Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Herding Goats and Living in Yurts


O.K., so maybe I wasn't really living a nomadic life, but I was moving around a lot, with no fixed address, and living out of my backpack.  There were also a lot of goats wandering around . . . although the only person I ever saw tending them was a drunk old man drinking samahon at 10:00 in the morning.

My first stop on this leg of my journey was the Peace Corps office in Kyiv.  My train, the one that took 10 hours to go 450 km (which is about 260 miles, or the distance between New York City and Washington, DC, which the Bolt Bus does in 4 hours), also got in at 5:30 am.  About the only thing I found that managed to keep me awake until the rest of the world woke up was to go running.  It was pretty amazing, actually, running through the completely deserted streets of the city, down the main drag, Khreshatyk, with almost no one awake and very few cars on the road.  It always calmed me down and focused me, and by the time I got back other volunteers on other overnight trains had arrived and life was beginning to return to the office.  I'd take a quick shower (they had showers installed specifically for the purpose of volunteers using them after getting in on overnight trains), and then run over to MacDonalds as soon as it opened at 8:00 to grab a morning Big Mac (the Ukrainians are not so keen on breakfast food, so even MacDonalds doesn't have a breakfast menu).
Khreshatyk in the winter
So, this July morning that I arrived at the office, I went for run, had a hamburger, and then headed to Oleg's office to figure out the rest of my life.  He basically told me to hang tight and wait until they got some more information to see whether it was really in my best interest to pull me from my site.  Meanwhile, I e-mailed a few friends to see if I could stay with them for a while, rather than lurk about in Kyiv making my situation more obvious.  Luckily, my closest volunteer (the friend who hosted my birthday party) offered to let me stay with her, although she wasn't there at the moment, and was leaving within a week.  She was headed to Kyiv in a couple of days for a meeting and then we could head back down together.

Excellent.  Small piece of the plan in place.  Next, Oleg realized that the Country Director would be in my region visiting volunteers around Final Moving Date.  Somehow he finagled a ride to my apartment in the official Peace Corps vehicle, with the Country Director, to make sure I could get in.  This part of the plan, which made me more nervous than hanging out at a friend's place for two weeks, also involved a contingency plan for my apartment not being empty -- we would load all of my stuff into the White Chariot and I would be gone from my site for good.

So then I spent a couple of weeks in Kamianets-Podilsky in my friend's apartment.  She was there for the first week, and then I hung out by myself the second.  On August 21st, 2003, I went to another nearby city, Chernivsti, for dinner with the Country Director and some other volunteers and spent the night with another friend in her village.  The next morning, the White Chariot swung by and we began our trip back to Khotyn to my hopefully vacated apartment.


  The Country Director took this picture outside my building because he thought it was funny that I called our ride the White Chariot

In a fully functioning vehicle, the trip took about half the time it normally did.  When we got to the building, I was pretty nervous, and all three of us trooped up the stairs to apartment 8.  When I opened the door it was empty!  It was all mine!  We all looked around a bit, and even the Country Director was impressed with how nice it was.  He snapped this picture of me in my kitchen because he thought the sunflowers were nice and cheery, and worth the wait:

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