Ukraine Travelogue, part 2: People can surprise you

Sep 15 2007 Published by under Travel

So I forgot the cable which powers my battery charger. I’m wandering the Ukraine, I’m low on power, and there’s lots of stuff to take pictures of that I’ll likely never see again.

One of my Russian colleagues suggests that I check the shops across the street from the hotel. Oddly, it hadn’t really seemed like a serious option until he mentioned it; probably my xenophobia kicking in subconsciously. Trying to better my odds, I ask one of the young meeting volunteers if she knows of a place nearby that might carry it. She suggests a place about five blocks down the road, and I quickly head out in search of my precious cable.

The store she suggests doesn’t carry it, and neither does the store that a vaguely-English-speaking employee suggests. Finally, I stop in a little camera store a little further down the road.

The worker doesn’t speak any English, but I have my camera charger with me and can point out the plug. He quickly roots around in his supplies and finds a used plug of exactly the type I need. He runs to the side of the store, tests that the cable works, and everything looks like we’re on track for me to buy it.

I start to pull out money, but he quickly shakes his head and waves me off. Doesn’t he want to sell it? We go back and forth trying to mime various things, but none of them come across. He doesn’t seem to want to sell it, but he doesn’t seem to want me to leave. He wanders to the store across the hall, and talks there for a moment, and then he comes back, grabs my charger, and heads out into the street, after motioning me to wait.

Now I’m thinking, irrationally, that he decided to steal my charger and will just stay away until I give up and leave. Surprisingly, he shows back up, helps a couple of customers with visa photographs (one of the few words I recognize: ‘visa’), and then comes back to me. In the meantime, one of the customers asks: “Tourista”? To which I nod. “Which city?” “Chicago.” “Ah, Michael Jordan.”

I finally point to my watch and the door. The shopkeeper seems frustrated by me, but I try one more time to pay. He waves off the first bill I offer, and I get the same response for the next two bills.

Finally, it dawns on me: he’s looking for a different bill! He actually wants less than I’m trying to pay, not more! Suddenly his other actions seem to make sense: I suspect that when he went out the door, he was looking for someplace that officially sold such a power plug. He was also probably looking for someone who could actually communicate with me.

With the deal done, we’re both laughing. I head out the door after using the only Ukrainian word I know: “Dya-ku-yu” (“Thanks”).

 

No responses yet