Back to Melody's travels
Hello again, Previat,
A brief Mel update: well i have become ever so enchanted by this country, and have decided to stay another month. A little difficult (not to mention expensive) to extend the visa and a lot of tears in the face of the brutal yelling bureaucrats, but its done at last thanks to help from some lovely Ukrainians. Actually, everyone I have met here has been wonderful and interesting, and I can't bear to leave yet.
Currently I am in Odessa, I've made friends with Irina and am living with her and her family, in a 17th story apartment overlooking all Odessa and the fat Black Sea, and will hopefully soon be living like a native. Her sister attends university so i have been seeing also how the students live, (which is basically the same all over the world) and having a great time with her jolly and intriguing family, who ask me such paradoxical questions as "Melody, what is your reason for being here, what is your life philosophy?" and "Melody, what would you like for lunch, beer or vodka?", all in rapid succession leaving me confused and smiling and unsure of where to begin. ("Vodka.")
I just spent a great week in the Crimean island, staying with a very Russian Babushka -grandma- in a vine covered bach in Feodosia, who ignored the existence of the Ukraine, called the currency Rubles (as did all the island) and travelled only between Moscow and Krim, quite possibly closing her eyes when the dreaded country was crossed. We could only try and communicate with wild hand gestures and mumbling, and she made me eat a lot of hearty food, knitted me clothes for when it got cold and told me I was silly and should find a husband. But she was also really clever and somehow we managed to have conversations long into the warm night about the Russian economy and globalisation and the old days of the soviets and thought police. I journeyed also to Kerch which was the end of the land and really felt like the end of the earth. All there was was a misty and deep black sea and beyond the netherlandish wild regions of Chechnaya and Kacszastan and Georgia and Turkmenistan.
In Kerch I stayed with a garlic smelling women who perhaps told me (in Russian) she was a professional hair dresser and consequently cut a third of my hair off to prove it. I'd spent months trying to grow it and was quite surprised - id asked for a wee trim - but it wasn't such a bad job. As compensation she took me to the giant mad Russian market which was intense and overwhelming. It felt like the concentration of all humans most ragged emotions - fear, greed, desperation, desire - a seething teeming mess of hungry humans circling around slaughtered animals and dirty vegetables and flapping fish with proud stall masters standing triumphantly in the middle.
I watched, grotesquely intrigued, as people came up to these stalls and quickly, methodically sampled the goods - in some instances fish, whole, raw, slimy - they ate the entire dead thing, crunching on the head and saying dismissively "yeah, not bad, 1kg."Yalta was also nice but quite expensive and I refused to pay the equivalent of a Ukrainian pensioners entire months wage for one night a dismal hotel so I ended up sleeping on the beach under a full moon, which was wonderful. It was a beautiful and exotic island, reminded me a lot of Sicily.
Before the fabulous Krym, I was a week in the capital, Kyiv, a wide grand soviet style city, with excited inhabitants and a burgeoning mass of businesspeople. I met one such businessman, a budding capitalist with enormous plans for being part of the 'revolution' and aiding the transformation into a free market economy, which everyone believes will happen but are not quite sure when - 10 years, 20, another generation. The stories from Sergei and other business people of government bribes and deliberately spread rumours and negative media coverage induced by opponents and wealthy CEOs put in jail indefinitely in an attempt to extract money - well its difficult to believe at first. But once you meet the officials and see the top people you realise that their definition of reality and logic is so removed from your own, and from that of the general populace, that they can justify in their own minds anything they want to, so anything is a possibility. It's really quite like remnants of The Party in 1984. It was also Independence Day and after an absurd display of military power, a giant parade with massive guns and tankers and aircraft and a soviet style army that, I was told, had not changed at all in 10 years, the massive Independence statue was revealed to all (aka statue of Liberty.) It cost 220 million grvna.s and was golden and ugly, and nobody was impressed. A student said "if they didn't build it they would have just taken the money and spent it on themselves anyway" and a seed selling grandma called Zelenia said "It wont make my life any easier."
I feel very fortunate, I'm just so happy to have such an opportunity to stay here, there's something about this country that i just can not place but is subtlely addictive and i have to find out what it is before I leave. It could possibly be the ex-soviet unionism, the fact that these people have lived and been trained and altered by a force stronger than any I've ever encountered, something that became removed from the very human nature which created it, making them appear to me as being infinitely complicated in principles and intellect, yet surprising simple in emotion and desires. I've never met such a type of human, who is so easily able to express themselves how they want in regards to love and anger and the range of emotions, yet in other areas such as individuality and consciousness of separate minds and society they are restricted and blinded. The aspect that is most appealing is that their basic needs and wants are simplified, true - they want to be happy, so they believe they are happy, they love their friends, so they show their friends they love them, all unfettered by money and wealth and personal ambitions. Not yet anyway.
Fantastically intricate and detailed - difficult to accept that it is not possible for all, or even half of all, the knooks and crannies and corners to be revealed to me as an outsider.
Das vidanya, Melody