Rick has advised me that I may have some difficulties leaving Russia. Since November, when I re-entered the country technically illegally on an Estonia visa, the loose and unmanned borders with the Baltics, Belaurus and the Ukraine have all tighted up border controls. To avoid having to fly out and pay an enormous bribe to immigration officials, Rick hatches a plan. He hears from his sources that the Ukrainian border is a hit-and-miss affair. I'll get a three day Ukrainian transit visa in my new passport and buy an overnight train ticket to Kiev. If I'm asked for any documents by immigration officials at the border, I'll say "Nye gavaryu Parrusky. Ya Estonsky" (I'm Estonian and don't speak Russian) and give him or her a bottle of vodka I've packed in my rucksack. "Whatever you do" he tells me, "don't smile and don't look like a foreigner." Dressed as I am, I certainly do look like a local. The next morning, I awake in Kiev. No border check and no hassles.
On the train, I met a young woman in her 20's traveling with a couple of family members. They invite me to stay with them for a few days and I happily accept. For two days, they gave me the royal tour of the city and their neighborhood. The food was excellent (I still fondly remember the homemade tart cherry pie with sour cream). They have a piano in the living room that the youngest daughter is playing and she is quite good. When they hear that I took piano lessons for 11 years, they ask me to play something. I open music to Beethovan's 'Pathetic Sonata' (ah the memories, good and bad) and play the third movement, a piece I took over a year to learn. They are very impressed, clapping and cheering, and it seems I've just earned my keep. I'm embarrased that I never bothered to memorize music but happily sight read a few Chopin polonaises as an encore. After two lovely days, I bid farewell to them for my next leg to Poland.