A Ride on the Tram

February 24th, 2007

After the SnowI haven’t written in a few days because I haven’t had much to say. It snowed on Thursday and it’s been -freezing- ever since, however, that’s not exactly big news.

I’ve been waiting several hours to tell you all about my ride on the tram this morning. This tram is almost exactly like the muni trains in San Francisco. You know, they run on railroad tracks but are electric powered.

I walked down to the tram. When I left the apartment this morning Yahoo! Weather thought the temperature was 12 degrees fahrenheit with a wind chill of -4 degrees F. That’s right folks, it’s cold out here. The sidewalks that haven’t been shovelled yet are either snowy or covered in ice.

I missed the first tram by a few seconds and waited for the next. I got on board with everyone else and grabbed a seat. The tram proceeded forward for about 100 yards before slowing quickly and honking the horn profusely. I figured there was either a car or a dog parked on the tracks. Finally the horn stops, the driver comes out of the little drivers area, oh this will be good I think, opens the fuse panel, I shit you not, proceeds to change 3 or 4 fuses, closes her up, goes back into the driver area and starts things moving again. I just kind of smiled at this point. No one else on the tram seemed bothered by this and the black smoke stains on the fuse panel door, certainly left from prior fuse explosions, helped me to understand this is normal.

So we’re cruising again. Again the horn honks, the train slows, we stop. The driver gets out, checks the fuse, yep, its busted. She goes back into the drivers area, pulls a rope that I am left to believe disconnects us from our power source above, opens the doors and walks outside with some sort of stick. My only theory is that she was removing snow and/or ice from a special place on the tram that was causing our problems. She came back in, changed the fuse, put us back on the power, fired her up and we were off.

At this point I just had a big smile on my face. I looked around and no one else seemed to think anything of this. I enjoyed it :-)

I found the grocery store that Yuriy had been telling me about, it was large, even had its own mostly-empty parking lot. I passed through security (you’re not allowed to carry in any backpacks or the like) without much issue and grabbed my mini-basket. I found some food that any idiot can cook. I found some TP, Kleenex brand even. I found some soap, Dove, around twice as expensive as the local brands, around $1 for a bar. They don’t appear to have paper towels here and despite the freezing cold there’s no tissue to blow your nose with. I picked up some laundry detergent, Tide. At this moment a store employee, a young girl, walked up to me and in Ukrainian said something; I have no idea what but in the middle she said “Tide.” I waited until she finished before saying, yes in english, “I have no idea what you just said.” I smiled, we laughed. She stood there and watched me check my list before I turned around and walked off to another part of the store. It’s as though she expected me to say something she understood.

The woman at the checkout register asked if I wanted a bag for my groceries; unlike everyone else in the store I didn’t bring my own plastic bags. Well of course I figured. She scanned the bag. That’s right, I had to pay for the bag that I then got to put my groceries in. I don’t actually know how much it cost, even if I could find it on the receipt the prize patrol took it from me.

I turned from the checkout place and began walking to the exit. Before I could get there, however, I was stopped by another employee, a typically-good-looking young Ukrainian woman. She asked “do you speak english?” I never thought I’d love that phrase so much. I said “Yes.” She then proceeded to tell me that I had won some prize and if I wanted to claim it I should follow her. I asked what the prize was. She repeated “a prize.” Yeah. WTF is what I was thinking too.

She led me no more than 20′ over, still in front of the exit of the store where we met with another young employee, the prize distributor. I apparently won this prize because I bought the Tide laundry soap. Remember the girl from earlier talking about Tide? Yeah, me too. She asked me to pick a card from the ones she had fanned out in her hands. I picked a card. The other girl scratched off the lottery-ticket-scratcher-style stuff on the back of it and there, in Ukrainian, were the words detailing my prize. She said “see” I said “right.” :) She handed me my prize. I had just won… drum roll please… A scoop to measure my laundry detergent. That’s right folks. I had just won the scoop that comes in every box of laundry detergent you’ve ever bought. Ironically enough the box of detergent I had just bought, shaped similarly but smaller than a typical box of cereal, doesn’t actually have a scoop in it.

I walked back to the tram, had an uneventful trip to my stop and then walked back to my apartment.

Later on this same day I finally paid visit to a local McDonalds. A cheeseburger is still a cheeseburger. The fries are pronounced more like “freeze” and a soda, I have no idea. I just say coca-cola. I spent just less than $4 for 2 cheeseburgers, fries and a soda. Slightly cheaper than what it would cost at home. The fries taste exactly the same, coke, of course, exactly the same and the burger tasted slightly less fatty; less flavor. But it was food, and there was no smoking. I won’t be going there daily but I’m sure I’ll return.

Entry Filed under: Ukraine

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. heather  |  February 24th, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    Yay, you won a prize :) Thats so funny. Sounds like we better hold on to that scoup for our future laundry soap adventures!

  • 2. Kathryn  |  February 24th, 2007 at 9:58 pm

    I love the prize bit Bobby! It is the little things, like a laundry scoop, that matter.

  • 3. Mom  |  February 25th, 2007 at 7:20 am

    I love reading about your adventures. You are getting quite good at it. Don’t stop writing. I am so glad you are able to see the humor in your daily travels :)

  • 4. bobvanzant  |  February 25th, 2007 at 8:35 am

    OK, Bob you need to get serious. It’s obvious to everyone you are having the time of your life. Heck, except for the freezing cold and the stops due to ice on the street car’s lines, it’s as if you were living in San Francisco. We’re not buying. Heather will be there soon, and we’ll get the true scoop on things.


  • 5. Matt  |  February 25th, 2007 at 7:06 pm

    So I must ask, what happens if you don’t win the prize? Do you attempt to measure out the soap using a teaspoon?

    Good to hear McDonald’s is able to keep up the flavor in other countries, though I wonder what kind of beef you were eating.

    When can we expect some more pictures?

  • 6. Bob  |  February 26th, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    I’m still not totally comfortable walking around with my camera so I haven’t been doing it much. It’s not so much that I think someone would steal it, but it does tend to attract a TON of attention.

    I didn’t actually use the laundry scoop this time. The machine has a slot to fill with soap. I filled it and started the load. 90 minutes later (yes, 9-0 minutes) when it finished the soap was still in the same place, dry. So I poured it directly on the wet clothes and tried again. Obviously that worked. Maybe next time I’ll use the scoop.

  • 7. kristine  |  February 26th, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    Hello cuz! Well, sounds like you’re getting introduced to all the wonderful little quirks of a foreign country. At least you’re laughing your way through it. Isn’t it strange realizing how many things you take for granted in the US? Like getting a laundry detergent scoop in the box WITH the detergent? LOL! And finding places to eat is tough! I was in Prague for about a week, and I ate at the same restaurant for nearly every meal because they offered pasta with red sauce for a $1 – and all you had to do was point at the other people’s plate to order. I remember venturing out one day and walking into a cafe in the downtown area. There was no telling what was on the menu, and I ended up seeing a word that sort of looked like it might be tomato – so I went with it, thinking I would get a salad. Ummm, no. The grocery store is your best bet! :)

  • 8. norcalvp  |  March 1st, 2007 at 8:35 am

    HI Bob

    I love your web page it is quite intresting to read about how different things are there. I wish we could go and visit. He posting your experiences I love it. Stay safe.



February 2007
    Mar »

Most Recent Posts