Murse, Purse or Worse? Part I

BFIXS_dPick-pocketing is real problem here. If you put your wallet, phone, and keys in your pant pockets, you will eventually exit the metro train without them. When I first arrived in Kiev, friends advised me to buy a murse—a man’s purse. Are you kidding me? The truth is that even if you have a murse, you can still get pick pocketed, but the murse reduces the likelihood of such an event. I adamantly refuse to wear a fanny pack. There is absolutely no excuse to wear one. There ought to be law against men wearing fanny packs. I do not care if you are on vacation in Greece and have tons of money. Take your chances and get pick pocketed. At least all you lose is some money.

Anyways, what to do? I went to an outdoors, sporting kind of place to look for a bag. I did not want to risk accidentally buying a women’s purse, which to be consistent would be called wurse. After all, I do not have any experience in this area. One friend told me that some guys carry what appear to be women’s purses, and I have to tell you, there are some feminine looking bags being carried by men, and these men are married. Shopping for a murse is interesting. How do women do it? Do you buy a bag with a handle or shoulder strap? What color? What size? How many compartments? Good zippers? How does it close? How much (who cares)? And , of course, how does it make you feel? I bought a blue, athletic, masculine, small, manly-looking murse from the sports store with both a handle and strap to cover all the fashion bases. Carrying a briefcase or leather business bag by the handle looks manly, but carrying a small bag by the handle, looks, well, different, but many men here prefer that method. I am careful, of course, to wear the strap across my chest as opposed to on the shoulder. It is a bit harder to steal and carrying one on the shoulder is, well, strange, but again, some men prefer that style. I don’t.

The murse does work well and probably discourages most thieves. With this murse, I think preserved my masculinity and made the best of an awkward, but necessary purchase. I went downtown once without my blue murse and nearly lost my wallet. I had my wallet in my front pocket and was exiting the metro train. A man deliberately stepped in front of me even though he saw me coming all the way. “Danger, Will Robinson,” echoed in my head . . . to be continued.

Have I Seen You Before? Part IV

Ukrainian PolicemanI knew the policeman was desperate, but I called his bluff. He had no interest in writing a ticket because he does not get the money! He looked up at the ceiling of the car to see if an idea from the heavens would suddenly emerge. How do I get money from this American?

The force was not with him because he drew a blank. He looked at me, put away the clipboard, threw up his hands in frustration, and finally came to terms with the fact that not only had he lost this battle, but he had also spent twenty minutes losing. After all, he could have been using that time to pull over other cars driving through his personal toll booth.

He smiled, gave me my documents, and then put out his right hand in a gesture of sportsmanship, which I took, and said to me in English, “Alright. Let’s go.” I responded with laughter and replied, “Yeah, let’s go.” I thought to myself, “A bad day just turned into a good day and I hope I do not see you again.”


Have I Seen You Before? Part III

Ukrainian PolicemanI was getting a little frustrated because the officer was not picking up what I was throwing down. I told him clearly in Russian, “Write the ticket, please!” He picked up his clipboard with the form on it and looked at me quizzically, “Did you you say don’t write the ticket?” “No,” I replied slowly, “I said write the ticket.” In Russian the difference between the two commands is one letter. He again repeated, “Did you say don’t write the ticket?” Now he was simply insulting my impeccable language skills. I told him, “I am guilty and it is a bad day today.” He wanted to know why it was a bad day today! I replied, “It is raining and I am a foreigner trying to drive according to the rules and I am now here in your car.”

He asked where I was going and I told him. “How long will you be there?” he inquired. I answered, “About seven days.” Now he put the squeeze on. “You have to pay the ticket within ten days and you will be in Lviv! If you do not pay within ten days, you must pay double.” Actually it is fifteen days but do not ask me how I know that. Anyways, I replied, “No problem. I can pay in Kiev, right?” He would not give up: “Do you know how to pay the ticket? It is not easy.” Aha, he finally spoke some truth! There is nothing easy when it comes to doing paper work in Ukraine. Again, please do not ask me how I know this fact. I told the policeman that I would figure it out. I told him again, “It is a bad day today.”

By this point, the policeman was a little exasperated. He said, “Look, you can pay right here.” I said, “Not today. It is a bad day.” He asked me why I did not want to pay. I said again, “It is a bad day.” He asked me if I was against corruption. Yup and it is a bad day. He still did not give up. He tried one last time: “Have you ever given money to a police officer?” I replied, “The first time, but today is a bad day.” He asked me if I would not pay since it was a holiday. I looked at him and said, “I did not know it was a holiday, and that sounds good to me but you know the real reason.” He nodded and said, “It is a bad day.” Yup. We were almost finished.



Have I Seen You Before? Part II

Ukrainian PolicemanI sat down in the police car staring out the window at the cloudy, wet weather, getting mentally prepared for battle by silently reciting all my lines in perfect Russian. The man wants freshly-minted, pristine Ukrainian bills from my closed, leather wallet. Actually, he would take crumpled up hundreds come to think of it. Anyways, he is going to offer me the deal of a lifetime; I can pay right there in the vehicle and get a discount! The officer gives me the bad news. I was doing 87 km (55 mph) in a 60 km (40 mph) zone and that ticket will be at least 500 griven ($50). My eyes watched his nose closely to see if it was growing a few millimeters. Do not ask me how I know, but it costs 255 griven ($25) for this particular, heinous infraction.

You see, the way the officer was talking, you would have thought I had just run over his babushka rather than get caught speeding on an open highway. This was a serious offense! Americans are not allowed to drive fast on our roads! Only Ukrainians with large, black, omnivous vehicles can do that!

Unlike the officer, I decided honesty was the best policy because I hoped that the truth would set me free. I told the officer that I did not see the sign, I was clearly guilty, and he should write me a ticket.  Oh, and by the way,  your signs are pathetic! Why don’t you clearly mark the speed limits? He agreed with me and understood but he clearly missed the cue that I was not parting with the cash. The cue was simply this: write the stinkin’ ticket.

He was a bit surprised at my request, but recovered from the shock, and then we proceeded to make some small talk. He showed to show me the rules of the road book, written in Ukrainian, and pointed out my offense. He offered, “Maybe you should buy this book to help you since you are a foreigner. You need to understand the rules of the road.” I replied, “Thank you, but I know the rules. I simply missed the sign like the others three cars you pulled over. Write the stinkin’ ticket already! I think that book is cheaper on Amazon. Is there Kindle version?” To summarize the strategy, you first jack up the price of the ticket, offer a 50% discount to the violator to look like a generous police officer, and if that does not work, then you offer a product to help your poor victim.

But we were not done yet. He missed the cue again . . . to be continued.


Have I seen you before? Part I

The best cultural experiences I have had that involved mischief, have been with the traffic police. For the amount of times I have been stopped, you might think that I am a maniac on the roads in Ukraine. I assure you that I am not! I am merely a victim of rotten luck. If do not believe me, just keep reading.

I was driving out to Lviv Ukraine with an esteemed colleague, who helped me navigate the white signs and police check points, except for this one time. I got pulled over with the fierce-some, black and white baton for going too fast through a village located on the main highway, or autobahn. There was a bus or should I say bust stop there for the police to nail the unsuspecting.

The policeman came to my window, and we looked at each other, and the guy starts saying, “I know you! We have met before! Last time you told me you knew the rules of the road! You were with your wife heading to Odessa.” I replied, “Maybe we met a couple months ago and I had three boys with me and we were heading to Kiev.” Honestly, the guy looked familiar, and I think he pulled me over on the other side of the road at this same spot, but he was clearly mistaken about the facts. At that time, he pulled me over, but I was in the car with his fellow accomplice, who spoke English quite well.

Anyways, the policeman asked me to come to his car, and on the way, he swore that he had stopped me before about a month ago with my wife. I told him him he was wrong about that, but maybe we had met before. By this point I was getting upset with the whole situation and could not believe this guy had trapped me twice. It was going to be a long conversation today in the car . . . to be continued.

Ukrainian Policeman

Great Business Name

Received this card in the mail the other day for a reliable taxi service:

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Boy Scouts Trip

P1100168Boy Scouts Trip

Markus and Lukas with Pasha the guide on a recent trip with the Boy Scouts.


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