It is the second time I am in Kiev this month. Odd, I know. I never thought that I would ever come to the Ukraine, but Dennis has been working a lot here on a project, so I came to visit him. The city is very interesting, especially for those who speak English and are used to being understood in most countries they travel to. Besides the hotel employees and maybe a VERY few others, no one could understand us and we couldn’t understand them. The only word I know in Ukrainian is спасибі (thank you). Anyway, the story about our lack of Ukrainian skills will come later.
We were lucky enough to be here during their 20 years Independence commemoration. There were many events happening in the main street, Khreschatyk, during the whole day. There were graffiti competitions, traditional dance performances (and some African too), orchestras, children games, concerts, and a lot more. It was a super fun to see how they enjoy this day. Compared to the other countries I have been, Ukrainians had their independence very recently, only 20 years ago. Most of the people who were there lived years under other governments. Many of the older people in fact, went through a lot in their lives. I know very little of Ukrainian history, but I know that the early 1900s were not an easy period for them. With wars with Poland, then Russia, WWII, then the Soviet Russia, Chernobyl…the peaceful independence commemorations seemed to me more than deserved. The people seemed genuinely happy and I was happy to share this day with them. At night, Dennis and I decided to stop at this restaurant to eat and drink something. Everyone there were Ukrainians, so we decided it would be very local. We ordered food that we had no idea what they would taste like, in a language that we can barely say 1,2,3…but we were enjoying the adventure. After we ate, this very tall guy in his 30s approached us and asked something (in Ukrainian, of course), we looked lost and made it very clear we couldn’t understand him and tried to be as friendly as we could. Well, 2 minutes later he came by and sat with us and just started talking. He ordered us beers even though we said we had to go, but he didn’t understand a word we said. Somehow, after almost an hour of talking, we exchanged some things about our lives (don’t ask me how). He fought in some internal wars, his grandfather is 102 years old, he loves Vodka, and he is from a small city around Kiev… I’m sure he told us his whole life because for some reason he couldn’t believe I didn’t understand Russian or Ukrainian, after all, my name is Paulina. After this, Dennis and I decided we will create another name for me while I’m in Easter Europe, this way people don’t think I’m lying and start talking to me like I’m a local. I don’t look at all like I’m Ukrainian or Russian…they get really confused, I can see in their faces. It was very fun though, he was super nice and we thought it was funny trying to make him understand that we could NOT understand him. But he just kept talking to us.
Walking to the hotel we were surprised by fireworks! It was so pretty and that brought a perfect end to a very nice Ukrainian Independence day! I’m happy I still have one more weekend here; we will see what other adventures I will have. I think the best of traveling is actually going to places you thought you never would. It makes it so much more fun to not have any idea of how things might be. Maybe next time I plan a trip, I will randomly pick a country in the map.