Archive for May, 2007

Traveling to київ (Kyiv)

Church in Kyiv The capital of україн (Ukraine) is київ (Kyiv). Like львів (L’viv), київ has both a Ukrainian spelling and a Russian spelling. київ is Ukrainian, кїев (Kiev) is Russian (For those of you not paying attention in earlier postings, львів is львов in Russian and that sometimes becomes Lvov and Lwow in transliterations). This weekend I also learned another difference in the languages. Juice is сік in Ukrainian and сок in Russian. Aren’t you glad that you too know this? I thought so. The word for beer in Ukrainian is пиво. If you’re learning to read cyrillic, like me, this is pronounced sort of like “pee-vo.” This is apparently the Russian pronunciation. Don’t do that. It’s pronounced with a slight “ey” in the “ee.” So try “pey-vo”. But it’s more pee than pey. This picture is of a church. I don’t know what it’s name is but I do know where it is: it’s on the long street that has all of the little tents to buy tourist stuff at. One of you lucky readers may even get a gift that I bought on this very street. Most won’t :) .

We took the overnight train to Kyiv. The train left at 10:55PM on Friday night and was to arrive at 7:15 on Saturday morning. The trains in Ukraine are remarkably well on time. Accurate to within 2 minutes I’d say. We were ~30 minutes early and walked up to a conductor with our tickets in hand. I gave the international signal for “where am I supposed to go with this ticket?” and the condutor replied, in Ukrainian “something something сім something something.” Notice I caught сім (sim)? That’s the number 7. So I repeated back сім? and pointed. I was wrong. The “something” words were important. Eventually she wrote down 18 on the paper and pointed. Got it.

We went down to our car, showed the conductor our tickets with confidence we were in the right place and were admitted aboard. Now where do we go? I looked back at the conductor and without saying anything he held up 5 fingers. Room 5 it is.

Heather and I began making our beds. We had the two top bunks in the room. Making the bed involves unrolling a mattress of sorts on top of your pleather cot-like bed. Then put a sheet down. Then put the other sheet down. Then put your pillow case on your pillow. Ok you’re done.

After an interesting evening with bursts of sleep separated by jarring movements on the train or waking up from being too hot (it was HOT in this little room) we arrived in Kyiv. We walked out to the street and saw the first McDonalds of the day, called our resident tourguide Olga (Did you know that Olga is the english way of saying олга (olha) and that a very common nickname is оля (olya)) and began our day. It was 7:30am.

Olga looking at a map I should warn you that Olga isn’t actually a tour guide. She’s one of my friends from Lohika that was relocated to Kyiv just a week ago. She too had never toured Kyiv and so we were on a mission to see some tourist sites. As proof she’s not a real tour guide: would a real tour guide be looking at a map like this? Anyway. Olga is also the person that did the brunt of the work in helping me find an apartment on my first trip here. She is one of the people that made the difference between me going home 2 weeks into this journey and me surviving and eventually coming to like this country.

Huge McDonalds
We walked around for a bit and spotted this HUGE McDonalds. Ok it’s not all McDonalds, but they put McDonalds signs all over it. We went down (underground) into a little mall in front of this McDonalds for breakfast. I picked out some “point” food from a vendor down there. Heather and Olga got food you had to order from a different food-court restaurant. My food was awful. It was cooked yesterday for sure. It was disgusting. I stopped eating. Olga later asked me what I was expecting. It was 8:30 in the morning, when did I think they cooked the food? Hmm. Interesting point she makes.

Kyiv has modern buildings Kyiv is much much different from L’viv. The city has tall buildings that are more or less new. Kyiv is a terribly old city but because much of it was destroyed in the war they had the opportunity to rebuild. L’viv was not as (un)fortunate and is an incredibly old city. In addition most of the cars you see driving around Kyiv are reasonably new. Most of the cars you see in L’viv are from the ’70s or so. Our hotel was just a block away from a Maserati dealership. On Sunday I saw a Ferrari hauling down a road. Which should lead you to think, rightfully so, that the roads in Kyiv are paved with asphault and only in a few rare places are there cobblestone. All in all it’s a much more modern city that feels much more wealthy than L’viv.

Tent City in Kyiv For those of you that weren’t paying attention Ukraine had its fair share of fun in the news lately. Immediately after that there were “huge” political protests being held by supporters of each side of the debate. They all camped out in front of various political buildings throughout the city and staged protests and all sorts of political crap. I say crap, and I mean it, because this was total BS. The two sides involved in this whole thing were going to colleges and offering college students 100hra/day ($20) to come to Kyiv and protest on their side. Take the weekends off and you’re making $400/mon, more than enough for a college student to survive in Ukraine. This is awful. The vast majority of these protesters cared not about what was going on, they were just there to make a buck. How corrupt can you get? Plus they’re ruining the grass in this park.

The escalator up from the metro in Kyiv Here we have half of the escalator trip up from the metro (the subway). You can’t get a picture of the whole thing because it stops in the middle, you walk 30 yards and then get back on another escalator. Suffice it to say this subway is very “sub.”

Olga, Yuriy, Heather and Bob in Kyiv On Sunday afternoon we headed back to the Kyiv train station to catch the express train at 5:15 pm back to L’viv. It’s express because it’s a 6-hour ride instead of the more-usual 8. This was also our chance to give our first good byes. This was our second to last weekend in Ukraine and so we won’t be seeing Olga nor her husband Yuriy again. I’m trying to convince them to come visit us in California some day though.

The train ride home was mostly uneventful. Or at least that’s how I remember it. As I said in my first post of today we’re pretty numb to Ukraine now and the things that were funny and odd and stuck out are hardly noticeable anymore.

Add comment May 16th, 2007

Shashlyk Day

Sergiy holding Shashlyk Last Wednesday was a holiday in Ukraine. On the calendar it says “Victory Day” and this apparently has something to do with WWII. I’m no historian, I’m just a stereotypical stupid American that knows absolutely nothing about the history or values of other countries. Anyway. In doing a bit of research about Shashlyk this evening I’ve discovered it is actually a food; a food that we ate LOTS of on this very day. It’s basically just lamb kebabs. But the marinade and seasoning and extra helping of fat make it AWEsome. Anyway. The guys from Lohika cooked up a storm and fed Heather and I like king and queen.

Markiyan’s baby Markiyan picked us up for this BBQ. It was being held at some privately-owned park outside of town. I have no idea what the name of the park was but it was several miles outside of town and cost something like 10hra per car to enter in addition to, I think, 160hra to reserve our little booth. All in all the place was nice. When Markiyan picked us up we got to meet his wife and his baby. Markiyan is a complete workaholic. So much so that most people didn’t even know he had a baby, the munchkin pictured here. Isn’t that the cutest picture you’ve ever seen? Yeah I thought so too.

Here, I’ve got one more of him and then two of Ivan’s baby to share with you.

Markiyan’s baby showing us some drool Ivan’s baby with Ivan in the background Ivan’s baby showin’ us her big smile Another Ivan-baby shot

Don’t pee here, 500hra fine This was one of the funniest things I saw on this day. Throughout the forest where our little setup was there were these little signs that say… Well I have no idea what they say but it’s pretty obvious what they mean. 500 hryvna is approximately $100. I walked to the actual bathroom.

It’s Big Bad Heather! Oh look it’s big bad Heather! This isn’t terribly relevant to the post but she was there, and I took this picture there, and it’s a nice picture. So you get it.

One other important piece of Shashlyk day is that you drink lots of горілка (pronounced: hor-eel-ka; translation: vodka). We pretty much drank that all day. When we got home around 8:30 that evening I was definitely under the influence. All-in-all it was fantastic to get to take part in this tradition. The food was really really good and we had an all-around good time.

1 comment May 16th, 2007

We’ve been here long enough

It has happened. We’ve been here long enough. We went to Kyiv (київ) last weekend, the capital of Ukraine. We took the overnight train (sleeper car) on the way there and the express on the way back. When we got home I was thinking about what funny things happened on that trip and none came to mind. I thought about it some more and came to the conclusion that there was absolutely nothing normal about that trip; I have just grown immune to the former-oddities of Ukraine.

This morning we lost hot water again. The water pressure has been tapering off over the last week, indicating with near certainty that the water filter is clogged. This morning it was cold shower or no shower. I opted to clean the filter myself. I turned off the water main, pulled the filter, cleaned the sand and chunks of rust out of it and put it all back together. Nice hot shower.

Though I didn’t learn nearly as much of the language as I wanted to I think I can safely say that I’ve assimilated into this country as far as I need to. It was -a lot- of fun. I’ve got a few more things to write about and pictures to share before I officially declare us departed from Ukraine. We fly home in 6 days on Tuesday, May 22.

Add comment May 16th, 2007

The Great Outdoors of Ukraine

Blurry Trees This morning a wonderful thing happened: Sashko from L’viv Offroad messaged me and asked me if I wanted to go 4 wheeling. You bet I wanted to go. Ever since seeing their photo gallery I wanted to head out to the trails with them. The picture here was taken from the truck as we sped along one of the trails.

One of the reasons I made up to my boss for coming to Ukraine was that I could improve communication between Ukraine and San Bruno. Today I should have taken a taste of my own medicine but I goofed. Sashko speaks english. Perfectly adequate actually, but there’s always room for misunderstanding. He told me to be at the end of lychakivska street at 2:00. I looked at my map, found the end of the street, I was good to go. Around 1:00 he called me and said he was going to call me a half hour before our meeting time. This seemed odd to me but I thought nothing of it. At 2:40 I called him and asked him where he was. He said that the Polish people we were going to wheel with were out and about and wouldn’t be ready until closer to 5 or 6. After explaining to him I was already at the end of lychakivska street he said “ok, I’ll be there in 10 minutes.” Weird.

15 minutes later he called and asked “where are you?” “Umm, I’m at the end of lychakivska street, near the big wall, and they’re selling beer here and…” “Oh you’re at the -beginning- of lychakivska street.” D’oh! I love this place!

After finally meeting up with Sashko we hung out in his truck at the park I met him at for a bit and looked at pictures from his last wheeling trip. The club had spent 2 whole weeks cruising through the Carpathian mountains. The pictures were great and it was a trip I wish I could have attended. Halfway through the pictures a random guy walked up to the truck and started talking shop to Sashko. This is pretty similar to California: nerds at gas stations will come up to you and start pretending they know something about 4 wheeling. But this guy was persistent. After a few minutes he walked away. Not more than 3 minutes later he came back, with 3 ice cream bars in hand, one for himself, one for Sashko and one for me. At some point Sashko grew tired of this guy and basically just drove off, ice cream in hand. Random wannabe truck dudes never buy me ice cream back home.

Not as blurry trees Unfortunately most of the snow around here is long gone and we only had a few hours in the late afternoon to get any wheeling in. But it was worth it. It’s spring time in L’viv and that means that all of the formerly-leafless trees around here are completely green. The trees only seem to have leaves near the tops and so when you’re underneath them you get the feeling you’re under a roof of sorts. Compared to the rest of L’viv, the airports we’ve been at lately and the bustling city of Bangalore this was a sight I truly enjoyed

Dragging’ the diff The main difference between 4 wheeling in Ukraine and 4 wheeling in California is that in Ukraine you can truly go wherever you want. In California venturing off the trails will (rightfully) leave you with a fine at a minimum. Here it’s how you get from where you are to where you want to be. The other difference is that the rigs here are a little closer to mild compared to what, for example, NorCal TTORA is used to. But this seems to be related to the fact that the trails (and land in between trails) here are much different. There aren’t any boulders to climb over, just ruts to stay out of.

Random Car The trails we were running weren’t all that far from the beaten path. In the bay area you need to drive for around 90 minutes to get somewhere where you can drive off-road. Here in L’viv you need to drive about 5 minutes from the center and you’re in this completely different world. There are little, I guess they’re villages, out here and one of the houses had this car parked out front. It’s a pretty sweet ride.

Rock Climbing The last stop on our wheelin’ journey was a place to BBQ up some grub. We had grabbed some sausages from a local shop on the way in. It’s weird to buy meat that isn’t refrigerated. And milk that isn’t refrigerated. I stuck to the meat, the milk has messed with me before. So far so good on the meat front, and it was good. Quite good. Yummy sausages. Anyway. We stopped to eat in front of this really big rock. People slightly younger than me come up here to do rock climbing. There were some guys trying really challenging routes but there wasn’t a good photo op. This guy was trying a route not much more difficult than climbing a ladder but he yielded some neat pictures, this one being my favorite.

1 comment May 5th, 2007


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