English Speaking Bum

Tonight was just like most nights in Ukraine, but with a slight twist towards the end of it. Let me start by giving a little background to what is a “normal” weeknight for me in Ukraine. As my workday ends, San Bruno employees are arriving in the office (9:00 AM PST is 7:00 PM here), which means San Bruno-SoftServe meetings begin. My first meeting is generally at 7:00 PM followed by another at 7:30 PM, however sometimes I only have one meeting. The meetings generally last 30 minutes to 60 minutes with the occasional 90+ minute meeting.

Once the meetings end (sometime around 8:00 to 8:30 PM) the San Bruno office is really beginning to become active, which leads to email. By 10:00 or 10:30 AM PST, San Bruno employees have gone through their mailboxes and replied to lots of mail, and more importantly mail sent from SoftServe. Now I could go back to the hotel at this point (and I sometimes do if a ride is offered) or I stay at the office and check the replies and reply back as needed.

If I go back to the hotel I usually log back onto the network and read/reply to mail. Once this process is complete the clock is generally at 10:30 or 11:00 PM. Now if I’m still in the office I begin my walk to the hotel and arrive in a blazing 45 minutes or so. If I’m in the hotel, then I get to think about dinner. Dinner at 10:30 or 11:00 PM in L’viv is like trying to find an empty cab on New Years in SF.

What does this mean, well that means my options are pretty slim. I know of three places that are open this late McDonald’s, the Hotel restaurant, and a “buffet” type place. The “buffet” place is decent, but nothing to rave about. The Hotel restaurant is excellent, but excellent=$50-$60 dinner and I try not to do that too often. Lastly there is McDonald’s. Always a safe choice because McDonald’s is McDonald’s regardless of the country you’re in, and they’re open until 11:00 PM in L’viv and it’s just a block down the street. Ideal location for us American tourists who are parked in the hotels here (note: if I don’t arrive at the hotel by 11:00 PM, my only option is the hotel restaurant, though I generally pass on dinner at that hour).

So tonight Serhiy grabbed me before he left and offered to take me on the tram. This was a great solution considering my knees are barely holding up this week (uneven terrain mixed in with 30lb backpack). So I packed up my stuff and we headed out the door.

By the time we made it to the tram “station” (this is just a random place on a road) we noticed the tram was in front of us. Change of plans. 5 seconds later we see a bus so we wave our hand and the bus stops (to be clear, we’re not at a bus stop, in fact there are no bus stops). We get on the bus and pay our small fee and drive down the bumpy road. As we approach the bottom of the hill I get up and begin to walk towards the door and that signals to the driver that I want off now. So at the next available time when he can safely stop he will. 1 second later he slams on the breaks and we stop in the middle of the intersection to let me off (see he was being safe by stopping all the cars behind him).

I walk to the hotel and log back online to reply to a few messages. I then make a phone call (30 minutes on hold for an international call… yup that’s going to cost some bucks, but that’s a different story). After all of that drama I’m ready for dinner, but it’s just after 10:30 PM which means my options are pretty slim. I opt for the McDonald’s today (I eat there a lot for dinner).

As I walk in the door the “cashier” smiles at me because she knows me (as I mentioned before, I eat there a lot for dinner). She immediately repeats my usual order Big Mac Menu, Sprite, Chicken. Translation for those non-Ukrainian speakers; a Big Mac, fries, Sprite and a 6pc McNuggets (Menu = Meal or so I think it does). That’s a lot of food but that’s what I eat and it tastes rather yummy.

So after I order my meal I wait for my food to be ready (this isn’t the fastest McDonald’s but fresh is good too). Once my Big Mac arrives I head to my normal seating area and begin to eat. Sitting near me is a bum, we’ll call him SBum for Smelly Bum (had a rather potent oder to him). Anyhow I’m eating and he is talking to some other people in Ukrainian. I don’t think much of it because I don’t understand a word they are saying.

Halfway through my Big Mac I hear something… no… I understand something. “Hey, do you speak English?” So I look up and SBum is looking at me asking if I speak English. Here, a bum speaks fluent English (well good enough). This is rare, and it’s not because he’s a bum but because he speaks English. Not many speak English in Ukraine so this is a surprise.

As I continue to eat my meal SBum tells me his life story about how he has been to Canada, New York, Germany, France, etc. and how he speaks Ukrainian, German, Swedish, French, etc. etc. Then he goes on to say Europe is a great place because Europe is Europe. Europe has it’s little parts and each part is different. Then he adds that America is nothing it’s just a bunch of people from everywhere. There is nothing “American.”

I thought this conversation was rather funny because he brings up some good points, but as we all know bums will be bums so he eventually asks the question, “do you have any spare change?” I reach into my pocket and give him some change, probably less than 1 Hryvnia, but he is satisfied. So he continues to talk and I continue to eat and when I’m finished I promptly head back to my hotel.

Anyhow, it’s getting late so I don’t want to describe the story anymore.


#1 Mom on 02.09.08 at 8:27 pm

Hi, you must be tired leaving your story hanging 🙂 I hope you are getting some much needed rest and will finish you story. See you very soon. Love you.

#2 bobvanzant on 02.12.08 at 5:09 am

I have to assume that Mexican food will be a staple for you as you haven’t even come close and I know the quality of the Taqueria’s near your office – they are great and you know the ones – then there is your favorite place – ah yes, graduation party, I am sure you will be stopping in soon.

You are young, but guess what: traveling just beats you down and plays havoc on your body, so listen to what your body says you can and can’t do over the next few weeks – after all, it is your body and it is wise.

It will be great to see you, but take care of yourself and your obligations and we’ll be here when you are ready: a nice 3 or 4 bone in rib eye roast rubbed and marinaded with my new special ranch/horseradish mix cooked on the rotisserie over mesquite and served up with gigantic baked potatoes and a nice salad – follow that with some pool and maybe something from my Tequila stock that I have advanced with my Puerto Vallarta trip.

Can’t wait to see you – rest and let your body recover – trust me, traveling as you have has a cumulative affect – just ask Bob.

Love Dad

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