Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Women's Day

I remember the first time I drank Peet's Coffee. It was in San Francisco, in a newish shopping center between Portrero Hill and The Mission, sometime between 2000 and 2001. I ordered it black and sweetened it with sugar. Small, medium, large. Does it matter the size? I drank it and off I went. I never had coffee that strong, may not have slept for three days, and as soon as it wore off I went back for more.

Before coming to Ukraine, I worried about the coffee situation. The Iron Curtain had become the Instant Coffee Curtain, I was told. So I brought with me two pounds of Peet's Coffee, French Roast, wondering (foolishly, it turned out) if I'd be able to find the tools needed to facilitate my addiction: a grinder and a French press.

Today, to recognize Women's Day, I gave some of this coffee (and some chrysanthemums) to my tutor, who favors coffee to tea. Her daughter cooked it for us in the Turkish fashion -- the grinds staining the side of my cup and floating to the surface, reminding me of my grandmother's coffee in Norway. Very good -- but very strong, I cautioned. As I write this, at 10:30 in the evening, I wonder if my tutor has managed to fall asleep. Very tasty, she'd said. But also, very strong. We'll see. Peet's Coffee has been released to Ukraine.

For those who don't know (and I didn't before coming here)the history of Women's Day dates back to 1910, when:

The Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, established a Women's Day, international in character, to honour the movement for women's rights and to assist in achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, which included the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament. No fixed date was selected for the observance.

The holiday is big over here, dating back to its observance during the years of the Soviet Union. Every major Metro stop in Kharkov has a flower stand just about, and on Women's Day they're stocked with three or four times the number of flowers and corsages. My tutor had received roses and tulips before getting my flowers, and her daughter was all dressed up and entertaining guests when I came over for my thrice-weekly lesson. Others I know measure the day in text messages -- and if one woman got sixteen, I'm sure every other woman in the country got four, or seven, or twelve or twenty-two. Just trying to send a text-message today was hard. Many times, my message wouldn't go through. The only other time I've had that trouble was New Year's, when I couldn't send a message to an uncle in Norway after receiving one from him. Only by the next day did the system settle down enough to get my SMS through.