Sunday, August 21, 2011

Contemplations from a Ukrainian Train

Written as my 27-car train chugs through the countryside....

Despite the cheap price ($35) the train did include sleeper facilities including sheets, pillows and a fuzzy warm blanket. The access of basic things to all feeling could be one of the nice vestiges of communism. I'm trying to sort out what that was all about. Big boxy artless apartment buildings—functional, but oblivious to the human spirit. We humans need art and love. How did Russian passion squinch itself into the totalitarianism of the Soviet state?

Same time having lived my life as an American in the so-called free world, I know all about internal oppressions—psycho-emotional and social barriers that keep us from being all we might imagine. But we do have this sense of personally being in charge of our destinies...that it is absolutely possible to make it big and even get rich quick. The Ukrainians have had the last 21 years to incorporate chunks of these ideologies. It’s no longer a new independence…and largely what I’m seeing are young people who have known no other way – working for wages as well as entrepreneurs like my host Andre in Odessa. There was some begging, largely amongst elders...and no sign of outright starvation as one might find in Africa.

Altogether life is cheap. And being that there’s so little independent tourism, no price distinctions are made between locals and foreigners. Despite that today’s high school students are learning English, amongst many other languages, travelling here as a non-Russian speaker is very humbling. It’s like Brazil – another compelling country with an interior-oriented media. When I scan the countless Russian TV channels (including the Simpsons poignantly dubbed in Russian), I so want access. What is going on? This language sounds like it is so full of guts and glory. I want to speak and think how they all do!

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