The above picture was taken just a few minutes after we boarded the train from Kiev bound for Novagrad. I use the term boarded very loosely because that term seems to condure up images of a line of people waiting to board a train with a nice old conductor smiling and welcoming them to a relaxing ride through the beautiful countryside. Ya know, all those train scenes in movies we have seen, or in TV shows like “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman” (my former pain), or my more recent pain, Hallmark Hall of Fame’s “Loves Long Journey” which I have affectionately renamed “Loves Long Pile of Schlop”. I think they are on episode #2345 where Maddie’s great, great, great, great, great, great grand- daughter Alexia finds true love on the Space Ship Enterprise. Anyway, back to my “still felling it from yesterday’s pain”.
So we had a little snag in paperwork right before we were to leave for the train. Our Facilitator in Kiev wanted to clear it up, which was great, but it put us way behind in catching our train to Novograd. Now, drivers in Ukraine are similar to drivers in Boston except for a few differences. There are no rules of the road, they are even more angry, just less vocal about it, and you kind of wonder how much Vodka they slammed during the day when you see how they drive. They park anywhere they want to, especially on the sidewalks. As a matter of fact, when our driver thought we would not make our train (traffic was heavy) he said, “Maybe I can save us a minute,” and then proceeded to drive up on the sidewalk. For the next 5 minutes, I was reliving every chase scene I have ever seen on TV. I was worried about dying, as well as concerned for all the pedestrians in our way. Finally, we made it to the train station with 4 minutes to spare.
We grabbed our bags and ran as fast as we could to Train #43 car #1. I think we ran about 1/2 a mile toting suitcases & backpacks. Upon reaching the train, we hoisted the 50 lb. bags up on the train then climbed aboard. Then we made our way down the smoked filled aisle, where people were staring at us through their shot glasses and beer bottles. We made it to our seats, hearts pumping and well, just a tad stressed out. It was then I started trying to figure out whose lousy idea it was to ride the train! On our way to the station the driver said we could make it by car in half the time. It would cost 8-10 times as much (probably $200-300), but you would get there quicker and had a better chance of survival- even considering the unique driving skills of Ukrainians. Plus it was night-time so it’s not like we were gonna miss seeing the pretty Ukrainian country side if we did miss the train. I wish we had.
The train was old, dark, and scary and filled with people, lots of middle aged and young people, a couple older ones, but not many. When taking a look at some of these characters, I was convinced many were running from the law or at best terrorists. I was a little freaked out. Here we were, two obvious American tourists, with lots of cash strapped to our bodies, stuck on a train with who knows who. Did I mention it was smoke filled? Yep, picture a smokey bar with little to no ventilation. Don’t even get me going on the bathrooms. I will say this, the toilet seat (which I did not use) looked like it was constructed from a 1950’s Russian tank. I’m pretty sure you would get puncture wounds if you sat on it. Oh yeah and right by the toilet was a full floor to ceiling window. I’m certain there were Ukrainian country folk sitting along side the tracks just laughing at people doing their business as the train whizzed by. Can’t blame them, I’m sure they don’t have cable. I just looked out the window and waved. Upon returning from the restroom, I sat down with my hands in the air and said to Tracie, “Pass me the disinfectant wipes, now!”
Now, Derek and Renee rode the train which elevates them to a whole new level of crazy. I can’t even begin to picture what it was like with 3 handicapped children. Derek said “it was an adventure” and Renee told me she just laughed the whole time. That’s how THEY handle stress. Trace is probably somewhere in between the two of them. I, on the other hand, when put in those type of “pressure situations”, can tend to develop turrets syndrome. You know that disease where people will just randomly cuss out loud for no apparent reason to onlookers. So go ahead and take another look at the picture. …. just take another look. Then read the below ending.
If my kids where writing the caption to this picture it would say “Uncle Derek told Daddy that riding the train would be a ‘fun adventure.’ Now Daddy wants to whack Uncle Derek in the back of the legs with a hockey stick like he use to do when they were kids, except he can’t cause now he has emphysema or quite possibly LUNG CANCER! ” 🙂
I could really use a good sappy Hall Mark Hall of Fame movie right about now.