Friday, October 28, 2011

Fools and Children

Yesterday was one of those 24 hour trips to Kyiv.  I was applying for my Kazakhstan visa and hoping to get the Canadian Embassy to certify some true copies of documents I need to take with me.

Either I am getting old or the berths on that night train are getting harder.  Not much sleep on the trip.  McDonald's at the train station at 7:00 am is packed 12 deep at 12 tills. It took less than 10 minutes to get my breakfast. No complaints there. It is not a good place for s sudden onset of dysentery, though, as the wait for the men's bathroom was 20 minutes.  Single stall.  Obviously McDonald's adheres to local standards (none) as opposed to setting their own intelligent ones. We did let one guy jump queue as he appeared in a bad way.

Wanted to be at the Canadian Embassy at 9:00 but the line up at the can plus finding a bank machine plus rush hour on the Metro meant it was 9:30.  They were able to handle three of my six documents, the others will have to go through the Ukrainian notarizing system.  For some reason Kazakhstan want my diplomas to prove I have gone to university.  At my age what difference does it make?  Further more, I could find a few hundred people who never darkened the hallowed halls who could do a better job than I of describing Canadian beef cattle production in 10 to 15 minutes. So the embassy will do what I told the Kazakhs to do and that is contact the Registrar's Office.  The paper diploma is only for decoration.  But not in the FSU, I guess, where documents with STAMPS are sacred as the original scrolls of the Pentateuch.

It was 10:30 when I finally headed for the Kazakh Embassy to apply for my visa.  I got off the Metro and looked for a place to change 400 Hrivna for $50 USD, the cost of the Visa.  No luck.  ALL the money changing booths in the area were closed up tight.  I found a bank finally and was told that because I was a foreigner they couldn't change money for me.  Some new currency law I didn't know about.  Panic city.  The Kazakhstan Embassy takes Visa applications until 12:00 noon.  It is now 11:00 and I am running out of time.  Call Tanya (who else??).  She said try another bank. Some days I wonder about me.

I headed for the Kazakhstan Embassy and looked for a bank along the way.  None.  I was hoping I could talk Ivan (the guy at the Embassy who speaks English) into letting me pay in Hrivna or waiting to pay until I picked it up next week.  I see a bank a few doors past the entrance to the Embassy.  A very small branch.  One desk, one teller, one security.  In my bad Russian and the desk lady's bad English, I explained the problem well enough she understood and was instantly sympathetic.  She said one magic word "resident" but I didn't have my Ukrainian Residency Card.

I got Tanya on the phone and she and the lady are having a conversation when I remembered THE STAMP.  I had a permanent residency stamp in the back of my passport.  Problem solved.  The lady smiled and lit up like it was Christmas, took a quick copy of my passport and the stamp and the teller lady gave me my $50 along with two documents to sign for it.  It was 11:35 when I got to the Kazakhstan Embassy.

Six people in front of me.  I know the routine too well.  Every one of them takes TIME and the clock is ticking. The lady at the counter finished as I found a chair.  French lady and two of the people in line were her kids.  She had driven from France through Europe to Ukraine and was planning on DRIVING through Russia, Kazakhstan, China (Xinjiang and Tibet) to Nepal where she was opening a restaurant ("the food in Nepal is terrible").  I learned all this while the second person in line was finishing at the counter.  The other two people were still filling out documents so I was next.

Ivan had a good laugh at my currency adventures and promised my visa would be ready Monday even though I was coming Thursday.  Finished at 11:50.  Wringing wet, heart pounding and looking and feeling like the wrath of God.  Found a Coffee House and had three cups of hot black bitter mud and a wild berry cheesecake to celebrate.  This was after I went back and bought a small bouquet of flowers for the folks at that bank.


  1. I love that you bought them flowers! I bet it made their day.

  2. The lady at the desk was just floored. I was in and out in of the bank under a minute - dropped them, said thank you one more and ran. Before she had a chance to recover from the shock. It was kind of fun.

  3. Sheesh-the story reads like a drama with music-the sort that builds tension. You have to be made of solid stock to make your way in any country where the language is not yours. Good for you! Flowers don't need a translator-that was very nice of you.

  4. Barb, I needed a new battery for my pacemaker when it was all done.

    For all the years I have been travelling internationally, where ever flowers are inexpensive there is no one to buy them for. So given an excuse...


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