On a bright, sunny day I stood along the road that would take me into the country known to be at war. A country many people around it feared. Chaos, complete and utter chaos. A week from now, two girls in Kiev would burst out in laughing hearing about the false fears of these people. “Oehhh Watch out! Dangerous Ukraine!!” The girls japed in derision. Another tale said that people wouldn’t accept a hitchhiking man so near to the border. I had showered that morning, so I stood self-assured. Singing along with the same songs I have been figuratively shattering glasses and hurting ears with since the beginning of the hitchhiking extravaganza. Waiting. Although not for long. Herald my knight of not so shining steel. It was a simple station wagon, rumbling with every meter it gained. Two men, father and son, occupied the riding piece of steel. The ponderously father, Wussel, had his sweaty palms resting on the steering wheel. His equally named son showed me into the car, the backseat. On top of a thin blanket covering crates of goodies and alcohol ample for days to come I crawled, my head tilted to avoid sticking through the roof. Onwards! With an incessant ticking sound we spurted to the border of Ukraine.
This simple car stood a role model for Ukrainian vehicles; it lacked the necessary safety of seatbelts. A simple piece of polyester that can save a life. Warned about war, I soon learned the roads of Ukraine to be far more dangerous. I have been mocked for grasping the seat belt, seen mothers drive without and been in a modified car speeding limits unheard of without any thought of safety within the devil’s trap. As the door closed behind me, I saw it was a one way door, missing my handle inside. The door in front had it the other way around as Wussel reached through the gap of the window to open it. Pieces of fabric were missing at many spots. The stereo hung down attached to a few wires. The only music we’d be enjoying was the song of the ticking car, rumbling and roaring. I smiled as I viewed the car on its side, my head bended. A head worried about hitching a ride, yet the wait was a mere 5 songs.
At the border, the queue wasn’t particularly long, however tedious it was. Drenched in heat by the blazing sun, we sat sweltered in the car that turned temperatures near to a boiling point. Impudent, the driver had gone through two full bottles of water pouring them out on his bald head. Even a break had been made to refill said bottles. However understanding, as my forehead began to show an army of tiny sweat drops crawling down. My seat had turned adhesive in the heat and I feared I would quail would I spent much longer. Some hours passed and it turned out it was not only me that suffered in the unbearable heat. A dead silence as the engine died. Mumbles came from the front when the father tried to start the car. Succumbed, the rumbling sound faded after a moment. Another try, yet again nothing. Minutes later, son and I stood outside pushing the car surrounded by smirking people and a boiling sun beaming down at us.
Being second in line at the border, anxiously I had prepared to face the niggling, strict and righteous border men. I had figured they would search the car and perhaps even my backpack. One uniformed man stood before us, straight with his face sullen. Looking to the row next to us, I wished we stood there, chatting with the fat man guffawing and slapping his hands together were he to be a seal. Wussel popped open the trunk for the inspection. A glimpse and the man waved us off. Surprised, I handed my passport to the bold man ticking the window. Waiting I read the signs that annotated that corruption was not tolerated. Not in this debauched country! The wait was long enough for me to learn the Ukrainian – Cyrillic – version. But then, that was it. We had our passports and we had made it. Although we first had to push the car before the engine began rumbling and roaring again. I had not thought I would be happy to hear that annoying sound, yet I smiled broadly as we officially entered the country of Blue and Yellow.