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в пошуках сильного сигналу 28/09/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures.
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Plotting the Next Step

Contempt had risen in the throat, thick and acrid as bile. Receptionists lurked behind their granite counter, murdering us with their eyes. Thick-necked security goons had grown tired of watching momentum drag our corpses through the front door. The reservation with Hotel Khreschatyk had expired and with it the thin veneer of civility which had been plastered across the face of each poorly-paid servant.

After pacifying the peptic catastrophe which had left the previous evening floating face down in the fountains of Maidan Nezalezhnosti I issued an international appeal. Plans had changed and we would have to secure one last night’s lodging or face vagrancy. The overseas number of our virtual budget travel agency confounded the hotel’s phone; a connection was finally established by using Skype to ring the American 800 helpline. Ghosts fought through the static of Soviet satellites while I screamed into my computer’s pathetic microphone, storming around the room offering my laptop to the gods for a stronger signal. I lost the internet twice before being able to explain circumstances, only to be told I would have to negotiate an extension of our discounted rate directly with the hotel. The line went dead one last time and even today there are a women in some midwestern call-center convinced I’ve disappeared into the wilds of Eastern Europe.

Interchangeable blonde receptionist suggested that I could stay one last night if I paid full price. In cash. Now. (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…)

втоми і недоїдання 19/05/2011

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures.
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Maydan Nezalezhnosti

Hotel Khreschatyk had become inundated with weekend revelers. Sleazy businessmen sat sweating in suits around drinks next to Russian couples dripping jewelry from their track suits and Bebe slut-chic dresses. Cackling from the corner betrayed a pack of randy Australian girls getting loaded, urging one another along into a state of oblivion capable of quelling anxieties about what the local nightlife held in store.

Cheese and bread occupied our half-sized fridge while we sat through a course of beer and vodka. Fatigue and malnutrition had devised and signed their rendition of the Warsaw Pact, aligning themselves against our collective sanity and urging us to flee the bunker. We’d not seen a cooked dinner since Tarnów, and although Janice had been taking advantage of each morning’s humiliation at the buffet my meals had become reduced to granola and coffee.

Two days prior, staggering through the streets in search of grocery, we had passed what Janice calls a potato house. Common throughout Eastern Europe these fortifications of frugal feasting boasted a menu heavy on starches and boiled vegetables. Through collective memory and a divining rod our steps were retraced, leading us to the restaurant’s welcoming minstrel poster featuring a fat-lipped black woman smoking a cigar and holding a cat. As Ukraine has no legacy of slavery and segregation I assume this sign mirrors Japanese pop-culture’s affection for misunderstanding Americana.

Except the Japanese hate black people. And I’m sure Ukrainians aren’t far behind. (more…)

Привіт Марія? 20/10/2010

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures.
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The Lobby

Afternoon crawls through the crumbling hallway provoked an unparalleled timidity in us. The cart hugged a stained wall through the hours while our cleaning lady deloused sheets in neighboring rooms. You could tiptoe past, but find eyes raised. The most careful hanging of the ‘do not disturb’ sign caused an awful din. There was no escaping, there was only inventing reasons to abandon our post for an hour so that she could smear the glasses and not replace the mustard-stained box we used as a plate.

Dangling from the edge of a cart cluttered with towels, toilet paper, spray bottles and sheets hung a wastebasket. She was tapping the edge. When I returned to empty our trash she shook her head, flashed a gleaming row of gold teeth, and pointed to our door. Hey, Janice— we gotta go. (more…)

Салат з куркою 14/10/2010

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Breakfast

Dinner was prepared by cutting slices of cheese on the sewing kit box in our room. There was vodka and there were half-liters of strong Ukrainian beer, but by morning malnourishment sent us scuttling for a late breakfast with eagerness battling dread. What horrors lurked in the sushi-restaurant down a flight of stairs from the poker club doors?

Russian music videos played on a muted flatscreen while legions of uniformed waitresses circled the few remaining tables. There were no steaming bowls of miso or rancid vats of nato amongst the buffet tables. Sweetbreads clustered near the cutlery and meats crowded a sad collection of vegetables. Salad with a chicken? Oatmeal congealed next to a bubbling bin of hotdogs bordered by blintzes. I elbowed staff away from her cabbage tossing.

Janice and I are both vegetarians which made the concept of free breakfast a culinary crapshoot. Thankfully this culture has been so deprived there’s no expectation of bacon and sausage, accompanied only by sprigs of parsley destined for the plate’s edge. My granola pined after plain yogurt instead of the saccharine strawberry slop provided, but it would do. Sugary juices and tea, however, would not. (more…)

Готель Хрещатик 24/09/2010

Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Leçons Culturelles.
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Lost in Thought

Fashion TV cast a sickly blue hue over us as we nursed half-liters of Ukrainian beer recommended by the bartender. He was a nice guy who spoke English, patiently answered all manner of questions, and took no notice of our trashed clothing.

Alienation came from more than freshly pressed uniforms and golden nameplates. It seeped through the wall of tinted glass which protected us from the harsh sunlight. It echoed through the underpopulated marble-floored lobby. It fell from competing lighting schemes and overzealous chandeliers. It was left unsaid by the neckless men stretching out suits as they slowly paced around in circles waiting for a problem they could seriously maim.

We had caught luxury by chasing thrift. Janice roamed budget travel sites and Hotel Khreschatyk satisfied our needs. All I wanted was a place that offered wi-fi and good odds that there would be no waking up in a bathtub full of ice missing a kidney. These standards proved fairly expensive despite Ukraine’s prominence on international poverty indexes. (more…)