Friday, January 15, 2010

Kiev in January

From Kiev, Ukraine
Everybody in Kiev is playing winter sports in order to get from point A to point B. The city cannot afford to keep clearing the many streets and sidewalks of ice and snow, so a dirty gray crust of ice forms everywhere, presenting a walking challenge for all. Some of the hills around the city, which are topped by picturesque churches that beckon both tourists and the faithful, are especially steep, presenting a sense of danger as one descends.

One person staying at the hostel, Lauren, who lives in Russia with her husband, is here in Kiev as she waits for a new 3-month visa to be approved so that she can continue working in Moscow. She has proven an excellent guide. She showed me where to buy groceries, SIM cards, and jeans. She has also offered abundant good advice. She is only 23, but possesses the worldliness of someone in her thirties. She also knows passable Russian, as a result of being married to a Russian man. So she is a good friend to have in this city.

For a hundred dollars I got a great pair of jeans and three sweaters. Oddly enough, Lauren has never found long underwear for sale in Ukraine or in Russia, so the four pairs I brought along are now an especially precious comfort to have.

We also visited the Chernobyl Museum, which provided a fantastic overview of that tragedy, especially in tandem with Lauren's own knowledge of the event (again, very useful, considering that the placards are all in Russian or Ukrainian, none in English).

Some Random Observations

Beards are very rare here, so despite the comfort they provide in these cold temperatures I am ditching my effort to grow one in order to blend in a bit better.

If 3/4ths of the city cannot change them and the remaining 1/4th complains when they do, the ATMs in such a city really shouldn't dispense huge bills. A city like Kiev, for example.

CORRECTION (19 January): Lauren lied about her age; she is in fact 21. :-))

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