Twenty-Four Hours of Providence: Tales From an Oblast

I’ve been considering this blog for two weeks now, and each time I settle on a topic/format, something occurs that changes my perspective in a way to alter everything I feel the need to convey by writing it. But now, at 0500 on Wednesday morning, I feel the need to write something – anything – in order to offer one last post before I return Stateside. This is no simple task, as I have just finished packing and haven’t had a good night’s sleep in about a week, but I am forcing myself to stay focused for the next two hours until it is time to walk to the train station to catch the Sky Bus to Borispol Airport. Otherwise, I will surely fall asleep and miss my flight.

I’ll start with the basics. I stayed for about two weeks in Odessa. I rather like the city, but being winter there was not much to enjoy. I made a good friend at the hostel: Tim (Tendai, I believe, is his full name) from Zimbabwe. The Korean guy I had earlier complained about was kicked out two days later for spilling a bottle of red wine all over the furniture and walls of the kitchen. I also met Alicia, a Salsa Dance instructor. Her and I became friends and shared several lunches together while she taught me rudimentary Russian. I don’t remember too much of it, but I still have the notes (and I can read it almost fluently now). Eventually the time came to head north to Kiev, so I booked a rideshare and headed out.

The ride to Kiev was uneventful, except for the snow. He dropped me off at the city limits, but at least there was a metro stop nearby. I took the subway to Maidan, and was quickly approached by a street performer with pigeons. Seeing my backpack, he tried to make a quick Hryvnia by placing the birds on me and taking pictures. I all but begged him not to, as there are few things I dislike more than birds. I really must have said “no” at least two dozen times. He may not understand English, but I’m sure he knew what my intentions were. After the horrible nightmare was over, he pointed to each bird and said “200.” I really thought he was trying to sell me his pigeons. No, he wanted 200 Hryvnia for EACH bird that sat on my shoulder while he took pictures. Really? That’s somewhere around 25 USD. For two greasy plague-infested winged rats to be placed dangerously close to my soft tissue after I pleaded with him to keep them off me. Sorry – that was not going to happen. At that point he kept cutting me off and wouldn’t let me leave the square. I regrettably had to get a bit forceful with him. Really, he should have known; I was wearing a backpack. That’s the sign of a traveler, not a tourist. Tourists have suitcases – and typically much more disposable income.

Anyway, I finally made it to the hostel (Kiev Central Station Hostel). It was the same hostel I patronized last year, so I thought I would give it another go. The next week that I spent in Kiev is going to be quickly summarized in the following paragraph. Restaurants to try while in Kiev include Garbuzik and Puzata Hata. A nice dive bar with cheap food is Palata 6. Good luck finding it, even IF you are able to discover the dark alleyway that leads to the hidden door. Saturday I went on a free walking tour with a few friends I made at the hostel. Our guide was a very nice lady named Olga, and her and I actually met up for lunch on Monday. I also quickly discovered that my phone, when approaching an internal temperature close to 0°C, will promptly lose all battery power until warmed up and plugged in. This actually became an issue several times in Kiev. One would be excused for thinking that, after three decades of portable telephone technology, temperatures as common as the freezing point of water wouldn’t immobilize one’s mobile. Apparently, this is not the case.

So now, my trip is coming to an end. I have recently made some important decisions on my immediate future, but I won’t bore you with the details. That is a topic for another time. I also had the pleasure of meeting someone who, quite possibly, may turn out to be the most influential person I have ever met. Our encountering each other seemed too serendipitous to be coincidence. The time we shared was brief, but offered a spectacular reaffirmation of everything I have learned while traveling. If you are reading this: Thank you, Mary.

I could easily write five thousand more words about the twenty-four hours between midnight Saturday and Sunday, but I know that nothing I say could do it justice. So I’ll just end the blog post – and the adventure that lasted six months of my life – with this pledge: from this day forward, each day will be better than the last. I’ll see you in the States!

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