It was a comfortable 19⁰ Celsius on the eve of 14th June, 2016 when I finally exit the Borispol Airport alongside my crutch, my companion, my coach for the next six weeks. I remember the clear skies and the fresh air as we made our way to my home for the summer, sitting in the front row of a surprisingly quick and comfortable bus.

The city was beautiful, no doubt about it. It was a pleasant change and I don’t just mean the weather. The buildings spread far and wide, each a marvel in its own stead and the warm yellow lights covered most of the landscape, but, as I looked around every neon sign and advertisement was beyond recognition. My surroundings were familiar yet meaningless. My senses were heightened and I found myself eavesdropping on conversations that made little sense to me, accents that were new to me, strings of syllables where I couldn’t tell the words in a sentence apart. I was relying on my perception, more than anything, trying to read expressions and body language.

The stiff smirk through the corner of his lips when he knew I didn’t belong.
Was he mocking me or was he a threat?
The warmth in her eyes as she excused herself when I blocked her path.
Was she a kind soul or could she tell how far out of my comfort zone I was?
I had no clue what the language barrier was going to feel like and I judged every stranger and built a profile of them, however inaccurate it might have been.

The funny part is that none of this was scary. I didn’t want to run and hide. I didn’t clutch my bag any harder and I didn’t feel my pocket every two seconds. I wanted to stand in the middle of a sidewalk and take it in. I was dazed but it was the challenge I’d signed up for. That being said, I sat and wondered what I’d done had there been no one to pick me up at the airport and came up blank.

We reached my hostel a few hours (and wrong turns) later to no disappointment. Two warm introductions and a quick tour later, it was time to brush my teeth and CRASH. I woke up to a bright stream of golden, what seemed like an eternity later only to find it’d only been a few short hours. A rejuvenating shower followed and I soon found myself at the doorstep to my hostel once more, surrounded by a dozen new faces and a zest to get going. Making my way to the bus stop, I could never have imagined the surprises the following few days held for me. Below, I describe my impression of the two locations that have truly stood out for me so far.

THE CITY CENTER

After a short hike and a marshrutka ride, we arrived at the heart of the city. The all too familiar hustle bustle of a capital hit me soon as the doors slid open but it was the faint, lingering western classical that had my attention. It took me a moment to find the source, but I realized it was a woman in maybe her early twenties, perched on the entrance to a subway with her synthesizer and though I did see a box of change right next to her, I have a feeling it wasn’t about that. She paid little attention to her surroundings and her hands reminded me of ballet dancers in a spotless Marley floored room. The music never ceased or missed a note, even when she’d push her hair back or scratch her nose.

We’ve been to the city center multiple times over the past few days but it just feels so new and different each time. No two buildings look similar because they all have something unique about them. It could be anything from something as basic as an uncommon shade of paint or the artistic detail in the window panes. The only factor letting you know that you didn’t just step into another city every few steps is the constant theme of blue and yellow. The national flag can be spotted waving on just about any block of concrete you’d term a building.

As you walk through the streets, it’s hard to miss a certain air of belonging in every individual. They might not be wearing the best fitting clothes or the warmest smile around but everyone seems to portray the best form of themselves, be it in their body language or their nature. You can find all sorts of people sitting on the parapet that lines the streets. I’ve seen an immaculately dressed elderly enjoying a book and I’ve seen a teenager selling fresh flowers.

The subways are no different. Creative graffiti lines the walls and although I do not understand any of it, it sure adds to the youthful soul of Kyiv. The occasional musician is also a welcome addition to anyone’s commute.

The city center, in essence, lives up to its name by being the center of activity for the city, from Shakespearean reenactments to lemonade or coffee vendors and everything in between. 

THE WATER MUSEUM

The water museum is actually a tower that’s located at a walkable distance from the city center and was actually the source of water for the entire city at one point. It still has a functioning pump to illustrate how it worked while it was still in use and is now a museum with some basic, but interesting exhibits on the ground floor, a conference room on the top floor and a spectacular view of the city and its surroundings from the rooftop.

Our guide for the tour, Polina Hloba, guided us through the exhibits enthusiastically and informatively as we brushed up our Environmental Science with some basic facts and moved on to interesting illustrations, reminding me how and why water is important to not only our existence, but sometimes entertainment too.

To add a hasty conclusion, I’d just like to say that this is just the beginning. Half a week’s worth of updates of the six I’m going to spend here and I’m positive this only gets more interesting from here on out, so…STAY TUNED!




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