We landed in Kyiv on Saturday afternoon and found a taxi to take us to our apartment. "She's Got It" by Venus was playing on the radio.
Taxi Driver: Vat zis mean, she got it?
Eli: It means she has something special.
Taxi Driver: Vy zey not just say "she have somezing special?"
Eli: It's just a saying in English.
Taxi Driver: Vat so special about zis voman?
Eli: I don't know.
Taxi Driver: Vy he sing about her if he don't say vat so special.
Eli: Look. I haven't slept in like 40 hours. I'm incapable of engaging in philosophy at the moment.
This is Skylar's first time in Ukraine, but my sister Krishelle (*also starring*), has been before. She came to Moscow when I was living there in 2009 with my parasite, Lohan, who had struck a deal with me where he ate all my food and I had diarrhea for 6 months but at the end I looked like a British lesbian Presbyterian from the 90s, which in hindsight was not a fair trade.
From Moscow we traveled over to Ukraine. She loved it, she reports, even though her most recalled memories are twisting her ankle on cobblestone and getting locked inside a tourist trap called the "Chudo Train" in L'viv, which nearly suffocated us on a completely uninformative meander through old town.
"Chudo Train" has become synonymous with "Hell" in my family, and I haven't been allowed to forget that I inflicted some torture a decade ago.
This trip has been much less stressful than the one in 2009, primarily because that one involved SEVEN Americans who had never before set foot in Eastern Europe and so I was required to corral and translate for what turned out to be a very needy group of people.
Now there are just three of us, and 2.5 of us are relatively self-sufficient. I'm grateful for Skylar, by the way, who helped me understand at a mall last night that all of the blood, sweat, and tears I poured into learning Ukrainian 15 years ago was all so I could help him order a box of Cinnabon in Kyiv at 9:00 PM one day.
Kyiv has gotten weirder since I was last here, in 2014. The main square has mostly cleaned itself up from the war that was fresh when I visited four years ago, although it looks rougher around the edges than it used to. But there's a hipster vibe in this place that absolutely did not exist when I lived here. The youthssss rule this place now, and it's making me feel old.
I fully anticipated the archaic infrastructure and order of things I have come to know and love over the years, and I gladly stood in the 90s reminiscent "breadline" that wrapped around half a block to buy some 20-cent tokens to ride the metro. Then I looked over and saw Skylar negotiating a lone kiosk with Apple Pay, before asking me why I was standing over there with the Soviets.
Look. When I lived in Ukraine, you couldn't even a use a credit card anywhere. And everything still looks Stalinesque or older, so the implementation of this new-fangled technology is not obvious, and frankly, it feels almost sacrilegious.
But Skylar is a youthhhhh, so whatever.
The Kyiv metro is a site to behold. Because the city is built in and on very tall hills, some of the stations are so deep in the ground that even though the escalators move at lightening speed, it takes six or so minutes to get down to the platform. If they're not the longest escalators in the world, I don't want to know what are. When I first moved to Kyiv in 2003 I literally had nightmares about these things and I had to convert to every major world religion so I could pray constantly in all the ways every time I rode one.
When we came up out of the metro at our next stop we heard the sounds of music? The question mark was intentional.
There was a man's voice, occasionally joined by others, singing "hare krishna," over and over again. When we turned a corner we saw a group of them. Here. I have a video of it.
This song went on, I kid you not, for at least 15 minutes after we emerged from the metro. We have no idea how long it was going on before we stumbled upon it. And when the song ended, they started a new one, which was only slightly different than the last.
If someone showed up at the end and told these people that each was now an Ironman, it would have been deserved.
Also, during this, a man riding an electric unicycle scooter glided past us with a giant raccoon on his shoulders and no one batted an eye at this.
I felt like I was tripping acid (not that we know what acid is) and I immediately turned to Krishelle and Skylar and said "please tell me you saw that or get me to a hospital." Both paused for a second, registered what they had just witnessed, and then admitted that they had become so entranced by "hare krishna" that raccoon man just didn't seem all that special.
"He's got it! Yeah baby he's got it!"
In the day and a half since then we've walked about 20 miles, eaten enough borsch to sustain a small village through the apocalypse, and avoided meeting Lohan's posterity.
Tonight we'll sleep on a train headed west, probably with a fresh box of Cinnabon.
~It Just Gets Stranger