Friday, January 9, 2009

Country Mouse in the City

For me, my trip to Ukraine is not only a switch to an entirely different country (and two totally unknown languages) but it's also a big switch from my life in a small village in upstate New York to Kiev, a city of millions. So it's the switch from getting in my car and driving somewhere (the feature of all parts of upstate life) to the metro and the bus. I've been able to build my subway, bus and marshrutka (a privately owned bus or mini-bus) skills this week, during the holidays, when fewer people are out and commuting.

I like the metro. Several of the stations have great decorative tiles although paid advertising has overtaken a great deal of space. Long, long escalators lead down to the stations, built to also serve as fall-out shelters during the Cold War. But best of all, of course, is the people-watching.

The other big switch is walking in general. When my daughter Anna spent a year in the Netherlands as an exchange student, she came home a bike rider. I think my time here will bring me home more ready to walk in any kind of weather. It's cold here, for sure, but everyone just bundles up and walks--so I do too!

City life also means an apartment. I've been staying as a sublet in an apartment of a Fulbrighter who's home for the holidays, and have spent, with my roommate-to-be, a fair amount of time this past week looking for a suitable place. It's challenging in any city, but I think particularly here, with a rapidly changing economy. We're hopeful that we find a place in the next couple days, as Michael makes many, many phone calls and undertakes negotiations with both owners and agents.

View down Khelminitsky Street on Christmas morning
Walking in the city center

No comments: