Day 86: Life is Like a Game of Chess

I needed a new chessboard for the pieces I bought in Denmark and in Israel, so I bought a hand-made one here in Ivano-Frankivsk.

5:00. Why am I getting up this early? It’s still dark out. It’s cold. No one is awake at this time of morning … except us, our taxi driver, and other people who will be getting on the train from Chernivtsi to Ivano-Frankivsk ( and on to Lviv ).

Early morning at the train station in Chernivtsi

The train is a new one. The high-speed route is new as well, added only two or three weeks ago. We arrive in Ivano-Frankivsk in just under two hours.

Inside the nice, new, high-speed train. There weren’t a lot of people on board, so we were able to spread out.

We arrive at my new hotel just after 8:00 and I’d love nothing more than to check in early and catch a nap, but the room is still occupied. I leave my bags behind the front desk and we head over to my friend and co-worker’s flat. There we relax a bit, eat some breakfast, and watch both Japanese wrestling and kick-boxing on TV. At about 10:00, the hotel calls and lets us know the room is ready, so I check in and promptly take a nap.

My home for the next two nights. Note how the first thing I did was get the wiring for my computer plugged in.

Nap finished, we head to a place I’ve missed: Десятка. We don’t even need to see the menu, because it’s all about the zhurek and mint lemonade.

Next, it’s on to a fun and interesting store that kind of winds through a bunch of small rooms on two floors. It’s full of various different household knick-knacks and souvenirs … and a hand-carved chess set that I had noticed during my first stay in this city. The set is still there, and priced well, so I buy it. That’s the set you see above. I love the board and can’t wait to see it paired with the (also hand carved ) olive-wood pieces I bought in Jerusalem.

At first, I was going to leave the chessboard and pieces wrapped up for my trip back to the USA, but on a whim I decided we should pull it out and play a game. It’s a good thing I did, as the black king was missing. We rushed back to the store and found that it had simply fallen behind a few other items while the shopkeeper was gathering the pieces for packing.

After retrieving the king, we did play a round. The result was a tie where neither player had enough pieces to checkmate the other.

The street outside the hotel at night.

Dinner tonight was in a small restaurant near the hotel. We had some pretty decent pizza and then walked around the city center a bit before retiring early so we could get sleep for work tomorrow.

So what’s with the title of my post today? For some reason, the “Life is like a box of chocolates … you never know what you’re gonna get” quote from Forrest Gump popped into my mind and I could not stop thinking of how wrong it is. Life is not a series of unpredictable and random experiences. It is methodic and predictable and rewards those who can both see the whole board ( or at least a large portion of it ) and take active control of their pieces, choosing themselves how and where to play rather than letting other players dictate moves for them. So that’s my “why” for the title.

Tomorrow is my last day working here in Ukraine. Tuesday I will spend running errands and doing some shopping in Lviv. Then, at 5:30 on Wednesday, I leave for the airport and my 21 hour journey to the USA. Technically, I’m returning home … but instead it feels like I’m about to leave it. Four more posts to go. Watch for the next one tomorrow.