Right before I left Kyiv in January of this year, I started a blog feature called "They Don't Really Mean it That Way, Do They?" In it, I plumbed the depths of the Ukrainian psyche and concluded that yes, when a semi-pro basketball team in Cherkassy is named the Monkeys, they really do mean it that way. At least for that one post. Then I moved to Istanbul and found I didn't have to spend as much energy figuring out subtexts.
It's hard being a foreigner, especially one without many language skills. When you come across things on the street, it can be really hard to know what the point is, even if its something rather mundane like a shop window or advertising (actually, especially if it's something mundane like a shop window or advertising). It's more than just language differences. It's also not understanding the visual cues and cultural contexts that help natives easily understand what is being communicated. To interpret and understand, I have to purge my mind of my western biases and preconceptions and think like a post-communist.
Here are a few things I've seen around town lately. I have sat and thought and thought about them, binging and purging my western biases and preconceptions and thinking so hard like a post-communist my hair turned CIS red. And still I say "WTF?"
This an ad for an Italian historical brand. Called "FACIS." Since 1932. I have a really hard time believing that there is an actual Italian luxury brand called FACIS created in 1932 (the brand I'm more familiar with appeared a decade earlier and is not quite as luxe). Google did not confirm the existence of this brand. If it is a some Ukie/Russian creation, I need to know who thought this name was a good idea. What are they trying to communicate? What am I missing?
Here's my favorite shop window. So little has changed in Kyiv over the last nine months that I was really relieved to see that at least something had been updated, even improved.
September '07 December '06
Was the only infant mannequin they could find a black one? Why the identical expression of surprise on the young girl's face in both? Why the addition of the poster to the background of the current iteration? Why? Why? Why?
Apparently, they do have a white infant mannequin. They used it in this equally inexplicable window display adjacent to the one above.
This one has a teddy bear, a deformed infant and a poster displaying what appears to be lingerie for eight year olds. I can't even try to interpret this.
In this picture, I know exactly what is going on. The girl with the white puffy things in her hair and the red and white striped shirt was our devushka at TGI Fridays, one of the worst restaurants in Kyiv. It does look like she is sitting down chatting with a customer at the next table, doesn't it? Oddly, that's exactly what she's doing! Just because you understand what's going on doesn't mean it makes any sense.
Finally, I saw this one right below the Pinchuk Art Center and in front of the Bentley dealership. I have no idea what's going on. That guy lying on the sidewalk is working -- he's not passed out or dead. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference around here.