I've been moored in Bangkok for over four years now. Not by choice. I've been stuck here. At least in Ukraine I could get a job. The ageism in Bangkok is unreal. I'm too old to hire. I've been fighting with Canadian bureaucrats trying to get my second small pension (this one from CPP and I'm perfectly entitled to, having contributed for thirty years). I applied for it almost a year ago and am stuck in Thailand until this is resolved.
Anyway, I'm homesick for Ukraine. And it's hard to explain why. I don't have fond memories about a lot of things. Like experiencing extended periods of time with no hot water. And no advance notice of this impending event, either! When I complained, Ukrainians told me I was spoiled. If this happened in the West, there would have been hell to pay!
And then there's the terrible service everywhere -- well, at least until they saw that I was a tipper -- and the suspicion that seemed to be aroused sometimes when locals witnessed foreigners speaking English. Once I remember feeling very sad when I heard a young woman tell her friend -- not expecting me to comprehend -- that she hated these Americans. Actually, I don't altogether disagree. I left America in my early twenties and moved to Canada because I didn't want to fight in America's stupid war in Vietnam.
And then there was the saga of my difficulty getting enrolled into a preparatory faculty of foreign students because I knew I had to learn some Russian (please forgive me, but I never considered trying to learn some Ukrainian because I thought: That will only be good for me in Ukraine. If most Ukrainians understood Russian in Poltava and the language might help me out in many other places, well, it wasn't a tough decision to choose Russian). Well, that was a Kafkaesque one-act play. The first university turned me down. I couldn't figure out why. I was a good student in the past. I had the money. I was even successful in getting the university's representative to admit that I wasn't displacing a more deserving applicant. It finally came out from an internal source that I could not be accepted because I must be a spy! Why would an applicant with a university degree, US and Canadian passports, and at the ripe old age of 56 be applying to be accepted as a student in Ukraine unless he was spying for some agency!? Unbelievable.
But I did manage to be accepted at the Technical University in Poltava to the preparatory faculty of foreign students. So there was me and all my 18 or 19 year old fellow students from N. Africa and the Middle East.
I lasted six months. Archaic language teaching methodology was a constant source of irritation. Just friggin' backward! Almost entirely reading and writing and no conversation. But one of the final straws was hearing my professor berate a Syrian student with the comment, "Everyone knows Arabic is an inferior language." Of course this was all in Russian. These "professors" didn't speak a lick of English. She had no clue what I said when I cursed her out!
Then there was the apartment manager raising my utilities fifty percent every month. But I digress.
But I miss the place, damn it! I miss walking into a bar and buying a half litre bottle of good Hortitsa vodka and walking by a table of a few people having a good time and placing the bottle on their table as I walked by and continued on to another table. They'd drag me back to their table. And when they found out I was inastranitz and could speak a little Russian, they'd be grilling me about the West for the rest of the night.
I miss drinking with the Russian Ukrainians. They make the most soulful, heartfelt toasts that no Western male would dare to make about love and loyalty and friendship.
I miss playing chess and not being considered a complete loser because I was a chess player.
I miss watching the women -- the most beautiful, daring women in the world.
I miss the dark, honest fatalism. You are either IN or OUT in Ukraine. But if you speak a bit of the local language and are not a complete douche, you're IN.
Poltava and Sevastopol: I miss you and am trying to get back. Don't drink all the vodka and laugh all the belly laughs until I return.
I miss you!