Alex has taught at four public schools, been accepted into three honorary societies, and traveled the Americas and Europe. He has his BS.
Way back in the distant year of 2014, Ukraine was everywhere in the news. There was political turmoil and acts of protest as well as acts of terrorism. That was exactly when I decided to visit the country. I love to be close to danger, especially when possible death and beautiful women are involved.
I still remember waiting in the car on the way to the New York city airport. We all had time on our hands, so I chose to watch the news on my smartphone. I saw an Al Jazeera news story about Kiev (the city I would eventually arrive in by plane). Things were getting heated and serious. I was excited in more than one way; and, that's how any adventure should start, shouldn't it!?
Note that my camera's time stamp was not properly set before I entered the Ukraine. I had bought the camera shortly before my visit, and the camera was automatically set to 2013 (which was probably the year of the camera's final release for that specific model).
I didn't get a plane directly to the Ukraine. That would be too simple, and who wants that? I had to stop in Warsaw, Poland in order to board another plane.
While I was in Poland, I went towards a money exchange booth with the intention of trading U.S. dollars for Ukrainian grivnas. After I had given the woman inside the booth my money, I learned that she couldn't exchange it for grivnas. It would have helped if I had been learning Polish! So, I accepted some Polish zloty and went on my way.
I think that one thing visitors should find interesting is the many, many remnants of the Soviet Union. There are statues of Vladimir Lenin just about everywhere. One can sometimes find hammers with sickles and "CCCR" (English: "USSR") engraved into city architecture and culture. I personally love statues and history, although I cannot state any positive feelings towards Lenin.
I will further note that statues of Vladimir Lenin are not the only statues you are likely to come across if you choose to visit the Ukraine. There are so many wonderfully crafted monuments all around this gorgeous country!
I first got off of the plane and went about the city of Kiev. Kiev has amazing buildings; they are far more magnificent than even our beautiful New York city! One of the first things that I noticed was that there was a Kentucky Fried Chicken sign on the side of one of the huge skyscrapers. I felt this was humorous, but I also was relieved to see something so familiar in this strange land.
Many of my ancestors wandered throughout various lands for years in search of the promised land, but this was my first trip beyond leaving a couple of US states away from my long-time home in Maryland. New neural pathways were linked and synthesized as never before felt emotions flooded my mind.
I spent the night on a train to the Dnipropetrovsk province. I remembered being in awe at the sheer size, majesty, and antiquity of the thing. I had never slept on a train before. My previous experience had been with another well-aged train that was far smaller and much slower.
I have always loved bunk beds and that is indeed what was there in the train's sleeping compartments. I went to sleep to soon wake up in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast.
One of my favorite memories of my time in the Ukraine was my mustache freezing. I do not believe that this is seen in any of my photos; I suppose that during the worst of the cold I was far less likely to take any pictures, especially pictures of myself!
I shall take a moment to further emphasize how cold the Ukraine can be; while on a bridge in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, I saw people walking on top of a frozen lake below said overpass! I remember seeing lots of people there - even children! Me and my ex were about to try this out, although dire news came our way and we had to cancel.
An additional of the foci of my enthrallment was the cigarette kiosks. It was so puzzling for me; there simply existed enclosed cylindrical tobacco kiosks in the streets! The way they were enclosed reminded me of all of the protections around a cashier in some typical convenient stores. Though, these were just thin human operated cigarette vendors situated randomly in the city! I do not support smoking by the way. Even so, this was a strong indication that I was far from home.
Anyway, the year begins much colder than it does even in my semi-northern US state of Maryland. The weather warranted a lot of heat insulating clothes. I remember inviting my ex girlfriend to come and see the sunrise with me one morning. I bring this up, because during this freezing Ukrainian morning, all I could think of (besides I really want to go inside somewhere!) was that I wished she would wear thick boots instead of the cute little shoes she was wearing. Her shoes were adorable and even attractive, but I felt so bad that she had decided on fashion over personal comfort.
While in the country, I decided to do things that I could not so easily do back in Maryland, USA. For one, I used some of my Ukrainian grivnas to buy birch sap and quail eggs. I drank all of the birch sap and the quail eggs tasted just like chicken eggs do (they're just harder to prepare for eating).
One of my happiest experiences was when I was in the malls of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. In one mall, I had the chance to go up and down on elevators that rose with only supports at the top and at the base. I also got the chance to walk on a glass bridge at a concerning height - it was a blast (or, Oblast)!
At another mall, I wanted to go to the restroom before I ate with my ex. I only wanted to use the sink to clean my dirty hands, but I found that I needed to pay in coinage in order to enter. I simply paid and washed my hands. Perhaps this is a good kind of system - the bathroom was incredibly clean!
Yet another experience I remember fondly was my visit to the Dnipropetrovsk National History Museum. One of the things that one might notice right away is the beautiful and ancient statues that stand outside of the museum. My ex took photographs of these statues, but I do not currently have access to these.
I remember wanting to know so much more about the artifacts and objects in the museum, but having difficulty with the guide whose native language was definitely not English. [By the way, if said guide is reading this; I was not angry with you. I was in a very bad mood that day, but you were a very sweet and very good guide honey!]
Furthermore, the museum's collection is awesome; having everything from the most ancient of human items (like part of an ancient grave), to objects that are only hundreds of years old. I loved this museum so much, despite my moodiness!
As I mentioned earlier, I was in the Ukraine in a time of political unrest. My insider told me that the protest in the first of the two videos below was a faked governmental display. That is to state that, although there was clearly a congregation - not actual protesting was occurring according to my insider. This event excited me deeply as I was and am very fond of world news.
Purportedly Fake Protest in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Ukraine
My insider informed me that the following video of a protest was a legitimate protest. I loved the smells, the feelings, the air, and the overall atmosphere when I walked the streets in Ukraine (especially when I was in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. However, this protest added something else. Even in all of my travels in the country, this experience was very unique.
Allegedly Legitimate Protest in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Ukraine
I love Ukraine and I miss her so much. I recommend that you be careful and take safety measures if you ever decide to go yourself.
Regardless, I am certain that I will go back one day if I ever get the opportunity! The Ukraine is a super awesome place and I have missed her dearly ever since I came back to Maryland.
Okay, so I am not quite done yet! The plane ride home from Poland was very interesting. I had already noticed that the thin gentleman next to me may just be the only African on the plane - everyone else seemed to be very Polish. Even I am part genetically Polish!
Anyway, I felt comfortable with the man who was beside me as he seemed to be American as well. We began talking.
Soon, as our conversation got more intense, the two beautiful Polish women in front of us joined our conversation. One of the women was perhaps ten years my senior, and the other was about my own age at the time. We all started taking shots of vodka (I had been drinking ever since a woman, who I had given my virginity to, had died - I am about four years sober as of now).
How did I pay for the shots? Well, remember earlier how I mentioned that I accidentally traded my money for Polish zloty? I used the money I wouldn't be able to use anywhere else anyway! We carried on as the rest of the passengers acted like robots!
Later, the younger Polish woman told me that, if she had not had a boyfriend, then she would consider dating me. I hadn't even ended my last relationship and I was already flirting with pretty women! Anyway, the aforementioned African-American man - he's since gone on to perform on Broadway. There was something magical about this romantic ending to a life journey that was already quite fantastic!
© 2017 Alexander James Guckenberger