I learned another lesson about Ukraine this Thanksgiving holiday after spending my entire Thanksgiving Day and night on one of those lovely Ukrainian buses we all dread to have to take. I was on my way to Kirovograd to visit my good friend Jenny after changing my Thanksgiving plans so many times, nobody knew where I was going to show up.
See, first I was going to go to a very small village outside of Odessa where my friend Eileen was having a ton of volunteers over to celebrate. But after going to the train stations and finding that trains from Chernivsti only leave every OTHER day and trains coming back from Odessa only leave every ODD day, and the one I needed was all sold out, I realized I could only get home three days after I was supposed to, or I had to go all the way to Kyiv first. For those of you who don't look at a map of Ukraine hanging on your wall every day, that meant 3 overnight trains in 4 days. Not a fun prospect. But all of you that (attempt to) buy train tickets in Ukraine know, it's not exactly something that's fun or easy (even for those fluent in Russian and Ukrainian)! So I just took what I could get. Because of course at this point everyone in line was getting mad at me and the ticket lady was getting frustrated, but as soon as I walked away I thought, "What the hell am I doing?" The way the trip worked out (and the fact that Eileen lives 2 hours away from the nearest train station) meant that not only did I have to take three overnight trains, only get one day in Eileen's village, I would have most likely have missed Thanksgiving dinner all together!
I ended up exchanging the tickets the next day. All that hassle only cost me 40 grevs. :)
So after thinking I might end up in Lviv, and part of me just wanting to spend the weekend by
myself in my freezing apartment wearing everything I own and feeling sorry for myself, I decide to go to Kirovograd because I haven't seen Jenny in a few months now. And last time I made this trip, I SWEAR it was only a nine hour bus ride. Buying a bus ticket in Ukraine is about a million times easier than buying a train ticket is. There aren't OPTIONS like there are when you want to travel by train. At the train station, they asked you what class you want to travel in, if you if want an upper or low bunk (I like lower in platscart and upper in kupe....try getting THAT across when they're sold out of the first class you asked for. It seems like it should be much easier, I know...), they don't even need your passport. So after I very easily obtained a much more expensive bus ticket than I remembered I asked when the bus arrives in Kirovgrad. "6 in the morning." "6? But it leaves at 2 in the afternoon! What the...?"
Well, okay. So it's not 9 hours. But I already bought it and everyone was peer pressuring me that if I spent the weekend huddled alone around my PC space heater I'd regret it. So I go. First, of course, it was the worst bus ride I've ever been on in Ukraine (and that's saying something!) I was right near the front and not only did they blast the old Russian sitcoms all afternoon and evening right above my head, but it was freezing all day because they kept opening the doors and then stiflingly hot all night when the driver finally turned the heat on.
Plus I had the sweetest woman in Ukraine sitting in front of me who kept turning around and glaring at me (I have no idea why!) and who was lucky enough to have the one seat on the bus that reclined to be almost completely flat (meaning...in my lap). And Ukraine must have known it was a holiday somewhere because all of the food stands at the bus stations we stopped at were closed. So I spent my Thanksgiving, needless to say, hungry and more than just a tad grumpy.
But I knew it would pay off! So after sleeping a measly 3 hours, I wake up at 5:30 to be ready to get off in Kirovograd at 6. And we pull into a station at ten to 6, but...it's not Kirovograde. So I call Jenny and together we think,
this MUST be the station right before Kirovograd. The bus must be just gotten delayed along the way. After another hour and a half, however, Jenny calls me back, wondering where the hell I am, and suddenly I see it. A sign that signs Dnipropetrovsk: 18 Kilometers.
That's right friends. I just went across the country. Instead of getting into to Kirovograd at 6, my bus must have gotten in sometime in those few precious hours I was sleeping, probably at 3 or 4 in the morning. After getting out and buying my bus ticket back to Alexandria, where we were having Thanksgiving in a village outside the city, I went about 8 hours out of my way. Now, being a Ukrainian language learner, I've always been nervous about going to the East, where I've heard horrible things about what people do to you when you don't speak Russian. But I just boldly went to the ticket counter, said, in Ukrainian, "I'm sorry I don't speak Russian, but....yada yada yada." and even though most everyone answered me in Russian while I was there, I only got a few cold stares, and even convinced one young man to speak Ukrainian to me! I took a few pictures of the smoke stacks to tease Mike about later and got on another 3 hour bus, going this time I made sure, to the right place at the right time.
Okay right. So my Thanksgiving lesson. First I learned to ALWAYS ask at least 3 people what time you will be getting to your destination
(and one of them should be the driver!). Second, I learned, oh wait....reconfirmed that I hate Ukrainian transportation. And third, it's still worth to go see good friends and meet new people, because even after all of that, I had a wonderful weekend, and Thanksgiving celebration and now....one more story to add experiences here in great Ukrainia. :)