Another relatively early morning as I need to be at the station by 7:50 to take the high speed train up to Lviv. For some reason, there are no taxis available this morning, so we basically speed-walk ( with me carrying my bags — sometimes going to the gym does pay off ) all the way there. The ride up is uneventful. I spend it looking through pictures I’ve taken through the past 88 days. New experiences always help a person to change and grow, but looking at pictures from the beginning of the trip reminds me of a complete stranger. I’m sure very few people I know personally will note any change, but internally I am a very different human being now than I was three months ago.
Upon arriving in Lviv, I try to find a taxi to my hotel. The prices they quote sound quite high and they won’t go down on them very far, so I decide that I’ll just walk the 3 km instead. Later, I find out that the prices I was being quoted were not all that bad, I had just gotten used to prices in Ivano-Frankivsk and Chernivtsi. Whoops. In any case, the walk was a healthy way to start the day and I enjoyed walking through the city once more.
Today is all about shopping. I’m buying small gifts for people back home and have a list of requests of things my mother didn’t get when she was here but wants me to bring back now. But before shopping, it’s time to visit an old SoftServe colleague who is on maternity leave ( mothers get up to 3 years of maternity leave in Ukraine should they want it ) for an 11:00 breakfast. Seeing my friend and her one year old daughter is an absolute pleasure.
Shopping first involves getting a bag. Then I visit the street market and buy a bunch of handmade items, particularly cross-stitched table runners for my mother. Once the old ladys selling these items ( there is a whole row of maybe 10 of them ) saw that I was buying, every one of them couldn’t wait to talk to me and show me what they thought were their best items. Some even offered that the item they were currently working on would be done in the next day or two. I’m proud that I managed to ask about specific items and conduct all of my business with these lady’s in Ukrainian ( I didn’t have much choice, as they didn’t speak English … but I’m still proud of the level of understanding we achieved ).
After the street market is a couple of visits to different stores to take care of additional requests and gifts. Periodically, I drop by the hotel to leave things in my room instead of continuing to carry them around everywhere. Because you generally leave your keys at the front desk when leaving the hotel and then have to pick them up again as you come back, I’m pretty sure the receptionist got a little tired of my constant coming and going. I made three trips back and forth to the hotel just with the street market and souvenir shops, and then a fourth when I stopped by the Lviv Chocolate Factory and bought 32 packages of chocolate. If you ever get to visit the Lviv Chocolate Factory, you’ll understand why I bought so many.
I manage to finish shopping and packing all of my shopping into my new bag by 18:30, which is perfect because that’s just in time to catch a taxi to Hungry Nickolas for dinner with the Lviv SoftServe team. Dinner is awesome and our SoftServe project manager presented me with a touching video of my time in Ukraine, set to the music of “In the Army Now”.
A soccer match between Donetsk ( playing in Lviv because Donetsk is in the far east and part of the area of Ukraine contested by Russia ) and Malmo is next. We have relatively good seats that are close to the field and behind one of the goals. Watching the game live helped me to get a sense of the speed of the game and of the ball control skills of the players that is hard to see when watching a match on TV.
One of the SoftServe people meets a friend at the game who volunteers to act as our taxi on the way back home. The only trick is that we will have to walk to his car. He has parked it out of the way to avoid a lot of the traffic leaving the arena, but none of us realized just how far away he parked. We walked at least 3 km to reach it. Still, it was very nice of him to drive all of us to our respective drop-off spots and help save us from being stuck in traffic ( we got to walk for that whole time instead ) or having to pay for a taxi.
By the time I get back to the hotel, it’s slightly after 1:00. My ride to the airport will pick me up at 5:30. There’s no sense in sleeping, especially since I’ll need to transition to a US time zone anyway ( which would put me going to sleep at 6:00 or 7:00 Ukraine time ), so I don’t sleep. In fact, while stopping in a pub ( the only things open this late at night are pubs and 24 hour convenience stores ) to get a small snack and a soda, I made a new friend and almost didn’t make it back to the hotel in time for my pick-up.
It’s kind of hard to know where to stop day 88 and start day 89, as I haven’t slept, but I’m going to cut to day 89 with the ride to the airport.