Saturday, September 6, 2014

My last 3 days in Kyiv

Well, it feels like I'm living in a new world these days: not Ukraine, not America, but rather the land of pain. The assumed culprit, per a trip to urgent care? A kidney stone. Ugh. And OUCH. Any noble goal I'd had for the rest of my life has since turned into be gone, foul vermin! or, more often, let's wait just a little longer for the next dose of Vicodin. But being housebound means no more excuses, there's plenty of time to finally tell you guys about being in Kyiv several weeks ago.

Right away I knew it'd be different than our previous trip to the capital. To start with, the ads on the fast train were for war bonds this time, not hotels and spas. Last year no one was throwing around terms like Putlir, Luganda, and Donbabwe. And Ukraine is now a place where a taxi driver will first assume you are a journalist instead of an English teacher.

Speaking of the middle-aged taxi driver, he was extra careful to avoid squishing the fresh eggs he was transporting home as he put my bag in the trunk. Just after that, his phone rang- "No Mom, I can't talk now. Really, no. I have a client. I'll call you back. Yes, soon." It was kind of cute.

We got to talking during the 30-minute trip to the hotel and he revealed that he supported Yanukovich, saying things are much worse now than they'd ever been under the old President. I questioned him about this. "Don't you think things will now improve?" "Ha!!" he barked back. "It'll be one hundred years before we recover from this!" "Oh no, definitely not a hundred years", I replied. "Well, okay then. Ninety five." was his answer.

But this opinion most definitely seemed a minority one as I traveled around Kyiv for the next few days. References to current events were everywhere and overwhelmingly in favor of a new, European-ized Ukraine. Every block had the same billboard for a construction company with the words A new country, a new apartment! printed on a blue-and-yellow background. An AK47-armed Taras Shevchenko could be made out among scrawls of graffiti on a main road. And I know I told you before that blue and yellow were popular colors but as of last month, every single thing in Kyiv seemed to have turned blue and yellow. Here's a sampling-

Blue and Yellow

This tractor :p

And if it wasn't a blue-and-yellow miniskirt on a passing girl or a flag in the window, there were plenty of other reminders-

Signs of the Times

Found this ad for a bug out bag: It's unknown what tomorrow will bring... be prepared for anything! (The literal translation for this equipment in Russian is "alarm suitcase".)
Crimea is Ukraine on the side of a coffee tent.
He didn't study English. [Yanukovich's face] English lessons at home. 100uah/lesson.
On a park bench at the Golden Gate: I don't care about motherland or country, I care about my class identity because I'm a working HUMAN BEING.
On the door to an apartment complex: Help our guys in the east!

Maidan will not vanish into the murky cloud of history for a long time, if ever. It's still omnipresent on the streets of Kyiv (and these are just photos from residential/commercial areas, not from the actual Maidan Nezalezhnosti)-
Heroes don't die
The film "Maidan" opened in theaters on August 24th
Next to the kid's railroad, the shooting arcade tent is covered in images of Maidan: flames, men with shields and guns, and a Ukrainian flag in front of the blaze.
The friend I saw that weekend showed me around the IT company he worked at. These posters mysteriously appeared across the street one day.

Graffiti along the river. There's a lot of play-on-words going on here, but it basically says the laughingstocks of the villages came to Kyiv and became mighty soldiers (a rooster becomes a hawk).
Don't kill!

Everything Else From That Weekend

Apart from displays of patriotism and memorials everywhere, Kyiv was quiet that weekend. Extremely hot too, but it didn't stop people from going about their usual routines. I'm grateful to have had these few days in the city and be able to remember it for its regular streets and regular people and not the flashes of violence that have been broadcast everywhere by the media.

Quick hotel recommendation, if you're looking for a quiet and cheap place to stay outside of the center: Nivki Hotel. I stayed in the single standard room below for 350uah/night ($27USD/night).
And the food in the hotel's restaurant was excellent. This breakfast- blinchik + tea- was about 45uah/$4USD.

Quick side note- one thing I wish I'd done differently when traveling was take Polly's advice about the two-day bag. After all the dust settled and I wound up in Kyiv with one bag (the other bag having traveled with D), it was like a crazy game of mix and match. No chargers, no bras, no walking shoes, but I did have 5 highlighters, an umbrella, sunscreen, and, hooray, a large window decal of Santa Claus holding a champagne bottle. Definitely taking her advice next time!
One afternoon I walked back from the US Embassy... a long walk but the weather was perfect. An old woman sold bouquets of flowers on the side of the road for a few grivna.

The hotel itself had some gorgeous flowers too-

The next afternoon my friend and I did a bit of walking around the city (after the bridge jump, that is!)-

- before dropping by his work. I was really impressed with the company's lunch room. If you've ever wondered about IT workers in Kyiv and where they sit when they eat lunch, wonder no longer!

And then the 3 days were up and it was time to hand over the (blue and yellow, of course!) ticket and fly away.

Remembering all this stuff nowadays, it all feels very far removed (by time and the current level of pain). But pictures like the one below will stay in my heart forever.


  1. I'm very sorry to hear about your pain. Get well soon!

  2. Wow, I had no idea that Ukraine was such a cool place until I stumbled onto your blog. I’m sorry to hear about your trip to urgent care. Next time, check online to see if you can get coupons for your visit! Also, some urgent care centers can help treat you through the entire process and help with pain management!

    Jesse @ U.S. HealthWorks Saugus