Saturday, March 20, 2004


Our Coordinator’s conference was outside of Kyiv last week. It consisted of several incredibly long and boring presentations that were occasionally interrupted by one that held your attention. I met my coordinator A, and soon began to become concerned.

She started hanging out with my friend G's coordinator, who single-handedly reminded me that annoying punks are a worldwide phenomenon and he will be referred to in the rest of this letter as "Dumbass".

He works at (well, his mother runs) an AIDS alcohol and drug treatment facility and the first night got wasted and tried to pick up one of our volunteers. He played video games on his cell phone during conference meetings and would leave for 15 minutes at a time (with my coordinator) for a little R and R. Anyway, I had a bad feeling about him from the start and it bothered me that A would spend her time with such a knucklehead.

The last day, we went to Kyiv to catch a train to our sites. We were walking through the square during our wait time and I look over to see Dumbass (DA) wearing his chewing gum in the fold behind his ear. I've been trying to rack my brain to remember if I have ever seen anybody, maybe from the 3rd grade or something, do such a thing, but no luck so far. G said he tried to give DA new gum but he refused. I guess old habits are hard to break.

We arrived at the station with plenty of time to spare. G and DA decided to pick up some things at a store and A led me with them. Store to store they go with DA leading and me taking up the rear.

Finally, he led us to a train platform, which is down 2 long flights of stairs. I drag my 50 pound bag after them only to watch him give A a big, really sloppy kiss, get on HIS train and send us on our way. So here we are, thinking we are going to our train and now finding that we have to get back up the 2 flights of stairs and then find our track. And A, who thought we were at our track was oblivious to where our train actually was. And I was feeling like the real dumbass.

We ran back up the stairs (well, as much as I can run with a 50 pound bag and a back-pack), crossed to the other side of the Kiev train station and down to another track. Realized that we were nowhere near the correct platform, ran to another track to learn that our greatest accomplishment so far was that we were one-by-one eliminating every possible track in this massive station. Backtracked up another flight of stairs and finally found a woman who led us to the train.

The whistle was blowing as we stepped onto the platform. We were running down the platform, I was steaming, (saying over and over to A "Ne Horasho" which means "not good".) and finally we had to jump on the first available car before we were left behind. This meant we had to drag our luggage through about 12 cars. My roll-on bag and the tissue thin carpets on the trains were not engineered to coexist. As I rolled my bag into a car, the carpet inevitably bunched up under my wheels. The women in charge of the cars were screaming at me for wrinkling these 90 year old rugs and I didn't really give a what-do-you-know.

When I got to our cabin, the train was already moving. I was so angry, I threw my bag in an area beneath the seats and sat down to fume. Later I would find that my brilliant act of throwing my bag, broke my bag and reminded me that it's not a good idea to act stupidly even if you are upset.

Poor A caught hell from me for about 10 minutes. I had already been concerned about her apparent lack of professionalism during the conference and here I was killing myself and risking the wrath of train-car-ladies because she had to get sugar from this dumbass thug. But I got it off of my chest and afterwards told her that we should just move on, that I expected she had learned a lesson and it would not happen again. I think that was new to her and it took awhile for her to realize that I wasn’t going to be angry with her the entire trip.

Sleeping on a train is tricky. Sleeping on a Ukrainian train is impossible. When you aren't shaking and baking, you are freezing. I know I did manage to slip into a short sleep because I remember a dream.

I was on a train and people around me were talking in English. I asked them if I was dreaming. They asked why I would ask such a silly question and my answer was, because they were speaking English and that was odd for me. Then I woke up. Bizarre. I wonder if this is a common type of dream for people that are in similar situations.

I had another dream that perhaps can be psychobabblyzed. In my dream, I finally receive my long anticipated care package from Stacy, Leslie and Cynthia (which by the way is evidently stuck in Ukraine ether-land). Of course I am extremely excited to get this package of surprises but when I open it, I find a collection of new women's bras and panties. I'm digging through this admittedly nice collection, looking for the girl scout cookies and wondering if they expect me to use these in trade or what. Then I woke up.


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