Cliff Gardner

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thanks, Ben Bernanke.

The falling dollar continues to frustrate me. So, inflation in Ukraine is INSANE, like 25%, and despite Peace Corps best efforts, our living allowances just aren't keeping up. I went through mine by the 16th of the month, which made me feel guilty because I thought I was spending way to much money and was being irresponsible, but then I thought about it, and I wasn't buying anything extravagent. I was buying FOOD. That's it. My diet consists of eggs, water, bread, sausage and cheese. I rarely eat anything other than that. Yet, I spent all my money in half the time.

So, I've had to take out several cash advances on my credit card (almost 100 USD so far), and today I went to the ATM for another one, only it was declined. I was in a PANIC, since I literally have no other money...maybe a few Griven in change...and our new allowances aren't due for another 3-4 days. So, I called my bank, and they said that what I was requesting was below the minimum required balance, despite the fact that I had taken that exact amount out two other times in the past week. So, to review--the dollar fell even more over the weekend and gave me a heart attack.

Monday, September 15, 2008

USA Basketball!

I really, really like Olympic basketball, and international hoops in general. So much so, in fact, that during the 2006 World Championships in Alaska, I stayed up until 5 AM watching the games live, and it was so brutal to watch Team USA go down in flames to a Bronze Age Civilization (Greece) running high screens that I screamed repeatedly and woke my whole family up. So, when the 2008 Olympics rolled around, I was more than a little excited about it and more than a little annoyed that no one in Ukraine seems to care about USA basketball. To their credit, sword fighting and Judo are more than adequately represented on Megasport, but for the life of me, I couldn't watch any of the games live like I could back home. If I were in America, I would have been able to watch us beat Lithuania, Argentina, Australia and China, but instead I just had to pace outside an Internet cafe waiting for it to open up so I could read the highlights on ESPN.

With the gold medal game looming, I decided to distract myself by going to a lake with a bunch of friends. However, when we got there, it started to rain--POUR, actually--and we ducked into a beer tent that miraculously had satellite TV. I was beside myself with joy while watching the first three quarters of the game, and also a little nervous that Spain was keeping it close. However, after the 3rd quarter ended, the Ukrainian men in the tent started to applaud--like they thought the game was over--and took the remote away from me. As I tried to explain that there was another quarter left and Team USA only had an 8-point lead, and THIS WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT BASKETBALL GAME EVER, to my horror, they changed the channel so they could watch the Independence Day Parade in Kiev. Now, with the exception of cross-eyed children, there is nothing in the world I hate more than parades, and this didn't help. I sat there, seething, as they cheered the Ukrainian army marching down the center of Kiev, and as my friends--a group of 8 women who were honestly cheering for Spain for most of the game just to get a rise out of me, making them the least-appropriate people I could have possibly watched the game with--tried to get me to calm down. The parade ended 8 minutes later and I got to watch the end of the game, though, so it wasn't all bad. Bill Simmons wrote a column about it here:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Book reviews!

Book reviews!
I just finished my 80th book in Ukraine (although about 25 of them have been read in the past three months since my computer stopped playing DVD's), and here's my top 5:
1) In Cold Blood. In the running for best book I've ever read. Amazing. I can't believe I hadn't read it until now.
2) Lenin's Tomb. This book was the most eye-opening about the former Soviet Union I've ever read. A must-read for anyone at all interested in this part of the world.
3) Under the Banner of Heaven. A great read about Fundamentalist Mormons and the LDS church in general, with a fantastic debate in the back between the author and an LDS representative.
4) East of Eden. Steinbeck is great, as always. I remember loving Of Mice and Men but wishing it were about 600 pages longer. Well, this is it: Steinbeck at his best and by the barrell.
5) Theodore Rex. A terrific biography (# 2 in a trilogy) about Teddy. I couldn't put it down. If you like Presidential Bio's, this is for you."