This was the first message I recieved at the airport. It’s not very welcoming but it probably explains why Tesco mobile are so cheap. However, Marias smiley face waiting for me at the airport made up for that and the last two weeks of Ukrainian life have been good.

I spent a week in Kiev, a few days in Krivoy Rog and then the rest of the time back in Kiev. I have a place to stay, almost found a job (and then lost if just as quickly) and have learnt about 5 new words in Russian …all rude of course.

“Fuelling the current karaoke boom is the county’s unashamed obsession with celebrity glitz”

The description given in Wizz Airs in-flight booklet couldn’t be more true. In Kiev, you’re never far from a level of glitz, kitsch and glamour that hasn’t been seen in Oxford since 1970 actually, it’s probably never been achieved at home.

OK, your also not far from levels of poverty that you wont find in Oxford but, the contrast between the fat, rich ‘new Ukrainians’ who slink about in their gangster style 4x4s with blacked out windows (probably some of the ugliest creatures on this planet) and everyone else just adds to the intrigue of this place.

I’ve seen a few funny sights in Kiev over the last two weeks (more about these later) but, a few universals here are black jackets and pointy black shoes for guys and legs for girls. As my friend Agi pointed out the other day, this place is ‘all about legs’. If they’re not modestly covered by a short mini-skirt, they are vacuum-packed in leggings tight jeans and balanced on top of excessively high heels. Of course, I’m not complaining but although being a short-arse I could do without all the heels. Actually, talking of shoes, they also appear to form part of the Ukrainian social greeting culture. A Canadian friend of mine Jonathan highlighted this when I arrived and its been amusing me ever since. It happens when you walk passed a stranger in the street and they notice you. People look, then look at your shoes and then look at you face again. I mean, it could be that my shoes are just not black or long enough but I think it’s just normal. The ‘Ukrainian shoe-gaze’.

Now, about the weird stuff…

Shooting guns. I’ve never done this with a hangover in Oxford and I decided to pass on the chance to do it in Kiev also but, I did stand and watch Jonathan pumping rounds from a large Magnum and an array of other hand-guns. The whole thing was a little too surreal for my first week but I guess I should get used to this…

Chicken feet. I’ve no idea why but someone left 5 or 6 Chicken legs on our wall.

Red Rain. OK, maybe it’s just red mud but it rained for two days in Krivoy Rog and the whole city was awash with red water. I guess it has something to do with the cities metallurgy and mining but it’s quite unique.

Leopard skin patterns …on almost anything. My Ukrainian friends deny this but I’ve seen it. It’s here and it’s everywhere.

Crazy Babuskas. I’ve met a lot of these but our neighbour was one of the best.
She nearly broke the doorbell, let herself in without asking and started asking all kinds of crazy questions like ‘How much you pay for this flat?’ etc. The best thing she said though was when she was complaining about having no tools (long story) and she stormed though grumbling and muttering about ‘Ukrainian life’. It’s become our catch phrase here in Kiev.

…and that’s just the start. So, I’ll try and keep this updated with discoveries as I discover them.

Well, that’s all for now – I’m off to the ‘Kiev cinema’ to see a Slovene film called ‘Slovene girl’ …a story of a Slovene student who turns to prostitution to pay for her studies. I can’t escape Slovenia even when I’m here!


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