UA

so about the time i got warm and was sleeping well, it was 530am and we were in rzeszow. we got off the bus, thomas put his ski pants on, and we headed out toward highway 4 for lviv. since łukasz and piotr know their shit i was trying to be positive about catching a sweet, sweet ride to medyka to cross the border on foot. we walked clear out of town before stopping at the spot that looked the best but still didnt seem promising. it was blowing snow and i was already cold when in just a few minutes, a taxi pulled up beside us and waved us to him. derek offered a free ride 50km toward our destination as he was heading to the airport in jarosław. wow. then not long after derek dropped us off, vlad picked us up and carried us to the border. we checked out of poland without incident and crossed into ukraine (abbreviated UA on signage) with no problem. as soon as you set foot into ukraine though, you know you arent in kansas anymore, toto. this is like the wild west. the road physically changed and the energy was different. people were streaming toward the polish border from whence we came, groups of guys were standing huddled around all over. we were immediately approached by a dude saying he would drive us into lviv–at least, i think that is what he said. the traffic going by us was like these crazy 90s cars with all the windows blacked out and i mean blacked out, even the front windshields except for a little spot to see out of BUT YOU CANT SEE THEM. so we throw our little LVIV sign out and hope for the best. a few trucks trickled in from poland indicating they were staying in the area. a few minutes in and some women dressed to the nines walked by us, fresh from a polish shopping excursion and pushed my sign down and started rattling off a bunch of either ukrainian or russian and telling us to come with them. i was reluctant because i didnt want to miss one of the few rides heading toward lviv so i walked with them still holding my sign up and one woman kept pushing it down and waving cars on that might stop. we turned a corner and about the time i was considering these ladies might be taking us to some dudes who would rob us and slit our throats, i saw some bright yellow short busses. i was thinking. “нет, нет, нет, i dont want to pay for a bus, i cant afford it, nooooooo.” but these ladies were insistent that we go to the kaca and buy tickets. i thanked them and i inquired about the price as best i could with next to no russian and the cashier’s next to no english. it was 3 dollars a piece for the 100 km to lviv so i paid it and we got on the crazy yellow bus. it was a fairly full bus when we pulled out of town at 11:15am and only got more crowded as we bounced along the road to lviv and the driver did these rolling stops to let people off and on and at one point the doors shut on a woman and the driver reopened the doors and three more people managed to climb on before the driver pulled away. crazy. i was trying to pay attention but i was exhausted and fell asleep for a few minutes. before we got to lviv, i had about three different seat partners. one was named yupa and she tried talking to me but of course no way that was happening on any sort of elevated level. but i did want to know if this bus was going to the main train station in lviv so i drew a picture of a choo choo and before she got off yupa indicated that i needed to stay on the bus for a bit. the driver was surrounded by a posse that i couldnt break through to ask with my little choo choo picture so i waited until i could get to him and he let me know it was still ahead. once we did arrive at the main station in lviv, it was pretty obvious where we were but the driver still made sure we knew. in spite of language barriers, i have had lots of very nice and attentive public transit workers aid us on this trip as far as making sure we get to where we need to go. so we were miraculously in the train station by 1pm local time, a fucking miracle in itself. we had a moment of trying to figure out up from down as i asked the clerk for 3rd class tickets on a night train to kyiv. none. only 1st for 300 grivna/person– fuck that when i KNOW i can get it for 95/person and really?! only like 5 trains to kyiv? so we go get grub and contemplate the sitch and call my buddy sasha to let him know where we are and he is like “yo, it is the thing to bribe the conductor.” i google this and sure enough other folks talk online of bribing the conductor when the train is “sold out” because it is apparently never actually sold out–an amount of seats are held just in case special people come along. i am so not comfortable with this and i dont really have the swagger to pull off bribes but i decide to try it on the earliest train and if it fails to buy 2nd class tickets for another train (because yes somehow when we asked another cashier there were 2nd class tix available along with a couple more trains to choose from). in the mean time, we check out lviv, the entire place in a matter of 5 hours. we were complimented twice by two ladies saying they could not tell we were american. that was a relief because as we head into russia, i want to blend in as much as possible. so, after our express walking tour of lviv (which is a gorgeous fucking city!!!)we go back to the train station where you pay to sit in the least cold room (unless you say you are buying wifi from the internet guy) and wait for the time to bribe the conductor. so i have to look up what to say to him and write it all out in ukrainian, and thinking the whole time how this shit is not gonna work. i go ask about tickets again. the train we had heard about with 2nd class tix is sold out but there are now a couple more trains to choose from. why didnt we know about these trains already? ugh. so, i ask if they will possibly sell out 2nd class for the 10pm train and she answers no EMPHATICALLY. at 930pm i go find the 945pm train and ask for the conductor. i hand him the note. he looks at me and shoves the note back in my hand and tells me to go get my billet from the kaca and shoos me away. bribery fail. so i go back to buy the 2nd class tickets for the 10pm train. sold out. what the absolute FUCK?! but some are available for the 7am train. no fucking way i am staying in this train station that long. so i ask about second and first class for all trains. like there is NOTHING? im even willing to pay for the 1st class at this point. oh, yeah, there is an 11:27 train. a 1st class and a 2nd class available. fucking fine. it exhausts my grivna but we have tickets to gtfo of lviv and SLEEP. fucking sleep is like the only thing i can think of at this point after walking all over warszawa the previous day staying awake to ride-sleep 5 hours on the coldest bus ever to rzeszow to hitch to medyka to ride the crazy bouncy bus to lviv to walk around lviv all done with a backpack and a smile to stay awake to catch the night train to kyiv. so i go cash in 20 more bucks and buy some homemade pickled cabbage and ginger cookies from the lady by the kantor as snacks for the trip. im like too exhausted to even eat. when we go to the train, i make sure little brother finds his car then go find my own. roxanne is my carmate and her friends nikolai and irene (super foxy and nice) are seeing her off. irene says it is a shame im riding with roxanne because her english is so bad. i was too tired to even flirt back with this stunning lady. the train set off on time. i watched lviv pass by for a bit and was asleep before i knew it and waking up with the sun to watch us roll into kyiv.

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