Monday, August 4, 2008

Safety First

I can predict what will probably be the biggest battle with Emma when we get on the airplane on Saturday and when we get home.....seatbelts. Cars in Ukraine have seatbelts, but you can't usually find them. They're usually tucked behind the seats. Every time we go in a cab with Emma, she is either sitting on one of our laps or laying across us. She'll have it no other way. And how do you explain to a six year old who doesn't speak English that she has to put a seatbelt on for her own safety and it's the law? Please pray!

Safety standards in this country sometimes make my jaw hit the floor. It's not even close to Canada. I guess it's because no one can afford to hire a lawyer to sue. There are huge holes in the sidewalks everywhere. Big, sharp pieces of metal coming out of the ground. And remember how I told you most people in this town ride scooters? We've seen three people squeeze on a scooter. If someone has a child, they just place them between their legs while they're riding. It's unreal. And, yes, of course, they are also on the highway. And helmets? I don't think they even know what they are in this country. I've held my breath many times on the highway on the way to the orphanage while our great big van passed these tiny little scooters with maybe a couple of feet between us and going 100km and hour. It's scary.

Oh, and car seats....what are those? The other day a car drove by and there was about a two year old standing on the back seat looking out the window. I guess to the Ukrainians, this is all normal to them. There have just been so many things in this country that are SO completely different from home....including banks.

For all of you at ATB, I've been meaning to write about the banks here for quite some time, just haven't had the chance. I know I had a conversation with Bissel before I left regarding whether or not we were going to use a bank to hold our money...the answer is no.

We've been in a couple of banks to try and exchange some money. And being a banker, I was curious to see exactly what goes on in the banks here. Well, the answer is NOTHING. The couple of banks we went in to were like ghost towns. Not a single customer. I asked our translator about this, and she told me that no one here uses banks. Why? Either they have no money and also, they don't trust them. Something happened many years ago (and I'm sorry I don't know exact facts) where the leader of the country changed and when this happened, everyone who had money in the bank lost it. It all just disappeared. This actually happened to our translator's mom and dad. People lost everything and were devestated. Since then there has been no trust. Same with insurance companies. We asked about insurance here and our translator told us no one pays for it because they don't trust the companies.

Here's some interesting facts on the economy of Ukraine. Inflation over the last couple of years has been 50%!!!! Crazy!!! Interest rates right now for a loan are between 15-20%. I imagine because inflation is so high. But here is the backwards part. Economists here advise citizens that when they make money, the MUST spend it immediately. They say that if they don't spend it right away, inflation will just keep rising and eventually they will not be able to afford anything. And the crazier thing is, that's the advice people in this country live by. Even our translator, who I think makes a decent amount of money compared to the citizens of Ukraine (average income per person is $200/month) lives by this method. We asked her about saving for retirement...she told us the kids take care of the parents. Pretty hard to wrap my brain around all this after just taking the IFIC course!! :):)

That's all for now. Like I've said, we've seen so many unbelievable things since we've been here. So many times, I've wanted to take a picture, but I really don't want to offend anyone here. I was able to sneak a picture a couple of days ago. I've posted it below. You will see a woman with a stick in her hand. At the bottom of the stick is a blade. She waves this stick back and forth to cut the grass. And she's not doing a yard....she's doing an entire field!!!!!

1 comment:

  1. I am so looking forward to have you home to see you as a mom and dad. I pray all is well with you and I am sure you are very excited to board the plane. I will pray for your journey and the whole seatbelt thing. I love you all and I will see you soon.