Archive for March 2010


March 20, 2010

So here I am sitting on the plane on the way to Boston. It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog. I’m guessing about 4 months. Maybe more. I can’t really check, because I’m on a plane. Can’t exactly get online on a plane these days, unless it’s an international flight. Oh well, convenience can’t be everywhere I suppose.
I assume most of you who read this blog, if anyone does anymore, know why I’m going to Boston. But just in case you don’t, I’m going up to visit a seminary. That’s right. The Infamous bad-decision-making Cameron is going to seminary, or at least planning on it .I suppose that’s what these visits are for, to check these places that I’ve applied to out and decide if seminary is really for me.
However, this particular entry is not about why I’m going to seminary. Rather, this is more of hopefully an fun blog entry.  Not that discussing my reasons for going to seminary wouldn’t be entertaining to myself, and hopefully you, but the purpose behind this entry is more playful.
As I was sitting in an airport bar in Memphis (did you expect anything else?), I started reminiscing about my past experiences traveling throughout the world, specifically my experiences traveling in and out of Kyiv, Ukraine. As you can imagine, Kyiv is the main hub of international travel coming out of Ukraina. Borispol (the airport in Kyiv) is not a particularly big airport. In fact, I’d say that it has about as many terminals and daily scheduled flights as Little Rock National Airport, maybe less, even though it is an international airport. Yeah, Ukraine’s a popular place. Regardless of that fact, it’s an interesting little place.
I remember that right inside the main door are the check-in counters. There are about 5 different airlines running out of Kyiv. Many of them smaller ones that most people haven’t heard of that have partnerships with the bigger airlines to run regional flights to places like Hungary and the Czech Republic. I can guarantee that coming out of Kyiv, you’ll have a connecting flight in one of those countries. There’s really no other option. Besides the check-in counters, there’s a very small restaurant that sells coffee, tea, sodas, beer, vodka, deserts and cold pre=made sandwiches. It’s really not that much of a place, but it does have some computer terminals where you can get on the internet and take care of any business you need to before your flight. Besides those two things, there are about 3 televisions screens that have flight information and two or three kiosks that either sell candy and newspapers or specialize in currency exchange (which, in that airport, is a rip off). It’s a fascinating little place, especially if you want to listen to Ukrainians and Russians discuss how absolutely terrified they are of flying.
This brings me to my favorite part of traveling out of Kyiv, the Ukrainian and Russian passengers. They are the funniest and loudest group of people I have ever had the privilege of flying with, besides Peace Corps volunteers, of course. From the moment you get on the bus that leaves every half hour from the central train station in Kyiv, the Ukrainian and Russian travelers are drinking. Every group of travelers has at least some alcohol with them. And I do mean every group. Men, women, friends, families. Whoever. They break out the cognac or vodka to celebrate their departure and in some cases, to numb their fears of flying. It’s about the most entertaining bus ride I’ve ever had, besides the one crossing the border of Ukraine and Poland, where most people were smuggling vodka and cigarettes (once again, that’s a different story).
Once you actually board the plane, there seems to be a collective nervousness that fills the cabin and could be cut with a butter knife. Everyone sits down and buckles their safety belt as tight as they possibly can. Some tighten their belts so securely, it seems like they have trouble breathing. And all of a sudden, every single person on that plane is very religious. Religious and somewhat drunk. Several crosses are made from the head to the shoulders to the chest. Some people have their pictures of Jesus or saints with them. Some clasp their hands in prayer before take off. Considering how they drive in Kyiv, I’m surprised they are that scared to fly.
After take off, when everyone’s knuckles are turning white from grabbing the seats so intensely, there is an eruption of applause and cheers when the captain announces that the plane has reached cruising altitude. This is rather surprising to me, because when most people are afraid of flying, they are thinking about how far they could fall. As in, the cruising altitude is pretty much as high as you go, therefore you have further to fall. But maybe they are cheering because the beverage cart is coming by, and once again their alcohol will be accessible.
Yes, that’s right, once the beverage cart comes by, it’s time to start drinking again! When the flight attendant (I almost wrote stewardess, but I was P.C this time) comes around, everyone is quick to order drinks. And I don’t mean beer. I was sitting across the aisle from a man one time who ordered a double shot of warm vodka and drank it down immediately. Before the flight attendant moved on, he had another. It was intense, even for me. Several of the women ordered cognac (drinking too much vodka in public is just unheard of for women) and some of the younger patrons ordered beer (hopefully they were all 18 +, but I have my doubts). Many of the passengers made several trips to the flight attendants’ quarters to ask for more drinks before the cart could come back around. Man, alcohol on a plane is serious business to these folks. It seems they almost have to drink to keep their minds off of their almost certain impending doom in that fiery, spiraling plane crash. Surprisingly, I never saw anyone throw up on these flights. But then again, most Ukrainians and Russians are professional drinkers. It is, as President Medvedev has mentions, a rampant and continuous problem in Mother Russia.
Then, there’s the landing. Once again, when the captain announces that the plane is approaching its final descent, the armrests are gripped at full intensity and the drunken praying starts again. Everyone is suddenly religious and the world is about to end. Sometimes, given the age of the planes in Ukrainian and Russian airlines, it’s not an entirely bad idea to say a little prayer. But the way these folks partake, it’s rather intense. The cabin will fall quite and most passengers will have their eyes closed once they can spot land again. The end is surely coming!
Then, the impact of the landing comes. Some people curse loudly. Some let out gasps. I even heard someone scream one time. Then, the plane comes to a halt. Passengers open one eye at a time, then the captain announces that we have safely arrived at the destination and the passengers realize that they are not standing before the gates awaiting judgment, but are safely on the tarmac, ready to taxi to their gates! There’s a tremendous uproar and applause! YES! We have MADE it! Despite all odds of traveling in the safest mode of transportation in the world, our plane has landed safely and securely and we can go and greet our loved ones and friends at the gate and… start DRINKING again!  We… are… here… Thank God!
Then, everyone gets off the plane and are greeted with English speaking custom officials and they are confused. I go along my merry way, and anxiously anticipate my return to Kyiv and Ukraine, where I will no doubt get to witness the whole ordeal again. Maybe the next time I get to fly to Borispol, I might partake in the tradition of the gentleman across the aisle from me. Then again… liver failure doesn’t sound like such a great way to go…