Sunday, March 07, 2004


Well, it was a long flight. I was on probably the most cramped plane I've ever experienced. Lhuftansa evidently has devised a super-efficient, extra-modern, fantastically money-making 747 model that allows the maximum number of bodies to be firmly stuffed inside with a minimal number of resulting lawsuits. I was screwed and stuffed into an aisle seat myself and had to sleep with my neck firmly and permanently flexed back so that I wouldn't be decapitated by the food cart. Luckily the guy next to me could put Jim Carrey to sleep with his riveting conversation so I was still able to nod off.

But the more important element of the flight is that I evidently managed to contract food poisoning while on it.

I started with some slight heartburn. It was annoying but nothing I thought couldn't be helped with some rolaids. For the rest of the trip I avoided food. No problem.

In the german airport I thought I'd hit the bathroom but they have one, singular toilet for the terminal. No, I don't mean one bathroom with multiple stalls. One toilet. Period. I don't know if this is a result of 200 years of fierce discipline but there was a long line of weak-willed foreigners standing patiently outside. I decided to hold it lest my bathroom visit coincide with my plane's departure.

When I arrived in Kyiv, it hit me bad. I was beginning to become disoriented during customs (which P.C. handled masterfully), so I asked for and received some antacid. After arriving at our staging dorm, and carrying our luggage up 5 flights to our rooms (remember, I had two checked bags, one 65 and the other 50 pounds. Plus I had the laptop and backpack carry-ons.), I finally succumbed. I just didn't have the juice to go on. The best the medical officer could offer was some electrolyte supplement that is basically various salts packaged in a salty substance, supplemented by a salt additive. And enhanced with a salt flavoring. And it made me want to vomit. So I excused myself and stayed in the room the rest of the evening. The evening being interrupted by frequent trips to the restroom of course. Behold the human fountain.

So to diminish the restroom trips, I stopped drinking completely. And of course stopped supplementing my electrolytes. And so I became something of a desiccated shell of my normal, dynamic self. The next day, I dragged myself to our first orientation but when everybody else went to lunch, I passed out in the lecture hall upper boxes. Before I knew it I was told to go to bed by a beautiful, frightened Ukrainian girl. From her expression, I believe she had never seen a raving lunatic before. I slept the rest of the day.

By the third day though I was slowing my evacuations and getting my strength back, albeit slowly. So I again dragged myself to a lecture and of course found the PC officials to be incredibly silly and condescending to both the volunteers and Ukrainians. From my observation, there are some PC volunteers who feel it is humane and polite to pat the cute, helpless Ukraines on the head and express their great glee that the natives have learned to wear shoes. I have expect one person in particular to pull out a lighter flick it and proclaim "Behold, I make fire!".

And I swear the Ukraines have mastered the art of firmly biting their lips without actually drawing blood. Or perhaps they simply swallow it along with their pride. Kind of like an old comic strip with the lion, watching the lion tamer, waiting for the moment he can rip his throat out. Well, after hours of self-congratulatory BS by yet another condescending PC rep, I blurted out some nonsense that probably could be interpreted as "get to the fucking point" and after a couple of awkward silences, I thankfully caught and stopped myself so that I think they were none the wiser. Of course somebody is responsible for my assignment so maybe I just inadvertently determined my destination for the next 2 years.

I had my first solid food on my third day. Scary at first but I think I'll get used to it.

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