Thursday, June 08, 2006

Some General Observsations

So, as I said, I am back. I am alive and I am kicking. I am actually feeling well enough that I might consider going to work tomorrow...or not. We'll see. I need to restock all the food and such that we purposefully drained away just prior to leaving. There are quite a few errands to run as well. However, that said, I have some general comments about Ukraine.

1. Things are better. If you live in Kiev, Donetsk or in Crimea things are definitely looking up. Not only are they looking up, they're looking damned fine. Life looks good from the cities and tourist destination. The cities are booming. Things are getting cleaned up and regularized.

There are actually a fair number of fat Ukrainians. That was very rare when I first went 4 years ago. It's not so rare now: the University students don't look half starved now either!

Additionally, there is a baby boom going on. This is based on nonscientific sampling, but there are a fracking lot of baby carriages running around compared to the previous three trips. That isn't just limited to the cities, btw. There might be a political reason for that. too.

2. And much worse. We ran smack into the Mafia within a couple hours of being there and ended up tangling with them. We survived and actually got the best of them, which is...interesting. I'll have a post called 'Inept Corruption' that will be put together before Monday. I'll talk about that then. It was funny, scary, heatening, and depressing all at once.

Prices have gone astronomical...for Ukrainians. The inflation went nuts and the prices look very much like what you'd find in nominal Western European countries: gasoline less, but food exactly on par. The problem is that most Ukrainians don't make that much money - the Mittal paid steel workers get $320/month making them, for Ukrainians, pretty well paid...but if a loaf of bread costs about $1...

Alcoholism is still killing the men. A friend and I shared a train car with a pair of Ukrainian day laborers who was so absolutely thrilled with actually meeting a pair of Americans that they went all out to hospitable. They were funny, friend, and to them, everything was, in their poor, mangled English, BEAUTIFUL! If I consumed in a bottle of vodka and 4? huge bottles of beer in 12 hours while sleeping 8 of them, the world have a certain outlook too. I felt horrible for the two guys, one with a pregnant wife back in Shotska. THey were brothers aged 20 and 25. The 25 year old was a tad more responsible, less high strung, and with better English, but...I doubt he'll live past 35. His liver just won't take it. :(

3. The funny part was we were in the midst of a political scandal. The USS Advantage - a logistics ship - showed up in Feodosia and caused quite a stir. It was hilarious, in retrospect, about how the rumor mill works in Ukraine. For most Ukrainians, at least that we were exposed to, the mass media isn't really existant. The game of telephone and all its goofiness was alive and well. We first heard of it while we were in Gorlovka, where my wife's family lives. A woman who was over for other reasons puffed out that there was war! in Crimea. The US Navy had shown up and there was fighting. Or wuld be. Between the Russians and Americans over Crimea. The Russian fleet had been wiped off the map. Sevastopol was burning! The American fleet had been sunk. Things were just wild. It all boiled down to the fatc that the Defense Minister hadn't informed parliament (or so sayeth the pols) that the US military was visiting and participating with the Ukrainians in a peace keeping exercise. *sighs* The rumors were just plain wild to listen to.

Crimea was fun. My wife needs to learn to not put people who are unable through Ukrainian death marches. We revisited a restaurant that Lyuda and I went to in Jan of 2003. I listened to an American and a Russian speaker dicker of a business deal when Avrora couldn't sit still any more. The American didn't want it to be a person to person business deal by personal word: the Russian speaker did. It was interesting to catch snippets, as much as a 15 month old baby running around a restaurant would let me, of two warhorses of their business cultures tried to hammer something out.

Working on my in-laws house was interesting. That place needs a minimum of six months of work constantly by a pair of hefty guys. They got one and half hefty guys for a week. That helped. I had the most fun playing monkey, climbing up on the roof and smashing down a chimney brick by brick in a totally unsafe, Ukrainian style. I loved it, but got a brick landing on my good knee for my troubles when one came loose and fell unplanned. Luckily it was just a bruise. REALLY luckily.

No pictures until my wife and daughter return. They are in Crimea right now. They'll be coming back to the US on July 2nd. I really, really miss them right now. :(

I'll write more later.

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