Thursday, September 4, 2008

Bad cop! No donut!

Yesterday Tanya and I drove to Dnipropetrovs'k to meet with Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP) to discuss potential livestock development projects for Ukraine.

It was a risky trip. We had 40 hrivna to our name and a $10 USD bill left from our Turkey vacation, worth about 46 hrivna. Our September finances were somewhere between my credit union and Tanya’s bank. September 1st was a holiday in Canada so the transfer was not made until Sept 2nd. It takes 48 hours to make the trip via New York. Yesterday was Sept 3rd. My credit card expired the end of August and my new card is coming via my cousins in mid-September. That was the least of our worries as only fairly large retailers take credit cards anyhow. Ukraine is a CASH society. There are reasons.

The highway between Zhovti Vody and Dnipropetrovs'k needs some explaining. Between ZV and P’yatikhatki it would be a third class road, two-lane, paved, narrow. Legal speed likely 90 kmph. From P’yatikhatki the next 70 km is second class highway. Two-lanes paved, fairly wide, recently repaired. Legal speed likely 100 kmph. The last 50 km is first class. Four-lanes divided, in good condition. Legal speed likely 110 kmph.

I say legal speed is “likely” because there are no speed limit signs. One is supposed to know these things if one drives in Ukraine. Actual speed depends on the driver and the vehicle. Twenty year old Ladas drive the likely speed limit. Giant Black Toyota Land Cruisers with black windows drive as fast as they want.

One of the rules is that the speed limit is 60kmph when passing through a village, from the sign indicating you are entering the village limits (the name of the village) to the sign indicating you are leaving it (the name of the village with a red line through it). It is rarely obvious to a Canadian that one is passing through a village. It does not look like Landis or Davidson, even though it may have a bigger population than both together. A Ukrainian village looks like a conglomeration of acreages, that, like Topsy, just growed. It is usually sprawled on one or both sides of a creek, river or lake. At night it is even more difficult to recognize a village other than for a scattering of lights off into the distance.

So we are tooling along the four-lane at 110 kmph, slowing slightly for villages whenever I see the signs which, as I get more familiar with the road, is most of the time. However there is one two km stretch of “village” that is so not obviously village where the speed limit is actually 40 kmph. The speed limit is even POSTED. This is four lane, divided highway, in excellent condition with barriers on both sides and a 40 kmph speed limit!!! I figure the gas station owner paid off someone for a slow speed limit to bring more people into his business.

I was clocked at 67 kmph in a 40 zone. The nice young policeman was all smiles and very polite as he made conversation with Tanya who handles all such details. He “fined” us 40 hrivnas in small unmarked bills, as the saying goes, and we continued on our way. If we had insisted on a written legal speeding ticket, the cost would have been much higher, of course, but the real deterrent to honesty is the incredible complex bureaucratic procedures involved in dealing with a ticket. Tanya said it would have taken us two months to sort out the mess.

We had a light lunch, needless to say. Thankfully, STEP paid for supper.

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