ok.. so we have a friend here, our taxi driver Alexander. We found one we like and he can speak a little English, so we just have him come back for us everyday at noon. He is really nice, around 50, and very eager to practice his limited English. So after the visits with Artiom, he has been driving us around the city showing us the sights, like the 1000 yr old oak tree, monuments, churches,and the Dneiper river. But yesterday he took us out to the country, which we weren't even sure he was doing because of the language barrier, we just go along for the ride, wherever he takes us.
First he had to go meet a guy about some money, the guy had no money, so we had no gas. Rich dug around and found enough grivna to get enough gas to go to the country. Then we drove to a place where there was a huge compound, and it belonged to Vladimir Putin's friend. There were armed guards and all. We got out and walked around, it was a little weird. Then he took us to a fishing spot where there were people ice fishing, and yes, it was FREEZING walking around there. A guard came out and was not happy with us, not friendly. So we left.
Then we drove to another guys house and Alexander said, five minutes. We waited in the cab , and he came out with a bag that looked like it had an eel in it. He opened it up and got out his big knife and said "you eat". He sliced off a peice and gave it Rich, it was like a blood sausage. Very dark and mushy looking. Shane and I were in the back seat laughing until he sliced us off a peice too! The texture was terrible, but I have to say it didn't taste bad. But i have no idea what it was.
Next we drove further into the country. It was very isolated and snowy and Alexander pulls out his notebook, which he had been practicing writing his English words and he said very slowly " I have lost my way" meaning we're lost! Let me remind you that Lindsey and Alex are back at the apartment and they didn't know we were going to the country and expected us home hours ago. We all looked at each other like, holy crap, we're lost in the country and its almost dark. Then Alexander laughs and says " it's a joke" in his broken English. He's a funny guy alright, I was just glad he was joking.
On a side note, everytime he would get out and go in a house or something, we would always joke around and say to each other, I bet he's going to come out and kill us now....a bit paranoid and a bit joking at the same time.
Next he says he's taking us to see his house in a small village. We went a few more miles and he pulled the car over and turned it off and said get out...(ok, he is going to kill us now ?) so we get out and he drew a line in the snow and said "walk over the line" so Rich walks over it and Alexander laughs and laughs and says " you the first American man in Maruka" that's the village name. So we all laugh and get back in the car. Then he drives a good distance more to show us his home, but he gets out and says "5 minutes" he went to his neighbors house and we stayed in the car. Dogs everywhere barking and running around, he and his big burly neighbor come back out. The neighbor went straight to Richs door and opened it and pointed and shouted "I Alexander(yes, same name) and he's pointing and shouting "what your name". Apparently Rich isn't a common name around here because he didn't understand it at all. But we laugh and they shook hands and we were just glad he didn't kill us.
Then we drove around the village area some more and saw some monuments and a church, and Alexander says we are going back to the other Alexanders house to eat. OK. but its getting pretty late, but we just go along with it. Its dark now and we park out on the road and walk up an incline to get to his house, dogs everywhere, he held one mean one back from biting us. His home was very unlike any we are used to in America. Its very small with blankets hanging over the small door ways, we go through two door ways to get into the kitchen. Alexander was in the kitchen cooking up some kind of meats. It was hotter than heck in there, with his old fashioned stove going strong. Now this guy looks like a U.'my special country' Rambo. He sits us down in the kitchen area, with a bed in it. He talked a mile a minute, better English than our driver.
He had another guy, Nickolai, there too. Staring at us. It was a little awkward. But, when in Rome.... so we sit down and smile alot. Then Rambo puts the meat in the oven and yes he was sweating ALOT, and he takes us to tour his home. He said "come, come sit in the parlor" so we go in the other room with another bed to sit on and a desk and a bird in a cage, named Chica.
He showed us the only other room, his bedroom, with 3 more beds in it. Very crowded. Then he said he was in the Russian Military and showed us his injured leg and eye from combat. Oh, and his injured rib area too. Then he started acting like he was shooting a gun in the air and pointed at Rich and said "you come with me". We looked at each other and I said he's going to kill you now. Rich got up and followed him out the door saying "are you going to shoot me now?" Hilarious! Rambo wanted to show him the pheasants he shot, whew. He gave him a tail feather to take home.
We asked if we could take some pictures of them and his home. Shane stood with Nickolai, and we were going to take the picture when Rambo yelled "STOP" and he grabbed the chain saw that was sitting in the kitchen, and put it in Shane's hands for the photo! This guy was funny...and a little scary. Then he starts putting food on the table, saying "please, please" and gesturing me to eat. He gave me his chair to sit in, he said it was the "president chair". But first we all had to toast and drink vodka, so we all stood up and he toasted "to love" and to "friendship". very interesting. Now I a NOT a drinker, so it burned going down. Homemade vodka. So we sat and he handed me a fork and said "please please please eat" ok, but I didn't even know what the stuff was, except that blood sausage stuff, I recognized that! But when in Rome.... I ate something green and mushy that I thought was maybe meat, but no, it was sweet like some kind of pickled vegetable. Actually it was pretty good. Then he gestured to the blood sausage stuff. So I had some more of that. We were having a good time except it was 100 degrees in there and I was worried about Lindsey and Alex at the apartment.
Rambo got some more meat out of the oven type thing, chicken this time, and put a big peice in a bowl for me. It was really good! No fork though, he said we must use our hands like a person from 'my special country'. He decided to rename us. He said Rich was now Victor, and Shane was Peter and I was Yula. So for the next hour we sat there eating and talking and laughing when our new freinds. Then he took out some of his things and tried to sell them to us :) We're low on grivna, we didn't buy anything. He gave Shane a rosary he got in the military in the middle east. He kept filling op our vodka glasses, atleast 5 times, and more toasts.
Then he asked if we like tomato juice, actually he showed us a picture of tomatoes to ask us. Then he and Nickolai went outside to find the tomato juice. They had a hard time finding it because they were gone a while. Now, Rich hates tomato juice, but when Rambo came back in with a big jar of homemade juice and filled our glasses with it, what can you do but drink it? I liked it, Rich didn't so much. He drank it fast to be done with it, and then Rambo filled it back up again! Ha Ha Ha. He said he wanted us to sleep there at his house (he did have alot of beds) but our driver told him we had a daughter and son in Zaphorizia and had to come back to the apartment. Whew.
When it was time to go, they were hugging us and acting like we were best freinds. Very , hospitable. We had to dodge the mean dogs again on the way out. He gave us a HUGE jar of some kind of tomatoes and a jar of relish and a jar of some kind of carrot stuff. Then he said give me 10 grivna! Ha ha, really. So Rich gave him 2o grivna. I'm not sure what that was all about. Then we left and the road we came on was blocked with snow, and it's dark and late at this point. I was somewhat worried, but he found another route, a very isolated one. But we did make it home, and yes, Lindsey was furious at us, all we had for her to eat at the apartment was bread.
My mom had called to talk to me when we were at Rambo's house and I was laughing and a little goofy from all that vodka. She thought we were CRAZY for being there. She thought they were getting us drunk to rob us :) So she was releived when she called back later that night and we were all still alive, and not robbed. And so was I.
Now THAT was a real 'my special country' experience we won't be forgetting any time soon.