Monday, July 16, 2012

The Ukrainian Courtesy

The Klitschko brothers. Yes, I watch boxing matches sometimes, thanks to D. Found here

Knowing I have an interest for Russia and ex-Communist countries, a friend (a man) once said that Eastern Europe men were rough and rude. It's a judgmental comment from someone who never been to Russia and Eastern Europe, because what I experienced in Ukraine was unlike everything I had imagined before.

Apart from the Ukrainian embassy staffers (in Jakarta) and immigration officers (in Boryspol airport), Ukrainians are mostly nice and friendly people. My first encounter with Ukrainians was during the flight from Istanbul to Kiev. As I said before, I only brought one backpack with me. When I tried to put my backpack to the overhead cabin (Gosh, it's heavy), an Ukrainian man standing behind me pushed the backpack into the cabin luggage space. Aww, that's very sweet of him. Even the Turkish Airlines stewards did not help me. Hmh.

I snapped this billboard along Dnieper River. Seeing this photo always brings smile to my face :)

After I came out from the passport control, the Ukrainians I met were Dima and Yura (one of the drivers). They drove like racers, full speed ahead! But when approaching a zebra crossing with pedestrians walking on, they would hit the brake.

Also, they like listening to mellow songs! It made me feel mellow too. During the city tour, Sasha played Celine Dion's All By Myself and according to a source who refused to be named, Yura once play Michael Buble's Home. In Indonesia, we'd call them "tampang preman, hati roman" or "tampang Rambo, hati Bimbo". #eaa

I would always remember the man who took off his jacket for a lady to sit on during the Euro opening match between Poland and Greece. It reminds me of Sir Walter Raleigh taking off his cloak on puddle for lady's passage:).

Everytime I took public transport, Ukrainian men would jump on their feet if they see elderly lady, pregnant women or women with children standing within vicinity. It's a common thing to do, but still it warmed up my heart everytime I saw it.

When I went to a post office, a grandpa gently pushed me to a window on the corner so I could hand over my postcards. He realized I couldn't speak Russian and since he couldn't speak English, we'd just let the body gesture talked :).

This photo was taken in Lviv. During the musical festival at a plaza (I already forgot the name), these men suddenly jumped on their feet and danced around.

The language barrier was there, but every Ukrainian I met had been very kind and polite despite having the icy facial expression. However, in Odesa, the people were more relaxed, they smiled and joked around. Perhaps it's because of the warm weather.

Another Ukrainian courtesy took place during the train ride to Lviv. As I closed the seat and put my backpack on my berth, a man came into my cabin. He was tall, blond, blue-eyed and had the cold expression most Ukrainians put on their face. He put his bag into the luggage area under the berth (he also got the lower berth, in fact he's sleeping right across my berth) and pulled out a T-shirt from it.

And then...he slowly unbuttoned his checkered shirt! I stared at him. He glanced at me, realizing that there was another person (a woman!) in the cabin, so he turned his back to me and continued taking off his shirt. Nice back, but I believe the front side is more appealing :P.

And then...he pulled out a pair of shorts out of his bag. I began to feel a bit panic. If he really took off his jeans in front of me, I didn't think I could handle it calmly. At that time of crisis, another woman came into the cabin. Phew! At least, if that man really took off his jeans, I had a companion to share the view. And no, with two women in the cabin, the man decided to postpone taking off his jeans. Too bad, eh? *devil grins*

Another man came into the cabin. He could speak English so we had a small chat. His name is Andriy, lives in Moscow and was going to Lviv to visit relatives.

Darkness fell and one by one fell into sleep. The man next berth still had not taken off his jeans. We kinda sent furtive glances until I snuck under the thin blanket, covering myself head-to-toe. I heard some ruckus, and after all was calm, I quietly peeked my head outside my blanket and saw that the man had worn his shorts (hahaha!) and he slept without his blanket (ouch!). I had a hard time to sleep that night.

As I waited for my train to Kiev in Lviv Vokzal, a woman pointed to my gloves and said something in Russian. Yes, I wore gloves because it's frigging cold! I shrugged and said,"It's very cold today." She switched to English and asked which train I was taking. Ahh the happiness of talking in the same language:).

There were two trains going to Kiev that night, the first train was already there while the second (my train) would come one hour later. The woman was very worried that I did not board the train. "That train is going to Kiev. You should board the train," she said.

I tried to explain that it was not my train, but she did not understand. She finally went to talk to the train conductor and came back with a relieved face."Yes, it's not your train," she said. Perhaps I looked like a high school student lost in a foreign land so she felt obliged to help :).

On the train ride from Lviv to Kiev, I met two Russians and an Ukrainian who spoke English. They're a bit drunk. But they did no harm, one of them even gave me a fridge magnet. We played a drawing game called Mustik, where each of us continued the line made by the person drawing the last time. They also taught me some dirty words in Russian :D.

 Meet Alexei, Sergei and Dalina, my cabin fellows for the Lviv-Kiev train ride. Alexei was a bit shy

The last took place a few minutes before my flight. Dima and Yura drove me to the airport. As we waited for the check-in time, Dima suddenly asked,"So when are you coming back to Ukraine?" Aww, that's very sweet. But after the big spending this year, I need to stay grounded for a while before planning for another travel.

Traveling has taught me to try getting to know others before giving judgmental comments. This reminds me to Q.S. Al Hujurat: 13 >> "O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. Surely the noblest of you, in Allah’s sight, is the one who is most pious of you. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware."

Let's get to know other nations and tribes, and stop the prejudice. Hope you have a magnificent Monday!

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