Category Archives: Ukraine

Polaroid Postcards from Kyiv (4)

Dear ___ ,

Have I told you that this journey is different? I have decided to skip all the touristy spots in Kyiv, and left my camera at the hostel. The idea was just to enjoy Kyiv from a perspective of a local—and to spend more time connecting with people: just hanging around, laughing, talking, eating out. It was fun. It was a great fun.

From Couchsurfing, I met Kyryl and his lovely girlfriend Ieugenia.

They were such a cute couple! I had so much fun taking pictures of them both, because they were so kind and fun and affectionate and down-to-earth. They made jokes out of each other, yet you could clearly see the sparks of love in their eyes as they looked at each other (I was thinking of us when I saw them).

Together with my wonderful interpreter at TechCamp, Inna (right) and her friend Anna (left),

the five of us went for a stroll around Kyiv one lovely afternoon, practicing some Russian phrases along the way; and ended up in a small Sovyet-style diner with loads of magazines and books from the Sovyet era,

attacking a plate of Vereniki (a kind of dumpling that can be filled with mushroom, beef, chicken, etc., served with sour cream)

and drinking Kyiv’s local liqeur Hrenovuha—that was made of horseradish (smelled and tasted like one, too, with the after-effect resembling eating too much wasabi).

It was raining that evening, as we got out from the diner. Inna and Anna went back home, and I went with Kyryl and Ieugenia to Ieugenia’s apartment. “It’s a typical Sovyet apartment,” said Ieugenia. “All the apartments look the same, with the same furnitures, cupboards, stoves…”

We talked all night long on Ieugenia’s kitchen table, sipping cognac and eating melon; while listening to the government’s radio playing on the background. The cold wind was blowing from the open window and it was drizzling outside. It was such a wonderful time.

Earlier that week, at the hostel, I also met Francois—a Canadian who lives in London at the moment,

and Fransisco, a Brazilian who gets fascinated by my name and kept on teasing me when we bumped into each other (Hey, Hanny *wink* Can I call you Hanny? *wink*  Hello, Hanny *wink*) and we laughed out loud every time. “Sorry, I can’t help myself. I know, lame jokes, but I just love it!” he said.

With the boys and some other Ukrainian friends, we went for a bar-hopping experience in Kyiv one night, and ended up eating chicken soup at a restaurant and spent the rest of the night conversing as we walked back home.

On my last day in Kyiv, I met Natalya Kovalienko as I walked around the artsy stretch of Andriyivzkyy  in the morning. Natalya sells arts & crafts in a street stall. She is an artist; a painter—and she painted all of the souvenirs she offers: matryoshka dolls, fridge magnets, hair combs, mirrors, jewelry boxes…

In one of my letters, I told you how I was scared and nervous and anxious when I first traveling alone, because I was such an introverted shy girl, and I doubted myself a lot. I told you that often times, I wasn’t sure that I could, that I would make it. “But soon, I started to enjoy the feeling of being on my own: of making connections, of trusting people I have just met, of initiating a conversation with a total stranger,” I said.

And this was exactly how I met you. This was how you ended up in my letters and I ended up in yours. I am glad for now I can say that when it comes to us, I have no regret. No matter what awaits us in the future, we know that together, we’re awesome, and we’re great! See you in a couple of weeks!

xoxo,
H.

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Polaroid Postcards from Kyiv (3)

Dear ___ ,

There was the night when I went to the Opera House (opirnih thiatr), then found myself stranded in an al-fresco restaurant with a bunch of (old and new) friends—and there was another night when I went to the Irish Pub with them and some other fellows from Kyiv and Belarus. They kind of mixed up, those nights, in my memories. I couldn’t really tell which was which. I lost my sense of time when I was traveling.

But  I had a wonderful time the night after the Irish Pub; after a few days and several conversations and long walks and taxi rides and another round of conversations and a few drinks and another round of conversations and a movie… a moment that (no matter how indirect it might be) led me to us. A few weeks later, I told my friend that expectations and imaginations could become our worst enemies. We blew things out of proportion, we didn’t see things as it was; we made things up in our mind about how things should end up and we ended up getting hurt. If life is measured by moments, what’s yours: a collection of moments you’ve missed or a collection of moments you’ve embraced?

I went for coffee with Sam that morning, she was about to fly back to London while I would still be in Kyiv for another 4 days. We had a quick stroll at Marinskiy Park—where people sat lazily and read books and kissed and bought ice creams. When Sam left, I became a solo traveler once again and took my luggage to my hostel in Andriyivsky, Uzviz; located only five steps away from the turned-out-to-be-famous Lviv Chocolate (handmade chocolate shop).

Soon, I felt at home. And I fell in love with the stretch—lines of colorful street stalls where people sell arts and crafts, the way the street performers play their guitars and dombra, the music, the chatter, the downhill and uphill gravel path, those ever-smiling grandmas with whom I practiced my Russian with… I was so happy I found my eyes got teary after a while. The vibe was just amazingly lovely.

I spent most of my mornings just to walk leisurely (sometimes with my camera but more often not), and chatted for a while with some of the street-sellers and performers: a casual Dobre Dien and Dasvidanya and Spasiba, and more phrases would come out when they encouraged me… and I ended up getting some new phrases along the way. It was a great way to spend the day before I retreated at a small cafe for lunch and then locked myself in my room to write (I had a great view from the window!).

Oh, and speaking about writing, you would be surprised knowing that I had written about you even before we met.

xoxo,
H.

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Polaroid Postcards from Kyiv (2)

Dear ___ ,

I went for a stroll around Kyiv that afternoon. The weather was nice; it was almost dusk. I started to fall in love with the city: the wide and clean pavements, the lovely parks, the abundance of taxis, the people…

And as I was about to reach the Independence Square, this Floral Clock caught me off guard. I was thinking about time, and whether we had ever discussed it. (A few weeks after, you will find yourself asking me what do I think about love, and I will answer to that by saying: “I-love-yous? They are moments.”)

The sun was about to set when I snapped some pictures of the Independence Square, or Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Майдан Незалежності) in Khrestshchatyk Street. The sky was so beautiful with a tint of pink and orange and purple. I stood there for a while, gazing at the Berehynia (Береги́ня) statue—the female spirit in Slavic mythology; the protector of the home, that was beautified by the fountain underneath.

As night fell, I sent a little prayer for you—for us, to those times that we would be spending together; to the chance of meeting you and to know your name and to write these letters for you. We were looking at three weeks from now, more or less. If only I knew, I would have brought you something from here.

xoxo,
H.

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Polaroid Postcards from Kyiv (1)

Dear ___ ,

I survived my 6-hour stopover in Munich! It involved loads of writing on my black notebook, reading Nick Miller’s Isn’t It Pretty to Think So? for the second time, and of course: a few cups of coffee. It was bearable. As usual, I spent a fair amount of time watching people and making up stories about them in my head. I scribbled and looked up, scribbled and looked up… and I tried to sleep but I couldn’t.

Anyway, as a stopover-survivor, I reached Kyiv in the afternoon. The weather was good. It was actually the beginning of autumn, and they called it Indian summer: that time of the year when the leaves were about to turn yellow, the sun was warm and the breeze was cool, light rain fell occasionally, the temperature was about 20-25°C

I was overly excited!

Kyiv would be the beginning of my one-month traveling journey, and it started with TechCamp Kyiv—where I’d be meeting activists and youth leaders from Ukraine and Belarus, sharing stories and experiences about crowdfunding and fundraising for a cause.

And of course, it was always a pleasure to reunite with some familiar faces and friends, with Sam in particular.

Being the sweet thing that she is, she gave me a gift from her favorite shop in Notting Hill: a jewelry box and a scented candle with the writings: Live Well. Love Much. Laugh Often. Dream Always. And I was wondering whether the universe was actually trying to speak to me.

Anyway, James came over just now and peeped into this and asked me to write “James rocks“. So, I did. You’ll meet James later on, in about two weeks I guess, according to the calendar (if everything goes as planned). I couldn’t write more with James pestering me, so… until then!

xoxo,
H.

PS:  What’s so neat about all this is the fact that in the beginning of this journey, I didn’t even know that I would meet you, thus I didn’t know your name, yet. We’re still so faraway from meeting each other. Are we actually time-traveling?

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