Traveling in 2nd and 3rd world countries the past couple of months made me realize how much I love a good transportation system – you know, where a 20 minute flight doesn’t translate into a 12 hour drive. The few treacherously long journeys in southern Mexico left me feeling hot, tired, and nauseous, and without the help of some pink pills, I don’t know if I would have made it.
On the train back to Krakow, my Ipod shuffle battery went dead, so I made a mental note to charge it that night at the hostel in preparation for the 20 hour bus ride I booked the next day all the way to Kiev, Ukraine. After having it plugged in for a couple of hours, and the computer still not recognizing it, I got a little concerned. I updated iTunes and still nothing. I completely uninstalled and reinstalled iTunes, and all I could get was a few flashing yellow lights on the shuffle and no charge. I did a little research online and it appears I have the Ipod shuffle’s flashing lights of death. Ipod = Dead. What great timing! Just before an insanely long bus ride! Luckily I found that book store in Krakow that sells nothing but books in English and bought one called “Winter Under Water,” which is a lot about this guy dealing with love and a winter in Poland. I thought it was fitting to my previous 2 weeks in the country.
Boarding the bus on Sunday arrived one hour earlier thanks to European Summer time change overnight. The driver, speaking no English, escorted me to the back of the bus behind a nice Ukrainian couple, the lady of which turned to me and said I could ask her any questions if I had any. Turns out this lady actually teaches Russian for foreigners in Kiev. She and her husband were with four teen-aged children and were on their way back from Berlin where they took part in an Esperanto conference. She explained that Esperanto is a simple language that is hoping to become the language of the world. It has bits and pieces that everyone can understand and it has no IRREGULARS! Apparently, they have their own flag, and it is estimated that there are 100,000 – 2 million fluent speakers!
The lady even spoke to me a bit in Esperanto and I completely understood it, and really, it just sounded like Spanish to me.
Crossing the border to Ukraine happened late evening, and would have happened sooner had the bus actually had a bathroom in it. Even the buses in Mexico had bathrooms. We stopped about every 2 hours for a bit for the driver to have coffee and for everyone else to pee. Even to that extent, I was surprised at one point when a girl asked for the driver to stop especially so she could pee and on the side of the road.
I noticed immediately a change in the environment after crossing. The cars all turned into the typical old Soviet style, and all the signs were in Russian – an alphabet that is truly foreign to my eye. At one stop, I had the driver help me find a bankomat so I could get the local currency. After that I used the restroom and almost walked into the men’s since I couldn’t read the writing! Luckily, I sort of remembered my Kyrgyzstan guidebook stating the women’s might be marked with that funny kriss-kross forward/backward K. At another stop, I bought a cold drink and a small Kinder Maxi chocolate bar for a total of 7.15 hry. The lady was asking if I had the 0.15 hry, which I didn’t, so out of a 10 hry, I ended up getting back 2.50 hry and a stick of gum. Guess that works out about right.
One of the teen-aged girls back on the bus asked me, in English, if I had some water. I did, but was going to save that for later since I was craving a cold, cold beverage at the moment. I asked her if she had a cup, which she responded “yes” to. I handed her my fresh, untouched bottle of water that she proceeded to rip open and drink directly from the spout, not withholding any sort of concern for germs or other people’s property. I cringed on the inside as she thanked me and handed it back. I get grossed out easily. I am a super germaphobe. I had no idea who this girl was, or where she came from. Sure, I had been using your mother (?) as a translator the entire ride, but still, that doesn’t give you the right to leave your slobber all over my stuff. Ew.
Twenty hours later, I arrived in Kiev. The nice Ukrainian family helped with a taxi to the apartment I was to be staying at that night. To make things more complicated, the girl forgot what day it was and wasn’t expecting me when I arrived. The taxi driver was more than helpful. I couldn’t tell if the tattoos he had on his hand were those from being in the military, or in prison. When things finally got situated, I immediately passed out in my private room.