Saturday, December 11, 2010

Protest outside the Belarusian Embassy



A quick photo dump of a protest that just occurred across the street from the Belarusian Embassy in Kyiv. The protesters weren’t there for more than 40 minutes. They are members of the Ukrainian nationalist group UNA-UNSO. What I gathered from their banners and chants, they were calling for the Belarusians to “Say no to political repression” (red and black banner in the front) and “Lukashenko to be brought to justice” (white poster on the right).

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Train to Amsterdam - 7€, Waffle – 4€, Being Scared to Death in the Red Light District – Priceless (also in €)


Sorry this is slightly delayed, but here is the story:

My flight to Kyiv had layovers in Chicago and Amsterdam. On the leg from SLC to Chicago, I was telling my seat neighbor where I was headed and how much flying I had left. When I mentioned that I had a 7 hour layover in Amsterdam, he asked if I was going to get out and see the city while I waited. He told me he was pretty Chocolate covered wafflesure you could take a train from the airport right downtown. When we got to Chicago, I barely had enough time to get change terminals, check through international security, wolf down a terrible and overpriced airport sandwich, and board my next flight. Sitting on the plane, waiting to take-off, I looked up some info on layovers in Amsterdam to see if a quick trip into the city was possible. I found THIS SITE extremely informational and convincing. Stuck in the air for the next few hours, I repeatedly talked myself into and out of venturing out of my comfort zone and exploring Amsterdam. I finally convinced myself that the best course of action would be to just sit in the terminal and make sure I didn’t miss my connection to Ukraine. However, as soon as I stepped off the plane, the thought of sitting around in the airport for almost a full business day made me queasy enough that I resolved to get out of there as fast as possible. The adventure begins……

I quickly snagged what I hoped were enough Euros from an ATM, stowed my carry-on in a luggage locker,Amsterdam Central Train Station and set out to find the train station. I got lost a few times but eventually found the exit. Everyone in front of me was buying tickets from an automated machine so I jumped in line. When my turn came, I struggled with the bright yellow box for like 10 minutes (trying varying combinations of on-screen languages and credit cards) to no avail. I could not make a ticket come out of it. Deflated, I shamefully walked away from the machine and continued in the direction that I hoped led to the train terminals. After going through a checkpoint and rounding a corner, I found myself in front of the Schiphol station ticket window. So, I purchased a ticket and headed down to the platform……

My train arrived shortly and 20 minutes later, I was exiting Amsterdam Central station. My plan was to meander on down to Amsterdam Central Square, have a look around, and return to the airport in about an hour. I didn’t have internet access at this point so I had to rely on the memory of the directions that I had hastily read onCanal in early morning my phone back before take-off in Chicago. My self-conscious desire to not stand around looking like an idiot and my “24 hours of no sleep” brain-fog conspired against me and I set off in the completely opposite direction. It was only 8 am locally so I had most of the smaller streets and alleys to myself as I wandered along various streets and canals. Eventually, one of my alley cuts put me on a peculiar street. As I set out down this new street, I noticed that many of the doors and windows were outlined in red lighting. My first thought was “Oh man, this is the red light district.” Immediately, however, I reassured myself that this couldn’t be the red light district because (And, this is my sleep deprived brain talking here) it’s too close to downtown and “red-light district” is just a figure of speech now, they don’t actually use red lights anymore. Convinced, I proceed……


Not 30 seconds after taking comfort in my hazy logic, I am scared to death as I glance up at the large display windows of the next shop I pass and see two grown women smiling and waving at me!!! Don’t worry, they were clothed (There must be an “Entertainer’s” Union that protects these women from harsh working conditions like removing their clothing before breakfast). But on a more serious note, I almost had a heart attack. I mean, when you look at a shop window, you don’t expect to see living human beings staring back. Embarrassed from being so startled, I made a hasty escape down a side street. This proved to be Euro Graffitirather fortuitous as the side street housed a pastry shop that was open for business. Starving, I bought a chocolate covered waffle and wolfed it down as I continued my journey. Farther down that side street, luck smiled on me again as I stumbled upon the center square, for which I had originally set out. As I crossed the square, I noticed that I could see the train station not too far away. It was about time to return to the airport so I started off in that direction. On the way back, I found that the direct route from the station to center square is only about a 8-10 minute walk. During the course of my 50 minutes of wandering however, I managed to see some sweet canals, an interesting work of euro graffiti, two adult women in a shop window, a great little pastry shop, and the central square. All in all, I think I prefer the more scenic route. Early morning heart attack? Not so much.