Sunday, August 31, 2014
Time for a Rant
They say that cutting off the hot water is a way of saving gas supplies for the winter ahead. Russia has cut off the gas and Ukraine has to be careful to conserve what they have. I understand all this and it makes sense. But that doesn't make it any easier to wash my hair in cold water when temperatures are already starting to drop.
Food prices have gone up and the Ukrainian currency is not doing so well. My heart goes out to the average Ukrainian who must really be struggling financially. How are they able to buy food? Does the rest of the world even care?
The mood has changed in Ukraine since before the summer holiday. It is far more somber with fewer smiles. I guess people are really worried about the future of their country which is understandable. Nobody knows Russia's big plan. Rumours and conjecture abound. It is not a happy place to be as you really don't know what might happen next.
On Friday I went to apply for a short stay Schengen visa at the Latvian Embassy. My Schengen visa is only valid from the end of October and I need to go to Latvia for a school visit in 2 weeks. This proved to be an exercise is frustration. I'd thought downloading the English application form off the embassy's website and filling it in beforehand would be proactive. Big mistake. After taking my number and waiting to see the embassy official, I got to the window only to be told it was the wrong form and I had to fill in another one which happened to be all in Ukrainian. The same form, but with one word different on the top of the first page. After filling in the new form I had to get a new number and start the waiting process from the beginning. Thanks goodness all my documentation was correct but then the next problem arose. The official asked for the fee to be paid in Euros and I only had Ukrainian money. Nowhere on their website did they say only Euros was acceptable. They directed me to a bank down the road to change money. The bank said they sold Euros. As I got to the front of the queue both tellers put up signs in Ukrainian. I asked them what was written on the signs. "Wait ten minutes," they said as they chatted to each other. After ten minutes they took down the signs. When I asked to buy Euros the teller said, "Sorry no Euro." I tried another four banks and none of them had any Euros. The sixth bank had Euros but said, "We don't sell Euros to foreigners. You have to have a Ukrainian passport to be able to buy Euros." I couldn't budge her from this stance and I trudged back to the embassy to tell them I couldn't get Euros. But first I had to take another number and wait...
"You not Ukraine people. Nyet, nyet, go, no help. You not Ukraine people." You guessed it. That was the response from the money exchange place. I guess that foreigners are no longer allowed to buy foreign currency or change Ukrainian money. So I walked back to the Latvian Embassy, my mind doing somersaults as it tried to come up with a solution to the problem.
The embassy official became even friendlier. "Don't worry all your documentation is in order so if you spend the weekend finding Euros then you don't have to take a number and queue Monday morning, you can hand in everything and pick your passport up on the 8th."
Feeling a mixture of forlorness and ire, I called a taxi to take me back to work. Luckily I managed to change money with another teacher when I got back to school.
So hopefully Monday all goes well as I head back to the Embassy. But today is Sunday. And I still have to wash my hair in a cold shower...
Cindy Vine is a South African author and teacher currently working in Ukraine. She is the author of The Case of Billy B, Not Telling, Defective, CU@8 and Hush Baby. All her books are available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback format. http://cindyvine.com