MY APRIL 1ST FACEBOOK POST
For those who missed it:
On this special day, the anniversary of my travels and the start of a new year I would like to take the time to remember:
All of the very kind folks who helped me out on my journey - giving me a place to sleep, food and alcohol.
All of the great folks I have met along the way.
That this was originally New Years before Christianity.
It is interesting that I feel just as excited about traveling now as when I started. I've gotten a little wiser (and fatter) in my travels. I would say even wise enough to find whole new ways of really screwing the pooch.
So to all of the people I've had the honor (or honour if you are English) of coming across - thank you. It's been a hell of a ride so far and I'm looking forward to more to come.
Charwoman/hotel cleaning woman - 800 MYR/month. Not sure what other benefits (food, lodging) may or may not be incurred. No, I have no idea why people like to tell me how much money they make when I don't ask, but I thought I'd pass it on. Note that the size of the establishment does not seem to matter - the lady I was chatting with was paid the same working at a very large hotel as the small hotel she now works at. She switched places just because the small one is easier to clean.
Having what I choose to call an 'interesting night'.
Got to Kiev. All this is happening when I am out of my mind with lack of decent sleep and my body is doing the red flashing light and warning siren thing.
Didn't think ahead about the weather and such so I got here dressed for a country that the rain steams when it hits the ground. It's not 'cold' here but it is considerably cooler.
A taxi driver tried a bit of meter robbery for 250 but I yelled at him and it dropped to 150. It should have been 100 but close enough.
The hostel I got dropped at didn't have any beds available. OK. Went to the next with their directions. They gave me the wrong address.
Fortunately, the proprietor found out and came out to find me. Almost tripped on the stairs going up due to my horrible Malaysian this is the only size that will fit you round eye shoes but managed to catch myself.
They had no lower bunks left. Only upper. Due to being extremely cripply, upper bunks are extremely hard on me. Managed to talk him down in the price (which is high) for the private room. Decided to celebrate getting a place to sleep by going around the corner to a small market to buy some water and maybe a little alcohol. Decided on a beer.
When I was coming back, a guy who decided he didn't like his shoes and wouldn't wear them any more (either drunk or insane, both wander the streets) wanted my water. I'm not sharing water with him so I pretended not to understand. Being multi-lingual is a big help when begging. He asked for a cigarette. I gave him one.
When I was headed upstairs, my stupid shoes caught the stairs followed by my nose. Lots of blood but it isn't broken. I'll probably get yelled at for leaving the blood on the stairs. My key doesn't work on the door. Some lady staying here fortunately opened it for me. After a shower, decided to have small victory beer. Now wearing victory beer, room smells like beer which exploded - probably from earlier fall. Also have beer on the only pair of pants I own. Fuck it. Didn't finish opening beer, just put it in the garbage can.
Mopped up beer with the tiny towel I got with the room. Put down some of my water then mopped with towel some more. Will probably get talked to for room smelling like beer. Moving beyond caring. Need to unwind so I can sleep.
No victory beer - having non-victory water.
The next day, I made quite an epic mistake and ended up booking a hotel right in the middle of nowhere. Nothing around but 'dutchas' (cottages in Russian - it actually is pretty much what people in the USA think of as a 'typical suburban home') for a couple kilometers. Nearly did my feet in going on an extended hike and looking for a working ATM.
A note on the ATM's within Ukraine. Holy shit are they bad. They give out 2000 UAH at one time. Currently, that's only $78 USD. Sometimes they will only take one transaction per day. Seriously, WTF. I realize that the hryvnia has wildly devalued since the Russians took part of their country but wow - $78 maximum. And it isn't like the local banks can get you money through their cashier for a transaction fee. They just don't do that here. Possibly because nobody else wants them to. Part of the cost of doing business when you are the 'wild east' as one friend puts it.
That refers to the heavy corruption they have here. The government actually admits it is a problem. Rather than fighting it in a logical fashion, they just put up posters asking people not to bribe officers. Since getting out of an expensive ticket with a cheap bribe is always preferable, and customary - and since the cops still aren't paid shit - I'm not sure if 'poster power' is really going to do anything for them.
My (admittedly crappy, non-international) bank won't even let me access their website to check on my balance from here. I'll have to ask if that is intentional on their part.
Unfortunately, the floor plan is a bit too open in the place I'm staying. It is a lovely wooden house with balconies on the rooms. I think it would be a good place to just take over with a larger group of friends - but it is pretty remote. Apparently, people come here to be near the river...for some reason. But the food is good. Actual 'home cooking' that isn't just a marketing gimmick. Plenty to eat for 100 UAH. Darned good meal and cheap.
WOULD YOU BRING A STRANGER HOME?
Well, I had wanted to visit my friends in Ukraine. I'd say everything just didn't seem to be working.
They couldn't find a place for me to stay. OK- they didn't have a lot of time and quickly finding good deals on temporary rental property is a skill set that not a lot of folks have.
They found me a hostel which I thought was booked but then the hostel called me and, oh, they just remembered the hostel was closed due to renovations. Well, here is the name and number of a different - slightly more expensive hostel. Which said "No English" and promptly hung up on me.
I don't expect everyone in the world to speak English (though it would be nice if they did) but someone who works at a hostel? Who stays there? Just locals? It's not like Ukraine is really excited about hosting a lot of Russians at the moment. With the recent invasion and all.
So we found another place. An apartment. My buddy even talked to the guy. I had a train ticket in my pocket. But then my buddy (Sergey for those keeping track) calls me up and tells me the guy doesn't feel right. "Creepy" is the word used. And he's wanting me not to get murdered by this guy.
After a bit of thought I said "It feels like we're forcing it. Maybe I should just go to Lviv." Sergey agrees.
I really don't like lying down on trains. It's not very comfortable and I seem to get more sleep sitting up and being shaken a bit. Probably due to all of the buses I've had to take in the last few years. I discover there is a train with seats I can use leaving in just an hour and a half. Plenty of seats. I buy one. First class on a fast train. It's only a few hours to get there.
Turns out my seat is next to a nice lady who can speak English! Hey, that's great. We chat. She's interested in learning more English.
Eventually, I tell her my plan is to go to Lviv and rent an apartment for a month or two. Maybe she knows someone, I think - or can give me some ideas. No. She has an apartment I can rent. Due to a bit of the language barrier, I'm really not getting it but we put it off by agreeing to just have me come take a look at the place. And, she tells me, I can stay for free for a couple nights to test it out.
The price is right at $200 per month - everything (utilities, etc, etc) included.
Yeah. Assuming I can find food nearby and Lviv the famed walking town doesn't totally suck ass I'm in.
So I am here now. It seems that I will be living in the same house as her mid-twenties son. Big surprise for him.
He has a room downstairs. The only room we'd be sharing is the kitchen.
To get into town, I'd need to take a bus that costs 4 UAH - in USD that is too little to care about.
Tomorrow - exploration and settling in time.