Wednesday, June 09, 2010

South Ossetians

I have met some people from South Ossetiya. It is amazing how warm and wonderful people they are. This is the second time in my life, that I have appeared in the middle of a group of unknown people who have from the very start accepted me as one of their own, and even more made me feel like I was part of their family. I am still bit overwhelmed.

We have exchanged only few words, as the days were pretty hectic, but somehow sometime not many words have to be said for people to feel the connection.... and here it indeed went without the words from the very first moments.

The more difficult it is to imagine, that most of them were actually somehow affected by the war that broke in August 2008 in their place, and most were actually present when the bombing, shooting and killing took place . They describe in calm words what was happening, how they felt... and I just stare at them in astonishment... both cause I cannot imagine what was happening... as well as I cannot even believe anywhere in this century could something so dreadful be happening.

Wished all conflicts were finally resolved... .... !bloom


Friday, March 26, 2010

... getting restless again... and going to London is definitely not the place I would want to travel to.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mongolia trip, summer 2009

(some photos on facebook)

For quite a while I was not exactly in a mood to write. Maybe too many things were happening and one needed to pay full attention not to lose the pace...

Going to Ukraine meant that one year I was to be stuck in one country with possible trips to ... Czech republic. How exciting. That was thus definitely an incentive, to look for other weird places and Mongolia emerged. A friend of mine works there and after few chats, the "plan" was set, hiking equipment purchased, visa received and I was ready to fly.

The first stop on my way to Ulaanbaatar was Moscow. That was my first time to visit Russia, although I was just at the airport. It is worth mentioning it though, since I had a 10 hour stop-over there. The flight to Ulaanbaatar was in the evening local time and I arrived early in the morning to Mongolia to be picked up by Kuba. First few hours in UB we spent just talking and getting ready for the trip (with Indian meal for lunch!) and in the afternoon we arrived to a local bus stop in UB, ready to start the adventure. The bus was to leave at 3pm. I was then already 30 hours without proper sleep.

Our plan was to take a local bus from UB to a small city of Olgiy, in a western most province of Mongolia, Bayan Olgi. There was over 1600km ahead of us.

When the bus left at 5pm, all the seats were full, few more seats were invented and all possible empty spaces - under the seats, in the aile, next to the driver, on the exit steps - were filled with boxes, bags and other luggage. Mine and Kuba's seats were in front in the bus which meant that we did not have to climb to get to them... other travellers (only locals) in the back ... were less fortunate. I only could admire old grandmas with sticks who with a strained smile climbed up on those piles of boxes and bags and courageously were struggling to their seats.

Sitting down meant hitting with knees on the back of the front seat, with feet cramped between boxes which were pushed under the each and every seat. Literally, one could not move in any direction, and this way, we were to stay for 2,5 days and nights.

In the first row, with their back to the driver, there were several passengers sitting. I think they were 9 altogether. Among them, one was a young woman with a small baby, next to her was a grandpa with a grandson. The boy was just coming back from a surgery, still clinging to his cratches and sitting on his grandpa's lap the whole trip!

The bus left in the afternoon of Monday and with regular breaks for toilet was driving through the vast deserted plains of Mongolia. We spent hours talking, listening to mp3, looking out of the window, tucking the wholes up around the glass in the window to prevent rain pouring down on us ... and there were still hours and hours to go. Usually we stopped for dinner but other than that, we would eat in the bus, "sleep" in the bus, "wash" in the bus, "live" in the bus...

It was Wednesday 2pm when we left the city of Hovd. It seemed we are just a tiny bit away from our destination. Then we heard this creaky noise and the bus stopped. After some examination, they found out the gearbox broke down and since we did not have any spare one, it was necessary to get a new one. There was obviously no mobile connection, few men thus set off to hike on the close by mountain to trace a signal. Others were waiting for passing by jeeps, which either did not stop, or did not offer a help. We were still fortunate enough though, as the bus broke down only an hour away from the Hovd city.

It took some 4 hours for the bus to get repaired. Fortunately, the place where the bus was forced to stop was amazingly beautiful and it was fairly sunny for most of the time, so the time did not pass by that slowly.

I must admit though, that my mind was ready to suffer only for 2,5 days. Thus when we got back to the bus, I was starting to feel very anxious and was not at all happy about a stop for dinner that we did at 1am... I really really wanted to finally arrive...
We were 51 hours on the way and together with the previous 30 hours of hardly any sleep, I was beyond exhaustion. After the dinner, the driver continued the journey. It is worth mentioning there were two drivers that kept changing, as we were not sure about that when we were leaving for the trip.

It was nearing 4am and I kept on looking out for some lights that would signal we are nearing the city. The only thing I noticed was yet another weird sound, and then the bus stopped... we ran out of gas...


... I was furious. Especially, since there was again no mobile signal and with the morning only few hours away both of the drivers just lied down next to the driver's seat and went to sleep... they obviously decided "morning wiser than night" and reckoned they could ask for a help once the morning arrived.

I woke up at 7am. That was the first time during the whole trip that I felt like I slept and probably the first time ever that I slept sitting down which could possibly be explained by my tiny exhaustion... I was not in a happy mood as I was trying to straigten my neck (my very very long neck, mind you!) and only the bags and other co-travellers' bodies that seemed to be lying scattered across the bus and thus in the way, prevented me from climbing front to where the drivers were sleeping in neatly set & very comfortably looking beds, to wake them up... an awakening none of us would remember with love (cruel satisfaction maybe)...

"What is the time?" I asked. Kuba stirred in his sleep... as did the people around us. I was really proud of myself, as with one question I managed to wake up the bus... but not the whole bus, the drivers (flying daggers...)were still asleep... but in a bit suddenly some guys appeared outside bringing a canister with gas... not sure how that happened and I dont care... the most important was, that the noise outside made the drivers finally wake up too and we were on our way within some 30minutes (grrr, sure, go brush your teeth, you little *) and after another hour or so we finally arrived to Olgiy. It was Thursday morning and we got out of the bus after 60 hours.

One passenger in the bus, who spoke some English and with whom we got to talk a bit during some of the breaks on the way, helped us to book a hotel. We brought our stuff in, I had the best shower ever, after taking clothes of that I had on myself for those previous three days (!!), and then we set off for exploring the city, Kuba probably tried writing his thesis for a bit too... In any case, we met with a person, who was to become our guide and driver in the Altay mountains for the next several days, we did grocery shopping for the trip, visited World Vision :o), arranged some permits to the national park and border areas and went to a tourist bureau where the general answer to all our enquiries was "I dont know" and "no, we do not have that". In the evening, we got back to our hotel and I finally went to sleep.
Hundred hours without bed.

The next day we were to set off for a 7day trip to Altay mountains.


HIV/AIDS Project

I was given the opportunity to prepare an HIV/AIDS Project while working with my organization. The whole process has taken quite some time and I had numerous of meetings that kept on leading me futher and it seemed there is no end to it. Finally an idea emerged and I could focus on putting all together. There were many people helping me along the way but finally it is over. I have finished the final version and submitted it. And I am so releaved.
In real everything is only beginning but that is the next chapter, the next story...


There are not even two more months to go and my Ukrainian adventure will be over. The time passes fast, especially if one has a great time...

It is nearly 2am and I am at my computer, listening to music, wide awake and somewhat full of expectations and excitement... I have no clue what is to come, but I am sure it is gonna be wonderful... I feel it now. And although I generally dislike the necessity to look for work and all the fuss connected with changes, I like these "enlightening" moments of "knowing".


Friday, October 16, 2009


Yesterday was not exactly a good day. Many things that could turn ok, turned bad and I was bit surprised about the events that took place as I did not see a reason why all that should happen. I actually did start the day with a good mood.

Anyways, walking home I was really looking forward to buy this really tasty bread in our supermarket - pretty much every bigger supermarket has its "own" bakery where you can buy (for freaking high prices!!!) delicious freshly baked breads. Having so many things go bad that day, while passing by this beatle whom I could have saved if I stepped on him and finished his agony of living this life, I realized that very likely my bread won't be available any longer; it was past 19.30... but I thought it is good I realized this while walking to the supermarket as I cannot be disappointed when only IN the bakery I find out they really dont have it. I will be ready...

Anyways - lesson learnt - you cannot outsmart life who is adamant on making you feel bad on a particular day... yes, they did not have my bread, so no suprise there ... but what did shock me was that the bakery was gone from the supermarket altogether! So no, you cannot get ready to what life brings you...

... at least i saved 5 dollars...


Friday, April 24, 2009

I DID IT! :o))

ok, it is not exactly important right now what I did, but I am just so happy I actually did it, I had to write about it... ! :D

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


This weekend I went for a trip to Odessa, a port city in the south of Ukraine.

The nice part about travelling in Ukraine is that although travelling to most of places takes several hours, the train system is so worked through, that you can travel to most of the places over the night - leave in the night and arrive comfortably (if you had a good sleep on the train) in your destination the next morning.

That is what our plan was for the long weekend. The first fairly funny thing happened at 22.45 in Kyiv. We show our tickets to the conducter, and she with a confused face look at us and says... but your tickets are for tomorrow night, not tonight. And indeed, the date 18th April is printed on the tickets and tonight is the Friday 17th. Well, anyways, there is nothing that cant be solved if the right amount of money is there. When we ask for a free space, we are told the new price, and the conductor finds us several beds, including their own.

We arrived to Odessa at 9am the next morning. It was sunny and warm and we set of to find a place to have a breakfast. When we find this beautiful Zavtrak cafe, outside on the main street, witch French music playing and croissants "fragrant", a nasty looking Security comes to us and says "we are closed"... We look around and see other people having breakfasts in the cafe... So I start to enquire... at the end we find out there is "technical problem" but as long as we "take away", we can sit outside. Well, Ukraine :o).

At 1pm we accommodated ourselves in an appartment that we had rented for the weekend and set off to explore the city. The center of Odessa is small but there is a number of beautiful sunny streets with amazing architecture and lots of trees. We made it to the main sights and managed to accidentaly meet one American that we got to know in a pub few days back in Kyiv ("... what is your name?") (he already had a nice Ukrainian girl on his hand). After the stroll, we ended up in one tiny cafe in a park next to the Opera... we got some food and just relaxed. Later on we moved into another cute restaurant in one of the side streets where we accidentaly met an AIESEC couple (Dutch and Ukrainian) - the world indeed is small. And then, in the night we went to one traditional Ukrainian restaurant with simply amazing amazing food. After that we were to go to area called Arcadia, where some of the night clubs are located close to the beach area. With expectations of a wild night we were thus quite taken aback to discover this lively street with lots of bars to be completely empty and liveless... well... it was simply too early in the season :o)).

Next morning, three of us set off for a nice quest. When visiting one of the social service centers last Tuesday, a name of a boy was being mentioned and that he was transfered to Odessa. I said I am visiting Odessa the very weekend and so we agreed with this lady that I will try to see the boy in Odessa if we manage to find in which Rehabilitation center he is placed. The boy is HIV+, with history of TB complications, an orphan. When in Odessa, I call and find out from another social worker the address of the boy and we go and do shopping for fruits and sweets that we could bring along to the center, both for the boy and other kids. Afterall it is Easter (orthodox).

We get a taxi, find the Rehabilitation center and enter into the building. We are stopped straight at the reception by one of the social workers there, as we simply can not just march in the center (logically) and ask to visit some kid. I look at the lady, then I look in the corridor, and I see "my boy" sitting there on the sofa. He just had a visit from his relatives and by sheer coincidence he was out there sitting, watching us and listening to my explanations. The lady insists that it is not proper what we did, without announcing the visit ahead and getting consent of the director, as well as that they do not accept food for children... at the end (no matter the strick voice, she does have a good heart) she lets us talk to the boy and does take what we brought for the children. So we spent several minutes with Vadim. He tells us a bit about his life in the new place, about things he likes and plans for future... and he seems so positive looking and so reconciled with his situation, I could hardly believe it.

We meet the rest of our group in one restaurant in the early afternoon but since they seem to be keen of continuing to eat, two of us set for a walk around Odessa. We go to the port, walk through a park and meet the rest few hours later at the beach. Beautiful beautiful beaches are in the very center of Odessa. We hang out around, have fun on a close by lift... and after that we walk through the streets of Odessa back to the appartment. We are to go out for a dinner (some of us - steak house!) and then go out. This time being wise, we decide to go to this famous several-floor disco place in the center of Odessa. But the place is closed... Odessa, believe it or not, is simply empty during the Easter break. We are amazed, speechless... We slowly walk towards our appartment when I suddenly hear a music for the basement. When we turn around the corner, there is a night club. We are happy to finally find some life in Odessa! We enter the bar and two guys stop us along the way "Do you know what this bar is?" ... we look at him confused... "It is a gay club"... one of the friends looks confused and says "but there are girls too..." ... "those are lesbians" ... So our "luck" lasted only few seconds when we are walked out of the club.. but then we realize... they never said no to us... just warned us. So we go back... We get our own table and join into this crazy night. There are many things happening... but we enjoy ourselves. It is nice not to have to care... I even tried to dance by a pole! But it is not as easy as it seems... but it is great fun to play. Anyways, at the end the night ended up being great :o)).

On Monday morning we go for a breakfast in two. Already on Sunday we were only three for breakfast. The nights seem to be hard and not many people manage to get up "early" (=before 12). I love the breakfasts, as we always end up in the same place, which is simply lovely with its atmosphere, slow forgetful waitresses and yummy food. In the afternoon, the 10 of us go to the close by Nerubayskiye Catacombs. We get lost several times along the way, before we find out that although the Catacombs are marked on the left in the map, in real they are on the other side of the road. But we find them and are lucky enough to be on time for the last "showing".

Close to Odessa there is an area where 15m thick layer of limestone was formed at the bottom of the Black sea. That dates to 2mil years back and the sea has moved since then several km away. The limestone has been used as a cheap building material and most of the center of Odessa was built from it. The stone was being mined since 2nd half of 19 century leaving labyrinth of approx. 3000 km long corridors. The corridors were mined in three floors and are connected to each other. So far only half of the catacombs are mapped and 700m of those are showed to tourists.

When Odessa was attacked by Germans during the WW2, it took 73 days before the city was occupied. During that time several brigades of partisans were formed and hid themselves in the Catacombs. Catacombs thus served as a base for undermining the German occupation and spying. There were 12 brigades with approx. 1500 men. Each brigade was placed in different part of Catacombs and were not connected, on the other hand each brigade did have internal connection with different parts of the caves. The partisans built all the necessary places within the catacombs, kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, ... even classrooms for their kids. They had the artillery room there, shooting training room, meeting rooms... etc.

As much as harm as partisans tried to cause to Germans, the Germans would cause to partisans... they would flood the cattacombs, close entrances to Catacombs with concrete, put poison gas into the Catacombs... The partisans lived over 900 days in the Catacombs, some 2/3 of them survived.

On our way back to Odessa we took local marshrutka, which was a great experience, utchitivaja how crowded the marshrutka was, but how friendly the people were.
The rest of the day we spent in a cafe, then went to a Fat Moses for dinner... and by 11 were at the railway station, ready to get back to Kyiv by the night train (and of to work in the morning).


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In Europe, Ukraine is the country with highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate (1.63%) among adult population. The estimation is that 440 000 people are infected with HIV. Although the rate crossed 1 percentual point, the epidemic is considered to be concentrated (rather than generalized), which means there are still groups that are most at-risk and the epidemic has not yet been really bridged to the general population.

These above sentences should serve as an introduction to an experience that I went through yesterday. I met with a social worker who has taken me to visit several of the social daily centers that concentrate on injecting drug users as well as on people that are diagnosed as HIV-infected (ВИЧ-инфицирован).

... will continue later