May 12th, 2005


My tickets are bought. I will be returning to the states May 28th. I'll spend about 2 weeks in Madison, WI with Araceli, and then its back to DC.

Ukraine contrasts sharply with SE Asia. In no particular order here are some of the bits that stand out to me.

  • Its green. very very green. SEA was more often brown. Not a dead brown, just like the berkeley hills changing to a golden, alive, but conserving its strength.
  • You are either in a city or in farmland. There is virtually no in-between.
  • There are no pigs, but lots of cows. This is the exact opposite of SEA.
  • Chickens are equally abundant, but here they are fat, nearly spherical. In SEA they were skinny little things.
  • The women here are (to my eye) more beautiful, but they seem fashion conscious, to a fault. Too much makeup, clothes that would be considered slutty back home, and stiletto high heels, even on cobblestone streets which I find it hard to manage in hiking boots.
  • There are a mind-boggling number of taboos, primarily on things I'd find pleasant or convenient

    • No whistling in a house
    • no shaking hands over a threshold
    • you must put your glass down as its being poured into

  • Poverty here is not nearly so impoverished as SEA, The wealthy are comparable, but the average is probably no better. There is just more folks at the not quite as low end
  • Infrastructure is hazardous and deteriorating. Streets and sidewalks are falling apart, open manholes are common.
  • In Sovietsky the internet only arrived via dialup a year ago, but its been down for over a week, with no answer beyond 'maybe tomorrow'. Even the orphanage could get DSL on the Thai-Myanmar border. Here it would take a miracle.
  • Capitalism is taking hold in some, but competition is still beyond most. Folks set up identical stands selling seeds at only one spot in town, side by side, for the same prices. This isn't a central market. There may be no alternative elsewhere in town, but the vendors both sit side by side, driving down their own prices, and hurting convenience.
  • ticket windows are openly hostile, and will shut down on a whim no matter how long. Everyone then shuffles elsewhere.
  • Perhaps because, of this lines/queues are familiar, but there are just enough exceptions to how they work, that they are little more than a staging ground for fist fights.

To make this entry, buy plane tickets, etc I've had to take a bus for 2 hours to a town with working internet. That is comparable to Laos, but Laos knows its in the stone age. Here it feels like the 20th century is slowly rolling backwards.