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розпливчасті уявлення про час і місце 27/11/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Bienvenue à la Semaine de Fonctionnement.
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On Further Assignment

Tourist trap but I don’t care. Stella Artois on umbrellas and English on menus are comforting when you’re far from home, battered by logistics and suffering humiliating defeats. The waitress running this high-rent cafe smiled through our mangled ordering and let us stew on the terrace in peace.

In celebration of our nation’s birth the American ambassador was hosting a backyard weenie roast somewhere in the surrounding blocks. I suppose that banal banter and sacrificial animal innards in the name of freedom isn’t much worse than our foiled dancing through the poisoned landscape of Chornobyl. No ethical dilemma, dietary or political, was faced. As quickly as I learned of this BBQ I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not allowed to attend.

Not that Our Man in Kyiv had issued a direct decree. A project manager with Bechtel, in-country to oversee work on the multimillion dollar effort to contain, conceal and dismantle the crumbling remains of Chornobyl, had. Using sketchy and possibly illegal information we had positioned ourselves near the official diplomatic residence to receive a post-soiree phone call. (more…)

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відволікатися особи були введені 29/08/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Bienvenue à la Semaine de Fonctionnement, Leçons Culturelles.
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Where Is The NGO?

Number 28 Khreschatyk sits recessed from the main drag, cresting steps from where you can watch proselytizing acolytes and aging sleaze drip hair gel on teenage girls. Innumerable entries open into foyers where suspicious citizens watch silently, ignorant to western rules of eye-contact.

These troubles failed to impress Alexa, who no doubt finds the doorway of Children of Chornobyl Relief and Development Fund as unique and distinguished as the people making a difference inside their one-room office. Distracted faces were introduced and I wondered which of these women had been victimized repeatedly by my increasingly frantic phone calls. No one had the energy to stand and slap me across the face. (more…)

не купую, що це лайно 26/08/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Bienvenue à la Semaine de Fonctionnement.
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Underground

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. (more…)

Україна ще не вмерла 07/06/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Leçons Culturelles.
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Coffee Time

Jets of foaming water danced to the pixie’s delight, charming a hapless pack of aging tourists who thought Janice and I could lead them to further enchantments. The monkey grinder plied his trade in gracious silence, the dragon slayer hesitated his delivery of death. Plastic bubbles drifted through the surface scum of their tank, failing to tempt any of the carefree teens eagerly anticipating their elevator ride underground. No horses roamed the carefully tended paths and no evidence betrayed any act of violence towards drunken imbeciles rich with brilliant ideas.

Atlantic City, our convivial breakfast companion given to preemptive fits of hiding ashtrays, insists Kyiv is European. On those rare occasions when my perpetually fractured internal clock aligned with the stars I entertained notions of a Parisian existence while propped against the counter of Cafe d’Albert. There was always at least one older gentleman in a slightly shabby suit beginning his day with a Pernod or Ricard.

The morning drinker at Cafe d’Albert soothes his shakes browsing Liberation or l’Humanité, orders a tartine beurrée, and steps away from the counter before gravity becomes adversarial. Khreschaty Park ends with a small counter bar turning a brisk trade at ten in the morning. Patrons had settled into a spread of tales with half-liters of draft, including a couple decorated members of the local law readying for their shifts. There was little talk and no newspapers. There was no food. (more…)

4 липня 2010 30/05/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Bienvenue à la Semaine de Fonctionnement.
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It’s beyond my journalistic caliber to land in a place like Kyiv, snap my fingers, and expect magic. Despite robust tourist statistics Ukraine lacks the most basic infrastructure for foreign travelers. Russian, not English, remains the second language. Official government websites are often outdated or have vanished. E-mail has yet to become culturally ingrained.

Foundations were slowly laid. My editor contacted two western photographers working in the country but neither were available for assignment. On one’s recommendation a local stringer named Ivan was approached and agreed to the job. While Wired was engaged in one dance I was waltzing with international organizations, having my name passed from scientist to minister, courting interviews. Everyone wanted me to call when I was in town.

Direct contact with Ivan was established days before leaving Paris for Poland. He attempted to coordinate affairs with a recommended fixer named Vlad with little success. It took until Tarnów before I was given Vlad’s e-mail. The plan was to journey into the exclusion zone on July 4th because I thought it would be funny and because Marina, Queen of Kyiv, had two tour groups making their own trip that day. Vlad also agreed to act as my representative by taking a list of phone numbers and arranging interviews so I could hit the ground running. (more…)

загиблих солдатів і вчених 26/05/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Bienvenue à la Semaine de Fonctionnement.
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Chornobyl Museum

Cracker… Cracker. Looking for Cracker, the closest approximation to whatever Cyrillic Janice had carefully researched and copied down. City planners in Kyiv never saw the need to litter corners with street signs, leaving you to wander in the shadow of luck. One or two buildings a block boast plaques with addresses and the name of whatever you’re standing on. This makes it marginally more navigable than Japan.

Emergency vehicles from bygone days were lined in a tidy row, polished to a shine. Vehicles that responded to Chornobyl absorbed such doses of radiation graveyards of trucks, helicopters and buses were left behind. In the 25 years since a thriving scrap metal trade has flourished, impoverished Ukrainians and Belorussians slipping through porous borders into the exclusion zone. Adi Roche, founder of Chernobyl Children International, speaks of dead village encounters with people stripping houses. The French photographer Guillaume Herbaut— who I would later court back in Paris– shot an essay on smugglers. But these were probably replicas. (more…)

політика з позиції сили 10/05/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Bienvenue à la Semaine de Fonctionnement.
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Street Kiosks

Steaming streets on the wrong side of Bul’v. Lesi Ukrainsky as we exited the Druzhby Narodiv station. The 12th century settlement of Pechers’k, formed around the famous labyrinthine cave monastery and long since absorbed into the capital, lies across the street. There people flock to administrative buildings, parks and monuments. Outside the metro Janice and I are surrounded by defeated street hawkers, doorway lurkers, hourly girlfriends and black-market racketeers.

We risked being lost to affect a navigational familiarity. Through Janice’s painstakingly transcribed Cyrillic alphabet cheatsheet Nimans’ka emerged, branching of the main drag. Turning a corner swept the warren of three million desperate souls from the sidewalk and revealed an empty street lined by trees sucking drizzle from the sky.

The brick and concrete apartment blocks failed to observe a traditional numeric order. Instinct or blind luck took us between units to stumble over broken asphalt, torn apart by neglect and nature’s return. Grime and graffiti streaked a metal door hanging from its hinges, beneath a broken window. If a basket was hanging from an upper floor you’d drop twenty bucks, watch it ascend, wait for the balloon to drop. I hammered on the buzzer and convinced the burst of Ukrainian static I spoke English. Come to the first floor.

It was not the first floor but they found us in the hallway. (more…)

не дуже цікаво 28/10/2010

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Bienvenue à la Semaine de Fonctionnement.
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Modern Retro

Traffic was a sea of idling cars, exhaust distorting the air as it poured from their shuddering frames. Someone had found an olive green tanker truck from the Soviet era, brushed off hay and stray chickens, then abandoned it in the intersection. Fresh-faced conscripts had vanished along with the mystery driver, offering no assistance or guidance to the growing number of fuming motorists suffering multi-block gridlock.

Row after row, three lanes thick, people sat silently behind their steering wheels, inured to snarled messes beyond the point of pounding horns. Parisians own French cars but in Kyiv it’s German, Japanese or American, and I suspect unless you’re working a cab owning a sedan is belonging to the upper-classes. Pedestrians sharing the sidewalk with Janice and me took no note of this spectacle, but I like to think they were quietly pleased by this turn of events.

Cops swarmed the plaza in front of the Taras Shevchenko National Opera House. Steeplechasers had unfurled the world’s largest Ukrainian flag to mask yesterday’s cheap plastic banners. Red cheeked boys hidden under their father’s hats scampered at the heels of grim soldiers while plainclothes agents tried to fade into suits, reflective sunglasses, and ear-buds. The streets here were empty of traffic other than military and police vehicles. No one stopped us from walking straight across the brickwork. (more…)