first taste of the Ukraine
was in the airport bar chatting for a couple of hours over vodka and beer. It
has that decidedly eastern European feel, the buildings are dingy and long past
their prime, the women are very carefully dressed in almost comical glam (very
short satin dresses with matching high heels or tight jeans with embroidered
sequins and a mid-riff top complete with glitter), while the men were dressed
with complete disregard in old mismatched clothes. John was on a different
flight to us, but managed to find us while we were having lunch with an
polyglot American who was working in the Ukraine training NGOs. It was
really good to see John again.
We had quite a few hours between landing in Kiev and flying out to
Lviv, so we walked into the outdoor area of the airport bar and found space at
a table where an old guy was eating cheese and bread and drinking vodka.
were able to have a fairly complete (if repetitive) conversation with him,
although it did require John translating from French a few times. He was a 51
year old Armenian living in the Ukraine
since '88 (he said the Ukraine
was a good country, not like Armenia,
which was "lost") and who did six month stints working in Algiers as a
French-Russian translator (making him fluent in five languages). He son was 32
and a private contractor for the construction business, and had a long-term
girlfriend but wasn't married. He hastened to add, though, that his son's
girlfriend was a good woman worth marrying, and started to bemoan the "liberty"
and "openness" that made it easy to find women for a good time in the
but hard to find a "good woman for a wife, who will stay at home". He
insisted we all drink vodka with him (we protested that it was too early, but
he said in the Ukraine vodka was for breakfast, lunch and dinner, unlike
terrible Algiers where there was no vodka at all, and the women were pretty but
dressed head to toe so you couldn't see their faces) and we finally all had a
couple of drinks, except Lydia. He was very enamored with Lydia, and kept
on telling her that she was a good woman and a beautiful woman, and tried
really hard to buy her something. It was an interesting introduction to the Ukraine, but I think Lydia felt a bit of relief when we
finally had to leave to enter the secure area.
The flag of Ukraine flies the blue sky over the yellow field of grain.
Our flight to Lviv is now just about to leave. We waited
long enough at the bar that a storm has had time to roll in. The wind outside
has picked up and lightning is coming down. Our tiny plane almost looks like a
converted military aircraft, and has the feel of an old piece of machinery
faithfully serving long past its due-date thanks to the aid of gaffa tape. We
are left with the comforting words of the Director general of AeroSvit
("The Ukrainian Airline") - "If you have a printed AeroSvit
ticket, save it. Soon you might be the owner of a rare item."