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Pre-Christmas Diary

Sunday, 10 December, 2000

Dear Family and Friends,

The Christmases and New Years are starting. This season, we will have two of each since we are running off to the States next Friday. In California, we will celebrate December 25th and January First. When we get back here with the Orthodox calendar, we will celebrate January 7th and 13th. Just for good measure we will try to work in a quick combo celebration at my sister's a week from now.

Like others around the world, we vowed to start a diet a few weeks ago in order to make some space for all the feasting. Well, it didn't work. (It did some for Marianne but I always knew she was tougher than me.) Then, last Friday, we started with my company Christmas dinner. In true Ukranian fashion, we had just a bit. Then we had more bits for several hours. To illustrate, I've included pictures 1 and 2 from the start of the dinners and, at the end of this note, I have included the menu, as best Marianne and I can remember. Needless to say, diets played no role in the evening.

That was Friday and we had another company dinner Saturday. Here, however, it was all quiet and reserved teachers. Pictures 3 and 4 show the room and our table at the start. We had a lot of fun complete with door prizes and dancing. I even danced, thanks in part to dark lights and very loud music. Pictures 5 and 6 show the scene during the raffle and the dancing. Obviously, these are the educators into whose care we have placed future world leaders. Actually, the guy in picture 5 with Marianne is a serious and reserved Canadian diplomat. Well, he isn't ALWAYS serious and reserved.

Of course, in a country where drinking and feasting have been fine traditions for centuries, local druggists can mix up potions to relieve any of the lingering side effects. Our last picture, number 7, shows the inner workings of one of the local potion preparers. This is an almost-true story. The pictures IS a local drug store and these ARE the traditional chemistry sets used for making both liquor and its remedies. Only the dummy is not real.

So now we are primed to start our last week of 2000 in Kyiv. We'll actually miss our home and our quieter pace but we won't miss the cold and Russian language homework. We will spend three and a half days in the Washington DC area (looking for a President-elect) and then a couple weeks in California. The best part will be seeing ALL of our kids, sisters, brothers, moms (Marianne has 2), nephews and a bunch of friends. We may feel at home here but without all the people, it's just not the same.

So, with that, we will close by wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas Season and the start of a New Year. For those we'll see, we can't wait. For those we can't, we are thinking of you.

Best Regards,

John and Marianne


Company Dinner or, How to Ruin a Diet

STARTERS, in order, more or less

- chicken salad

- caviar in butter on black bread

- "fish fingers"

- sliced tongue

- sliced chicken

- tomatoes stuffed with garlic and cheese (about 50% each) - stuffed eggs

- fish aspic

- salmon slices

- pate

- cold pork chop

- broiled sausages


- pork with pineapple and potato pancakes or - roasted fish under a cheese and tomato sauce


- tangerine slices

- ice cream and cookies

DRINKS (continuous, as is the tradition)

- champagne from Odessa, Ukraine

- white and red wine from Georgia (not THAT Georgia, the one by Chechnya) - vodka, again from Odessa. Special version that would peel the skin from a watermelon - mineral water

- juices

- coffee and tea














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