Friday, August 19, 2011

Exploring Odessa

I took a local bus into the center of town and cautiously looked around. With all the signs in Russian, how would I find my way back? I noted buildings and fountains and corners, trying to keep my orientation. The signage was a complete blur--it all looked like gobbly-gook... just how my efforts at pronouncing anything comes off to my Russian listeners. They quickly shake their heads letting me know I am absolutely incoherent and that there is nothing they can do to help. Then sometimes, just to get even with the universe, I'd pretend I understood them, just to engage in social chatter. I feel like I completely get the Russian emotional core -- the parts that talk in sweet patter, that at the drop of a second can transmute into a passionate roar or a perfectly-staged shouting match. The Russian range is my range--we access all dimensions.

I wandered around an open-air market place, chatted up some high school girls who reported that they are required to study five languages - Russian, English, French, Polish and Latin. So different from mono-lingual America! I then found my way to the train station to book a train to Poltava, my Dad's birthplace. The 7 PM train was full and I was offered a place on the 1 AM train. It sounded like a really slow train, but then what am I here for but to experience it all? I paid about $35 for the ticket and continued to wander, checking out the Russian version of McDonalds, one of the few American corporate exports. Same food, much classier presentation...and very popular! I tiptoed by a church where honey, flowers and apples were being sold and then blessed with holy water by a priest. When I began to focus my camera on the blessing, the priest motioned me away... And I then scurried into a cell phone store, trying to buy a Ukrainian chip for my phone. My phone is apparently incompatible with the local technologies, so I guess I'm stuck with asking locals to lend me their phones to stay in touch with my hosts.

Then I attempted to retrace my steps back to where I got off my bus into town. It was useless. Nothing looked the same, but I did remember I'd been on bus 168. Suddenly, I saw one whiz by, though I was nowhere close to where I'd been dropped off. The street I was walking on seemed quite industrial - not the buzzy downtown with cafes, banks, and fancy shops. I showed someone the card from the hotel (which is really a card from the car wash because the hotel does not have a name) and he showed me where to board the 168. It was a super-long (and crowded) ride with passengers handing crumpled bills to the driver as they stepped off the bus. I found my way into the car wash and up into my room, congratulating myself on managing to find my way in and out of town!

Peace Sculpture (adjacent to a war mongering missile sculpture)
Juices, Apples, Flowers and Honey for Blessings

Ukrainian Students

Honey and Apples in Open Air Market

Seasoned Shopper Examines the Produce

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