music, and my grocery shopping done all in the same place?

Meanwhile, Roger had been stopped by the police. His license plate had fallen off the car, and he had stopped to retrieve it. Having no tools, he put it inside the windshield, until he could get home. But that wasn't good enough for the policeman, who said he was going to jail. What the officer really wanted was a bribe. "Twenty grievna would be fine," he bravely told Roger. (That's about $2.50.) Roger never pays a bribe. He insists on a ticket. "I'll pay the fine," he says. And then because he is a foreigner, and too difficult to deal with, and the ticket is too much time for the paperwork, when the officer could be stopping someone else, the officer let Roger go.

This was the second time Roger had been stopped by the police in two days. The first time I was with him. The main road to Kiev should have a speed limit of 60 miles per hour (at least). It is one of the best roads in Ukraine, four-lane, limited access. However, the official speed limit is 37 miles per hour. You are unofficially allowed to go 51 mph, even though here are no speed limit signs posted (you just have to know this). And if you go 52 mph you can be pulled over and arrested for speeding the number of miles over 37. Does this make sense to you?

Roger must have been going 52 that day along with the majority of cars around him, but he was pulled over by a policeman on foot at the side of the four-lane highway with a white baton, even though he was in the lane next to the median. This is tricky to get off the road, if there are other cars in the right lane, but you must stop! And again, after refusing to pay the bribe, and offering to pay the fine, the officer let him go.

Such is Ukraine!

By the way, Roger took me to McDonald's for Mother's Day! You always know what you are getting there! And we eat sitting in the car at the side of the road, where it is legal to do so.