A couple of reflections upon bidding До свидания to the Ukraine...
I have NEVER seen so many new luxury cars! It's like a Porsche, Bentley, AMG Mercedes Benz and Range Rover auto show downtown everyday.
The first two weeks were resplendent European summer, as the days advanced the soul chilling Slavic winter that defeated Napoleon and Hitler rapidly set in. It was so cold I started crying one day while walking down the street.
Here's the day and night game spots...
I found the people a little cold as well, anyone who lived through the soviet times is perma-grumpy, most young people I found quite friendly though.
The cost of living is the best value I’ve ever found, the cost of accommodation, dinning, entertainment and transportation is so low that sometimes I felt like I was just robbing people. The private room I rented was $150 a month. Unlimited access to a coworking space was less than $70 monthly. Cover at a swanky nightclub was $7. A healthy lunch special at decent restuarant was $4. A 10 minute taxi ride was less than $2.
The food selection is surprisingly good, it seems like there's an sushi restuarant on nearly every corner where you can grub on suspiciously cheap sushi. I even managed to find my favorite food, coconuts there.
The cafe scene is pretty good; one of the first cafes in Kiev that became my home office away from home was quiet the stark contrast to the hipster cafes in Berlin that I had gotten used to. It was a appointed in a very shiek, modern style, two ice queen Ukrainian barristas worked there at all times, even though the I was often the only customer there for hours and hours. They refused to laught at my little jokes and attempts at Russian and dutifully served me the dark nectar. However, the Wifi was fast and the coffee was great so I'm certainly not complaining! In front of the cafe sat a dusty Bentley Flying Spur for at least 3 weeks, I never saw it move and I never saw it's owner. I actually managed to find a cafe that serves Bulletproof Coffee there!
The hype about the women is pretty deserved; they are elegant, speak English well and are surprisingly punctual. The Ukraininkas have restored some of my faith in the fairer sex that Colombianas destroyed. If you like skinny, doll faced girls you won’t regret visiting Ukraine. There's an overpopulation of women in Kiev, even among young people, woman noticeably outnumber the men, I don't exactly understand why this is but living in the center it was obvious just walking down the street.
The attorney who would be a mother. The moment I fell in love with the Ukraininkas was when I was invited by a group of attorneys to a language exchange they hosted at their office. It was a smaller group that I attended weekly and we actually got to know each other. Irena, was the most attractive of the group; on the surface she seemed like a quintessential modern European woman; a young attorney, educated, stylish, well traveled, witty and a fluent English speaker. One week the topic of discussion I proposed was what would you do if you had all the money in the world and didn't need to work? Irena responded that she would be a mother, that she really valued family and if she wasan't persueing the career that she was passionate about she would rather be a mom. Wow!
The Ukraine takes the brunt of lot of jokes about mail order brides and sleezy marriage services. While I was there I actually met zero expats who matched the stereotype of sleezy old men geoarbitraging their sexual marketplace value to try to find desperate, sexy young Ukrainian brides. I think it's absurd that some men pay thousands of dollars for such introduction services when you could really accomplish the same thing by just getting on a plane and cold approaching women here.
The internet is really fast! Better than in Berlin, Warsaw, Bucharest and Sofia. See the 70Mgb Speedtest.net screenshot above.
The one thing that sucks about Kiev is taxi services and transportation is pretty ghetto. If there's one - I'm not even going to call it a profession - group of people working in specific type of job that I hate categorically, it has to be taxi drivers. There's an app called Uklon that provides obscenely cheap taxi service around Kiev. It's kind of like Uber, if Uber was ran by Stalin and all the employees were drunk all the time. Every city bus I rode looked like it had been in a war or two.
If it wasan't for the bipolar weather and the above mentioned shitty transportation services, Kiev would be an almost ideal lifestyle city for me. There's actually a lot going on; during the wanning summer days, there was frequent parades and festivals around the center and almost every night of the week I could find events and meetups to go to.
I recorded my meditation videoblog in in Kiev, check it out:
While I was there I did make an attempt to learn Russian, but it turns out that it's not a language like Spanish that you learn by just spending a couple hours a week socializing and listening to podcasts. I think Russian is going to take at least a 10 hour weekly commitment, which was kind of hard to justify considering how many Ukrainians prefer to try to speak English.
I was there during the end of the civil war that you probably heard about on the news, a lot of people are flabbergasted that I would visit a country for three months during a civil war. From my perspective if anything it just made my time there more interesting. The Ukraine is a big country, the second largest in Europe actually (next to Russia), and I was a long way from the conflict zone in Kiev, so it's not like I was in danger of being shelled.
The news headlines would have you convinced that this country totally fucked but I found the young Ukrainians to have an admirable mindset of optimism, work ethic, stoicism and distrust of the government. That bodes well for the country.
I think I met a spy in Kiev. I was sitting at a cafe with my french roommate. An American guy who heard us speaking English approached us and offered some pretty unoriginal advice about which countries to try to pickup chicks in. He said he was a journalist and we chatted a few minutes, I invited him to join us for sushi. He spoke Russian fluently and was very knowledgeable about the geopolitics of the former Soviet Union. My French roommate kind of hit it off with him and we hung out a couple of times. What makes me suspect that he was a spy was that he was very knowledgeable about geopolitics, yet looking on his Twitter and online I couldn’t find any of his work as a journalist. He was constantly regaling us with stories of his misadventures and close calls around the former USSR. He also mentioned that his ex-wife worked for the Russian FSB. He actually invited us to join him in driving out east to Donbass to cover the front and interview some soldiers. I probably would have gone if the weather hadn’t been so dreadful that weekend. If he was a spy, he wasan't quantico's best and brightest, I suspect that freelance journalist to spy is a horizontal career transition tantamount to a stripper becoming a hooker.
For once I feel like I’ve found a place before the digital nomad blogerrarati made it cool! If you've got an adventurous streak, don't let a little civil war/Russian invasion scare you away from experiencing a really charming country. I’ll be back in the summer time!
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