27 July 2006

A Fort for the Wolf to Blow Down

The future of the Ukrainian government hangs in the balance and the only thing I can think about is how hard it is to get a 2x4. You know, the standard cheap six-foot softwood stud. The kind one uses to build a loft in a college dorm room. The kind one uses to frame out a basement with, before the metal studs arrived and quickly became commonplace. The kids and I need them desperately so we can build our Fortetsia (fort). We can’t find this basic building supply here in Ukraine. They just don’t seem to be in circulation here. The kids and I canvass Velyka Okruzhna (the ring road). Through the swirling dust we look at the long lines of ancient Kamaz trucks standing on the side of the road, tilting precariously under the weight of their cargo. Their tail gates are open, displaying massive quantities of bricks, flagstone, garden stepping stones, large boulders, and quite an array of gravel varieties. Occasionally between the massive olive-green trucks sits a broad babushka, on a tiny stool, selling hand made brooms made of twigs strapped together on wooden poles. This was all very intriguing for us but it did not help us buy any 2x4’s. A lumber dilemma. “Maybe we should build the fort out of bricks” says Roman after seeing the mass of overloaded trucks of red bricks. “No” says Maya “We’re the middle pig, we’re building the fort out of wood.” Kalyna, chimes in “yeah, the wolf will huff and puff and blow our fort down”.

We arrive at EPICENTER. Each time I go into this store I am taken aback by it’s monstrous size: bigger than any Lowe’s or Home Depot I’ve seen in the U.S. More than 30 cashiers are hacking away at their registers. Sweating, socks and sandal clad shoppers dutifully wait in long lines with hardware piled high on their shopping carts waiting to pay 300 hryvnia for an imported German garden hose for example. I’m not an economist, but to me it’s some kind of an indicator of how disposal income is increasing, at least among Ukrainians in Kyiv. I didn’t run into a single foreigner in the place.

Again, the same lumber problem. The store seemingly has everything one could desire, in terms of hardware, but no 2x4’s. The kids grow impatient and start requesting a visit to the EPICENTER café, famous in our household. I actually like it. It’s large, modern and decorated in a trendy, New York style not to mention the great Ukrainian food served up cafeteria style.

Standing in this crowded mega-store, café pressure mounting from three hungry and thirsty mouths, I opt for these crazy 1.5 meter 1x5.5 pine boards that look like they are a composite of many smaller pieces (like scraps). Crazy to the tune of 35 hryvnia each (compared to a couple of dollars for a 2x4 in the U.S.). Expensive Kyiv.

So, in the end, we wind up building our fort with the 1x5.5’s and it seems to be going ok. Project completion is targeted for this weekend. Here is the construction team hard at work:

1 comment:

The Ranger said...

It is indeed a fine fort. Looks like you are having all kinds of good fun .