I didn't want to go to the beach on Monday because I didn't think I'd be able to have a shower since I was checked out of the hostel (actually I did sneak back and have a shower, joke's on them) so I just spent the day breakfasting and lunching and sipping beverages in the sunshine, very relaxed.
As I said I was planning to, I went on the hunt for souvenirs – well, by “hunt” I mean I looked around all the stalls in the park I wound up in. I was particularly pissed off with the culmination of my Ukraine-wide search for coasters. Don't get me wrong, I'm not coaster-obsessed. In fact, I think this may be the only time in my life I've actually felt the need for coasters. But I have my flat now and my tables and I think in the week and a half I was there before going on holiday I had to clean off marks two or three times left by... um... I'm sure it was some unidentified non-alcoholic beverage... yes, that's it, non-alcoholic beverage. Anyway, after coming to the conclusion that Ukraine's tables were destined to be repeatedly violated by the horror of the sticky ring-mark, you can imagine my joy when I finally came across a set of coasters and snapped them up at once. On the very next stall, I saw some nicer coasters, and then I swear to god, every stall in the market had coasters! I wouldn't be so annoyed, but I'd even been to this very market the day before and not seen any (I wasn't looking very hard, but still). So now I'm stuck with a particularly ugly set of Odessa coasters rendered for some reason in that sort of "half-burnt poster from the Wild West" style. You'll know I love you very much if you get these in your Christmas stocking.
A very big post office with no postcards
I think this is an Islamic centre
You know you've been in Ukraine too long when you look at this and seriously think "I wonder what language ti 'nivol m'i is? Moldovan? Duh...
After going back for my suitcase and a quick shower, I decided to walk from my hostel to the train station, which wasn't particularly close, but I had time to kill and I've hauled heavier suitcases under worse conditions before. It was pretty much in a straight line as well, so even I couldn't manage to get lost. It did really hammer home the condition of Ukrainian footpaths though – tripping over about 20 times had already made me aware that they were very uneven and broken, but hauling the suitcase added a new dimension of curbs and gutters every few feet. It was fine though, took about 45 minutes to get there. I hadn't had a chance to get dinner, so I grabbed a kebab which was saucily delicious. Unfortunately, it was saucily delicious all over my pants. I had elected to walk down in my sleeping garb – tracksuit pants and a t-shirt – because the last time I tried to change from a dress into this on the top bunk of a second-class compartment it was quite the production - I attempted to do it lying down under the covers. I think the guy across from me turned the light out halfway through less to save me embarrassment than to save himself the sight of what must have resembled either a fiercely unsexy version of the dance of the seven veils, or (the metaphor I think my Dad would choose) the thrashing of a demented worm trying to shed its skin while caught in the trap of a funnel-web spider. Anyway, so now I was wandering the train station clad in a daggy tracksuit with a giant kebab sauce stain on my pants (a stain that I fear will now be a permanent reminder of my trip to Odessa), so I could not have looked hotter. I consoled myself with the thought that if I were in an American teen movie my peers would probably refer to me as 'kebab stain' for the rest of the film, and shun me accordingly. At least in real life, if people were calling me 'kebab stain', I was blissfully ignorant of the fact, and running around in a country where you can barely hold the simplest of conversations and people shout at you at the least provocation is pretty much like being shunned anyway, so I was really none the worse off for my kebabby badge of dishonour.
I'm currently in Frankfurt airport, with about three and a half hours to go to my next flight. After an overnight train trip (very hot and delayed for two hours), followed by an immediate departure to the airport and one flight already, I'm pretty tired, and I have obviously the wait here and another flight to go, then the RER train into Paris. I also am definitely coming down with a cold, my ears were just about exploding on the first flight. I hope not literally, since one of my eardrums literally did burst when I was a kid, due to an undiagnosed ear infection (I was on painkillers from having my tonsils out, it wasn't due to being a neglecterino), and while the memory is thankfully quite hazy, I'm not in any hurry to repeat the experience, cos I'm pretty sure it hurt like the dickens. But I should say hurray for Lufthansa! It's been ages since I flew on a proper airline, not since I got to Europe, and it's a pleasure to have people bringing you food and drink and not trying to sell you something literally every second of your flight (hello RyanAir?). And having an assigned, comfortable seat. Plus the flight wasn't full this time, so the middle seat was nice and empty. I think I'm window again for the next leg, which is nice.
Oh but I think I might have been nekked scanned at Kiev Airport, eee! Instead of walking through the normal metal detector, it was a little room with footprints for you to stick your feet on and then you held up your arms. For some reason, nekked scan didn't cross my mind, and I was expecting that little blast of air where they somehow mysteriously check you for explosives (come to mention it, it's kind of weird that they don't do that one at airports, at least not that I've ever seen). So it wasn't until about 5 minutes later that I put three and three together – little room, footprints, no blast of air, no pat-down, and came to the conclusion that I had been NEKKED SCANNED! The indignity!
Not very legible cos I didn't want to get into trouble for photographing it, but you're meant to declare at customs if you're taking any "printed materials, audio, audiovisual, or other stored information sources" out. What?? Is this still the Soviet Union? I ummed and ahhed about whether I would get in trouble, but decided it was probably far easier to just walk through the green channel
Also at Kiev airport, I went to the loos and the woman who came out right before me had left the gross, used paper toilet-seat cover on! Uh, lady, the point of that thing isn't to preserve the sanctity of the precious toilet seat you know... I realise I sound obsessed with toilets, but honestly, this country has so much to learn.
I'm looking forward to sleeping in a bed, even if it is in a dorm room, and being back in a country where I can speak the language, and most of all I'm looking forward to being home! Have the day in Paris first – not really my favourite place in the whole world, but since I couldn't get a flight that came in early enough to get a train back to Tours the same day, I thought I might as well go to a museum since I was forced to stay overnight there anyway. The day after I get home I have an appointment to get the internet hooked up as well, so that'll be good. Super high-speed fibre optic, here we come!
The next day
Hello all, it's Wednesday morning and I made it to my Paris hostel mostly without incident. Security wouldn't let me back on the plane with my duty-free vodka from Kiev, which was annoying because I'd asked like 3 people if I was going to be okay before going out into the terminal at Frankfurt. Obviously I wasn't going to make a big issue of it (although the guy was all "it's not from the EU" and I said "isn't that the point of duty-free?" Well - isn't it?) and they suggested I go back and check it in. Lufthansa was nice enough to do it free of charge (otherwise it wouldn't have been worth paying for it anyway) and amazingly it survived the trip in a plastic bag stuffed with old newspaper a nice man in the newspaper shop gave me.
Unfortunately the handle of my suitcase broke off when I was rushing to get on to the RER train from the airport to Paris. When will I learn that cheap suitcases are a false economy, do you think? I was soooo irritated, this guy was right in my face on the train going (in English) "welcome, welcome, no problem, no problem" and I said "YES problem" and he goes "is it broken, no problem" so I snapped "I'M REALLY NOT IN THE MOOD!" and stormed off. You can fecking decide whether it's a problem or not when you're going to be carrying it around for me! It has already proven a pain in the arse, but it's not that bad, I have the normal handle (just not the pull-out one) and at least it's at the end of my trip, but seriously, mind your own business, even when you're not dealing with someone who slept maybe 5-6 hours out of the preceding 36 and had been travelling for over 24 hours.
I slept okay although everyone in my room took about an hour to leave at 5 in the morning, so I wouldn't say I'm totally refreshed. Got woken up by a text though and thought I might as well get out there for the day before yaaaaaay home time! I think my mum will be finally able to relax for the first time in a couple of weeks (already since I've survived the Ukraine - incident-free I might add, other than the bank panic, which was nothing to do with Ukraine at all)!