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Ukraine: A drink called the "Obama"

Ukrainians' interest in Barack Obama’s inauguration is palpable, but not overwhelming. The country’s ongoing political and economic chaos has significantly constricted most peoples’ concern to their own existence. Most of whom I’ve spoken to are fed up with politics and are simply worried about the future: a friend or loved-one’s job, if not their own. This comes on top of general political passivity common to the former Soviet Union. (The Orange Revolution was for this reason all the more remarkable, overcoming as it did decades — centuries? — of compliance and cynicism.) Still they are intrigued.


The greatest hope is that Obama can get the U.S. economy back on track, which would reignite the world economy — and hopefully Ukraine’s along with it, if it is not too crippled by that point. Fewer seem to be concerned with hot-button topics like membership in NATO, though many count on Washington’s continued support of Ukraine’s disputes with Russia. The Kiev press has been primarily preoccupied with the wonder of it all: the United States’ first African-American president, taking the oath on the Lincoln Bible, traveling along Lincoln’s route from Illinois to Washington, the crowds that are expected, the excitement, the expectations in the U.S., and so on.


One location that has taken Obama’s election with an element of style is a cafe/restaurant/bar I stop by occasionally, Entresol. I like to think of it as the Rick’s Cafe of Kiev. Everyone (like in the movie) goes to Entresol: Ukrainians, foreigners, workers, businessmen, students and of course journalists. Its soul — in the evenings at least — is the head bartender, Jean, a vibrant, animated Congolese expatriate who studied medicine once upon a time and now has settled in Ukraine. (This is not the space to write in length about Entresol or Jean, however, so I will leave that for another time.)


Jean now serves a drink called the “Obama,” which was the inspiration of Tim, a regular, also from Congo, who works as an architect. It consists a bottle of Orangina orange drink turned upside down into a glass of Blue Curacao. Orangina bottles are shaped like lightbulbs; after a while the two liquids intermix and the whole thing becomes sky-blue. To be honest, the drink is more interesting looking than it tastes. But still I couldn’t figure out the connection between the concoction and our newest president. So I asked Tim, what does it all symbolize? “Change,” he said succinctly.

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