It might surprise you to discover, but I am not Turkish. Nor am I on the hunt for a wife. But make no mistake, there are people of this ilk and their combination is one regarded with suspicion in certain Ukranian couchsurfing circles, or so I’ve been told.
I ate yet another kebab (that sumptuous European delicacy) while Sacha explained sheepishly why she hadn’t agreed to host me. It wasn’t that surprising, in a country known for its export of prostitutes, that couchsurfers might take precautions – especially when dealing with strange men from the Pacific Ocean. There were certainly worse reasons for getting turned down.
We soon worked past this misunderstanding – helped in no small part by Sacha’s shy affinity for weed. I finally clicked at what she was hinting at and all was well, just another successful foray into international relations for the Earth’s finest erb.
We toked on the edge of the river and wandered its edge in the dark. Sacha told me stories of her travels – brief respites from corruption and the confines of a communist history: Goa, raving in the sea and free; and another time, Stockholm, to visit a friend. She told me of the sadness she feels because, despite her love of the country, she knows it will not change and so wants to leave. That classic internal struggle: familiarity and freedom; hope and the fear of a failed attempt.
The next morning Sacha took me round her office, where she works as a graphic designer. Her workmates didn’t speak English but their beards, five-panels and fixed gear bikes confirmed my suspicions that hipsterism knows no boundaries. After waving an irreverent “dobre den” to her boss we went to the games room and I was introduced to Katryana, the two-foot tall office bong. We tried her out, played Spacies on the bean bags for a bit and then her boss left, so we did too.
It turned out our shared interests went beyond pot and Sacha was soon pointing out examples of Soviet brutalism and abandoned buildings as we explored Ukraine’s largest city by foot.
Our walk culminated in Kiev’s sculpture park. This recent development has been a real coup for the culturally appreciative and, despite it only being mid afternoon, crowds of young people were already gathering to drink and welcome the weekend.
Sacha was knackered from our walk and headed off home, gifting me the small pipe we had been hiting clandestinely throughout the walk – which I promptly burnt my lip on.