[Glimpses of Ukraine]

[Glimpses of Ukraine]

As some of you may know, I live in Ukraine.* I have a love / hate relationship with this country. Sometimes I can talk for hours about the benefits of living here, and sometimes all I can think of is “When will I finally leave this wretched place?” Yeah, like I said, love / hate.

There are a lot of this we all take for granted and often only when we see our circumstances from another’s point of view that we actually stop and think “Oh yeah! Never though of that!”

I live in the capital of Ukraine, the 1,500 year old city called Kyiv. It’s big and there are about 5 mln people living here (if not more now). Just like in other big cities, there is public transportation. Seems like we’ve got all kinds of it – we have busses, trolleybusses, subway (unfortunately no chicken-bacon ranch on cheddar cheese bread available), trams, taxis, and so-called marshrootkas. The latter ones are smaller busses that have certain routes (either similar to usual public transportation ones or other convenient routes that are needed) and they stop on demand. The price for a ride is twice as expensive as in usual public transport, but it’s faster and more comfortable.

One of our missionaries once joked about the amount of people that can fit into a bus here: “One more.” More often than not, this stands true. Those who take public every day become professionals at squeezing themselves into a space that under normal conditions would be considered tiny.

Regardless where you sit / stand / hang in the air, you have to pay the fee. Smart you are if you prepared the money beforehand. Lucky you are if you got in through the front doors so you are next to the driver. However, that is not always the case.

The observation was not mine to make, it belonged to a guy whom I was dating 7 years ago, but every time I ride in a marshrootka I think of it.

The level of corruption in Ukraine is staggering. Bribes, I am sad to admit, are a standard rather than a rarity. If you want normal treatment at the hospital, give some extra money. If you want to pass an exam (even if you have studied), you gotta make a present to the professor or buy his book (this is one of the reasons why I do not want to get another degree here in Ukraine, even though I do want to study more).

But back to marshrootkas.

If you manage to get into the bus and it so happened that you’re in the back, you pass the money to the driver via those who stand next to you. Just give them the money and ask them to pass them along.

It works. You can be sure that your money will reach the destination and you will get every bit of change too, if change is required. It’s quite amazing really. I guess a lot of the security comes from people watching people, yet it is amazing.

What are interesting observations about the people that live in your area?

** P.S. Yes, simply Ukraine. Back when our country was a part of USSR, we were called “the” Ukraine. Now that we are independent, “the” is no longer needed.

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