Saturday, September 30, 2006

remembering harvest season in ukraine

i have been in the u.s. for the past three weeks, doing some contract jobs. yesterday i was driving along one of those shopping-mall-strip-mall-fast-food-starbucks-coffee-shop-novelty- store oases that dot the american landscape when i caught a whiff of something that took me back to fall harvest in pidhajtsi. i have spent most or all of september and october the last two years in pidhajtsi, helping family bring in the fall harvest. it must have been the smoke from the hood and ventilation system of some restaurant cooking with a mesquite fire that triggered this memory. this time of the year, in pidhajtsi and all over ukraine, people burn some of the biomass left over in the fields from the harvest. western ukraine is hilly--pre-carpathian foothills--and the smoke from hundreds of fires burning in fields on valley floors and hilltops tends to settle and hover above the valleys, and thus over pidhajtsi and the surrounding villages (of sil'tse, stare misto, and halych). it smells delicious, a bit like mesquite, but it can be a challenging time for anyone who suffers from respiratory ailments. i have asthma and needed to use my albuterol inhaler more often than normal while in pidhajtsi during harvest season.*

nonetheless, i have really missed being there for the fall harvest this year.

here are some of the posts i did last year during and after the fall harvest season with pictures: here; here; and here (this last link begins with a lot of rambling about things unrelated to harvest time; scroll down to the second picture for some really interesting images from the fall harvest).

also take a look at the videoclip and text here.

unforuntaly i don't have pictures or videoclips of the fires burning in the fields. the small fires look really cool at night, with the valley floors and hillsides dotted with hundreds of still-burning or smoldering piles of biomass that look like they are just out there, floating in the darkness (especially when the moon is new).

*important note for any american with asthma who is planning to live/travel outside the us: albuterol is known as salbutemol in the rest of the world, just like most of the rest of the world uses the metric system. american exceptionalism once again had me panick stricken when, during my first harvest season in pidhajtsi, i lost my albuterol inhaler and started a desperate search for a new one. i encountered many confused looks from pharmacists in pidhajtsi and then ternopil as i searched for the right medicine by the wrong name: "albuterol? we don't have that here. i've never heard of such a medicine. but we have salbutemol. that's the typical medicine for asthma." i started wondering whether salbutemol was another name for albuterol because of how often pharmacists insisted that it was the regular drug for asthma. so i finally went to the post office in pidhajtsi and called up my doc in the us. yup, they're the same, he said. what a relief. but why do american doctors and pharmacists have to use a different name from that used by the rest of the world?

update: just read that the WHO (world health organization) recommends use of the name salbutemol.

1 comment:

The Ranger said...

I know of what you speak. The smell and sights are hard to describe and impossible to forget.