when ‘XOXO’ means ‘HOHO’: valentine’s day in ukraine


my hot date for valentine’s day.

ukrainians love to ask about my love life — or rather, my non-existent love life. i get rather bored with answering their questions over and over, so i like to change up my answer every now and then. if it’s creepy men prompting the question i usually answer with i have a boyfriend at home, or a boyfriend here. if it’s my landlady i tell her i don’t need one, or now’s not the best time. if it’s my students i tell them i’m dating santa claus (they find this quite hilarious).

but since i’ve finally decided to do something with the “grow a boyfriend” my mom sent A YEAR AGO (you know, the one that has been sitting on my shelf mocking and reminding me like ukrainians just how single i am). but now i can finally give them an honest answer — i DO have a boyfriend!! he’s not much of a talker and a bit on the small size, but they say size doesn’t matter and i can carry a pretty good conversation by myself anyways.

most single people hate valentine’s day. or at least that’s the impression i get from all those rom com movies. but honestly there are plenty of people in relationships that hate it too. i for one like the holiday, even though, despite my “grow a boyfriend” and secret relationship with santa claus, i am as single as ever. but really, it’s a holiday about showing love  — not just romantic love, but friendships, family relations, and also just general appreciation for people or a person. oh yea, and there’s lots of sweets.

i’d been planning a valentine’s day themed party (if you can’t tell i REALLY like themed parties) for my english club kiddos for, uhhh, quite a while. it was the one thing in the bleak of winter that kept shining as a beacon of sweet fun. i spent the weekend baking red velvet cupcakes complete with cream cheese frosting (they tasted like america). it was a bit of a splurge, cream cheese (if you can find it) isn’t cheap and neither is butter, and well there was lots of both. but i didn’t care. valentine’s day is the one day you’re supposed to hop aboard the train to “diabetes-can’t-touch-me-ville” and feed your sweet-tooth till exhaustion. or, wait, is that halloween too?

anyways, i was p.u.m.p.e.d. to have a reason to bake a load of sweets. anytime i prepare to bake something for my students i can’t help but think of the time they told me, my chocolate chip cookies in-hand, “mmmmmmmm miss kristen, you should have been a baker not a teacher!!!”.  they’re right. i’m much more excited to bake than to teach ha! if only there was a “pastry corps” where i could volunteer 2 years of my life baking for peace.

i had a few other things that i planned to bake, probably way too much considering there are usually only 6 kids that come to my club, but like i said, i wanted to go all out. this all changed when i was approached by the teachers at school and ‘asked’ to paint something. they needed a scene of a big breasted, big bellied, outrageous mustached, ukrainian cossack family that would be used as a prop in an upcoming play and they needed it by tomorrow. i told them i wasn’t sure if that was enough time, considering i still had some things to get ready (aka just bake things), but i could tell they were so concerned and stressed. they suggested i cancel my party. what what?? “BUT BUT….i wanna have a paaaaaaartttttyyyyyy” is what my emotions were really telling me, but i told them, i couldn’t cancel it and i’d do my best to get the painting to them by tomorrow.

so more baking didn’t happen. instead i was thrown back to art school deadlines that made me also ask “you want what by when???!”, painting marathons my college’s art building, not to mention muscle cramps and cross-eyed vision. i turned on some serious jams and went to town. 9 hours later i finished with something i was pleased with. i certainly could have kept going, but bed was calling my name. and also i couldn’t see straight anymore. the teachers were really impressed with my work (hopefully this doesn’t mean i’ll get more last minute projects) and were genuinely thankful, which was so nice.

the party still happened, despite my crazy painting night prior and minus a few treats. the kids loved the red velvet cupcakes and american sent candy conversation hearts. they even drizzled icing on the candy hearts and said they want to go to america ASAP because the sweets are so delicious, ha! — my job here is done.

valentine’s day at school was none the less sweeter. i was greeted with valentines and hugs from my 5th and 6th formers. got to hear ALL about my 5th former masha giving a valentine to sasha in the 6th form who THEN gave one back to her!!!!!OMG! (i joked around with masha asking her if i’d be invited to their wedding). there was such excitement, giggling, laughter, and love in the air. if only things were still as simple as exchanging one valentine and you’re a couple that will be in love foreverrrrrrrr. *sigh* young love.

lessons weren’t really lessons today, just some games, card exchanging, and dancing to love songs…important valentine’s day things. i handed out some more candy hearts (word got around at school pretty fast that miss kristen handed out AMERICAN candy!) and we talked a little about valentine’s day phrases. it was kind of hard to translate “QT PIE” (it’s weird in english too) but they got most of them. “XOXO” is their favorite by far and always induced giggles because “XOXO” read as cyrillic letters reads as a jolly santa claus like “HOHO”. now that’s all i’ll be able to think of when i see “XOXO”.

but i’ve got to be going, i have a date with myself and an overnight train to kyiv tonight and i mustn’t be late. i’m tempted to pack the chocolate i got from school and the bottle of homemade wine from my landlady hehehe. who says third class train travel for one can’t be romantic?

HOHO! happy valentine’s day!




isn’t my flooring awesome??

valentine's day spread

valentine’s day spread

they really enjoyed the red velvet cupcakes that i baked. hehe.

they really enjoyed the red velvet cupcakes that i baked. hehe.

making valentine's day cards

making valentine’s day cards

english club-ers. it's evident from this photo that i don't take enough bucket baths.

english club-ers. (it’s evident from this photo that i don’t take enough bucket baths)

valentine's day mailbox at school

valentine’s day mailbox at school

look what my kids drew! jk that was me.

look what my kids drew! jk that was me.

5th form reciting love poems

5th form reciting love poems

polina and masha

polina and masha

a between classes doodle

a between classes doodle

my valentines : )

my valentines : )

7 thoughts on “when ‘XOXO’ means ‘HOHO’: valentine’s day in ukraine

  1. Reblogged this on borscht and babushkas and commented:

    Reminiscing about Valentine’s days past. While I (slowly) work on a couple new posts, please enjoy this old post and rejoice in the fact that my blog is 3 years old and although postings have been few since I became a graduate student, Borscht and Babushkas is in fact, not quite yet dead.

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