A day in the life…in Lviv, Ukraine

I think I’ve become completely nocturnal since I’ve been in Ukraine. I find myself staying up until 3-4-5:00 a.m. Then I sleep until two in the afternoon. The evenings find me roaming the streets of Lviv, marveling at the architecture and the lights. I get captivated by the café life and the street vibe and find myself rotating from one coffee house to another, downing lattes and hot chocolate.

No wonder I’m awake all night.

My young charges, Yuri and Michel, called the other night. These are two of the young men I met here at the hotel a few days ago. They were a part of a bachelor’s party and had been fascinated by me, an American. They called, wanting to know if I was free to hang for awhile.

We spent several hours walking around Lviv. They took me to a bar that had good beer. Like many, if not most, restaurants and bars in Lviv, it had an underground area. These basement-type locations give the café scene in Lviv a bohemian feel. I almost expect Kerouac to emerge and give speeches about existentialism.

Anyway, Michel and I each ordered a very tasty beer. Yuri was driving, so he ordered orange juice. I have to admit that I was impressed by his choice. Even though it’s entirely possible to bribe a policeman if one is pulled over for drunk driving, he wasn’t about to risk it.

They ordered a platter of scrumptious cheeses and another of meats—mostly ham, sausage and…horse meat. They asked beforehand if I had ever eaten horse before and I answered, “Not that I know of.” In high school we were fed hamburgers that looked suspicious to us and we used to laugh that we were actually eating National Velvet’s grandchildren.

I tried a slice of the horse meat. It was very salty and very strong. Perhaps it was just me and my discomfort in eating the meat of an animal that I consider so regal and stunning, but it just didn’t do anything for me. Yuri and Michel, however, enthusiastically jumped in. Horse meat is apparently quite common in Ukraine—and in Russia, according to them.

Afterward, we just wandered around again. They showed me various points of interest, beautifully illuminated churches with intricate carvings. And they are interested in bringing iPhones to Ukraine. They want to provide me with the money to purchase phones and send them to Ukraine where they fetch $1000+ easily. Hmmm….

Our conversations revolve around the cost of things in America and the incomes one can earn. When I tell them that a glass of wine in a restaurant is $9, they practically faint. When I tell them an really good pizza is about $15, they’re equally astounded. But when I tell them that the per capita income in Oregon over $42,000, they understand. And their eyes sparkle.

They would love to come to America and work–for awhile, make as much money as possible and then return to Ukraine. They love Ukraine and are devoted to their nation.

But America fascinates them, which is why they are so enamored with me. As I am old enough to be their father, I live (and have lived) a life completely beyond their comprehension. They see America on television, in the news, online.

So, to meet an American, something that is highly unusual in Ukraine, they are naturally curious. When I showed them photos of my old home, they were amazed. They were fascinated by everything I told them about America. It validated their suspicions.

Now to segue into another topic…

On Monday I will have my new crowns installed. The cost will be roughly $250, including a cleaning. This is less than ten percent of the cost of two crowns and a cleaning in Portland which would be over $4000.

I also opted to get my eyes checked again. I had visited this particular eye doctor back in April when I was here because my eyes were really bothering me and I was concerned my prescription needed to be changed. At the time, the doctor said I was fine.

This time, however, in examining my eyes, he could tell that I have been using them too much. The first words out of his mouth were “Do you spend a lot of time in front of the computer?” I sheepishly admitted that I did. He insisted I take a day away from electronics to rest my eyes which I did.

I also opted to buy another two pair of eyeglasses—one for reading and one for driving. As it is now, I find myself wearing my glasses all the time which I think is messing up my eyesight. I’m not driving, so why do I need to wear them? I guess I’m getting a bit lazy.

Anyway, the cost for the appointment, two pair of eyeglasses, scratch-resistant coating, anti-glare coating and the prescription? $96. And yes, the doctor and dentist I had are both highly qualified and knowledgeable. I’m blown away by the cost of things here in Ukraine. I’m saving about $4500 having this work done overseas.

Just sayin’….

Today I found myself sleeping in VERY late yet again. Not sure why I’m so exhausted all the time unless it’s the goofy, nocturnal hours I’m keeping. While out and about tonight, I went to my favorite kebab shop here in Lviv. It’s the only 24/7 restaurant in the entire city and the kebabs are great.

While eating, I came across a young man from San Diego who is living in Lviv for the next six months and planning on doing a documentary on attitudes about Ukraine joining the EU. We had a lively chat on the glories of this city.

This young man, Daniel, had picked up on the undiscovered magnificence of Lviv. He was stunned by the architecture and the unspoiled nature of the city. Entire sections are completely intact, featuring original architecture, magnificent balconies, ornate sculpture.

It was a great conversation and he was interested in my efforts to research genealogy, asking me for my webpage and book information.

But more than anything, it underscored what, for me, is an incredible experience of living life as an expatriate—meeting new people and learning about them. People have crossed my path during this past year in many capacities, following many different roads. They’re on a journey, one that has captivated them and convinced them to make the trek.

There is Daniel here in Lviv for six months (I’m jealous) working on a documentary. There was Stefan, an Englishman of Polish descent, taking a spontaneous trip to Lviv, a city that intrigued him, on his way to a wedding in Slovakia. There was Soy, the young Korean woman who finished her graduate studies in Switzerland and was leaving for her new job in Berlin.

There were the three young English gals, all nurses that I met in Marrakech, out for a girls’ weekend. There was the Boston attorney who lives half the year in Ascoli Piceno, Italy. There were the two young couples in the Cinqueterre, both from the Portland area, enjoying their first trip to Italy.

These flashing moments in time trigger in me an excitement. We are all strangers, yet in a sense, we are all in the same boat, pursuing something specific or not, trying something new, seeking a bit of adventure.

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