My new updated Status Photographer in Kiev. My first impressions after 6 years away from homeland
So, on 25th of December my son Danya had a great time celebrating Christmas at his kindergarden in Koh Samui, with proper presents from Santa Claus himself. When we came home however, Danya asked about his New Year present. “I want Grandpa Frost, Christmas Tree and lots of white and cold snow!”, – he said.
And so I promised him that.
Our house in Thailand is located in the green zone on the lake surrounded by lush greens. My wife’s dream came to life there – a house on a tropical island overlooking a lake and storks and ducks merrily strolling about. A paradise.
And then comes the fun. Some of our Thai friends gave us a cryptic warning, they said that Thai elders are expecting a disasterous flood in the nearest future. Well it’s alright, every year comes a little flood, so we shrugged it off with little attention paid. Not the first time it happens.
Or so we thought.
We even prepared for the “rain season” and had built a little fortress. But we did not expect it to fall so easily.
At first there were just streams of water all around and neverending rain. Then the lake level raised up to the very edges. And then it overflowed and the lake surrounded our hose. Or rather, our house was in the middle of the lake. Water was everywhere.
Water was rising, the situation on our house was worsening with every hour. Rain – which was still gaining strenght and at this point already turned into a whole scale deluge – didn’t even think of stopping any time soon. Our house was build on a pretty solid base, but it was not enough apparently. When second-to-last step to our house was underwater, we started to worry.
While it still wasn’t too late, I decided to park my car on a highground. After a few minutes of walking in the water I did find some sort of a hill about 300 meters away from the house, so it became our extraction point. Reason behind this: if the rain won’t stop and our house will become flooded completely, there is a chance we won’t be able to get out because the car can just die any moment from being underwater.
That’s why I got the car out of the harm’s way on a relatively shallow spot. In the nearest future we realized that was the right choice.
My French neighbour decided to risk it and his car did not survive.
It was kind of interesting to observe the process in real-time. When the water raised high enough, first to die were the lights, then alarm and then all the circuits shorted and it went silent.
Now he had no car. Something like on the photo above.
I spent my childhood near the river and I always had this dream of having a house so close to water that I can fish out of my room’s window. Dreams do come true! )
Daniil was sending his boats to sail just slightly bending over his window. Although there was a better chance of catching a snake washed down from the mountains, than fish from the lake. Yes, was as weird as it sounds now.
Here’s a fitting true-story joke
“Called the tech support about my internet going down. They replied with this”
Internet is down. Tap water is out. Lights went out. Rain continues.
Early evening I went to check on my car again. I needed to find safe shallow roads for our evacuation route. Not an easy task. Some roads were completely empty because the stream was so strong there it could easily flip your car like a tin can. Some sections of the road were completely destroyed.
Here, for instance, I’ve shot a few days after the rain stopped. Yep, that’s the road we drove on that day. There was no normal and safe routs then, but we didn’t have a choice. We had to go for it and escape.
We moved everything from the floor up on the shelves and beds, killed the power in the entire house just to be safe and booked a hotel room for two nights.
It was getting dark and there was no more time to wait. When the water was about 2-3 centimiters below our floor level, we packed 3 big bags and went to the car. It was more like swimming and less like walking actually.
And then we started driving/sailing/swimming/sinking in our car.
At first there wasn’t much water in the car, just a small pool on the floor. But as we proceeded further, the pool grew bigger. It nearly covered the transmission hill, and my feet were pushing the pedals underwater for the entire trip. And the water level was rising still.
We got lucky, our car survived! Finally we arrived at our hotel, everybody tired to death.
Next morning I noticed my car’s twin sister. Quite amusing actually )
Two days later we returned home and spent a loooooong time cleaning all of the stones, sand, dirt, garbage and wildlife brought over by the flood. I’ve never seen so much snails in my life.
While, fair enough, it does look like a fun extreme adventure, I would not like to experience this again. There was no tap water, power or internet for a several more days.
It was still raining, especially at nights. I set alarm clocks at the middle of the night to check the water level. It was far from alright, but at least it looked safe.
But then appeared another menace. Fungus
Furniture, clothes, leather shoes – everything is being rubbed with antiseptics and every day you get this.
I didn’t use these headphones just for one day. Next day they looked like this…
1000$ Beyerdynamic set. Gotta admit, this fungi knows where’s the good stuff )
The only place untouched by vile mushrooms was the safebox. Everything kept there remained clean and dry, not even a hint of damage.
Few days later the very same Thai friends told us that the show’s not over yet, and next month they’re expecting another flood, stronger than the last one even.
All things considered, and suddenly my son’s wish for a white snow and traditional New Year is actually a good idea! Or at least a way to not turn adventure into tragedy. .
We closed our company in Thailand, got a couple of adventureres to rent our house after us and left them a bunch of stuff.
Koh Samui – Bangkok – Kiev flight tickets bought, let’s go!
In Kiev we learned that Samui got flooded yet again, so the choice was right )
Now we can take him to the Ukraine’s biggest Christmass Tree!
Bags are packed and we’re on our way to Kiev.
From Samui to Bangkok we were flying on this small but nice plane.
Shuffled around Bangkok airport for a few hours. Ukraine Airlines flight got delayed for 2 hours. Ah, the sweet taste of home. Never changing.
This was our first experience in long plane trips with Ukrainian company, usually we preferred Etihad, Emirates or Turkish airlines.
Once I did fly Ukrainian Airlines from Kiev to Paris and it was alright, so we decided to risk it. There was no other direct flights and we really didn’t feel like transfers. So, what’s done is done.
And oh was that an experience!
Airbus was small but barely holding up. 11 hours flight. No monitors in the seats. Seat fabric is torn and seats are broken. The food is inedible. Smell of some chemichals in the air.
Good thing we bought some snaks this time.
Aircraft crew softened the experience for a bit. The girls were smiling, polite and effecient in their work.
Portholes… well, just see for yourselves.
We arrived in Kiev on 30th of December
Danya on the first day in Kiev. That’s what happines looks like :)
We celebrated New Year in warm company of friends and family. Good to be back )
We took Danya to Sofievskaya square and showed him The Main Christmass Tree of Ukraine. After so much time spent in Thailand he absolutely loved it, but from me and Natasha – experienced in christmas tree things – this ridiculous thing got awarded “Tree – disappointment of the year”
Three days later Danya proclaimed that he wants to go back to Samui and the sea. But then winter got his attention completely and ours as well.
He is just overjoyed with snow. Despite the fact that he’d already seen the snow in our last year trip, for “thai” boy Danya the snow was like a divine revelation. I’m carrying his sleigh across the white fields and he reaches his arm and catches the snow wave in silent awe…
It’s decided. We shall stay here!
Everybody is happy, so we’ll stay here for a while and then we’ll see.
On the outskirts of Kiev we found a house to rent near the small creek and overlooking the vast plains covered in snow for now. Spring comes and we will ride bicycles and fish on the creek, but for now it’s hardcore ice-drifting on skii and sleighs :)
House owners promised us a beautiful garden of flowers in spring, and the photos they’ve showed us did look promising.
Here I’m planning to set up my “stage” for creative staged shots that I didn’t have time for in Thailand. If you wish to join the fun, please contact me at email@example.com
First thing that caught my eye after 6 years of being abroad – a great number of cafes and jewelery shops popped up all over the city. A lot of them!
No indication of crisis in the country. No indication of war. Some shops even raised their prices twice. A little disclaimer, I’m always in every country I’m in convert the prices to USD, so it has nothing to do with local currency rates.
For example, cotton t-shirts “basic” in russian shop O’STIN in Kiev were always 5$ per one. Now they cost 10$ and 14$ in another shop. Did somebody say crisis?.. )
Also I’m not feeling like I’m “back home”. Yes, everybody speaks your language, which is weird, everything is familiar, but it doesn’t feel like home. Just a new country that you remember from your past. But the feeling comes back slowly, as I’m meeting people and their characters and mentality. I think it will take another month or two to things to come back to normal.
People were telling stories that it’s really hard to get your kid into kindergarden these days. I don’t know, we had no problems with it. Within one day we got some sort of certificate from some sort of MOE office or something like that. Then we went to the nearest kindergarden which is 7 minutes walk from our home, they sent us for medical evaluations to doctors who didn’t even look at Danya and gave us all of the papers. Done, kid is in the kindergarden now. One time “weekend” costs 200 UAH (7$). Standard monthly fee – same 7$. I love Ukraine! :)
For comparison, russian-speaking kindergarden in Koh Samui costs 15 000 THB per month (430$) and works 9:00 – 15:30. Against Ukrainian 7$ and 7:00 – 19:00.
Everybody’s driving on opposite lanes
I’ve been told a lot that people who live in Thailand for a long time, have hard time adapting back to right-hand directed roads in the rest of the world. Traffic is left-sided in Thailand, so I admit, my heart skipped a bit at times when the taxi driver went straight to the right lane after the turn.
Interesting thing happened to me there as well. You get to your car from the right side as usual, get it, drive for a while. And then you realize the car’s driving by itself and you don’t have the steering wheel in front of you. Weird sensation. Then you realize it’s on the left side, where the taxi driver is at.
As it turns out, six years is enough to actually forget names of streets and districts in Kiev, especially it’s hard when you’re trying to explain directions to somebody on the phone. Also metro stations’ names, not even sure I can name them all right now after a month of being here.
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