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Getting there

December 24, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, when I was in the midst of a very bad time, I was invited to spend Christmas at someone’s home (married PCVs in Izmail, Ukraine. If you don’t know where that is, it is about as far south as you can go in Ukraine and not be in Romania). Well, even though I do not celebrate Christmas, I celebrate family and friendship, and immediately accepted the invitation. I must say how generous it was of these people to invite me, whom they have never met, to come and spend some time with them.

I determined to save myself 20 uah by not taking a cab to the train station, but to take a marshrutka and walk from the closest stop I could get to from where I live. So there I stood, waiting for the 77, and a black Mercedes with black tinted windows drove up next to me, rolled down the windows, and called to me, to offer me a ride. Nyet, I declined. He persisted. I still declined and he eventually drove away. Perhaps it was because I was carrying two bags, and was waiting alone at the stop, that I looked somewhat vulnerable to his come-on? That must be it, because I have never received such an offer before, no matter what time I was at the stop.

Unfortunately, the 77 did not come – perhaps it actually stops running at 10:00 p.m., perhaps I did not want to risk another strange man offering me a ride, but I took another route instead, which dropped me much further away, so I lessened my regret at eating so much for dinner while I was on the long walk with two heavy bags to the train station. After a safe arrival and the wait for the Donetsk-Odessa train to arrive, it was called and we went to the platform.

As this was my first time on a train in Ukraine, I was not sure exactly what to expect. However, as it was nearly 1:00 a.m., no great surprise, everyone was asleep. So I made my “bed” and lay down, and…could not get to sleep. Unfortunately for me, the gentleman near me was sleeping soundly, as in like a log, as in he was snoring. Loudly. Louder than my dad snores, and he snores loud enough to wake a house full of people. Honestly, I was surprised that he did not wake up everyone in the car – that is how loud he was. So…I tried. I lay there and managed to catch a few Zs when he was between snores (usually when he had just changed his positions). Just about the time this man finally quieted down, the other man near me woke up and decided to play a game on his phone. With the sound on.


While the train was, overall, comfortable and overall a good experience, I think I got two hours of sleep total. However, I arrived safe and sound at the Odessa train station and met Debbie on the platform. I mentioned that I was starving and what I had brought to eat. She mentioned the McDonald’s. Guess where we ate?  Yes, I admit it – I got a “big breakfast” platter. For some reason, after having some rough weeks, McDonald’s sounded good. And yes, it tasted good.

While we were eating, a man sat down by us, and listened to us for a few minutes, then got up, said some not nice things about Americans. I looked at him and said “problem?” He left, in a bit of a huff I must say. Both Debbie and I think that it was interesting that HE sat down by US, and then had issues with us. Hmm.Whatever…we had bigger fish to fry – as in finding the marshrutka we had to take to a marshrutka to Izmail.

We ran into some confusion there…but after about a half hour, we found it, and soon afterward were on the way to Izmail. We arrived safely, alighted from the marshrutka and then had the task of finding our way to the apartment. In providing directions, Carl said “walk down the road for about 20 minutes…” Wait a minute. Say WHAT? 20 minutes? Pass! Debbie, who has been traveling for over a week already, was carrying three bags and I was carrying two (one of which has my camera, and the other of which had a bottle of champagne in it). We tried to get in a passing marshrutka – no go. Whereas in my city, when the seats are filled, people just stand in the aisle of the marshrutka, apparently they don’t do that here. Or they don’t do it today. So we were left without a ride.

By this time, Debbie had had enough of this, and said “we are taking a taxi”. We got a taxi, got in, started off, and were immediately stopped by the police. We sat there and thought “are you SERIOUS?” We think it was our fault that the taxi was stopped, because we just jumped in, not at an official stop. Whoooooops. Oy. T he taxi driver got back in and was not happy about the situation. This is perhaps why he overcharged us…

But we arrived, and were welcomed with open arms, mixed drinks and cookies. Thanks to the baking mix my mom sent me that I cannot use at home (as I do not have an oven), we will have more cookies to share later!

To my family and friends who celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very happy and healthy one. I love you and miss you all.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Sofia permalink
    December 24, 2010 9:21 am

    Dear Karin!

    I hope you enjoy Izmail after your exhausting trip. Even if you don’t celebrate this holiday, I whish you to spend a nice week-end with friends.
    Christmas is the time when family comes together. I know, you are pretty far from your family in Ukraine. But still I whish you to feel like beeing in a family, as you were one for me during my stay in Kirovohrad. I start to forget my English:))
    I’ll be going to Mannheim next week! Hope to reach you via internet this year!

  2. Mom permalink
    December 25, 2010 7:50 am

    Shalom, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year and Tu B’Schvat.
    Enjoy your life, wherever you are.

  3. December 25, 2010 10:40 am

    The trains in Eastern Europe can be dangerous. One of my wife’s family members was on a train in Poland at night, and people came by and they emit a gas under the door, effectively knocking everyone out in the car. Then they came in and took whatever they could find (wallets, jewelry, cameras, etc).

    As for the guy playing the phone game – not surprised. It seems that not too many people are considerate or courteous these days. Just yesterday I saw people pour on to an elevator (including several young individuals) and left an elderly lady with a cane to have to wait for the next one.

    I can’t believe that the police would stop a taxi for such a thing – though I remember in Paris that the taxis won’t stop for you unless you are at one of the official taxi stops.

    Happy Hannukah!

  4. Reante Strina permalink
    December 27, 2010 7:24 am

    Hi Karin,

    Your post narrating the train ride was hilarious – I know it wasn’t fun at the time you experienced it, but it sure was fun to read … like the comments about the man snoring and the other guy starting to play a game (‘with the sound on – Unbelievable’) – I couldn’t help but laugh! So, a marshrutka – is that a bus or a train? Happy holiday season! Enjoy the new foods & drinks you get to try/taste! It’ll be interesting what of these things you will miss when you are back in the States! Stay safe! Sending many greetings, Renate 🙂

    P.S.: Did the police give you a fine?

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