не купую, що це лайно 26/08/2011Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Bienvenue à la Semaine de Fonctionnement.
Tags: Besarabka Market, chernobyl, chornobyl, exclusion zone, hotel khreschatyk, journalism, kiev, kyiv, socializing, tourism, travel, ukraine, urban
Ivan the photographer agreed that Vlad was nuts. We occupied the cafe like refugees examining dwindling supplies: we had no car, we had no fixer, we had no inclination to wander hours northward and find ourselves in a situation involving shifty-eyed exclusion zone border guards. As our business meeting slid onto the table stillborn Janice and I nursed a social outing to life, coaxing tales of Ukrainian life from our newfound friend.
Despite the ponytail and bright backpack Ivan proved to be a charming guy who could traverse the world’s network of youth hostels and ride-shares without losing a kidney or being held hostage. He stared bug-eyed and incredulous at our picture of headless midgets and declined an invitation to a second espresso. My caffeine queen was nowhere to be seen, presumably drawn and quartered for screwing up the previous day’s tab.
In lieu of collecting crowbars, rations and bribe money in preparation for a journalistic assault on Chornobyl we stormed Khreschatyk. Ivan’s instructional monologue was punctuated with gestures drawing places forth from the chaotic scenery. Behind our beloved Billa where we routinely confounded plainclothes security sits the century-old Besarabka Market, ten thousand square feet of fresh produce and regional delicacies which taunted our hollow innards. Old women craned over mounds of oranges and peppers crying out for attention, dusting cobwebs from half-remembered English phrases. Tins of caviar were thrust in our faces. “Don’t buy that,” warned Ivan. “It’s shit.”
Not every webpage connects you to translators doubling as prostitutes. Groups of tourists winding their way through the Chornobyl Museum had clearly thought ahead, chipping in on private guides to maximize their enjoyment of Kyiv. Community boosters and government agencies may have failed in efforts to appeal to American dollars but college students and survivors of the underground economy are busy building business empires.
Should fate ever smile down upon me a second time I will be prepared. Any interview needs scheduling a month’s minimum in advance by someone who understands the intricacies of local work practice. Apartments can be rented by the week for less than hotels and there’s no need to be ridiculed by the concierge if you’re in touch with someone who can understand what you’re saying. Receptionists across town would be safe from my maliciously mangled Ukrainian since my noble-savage guide could handle all calls. Walking into restaurants would no longer be an exercise in futility. There would be someone who could identify a laundromat.
Instead we shook hands with Ivan and watched him disappear underground. Janice and I made sandwiches with plastic utensils and used the weathered toiletries box as a table. We alternated beer and vodka watching Russian pop videos locked inside our overpriced accommodations, tortured by echoes of generic stadium rock piercing the walls. Ukraine’s Got Talent was hosting an epic karaoke event across the street and every aspiring television star with a Michael Jackson complex had answered fame’s siren call.