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Author Topic: Ukraine Odyssey One  (Read 9384 times)

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Offline leslied

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Re: Ukraine Odyssey One
« Reply #15 on: September 02, 2012, 10:36:29 AM »
PART 15 – LEAVING KHERSON AND ARRIVING IN YALTA

Today is a major transition.  I must pack and leave Kherson to go to Yalta.  The dating phase of my trip will end and I will continue my journey with Alia.  I am apprehensive about the future.  I am very attracted to Alia, but will we work out as a couple?  She is very strong willed, maybe stronger than me.  She is very emotional and a lot is happening in her life now.  She is absolutely not for sale and I cannot coerce her.  She will make the decision to come with me and if she will walk out.  (All you PC critics take note of this!  I am not in control now.  Alia is.  To describe her as “subservient” is laughable).  Anya is making the arrangements for our trip.  She is very good at this, has done it many times before.  In mid afternoon I have a final first date.  I feel like canceling it but the lady is traveling in.  That would not be fair.  The dice tumble in mysterious ways.  The gods play one last trick on me.  I meet Alexandra with Anya in a café near Lenina park.  She is 31, 170 cm tall, very slender with a good figure.  She has long chestnut hair and this date is important to her.  She turns up looking beautiful.  She is a school teacher who speaks a little English and has a seven year old daughter.  We talk.  She is a kind, affectionate and caring person.  She is totally honest and has realistic expectations about marriage to an American.  Logically she is almost my perfect match.  If I had met this lady during my first week in Kherson it is possible that I would be going to Yalta with her, not Alia.  All my planning and organization came to nothing when compared to “the roll of the dice”  I went through date after date, butting my head against the wall until I met Alia.  After I met Alia and I lost interest in dating, I met a nice lady yesterday and now Alex today.  She is very attracted to me and summons her courage to for a second date.  I level with her, tell her that I am attracted to her and in other circumstances would agree in a heart beat but I am already matched and going to Yalta with my lady this evening.  Alex is clearly upset.  She and Anya talk together for some minutes.  Anya then tells me the results of this discussion.  Alex understands the situation.  She will be my “reserve lady”  If things do not work out can she see me when I get back from Yalta?  I am completely gob smacked by this.  There is no way I could swallow my pride in the way Alex just has.  I stare at Anya in disbelief.  Anya agrees for me and we leave.  As things turn out I don’t see this lady again, though she makes repeated attempts to contact me through Anya.  Without premeditation I end up acting like an American jerk….

Anya wants to change our travel plans.  It will be much more comfortable for us to travel to Yalta on this evenings coach.  I agree to this but Anya cannot contact Alia and believe me she tries.  By 11pm that night still no word from Alia.  I am worried that she has changed her mind.  Anya is just plain angry with Alia.  At 11.30 Alia calls.  She will meet us at the train station at 4.30am.  Everything is fine.  (It is not until after the end of my trip back in NYC,  that I find out that Alia had chosen today to close down her grocery store. This is why we could not contact her!)  We meet at the train station,  me with a big suitcase, Anya with fancy luggage and Alia with a beat up Adidas backpack.  To Anya’s disgust we cannot get a whole compartment. We have to share with a babushka.  Alia plays mum.  Organizes sheets, makes up all the beds and I quickly fall asleep in one of the top bunks. I have not slept that night.  I am woken by Alia as we approach Simferepol.  At the station we find a cab.  Too easily.  I know Anya well now.  She has been busy on her mobile.  I accept this, Anya is my fixer, she collects “barysh” on everything she arranges for me.  Alia is not aware of this.  We drive to Yalta in a comfortable GM sedan.  The Crimea countryside is spectacular after the flat plain of Kherson.  Anya is busy on her mobile. She has arranged a perfect apartment for us.  Just 100m from the seafront.  We arrive at the address and within five minutes a new Russian guy has turned up.  We go into this luxury four room apartment, separate heating and water system. New kitchen and bathroom.  It is in an old apartment building about 5 minutes walk from the McDonald’s on the sea front. I am bringing the cases in when an argument erupts between the New Russian landlord and Alia.  He wants $100 dollars a night.  Alia is arguing.  Anya expects me to pay.  Alia won’t let me!  She is cursing him now and starts to drag our cases back outside.  I intervene and try to do a deal.  The landlord speaks some English.  I agree to pay $400 for six nights.  Alia is furious.  I am stupid! (She looking me straight in the eyes and tapping her forehead).  Anya won’t be getting her “barysh” now.  I pay the guy, this apartment is a great base for our holiday.

Later that afternoon we walk down the promenade.  Yalta is an affluent resort.  The streets are bustling, it’s a new Russian playground.  There are lots of Europeans here too,  I hear lots of German voices.  The promenade is a chain of expensive restaurants, nightclubs and fancy stores selling European fashions.  There are also fun fare rides,  Fancy dress photo stalls and lively street musicians.  The contrast with poor run down Kherson is very stark.  It is expensive here.  European prices.  In the early evening we return to the apartment to change for dinner.  Alia has few clothes and she obviously hand washed these last night, as they are hanging to dry in her room.  She is busily ironing them.  I wear a suit for the first time on this trip.  Anya is dressed in her fanciest clothes which I have not seen before.  She looks every inch a new Russian lady.  Alia comes out in a pair of tight beige pants and a top.  She has put on weight since she last wore those pants.  She gives Anya an embarrassed look.  I tease “Klassnaya Poopka!”  I dodge and a hairbrush ricochets off the wall.   I just made a classic male “Faux Pas”  Alia changes into a short skirt.  She can’t understand enough English for her to appreciate my apology.  I do my best with affection and body language.  There are some situations where you can’t use an interpreter…

Anya takes us to a fancy restaurant on the promenade.  The food is not that good and the bill is 800 hrivna.  Manhattan prices!  We end the evening walking the promenade.  We watch a street act performed by a Strong man and his muscular lady assistant.  They Walk on broken glass.  Play tricks with very sharp swords.  The lady balances bare foot on a sword sharp enough to shave with.  I checked!  Alia is squeamish but impressed.  She is having a great time.  She is an open book emotionally.  Her joy is infectious.  We take the clunky old bucket lift to the top of the town and walk back home.  One phase of my trip has ended.  Another begun.


Offline leslied

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Re: Ukraine Odyssey One
« Reply #16 on: September 05, 2012, 05:42:23 AM »
PART 16 – STOLEN KEYS TO ROLLER COASTERS

Alia and I are up early this morning.  Anya is sleeping, she never gets up before 10.00am.  Alia wants to go swimming.  We put a few things in a plastic bag and go to the beach.  We find a public section of the beach (most is private you must pay for sun beds).  It is crowded and very pebbly.  We find a place to spread our towels and go swimming.  The beach drops off rapidly a few metres out and the water is deep.  It is also clean and warm.  We swim, dive and generally lark about for half an hour.  The beach is too pebbly to lie on for long so we go out for another long swim.  We get back to find our stuff has been gone through. The only thing of any importance which is missing is the spare set of apartment keys.  We return to the apartment.  Anya is up and we tell her what has happened.  Anya uses her mobile phone. We change.  Anya comes in and says she has been talking to the landlord. I must pay around $200 for all new locks(5!) for the apartment.  There is dark motivation here.  I simply say no.  Anya says I must pay this.  I say NO.  Anya increases the pressure in her typical Ukrainian way, this is already agreed.  I get Yankee, you agreed – you pay!  You will have gathered by now that Anya and I do not get on personally.  We have been forced into an unnaturally close relationship during this trip.  Now the bubble bursts.  There is a row.  The keys are just a detonator, the true issue is a personality clash and her control over me.  I go cold (I always do when I get very angry) and tell Anya that there will be no more discussion.  If the landlord wants money he must come here and ask for it himself - face to face.  Anya calls me a brutal monster, bursts into tears and storms out of the apartment.  Alia does not understand what the fuss is about - Keys?  She thinks I am acting like a jerk and have just been terrible to Anya who has told her before leaving that she is going to the pharmacy for blood pressure medicine!  We make lunch and eat it.  Anya returns.  She will not let this go.  She is stubborn and so am I.  I won’t discuss it further.  The atmosphere between us is glacial.

That afternoon we take the boat trip to the Seagulls Nest.  I can recommend this excursion.  For me the boat ride was the best part. You get spectacular of the coastline which is dotted with fairy tale palaces.  The seagulls nest is a small cliff top folly.  The interior is an expensive Italian style restaurant.  You can walk around the balconies outside. The views are tremendous which is why the German (I think) nobleman built it for his lady.  She was scared of heights and hated the place!  Alia isn’t scared.  We take some photos.  Anya has remained harbor side.  There is a steep climb up here.  On the way back down we stop at one several jewelry stalls.  Alia is looking at the pearls.  She will never ask for anything.  The stall holder realizes I’m an American and shows Alia the expensive stuff ($600 - $1000)  Alia just laughs at him.  I sign she can have a necklace.  Her eyes say “you’re sure?”  “Da”  Alia starts looking and bargaining.  She selects a necklace and gets a matching pair of earrings thrown in for less than $40.  She is delighted.  The cloud caused by the row with Anya lifts a bit. The ferry boat is blowing the horn for all aboard.  We run back.  We are the last on board.  When we get back to Yalta Alia wants to go swimming again.  Anya takes us to a good private place.  We spend a couple of hours there swimming and sunbathing.  Anya sits in a café.  It is dark by the time we leave the beach.  I am very hungry by now and we pass a cheap beach café which has a chicken rotisserie outside.  The smell is wonderful.  I say we will eat here.  This is not where Anya wants dinner but It is OK with Alia.  We sit on plastic and a whole chicken is brought with couple of big bowels of salad.  Dinner costs 85 hrivna – 10% of last nights bill and to me the food is fine.  Anya is fuming.  I can tell the girl talk is dark and about me.  Anya translates a remark made by Alia as “You look at me the same way you look at chicken”  I know there is lust in my eyes, can’t hide it but just what is being said.  Hmmmm…..

We end the evening at the fun fair.  I discover Alia is a roller coaster junkie and wants to go on every scary ride.  Twice!  There are a couple of virtual reality coasters her and some old village favorites.  Alia adores the pendulum ride – especially when it goes upside down and spins through 360 degrees.  I almost sick dinner back!  Anya would not be seen dead on a fair ground ride.  This is not her idea of how a vacation in Yalta should be spent.  Alia is excited and playful.  Anya translates her babble for me “Yes, I’m a 30 year old child! Great Time!”  I wonder how she would enjoy a trip to Orlando?!


Offline leslied

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Re: Ukraine Odyssey One
« Reply #17 on: September 08, 2012, 05:48:45 AM »
PART 17 – PALACES, BOWLING AND A BUST UP

This morning we are back on Anya’s schedule.  She has organized a private trip to the Yalta conference palace and the Palace of a Russian Noble (I’ve forgotten his name).  The same car and driver who did the Simferepol transfer turns up.  The conference palace is magnificent.  It was built by Tsar Nicholas the second totally without regard to cost.  This was where the famous 1944 conference between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt was held.  The main ballroom where the summit was held is magnificent.  The marble columns come from the same quarry as Michelangelo’s famous statue of David!  This place is steeped in history.  The apartments upstairs are full of family photos of the last Tsar.  The gardens even feature a giant redwood tree.  It is a baby, less than 100 years old but already taller than the surrounding native trees.  The ocean views from the palace and gardens are breathtaking.  We have to join the bus tour parties to go around the palace.  They make you wear cloth over shoes supposedly to save the floors but these are so filthy that they serve no purpose.  Alia jokes to me “If I washed those there would be nothing left - only dirt holds them together!”  Alia is growing distant from me.  Anya’s girl talk is having an effect…

The next palace is a mock medieval castle.  We have lunch here.  I let Alia buy the entrance tickets.  She sees that foreigners are charged a lot more than Russians, so comes back with three Russian tickets and gives me the change.  Anya is unhappy about this. I will be caught.  It will be embarrassing.  Alia puts her arm around me and puts a finger to my lips. We join a Russian tour group.  Same stupid filthy over shoes. The palace is not nearly so magnificent as the last  but its setting under the cliff like coastal mountains is straight out of a Pushkin  fairy tale.  The setting makes the gardens the memorable thing here.  I take lots of photos.  I realize that I could have bought this trip on the regular coach for a third of what it is costing me. There is no advantage to this private trip.  I am sick of Anya and her “barysh”

That evening we go out for dinner.  Anya takes us to another expensive restaurant on the promenade.  I say no and tell Anya only she wants to eat here.  Alia and I would be happy at a cafe.  I know enough Russian to hear Anya bad mouthing me as a cheapskate.  Now she has gone too far.  Anya takes us to yet another expensive restaurant.  I am really angry now. With hindsight I should have sent Anya back to the apartment at this point.  Instead I insisted on going to the beach café where we ate last night.  Part two of the row happens here.   Anya tells me I am an uncouth and uncivilized, where will she have to eat next, McDonalds!  Americans are all the same, no style or manners, just money which we think justifies everything.  She is quitting.  See how you fend for yourself!   No one who I am paying talks to me like that.  I fire her on the spot.  She must leave the table right now.  She is on the bus tomorrow morning.  She wants her money.  I say we will discuss that in the morning when we have both cooled down.  Leave NOW!  She does in tears followed by Alia.  Alia returns twenty minutes later.  “Oh Leslie, poor Anya! You pay Anya?”  I reply “Maybe”

Alia and I finish dinner.  She is obviously worried about Anya.  I want to let things cool down.  I do not want to go back to the apartment.  We visit the fair ground.  We had ridden most of the interesting rides the night before.  Alia takes me to a shooting stall.  She is amazed that I own guns.  Imitation AK47 air rifle - 20 shots, 20 hits wins a cuddly toy.  I get only 18 but Alia is still impressed. I suggest going ten pin bowling seeing an advertisement on a hoarding.  We take a taxi to the rink.  It is new and quite swish.  It is also 100 hrivna an hour.  Alia thinks its too expensive.  I say come on.  She is shaking her head at me “You complain about expensive restaurant and now come here? Incomprehensible!” (this is not said in English using these words but we are able to communicate quite well on our own)  We change shoes and I set up the lane.  Alia has never been bowling before. I didn’t think of that.  She is generally embarrassed in the company of rich new Russians and is wearing a short skirt. This makes things worse.  Her first attempts are like any complete beginners, the ball ends in the gutter.  She thinks people are laughing at her.  Now Alia is riding her own emotional roller coaster and it is her turn to amaze me.  She picks the lightest ball, takes a run, and heaves it with all of her might.  Do you know - a bowling ball can bounce?  It can if it is hurled like a shell from a mortar!  I can’t help it – I burst out laughing. So do other people.  Now Alia is determined to show everyone!  The mortar action becomes modified discus.  She is throwing the ball so hard that if she hits the pins she is knocking them down – all of them.  In the second game she gets four strikes and beats me.  She breaks her finger nails, to hell with that.  Splits her skirt and does not notice.  What an amazing woman!  By the end of the session the 30 year old child is back.

We get back to the apartment late but as I feared Anya is waiting.  She won’t leave this till morning.  I do not want to discuss things now but I am given no choice. She continues the row involving Alia further.  Alia has her own fears.  Top of her list is that I will use and abuse her like that last rich Russian boyfriend.  She cannot understand my behavior and so fears the worst.  Anya plays on this.  Alia starts siding with Anya.  Everything is falling to pieces. I cannot cope.  I decide to end the whole thing right now.  I tell Alia if she feels like that she can return to Kherson with Anya tomorrow morning. No more discussion.  I am going to bed.  I take two sleeping pills and lapse into eight hours of unconsciousness. 

Now a break in my tale. 

Having these rows with Anya in front of  Alia was the worst blunder I made in my entire trip.  Alia does not speak English.  This row had nothing to do with her but Anya involved her to put pressure on me.  We were in a weird “ménage a trios” A wise man would never have let the situation go so far.  If you are going to argue with an interpreter or agency - do it entirely away from your lady.    From a customer perspective, as my employee Anya had no right to act in this way.  However being on a trip with an interpreter is like being in an emotional pressure cooker.  You are together for 8 to 12 hours a day.  If you are compatible you may fall in love.  This happens to some younger guys.  If you are incompatible it is likely to end in a row.   If you don’t get on with your interpreter, change to another before it becomes a problem.  This is better for both of you.  If you are dealing with a professional agency this won’t be a problem.  It might pose problems with a small agency (they may regard you as a *snip*, which on a personal level, you might well be!)  If like me you have planned your entire trip on hiring a single interpreter – here is the major downside.  On a personal level, I know I was largely responsible for what happened.  My behavior and events like the forest picnic had driven Anya to distraction.  I was also extremely confused and at the end of my rope.

I am paying and to borrow Anya’s description, Americans think this justifies everything………




Offline leslied

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Re: Ukraine Odyssey One
« Reply #18 on: September 10, 2012, 12:41:02 AM »
PART 18 – THE COMPRAMISE TO AFTER THE CONCERT

I awake late but in a calm frame of mind.  The girls are already up.  Over breakfast I talk with Anya. I insist we talk alone, so Alia goes to the beach.  There was a frank discussion, the details of which I won’t bore you with.  The agreement was made mostly on my terms.  The emotional BS between Anya and I ends.  We adopt a professional approach for the last 4 days of my vacation.  No more fancy trips or meals.  I want “time out” to be on my own.  I give Anya 200 Hrivna and tell her to spend the day with Alia however she likes, but keep away from the beach above McDonalds as I will spend the day there.  I also give her two seats for tonight’s concert by a Russian male singer.  I had already bought these and had planned to go with Alia.  She can go with Alia.  The next day I will pay for Alia and her to go on the bus trip to the caves that Alia wanted to see but will not go myself.  The day after we will all travel back to Kherson together on the coach.  I have a day in Kherson and then travel back to NYC.  If Anya calms down and carries out my wishes I will pay her in full when we get back to Kherson, including the next three days even though she is only baby sitting Alia. 

Why did I come to this weird complex decision?  At the time I had many logical but with hindsight I realize delusional reasons.  The true reason was I did not want to loose Alia.  After my display of temper last night Alia will not stay in Yalta alone with me.  The sane decision would have been to pay off Anya, give Alia 100 Hrivna, and put them both on the late morning bus to Kherson.  I could then have chilled out in Yalta on my own and returned to NYC.  I could have also gone back to Kherson, contacted Alexandra and continued to date but I did not want to.  I’d had my fill of that.

I was in a confused state of mind.  Booze would only make me maudlin so I decided on exercise.  I went to Vasil’s gym at the far end of the beach above McDonalds. This is a small men’s gym with lots of free weights.  It is 10 Hrivna for a workout.  I am the only foreigner in there.  I work out slowly and methodically.  I work out with weights only to keep in shape.  I am no bodybuilder.  Several of the Russian guys in there are.  Of course an American stranger causes interest.  My Russian is almost non existent but it suffices.  These guys are very friendly.  Two hours later I leave exhausted for the beach.  Spend the afternoon sunbathing and swimming.  This really does help me calm down and by the time I am eating Schashlik at a beach café in the early evening I have chilled out.  I decide to go back to the apartment in mid evening as drinking is not a good idea and watch TV.   The Russian version of “Candid Camera” is on.  One sketch features a sexy store greeter who meets male customers with a full kiss on the lips.  In Russia this causes such embarrassment and consternation.  Only the last young guy kisses her back and asks for a date.  On Russian TV he is portrayed as outrageous. If they tried that sketch in mid town Manhattan the guys would form a line!

The girls return from the concert.  The atmosphere is immediately tense.  If looks could kill, those Alia is giving me would zap me to a bubbling pool of glop on the carpet.  Alia is a volatile woman.   I know I’m walking on glass.  One wrong move now and she will burst into tears, through my presents in my face, pack her rucksack and walk to the bus station.  I retire to my room.  Later Anya comes in.  She tells me Alia is very upset.  She does not know why I have dumped her?  All her hopes are gone.  She also tells me that I am in love with Alia.  “No I’m not” is my reply  My mind still entertains that idea though….
 

Offline leslied

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Re: Ukraine Odyssey One
« Reply #19 on: September 10, 2012, 12:42:38 AM »
PART 19 – CAVERN TRIP, PHOTOS AND RECCONCILIATION

This morning we all go to the bus station to buy tickets back to Kherson.  I also buy two trip tickets to the caverns.  This costs 130 Hrivna.  The private tour Anya arranged would have cost 700!  You see it had to stop.  I try to explain this to Alia myself.  She now understands something of what was going on and the reason for the argument.  She wants me to come too but I feel unable to rejoin the “ménage a trios” I tell her to have a good time and make sure she has money for lunch and drinks.  On the way back to the apartment I drop my films off for processing at a kiosk.  I want to give Alia some of these photos before I leave.  I then decide to go back to Vasil’s gym.  I am now accepted by these guys, they have adopted me as a mascot.  The work out is harder today these guys are involving me and pushing my puny efforts on.  About half way through two girls come in.  They are the girlfriends of two of the bodybuilders.  These girls are tall and slim and would stop traffic anywhere in the US.  They are just about the best looking girls I have ever been up close to!  They are also fit (not bodybuilders)  I watch in awe as they pump out sets of 100 on the inclined sit up bench.  I try this after they have finished and at that angle can manage only 20 before my gut busts.  The atmosphere is very friendly. We are communicating fine with my poor Russian and their poor English.  I just need to get over the embarrassment of my terrible pronunciation. They invite me to go with further down the beach for a swim.  The sun beds here are cheap, 5 Hrivna.  I swim and then fall asleep exhausted in the sun.  I awake to find myself covered by a towel.  They did not let me to get burnt.  I agree to meet up with them for dinner at a cheap beach café later and return to the apartment picking up the photos on the way.

I shower and change then check out the photos.  They rip my guts out.  The ones taken in the forest are the worst.  The feelings of what might have been.  The middle aged man and the young woman.  There is real affection here.  I cannot deny it.  I leave them on Alia’s dressing table and go out to dinner.  The girls are back late around 10.00pm.  Dinner is very lively.  Such a change to be with ordinary people rather than in this “agency dating bubble”   Later there is Vodka and pickles on the table and I have been “picked up” by a good looking woman in her thirties. She is on holiday.  She speaks some English and I have no doubts about her intentions. Her hand is stroking the inside of my thigh and she wants to go skinny dipping!  Well now I know I am in love because all I can think of is Alia!  I am willing Anya to call my mobile and she does.  I lie “I have to go to let them into the apartment, I will be back”  Fortunately I have only had a couple of shots of Vodka and I munch Tic Tac mints on the way back….

Alia is at the dining table going through the photos.  They are having the same effect on her.  I say she can have whatever photos see wants.  She begins to sort them into two piles, well one really.  She attempts some English “Alia greedy for photos”  I tell her “have them all I can get reprints in NYC”  There is a complete change in our non verbal behavior.  Are we back on track?  She is also very happy, the caves were wonderful.  She had never seen anything like that before.



Offline leslied

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Re: Ukraine Odyssey One
« Reply #20 on: September 12, 2012, 01:21:52 PM »
PART 20 - YALTA TO KHERSON

Today my trip to Yalta ends.  I am up early for a final walk along the promenade.  To my surprise the massive British cruise ship Oriana is at the central wharf behind McDonalds.  She dwarfs everything around her.  There are lots of elderly Brits walking on the promenade or enjoying a morning coffee at the many cafés.  I talk to a small group of them.  It is over a year since I was in England and then it was just for two weeks.  I am now more New Yorker than Brit.  The luxurious life these people lead on vacation is so structured, everyone has a specific time for a coach trip to the Yalta conference palace,  the ship leaves in less than 12 hours.  I reflect on the difference between their experience of Ukraine and the maelstrom that I have been through but I would not swap experiences with them for all that has happened.  The situation with Anya has resolved itself with few words between us.  Many of you may have experienced a blow up with a work colleague.  These tend to be resolved in one of two ways: Loathing and spite, and one person leaving or acceptance of differences and a fresh start.  Anya and I have taken the second course.  I return to the apartment to pack.  Just before we leave the landlord’s babushka arrives to check the apartment.  Everything is fine.  She asks respectfully for a few Hrivna, enough to replace the lost keys.  I pay her and reflect that the blow up occurred for nothing…

Alia and I are sat side by side on the coach.  It is a modern Volvo model, with on board toilet and a movie screen.  It costs 40 Hrivna for a one way ticket to Kherson.  It is much more comfortable than the train.  It is cheaper too.  The trip takes seven hours with stops at half a dozen bus stations.  I am the only foreigner on the bus.  There is an American movie, dubbed in Russian playing.  Alia does not like the violence.  She worries that American society is like the movie.  We are “talking” together quite intimately.  From my viewpoint it is rather like being with a small child who cannot say more than a few words yet.  You know how the other person feels and can express simple things.  I must appear the same to Alia.  The expressions between us are of increasing affection.   Coming into Simferepol I judge the time is right.  Anya joins us.  I tell Alia “I want you to be my girlfriend,  I will stop dating other girls and only see you”  “ You promise?” is her reply “Da” and the deal is sealed with a kiss.  At Simferepol bus station discussion continues.  I agree to pay for private English lessons, Alia promises to work hard at them.  I want to have a meal here as there are some cafés.  Alia says no wait.  An hour later we pull into the bus station of a small town.  No dining facilities here that I can see here.  Alia asks for 10 Hrivna and walks into the bustling little open market.  She returns with three large pastries, a kilo of grapes, a big bag of apples and a large bottle of water,  She squats down by the coach and washes the fruit with the water.  We get in the bus and are away again.  The pastries are hot and filled with chicken and vegetables and the fruit tastes great.  I get 60 Kopeks change from 10 Hrivna.  Lunch for three for $1.90 – Wow. 

We arrive in Kherson at 7.00pm.  Alia and I agree to go out for dinner on our own tonight.  We need a taxi.  I had more agro with taxi drivers than anyone else in Ukraine.  The guy at the head of the line has a filthy, decrepit Volga.  Anya won’t use this cab because of her clothes.  There is a modern Lada station wagon but he is near the back of the line.  I go up to him and negotiate.  Of course, it happens the other drivers insist I must use Volga and I argue.  Anya hates this (she would use her mobile), but as usual money is money and we get into the Lada.  Here’s a tip,  always agree the fare before you start, in Kherson there are no meters.  Alia comes around to my apartment at 9.00pm and we go out to dinner at “Kano”  which is a small family run café in the center.  It is a large plastic conservatory and has a live “one man band” in the evening.  I have used this place a lot, the food is excellent and dinner with drinks is less than $20.  The old lady who owns it spoils me, I have been a regular customer.  Later we talk with the musician, he speaks excellent English, learnt from two years working in a hotel in Cyprus.  He helps us out with some impromptu translation.  He then starts playing slow music and we dance.  I notice a couple of guys staring at Alia.  Why?  Then I realize she is wearing the same skirt she split bowling.  My Russian is not good enough to explain this situation so I motion we sit down.  When we leave I decide to tell her by joking.  I poke her “popka”  through the hole with my finger.  Immediate outrage and she swivels the skirt around sees the split and turns crimson.  “It’s OK” I say “OK??” is her reply with a look that says don’t you dare b*llshit me.  I just start to laugh and soon she does too.  We walk back towards my apartment.  In Lenin square she stops and talks to a taxi driver  At my building she won’t come in but necks with me until the cab turns up.  Oh well….



Offline leslied

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Re: Ukraine Odyssey One
« Reply #21 on: September 12, 2012, 01:23:41 PM »
PART 21 – THE FINAL DAY TO NYC

This morning I go the bank to cash travel checks.  I pay Anya and astound her with a substantial tip. I need to keep this lady on my side.  We meet Alia.  It is her 30th Birthday next week.  I want to buy her a present, what would she like?  Make up, please.  Anya knows just the shop.  New Russian, full of imported make up and accessories.  The girls start to shop.  Devoushka’s smile is beaming as the purchase pile grows.  The final purchase is perfume and I make the final choice.  Alia is delighted.  We go for a farewell lunch.  We hurry to finish this in order to meet the English Teacher Anya recommends.  She is middle aged and speaks perfect English with a British upper class accent. She is highly qualified.  I agree to pay for an intensive 2 month English course for Alia and buy the text books and tapes - $300.  Alia promises me faithfully that she will work hard at these classes and her teacher promises regular progress reports.   

I go back to the apartment and Alia comes with me.  For the first time she comes in to help me pack.  Later we talk.  I give her a $100 dollar bill, she stuffs it down the front of my shirt. I say take it, I know you are broke and shove it down her cleavage.  She shakes her head at me holds out her hand and says “Tic Tac” I give her a mint.  She pops it in my mouth and then kisses, giving me the Tic Tac with her tongue and taking it back.  Now I’ve not experienced that before!  Then she says “Leslie, No Sex!” I say “OK” and she pulls me down onto the bed….

Anya arrives with a Taxi.  We leave the apartment in a somewhat disheveled state.  Anya gives us both a look which says “I Know what you’ve been doing”  We go to the train station and sort out our compartment.  Alia is with me and Anya leaves us alone.  I am hugging Alia and she is trembling in my arms.  The train starts to pull away.  Panic.  We run to the door, the stairs have been lifted, Alia jumps barefoot from the train landing like a cat on the platform.  She runs up to the end of the platform waving and crying.

It is over……..  I feel totally drained.  I sleep through the night until we reach Kiev.  Frantic transfer to Borispol airport, through into the departure lounge and boredom.  18 hours in transit to Newark.  We are delayed.  Retrieve a plastic bag full of mail (mostly junk) from my box and go up to my apartment.  It feels like an alien environment even though its home.  I am totally exhausted and jet lagged.  The last message on my machine is Alia’s voice “Leslie, Leslie! Are you safe!”


Offline leslied

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Re: Ukraine Odyssey One
« Reply #22 on: September 17, 2012, 01:26:26 AM »
POSTSCRIPT

All this happened a long time ago.
 
After the trip I realized I had been VERY stupid.  I had “matched” (i.e. settled for one woman - Alia) far too soon.  I should have stayed in Kherson and continued to date.  Let things happen naturally.  Going to Yalta was a bad idea.  I should also have fired Anya before I went to Kherson.  She was following her own personal agenda, not trying to help me find a girlfriend.

The basic problem was within me.  I was trying too hard to find a girlfriend  and when I happened upon a likely candidate (Alia) I was trying everything within my power to make it happen.  This “wish fulfillment” strategy had to end in tears and it did - mine!

I spent maybe fifty hours writing this trip report.  It served as an alternative to psychotherapy.  Writing cleared my mind and gave me perspective not only on the situation but on my own motivations.

I got very good advice from the mentors of my generation:-

JB “you need to get your Sh*t in a pile and see if you can lift it son!”
Witchdoctor (Ron) shared his vast experience gained as the owner of lifetime partners in Tver.
And of course Andrew who as always gave excellent advice if you stopped and thought about what he said…

I started to plan a winter trip to see Alia, I needed to get closure on this situation.  I also paid someone to check up on what was happening in Kherson.  It was predictable.  I had stupidly paid her debts, given her a monthly allowance, and several gifts.  I had tainted the relationship with $$$.  If you act like a “sugar daddy” you will be treated like one!  Ron was correct, there was no way of turning this situation around.  Alia’s  demands escalated, prompted no doubt by Anya.  I started to back off.  No more western Union.  The final ploy was we should get engaged  on my next trip.  I trashed the relationship and let it burn…

My friends breathed a collective sigh of relief! 

This was short lived though as I announced I was going ahead with my winter trip to Ukraine.  This time Jack Bragg would be my guide and I was DETERMINED to learn from my mistakes!

THE END