I have been sitting on this one for about a week now and decided to go ahead and post. About seven weeks ago, I made a blog post about struggling with goodbyes. I wasn’t particularly straightforward about the situation at the time, but while in the Baltic countries, I did meet someone I thought was really special… and of course it was frustrating to have to continue on and say goodbye for possibly forever to this person. I had to. I had an obligation to go to Ukraine and teach, right?
Well, said person and I kept in touch while in Ukraine. He was on another adventure with a friend from back home and didn’t think he would have enough time or money to get a visa for Ukraine, complete the journey with his friend, and then catch his flight back to Australia. That’s right. He’s Australian, too. Just when we thought seeing each other again wasn’t going to happen, I found out I was able to take a long weekend off work so we could meet somewhere in the middle. With this exciting news, we both ventured to Budapest last weekend!
I know I’ve said this before, but I have felt sort of cut off in Ukraine. It’s like once you’re here, getting out isn’t easy. Travel is slow… oh so slow! And just to make it more interesting, no one in Ukraine has the ability to book train tickets outside of Ukraine. They offer one train to Budapest, but I was not happy with when it would get me there – I was on limited time already! So, I took a gander at bahn.de and found a possible route, printed it off, and ran with it, not really knowing what was around the corner!
I took an overnight train to Chop, Ukraine, which is on the border of Hungary. I had a sleeper bed, which was actually quite enjoyable minus the sauna-like heat (but I can’t complain – it was like the first time I had felt real heat in a couple of months!). I had a carriage with all older women, which was nice. I got to practice a little Russian and drink tea with them. Once in Chop, though, things became frantic and exciting. I quickly bought my ticket to cross the border, scoured the small town for a place to get Hungarian money, dealt with customs and passport control, and ate dinner all in less than an hour’s time. I was getting nervous because I only had 15 minutes once in Hungary to buy my other tickets and catch my next train, so imagine my distress when we were forced to wait on the train until customs and border control checked each person’s bags and passports before letting us go! I decided to make a show of looking at the clock and my watch so they would get the hint I had to run, and that seemed to do the job! Sound stressful? Yeah, it was a bit, but I will tell you one thing… I LOVED every minute of it. I LOVE being on the road!
Twenty hours in the mix and I finally made it to Budapest’s Nyugati station with Patrick anxiously awaiting my arrival. After a few sighs of relief, we made our way out into the city and I was immediately taken by surprise. It was quite a different view than what I had become accustomed to in my tiny bubble in Kiev. And, imagine that, I saw sunshine that weekend! Amazing!
Ha! How cute are we?! So funny. I think my flash was doing something funky and it kept catching us mid-blink.
Back in Riga
We went for a long evening stroll along the Danube river, which was perfect for taking photos. Along the way, we ran into some sort of Christmas celebration where people had on devil horns and cape costumes. Not sure what that meant, but it was interesting! We ate at some great restaurants with awesome spicy food – Indian and Thai – YUM! We met up with people he had met there before and went out to a cool bar where I felt very short compared to all the giants nearby. Overall, it was amazing, and I found myself being visually stimulated by the city, and even more excited for the upcoming holidays after my stay.
Unfortunately, it was over way too soon, and I quickly found myself sitting on another train pulling out of the station – waving bye to Patrick for the third time in the past few months – forever this time? I was both happy and sad – happy to have had yet another encounter with him, but sad to be leaving and heading back to Ukraine.
Patrick said he thought I sounded more cynical this time around. Well, I told him that its just the way I have to deal with all the craziness that is Ukraine life. I can usually laugh off the awkwardness with a good, “Oh, that’s life in Ukraine!” comment. But, as I was sitting there on the train, my cynicism just turned to hate. I had already been feeling it for some time now, but it was all coming out. I was sitting there just seething with anger and frustration. Not only did I not feel like this was the way things should be, but I was also angry to be returning to the cold, to the dismal, to the cut-off. Whenever I told people in Budapest that I was living in Ukraine, they just said – “Why?! I always hear about how bleak it is there, and how unsafe it is there.”
Bleak. It’s like they took the word out of my mouth.
All of the issues I’ve encountered recently with living in Ukraine – a list I won’t get into at the moment – were rolling around in my head on the long, long 20 hour ride back “home”. I began to question why I was even here and I had to remind myself it was to practice my Russian, which is something I haven’t even done yet really (my lessons start on Monday). At each train change, I could see the temperature dropping, and finally, the snow came. The wind blew hard and Ukraine just looked even more bleak and dismal. What a perfect way to set the mood for my arrival in Kiev – a wet, dreary day.
I told Ukraine I hated it on Monday. Some of that hate passed after class when I got to teach my students, the only reason of which I really enjoy being a teacher, but the hate returned yesterday when we had a meeting at work (to deal with some issues, of course!). At this meeting, I also found out that Tanya and I will have to move to a new apartment in a couple of weeks! So, yet another way I can not ever feel at home here.
I think maybe all of my happy feelings were used up in Budapest and now I’m just left with the unhappy ones. I’m sure that will pass and I’ll get back to my cynical self soon and deal with Ukraine. And, it does suck that the long-awaited time with Patrick is over, but maybe without coming back to such circumstances I would not have appreciated the weekend as much (well, that’s definitely not true – just what I’m telling myself now haha).