Cliff Gardner

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

On a Russian Train


I didn’t have classes for the last few days so I decided to head back up north to visit Jessica again. Below are some highlights:

1) Discussing bike-pooling. It’s like car-pooling…but on a bike. Back home, it wasn’t really rare to see more than one person riding the same bicycle, but the riders were almost exclusively teenagers, standing on the kickstand things on the back, and there was never more than one person-per-bike. In Ukraine, it’s common to see entire families—three, even four people of all ages—riding on the same bike. We wondered how 80 year old babushkas (grandmas) manage to get on the handle bars while carrying what appears to be a Sunday dinner for 12 in their arms without the whole thing toppling over. It really is quite something to watch, and every time I see a family going out for a ride, I hum Queen’s “Bicycle” to myself.

2) Taking out the trash. You wouldn’t think this would qualify as an event, but in her town it really is. See, for the first few months after she moved in, Jess often wondered where her neighbors took her trash when they collected it twice a week since she was unable to find the dumpsters that were used by her and the adjacent apartment buildings herself despite several searches. Finally, she realized the truth—there were no dumpsters. Three times a week, a garbage truck carrying a dumpster arrives in the courtyard and people line up with their trash. It’s quite the social occasion, and I got to witness it first-hand. Fun times.

3) Riding in first class for the first time. I think that my Russian skills are progressing nicely (although I’m still planning on getting a tutor next year) and I rarely have trouble understanding people or getting across what I mean, with one exception—whenever I talk to the mean ladies who work at ticket offices, or “kassas” in Russian. It seems that every angry, annoyed lady in the country all decided that selling tickets to foreigners would be a good way to take out their frustration, because I have yet to attempt to buy a ticket on my own without getting yelled at and pushed to, and often over, the brink of tears by these people.

Whenever I know I’ll need to buy a ticket, I prepare what I’m going to need to say ahead of time and often practice in front of other people first, just to make sure I’ve got it down. However, one look from their very intimidating faces and I often freeze up like Peter Billingsly in “A Christmas Story” when he tries to tell Santa that he wants a bb gun and ends up with a football and a boot in the face. Even when I do get my monologue out without messing it up, I’m often met with a gruff “niet” (no), without any explanation, or worse, with a very fast and angry explanation. Believe me, I have lots of stories about these folks straight up lying to my face about the availability of tickets for specific trains/buses and about them charging me more just to be ornery. This weekend in particular, ticket-buying was terrible because there weren’t any “electricas” or “fast trains” from Jess’ site to Kyiv, where I had a ticket booked to go back home tonight, because of the holiday. After several unsuccessful attempts, Jess and I found the youngest woman working at the station (young=nice) and she sold me the last ticket to Kyiv she had—a first class seat for 47 griven (usually it costs 8) on a train that was passing through her town at 5:50 from Moscow, on the way to Kyiv. That meant that Jess couldn't’t spend the day with me in Kyiv like we had planned and that I had to spend about six times as much as I usually do.

4) It snowing. ON MAY 2ND! Remember when they turned off the heat in mid-April and Jess and I thought it was a bad idea? Just saying...


As always, my visit with Jess was fun, productive, exciting and really happy and I can’t wait until we can see each other again. Above is a picture of us taken during her visit to Ochakiv a few weeks back. See that, right there? That's what happiness looks like. :-)

6 Comments:

  • Dude, it snows in July in Montana. I've actually never witnessed this phenomenon, but I've been told war stories by multiple Montanans who are born and raised in this state. It's been in the 80s here for the past few days, and I can honestly say I wouldn't be surprised if it suddenly snowed this weekend. Apparently Montana is the American version of Ukraine...we even have angry ticket ladies! I worked at the airport throughout college so I know these things!

    By Anonymous shea, at 9:25 AM  

  • You and your girlfriend are adorable! I'm so happy for you both.

    By Blogger Caro, at 11:05 AM  

  • Soon you and I will be in the same boat. Whoo!

    Also, Jess is really cute!

    By Blogger KBT, at 5:27 PM  

  • What you neglected to say about the bike passengers in da grove - they are usually youth criminals draped in black delivering meth.

    By Blogger magic, and with love from Sam,, at 10:10 PM  

  • nice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!fuck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    By Blogger themAsa, at 1:47 AM  

  • Nicer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    By Blogger Paved In Gold, at 6:39 PM  

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