This is a long post.  You’ve been warned.

By their fruits… we’re on the overnight bus from Chernovtsi to Kiev.  The entire bus is rattling and shaking violently.  Fortunately, there’s only one city between Chernovtsi and Kiev in which the “expressway” through the city is cobblestone.  We must be passing through Kamenyets-Podolsky, known for its majestic gorge, ruins of a grand fortress, and particularly morbid city planners.

Ahhhh.  This Ukraine!  I have this funny love-hate relationship with this country.  For whatever reason, living in Dublin is not increasing my love for Ukraine!  Too bad.  I turned up in Kiev in a rather grouchy, anti-Ukrainian mood.  (Actually, I should say it was anti-Soviet; I think the Ukrainians are heroes for rebounding from the USSR, unlucky sadistic Soviet radicals, so quickly.)

Exhibit #1:

The airport.  The line for the passport stamping stuff was pretty fast for Ukrainian citizens, but sadly, the foreigners all had to wait in line about an hour and one-half.  I am not kidding you.  When the Ukrainian citizen lines were all through, those border guards sat there and, one would assume, felt sorry for the foreigners in the achingly slow line about three yards from their desks.

By the way, Jennifer could go to a nearby seat.  She didn’t have to stand in a line for 90 minutes.

Exhibit #2:

The airport.  During exhibit #1, one could not help but notice the one border guard at a desk off at the edge of the other desks.  Not only was he all by himself, he also wasn’t doing anything!  It must have been boring.  After about an hour of waiting in line this one guy behind me in line was suddenly approached by a lady officer.  “Would you like to get through without a line?”  Doubtless, at least on the spur of the moment, only a child would have dilly-dallied.  He followed the officer over to the lonely border guard, got his passport stamped, and in about 30 seconds went on to the Great Beyond, where those luggage conveyor belt thingamajigs are.  The mystery about the lonely border guard was soon explained.  The lady officer explained to a man near me that if one would, say, put a bit of cash into one’s passport before handing it to the lonely border guard…  As she well knew, that man came back and in excited, hushed tones, told the rest of us the wonderful news.  She waited just a few seconds for us to process this, and then impatiently asked the line in general if anybody was going to go with her to visit the lonely border guard.

I wish I could say that my ethics won out.

They didn’t.

The real reason I didn’t pay the bribe is that we only had about 15 more minutes to wait, so we waited.

Exhibit #3.

The airport.  Sadly, one of our suitcases didn’t follow us to Kiev.  A lovely lady from the baggage service department dealt with my complaint quickly and efficiently, and kindly took me on to the customs control with the necessary piece of paper that needed to be stamped by customs.  (I apparently needed this document in case my luggage ever would show up, because then it would be considered unaccompanied luggage and treated differently, etc., etc.)  On the way to the customs control, I need to put all my luggage through a scanner, but that was awfully fast, because the officers watching the screens were busy chatting.  They didn’t even look.

How often do you, gentle reader, put your luggage through a scanner on the way out of an airport?

There was a short line at the customs control.  My ticker skipped a beat out of sheer joy—only one man ahead of me.  Sadly, I had failed to notice why he was being detained.  He didn’t speak any Russian, Ukrainian, or English (I believe he was French), and he was bringing in a little doggie.  The customs official dropped everything to look at this dog.  Lady officers came in droves, talking cute baby talk to the dog.  Aw, the darling felt cold.  Aw, it licked the one officer’s hand, so the dog must be hungry.  The owner doesn’t understand a word of what’s going on, but he knows his dog is a hit, so the lack of bonhomie between him and the customs official failed to be driven home to him.  The customs official asked me whether I spoke French.  Nope.  The ladies asked me what kind of dog it was.  (Having just written my first exams for vet school, I was brimming with all the veterinary knowledge in the world, or so I thought; therefore, I ventured that the doggie was a Chihuahua.  They were sure it wasn’t.  Haha, joke’s on me.  Will you look at my form, stamp it, and let me go?)  Finally the customs official pensively gazed at me and mused on why I would be standing in line.  I desperately jabbered something about a suitcase being lost.  The magical stamp descended on my customs form.  To waddle through the big doors into the public waiting was with me the work of seconds…

Exhibit #4

The airport parking lot.  Dear Sasha… he waited patiently for about two hours for us to get through all the official hoops.  Parking might be a touch more than usual, he explained to me, because he had to wait so long.

Parking was Hryvnia 10 per hour.  We paid Hryvnia 20.  Right about then, my grouchiness melted away.  Less than 2 euro for two hours?  In Dublin one would count one’s blessings at 10 euro per hour.  Small things amuse small minds; small and inexpensive things greatly amuse poverty-stricken students with small minds.

Funny, that, my mood swings and all that.  Suddenly I was glad to be home again. 🙂

~Gabriel (I will be 09250671 in a few weeks, not now yet!)

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