A reflection on the Euromaidan events and the crisis in Ukraine

Barricade at Institutska street, Kiev, December 2013

After a truly eventful winter and spring in Ukraine, the summer is still providing the world with headlines from a conflict-ridden Ukraine. The last few months they are however concentrated in origin mainly to the country´s mostly Russian speaking, heavy industry intense Donbass region. This is far away from Odessa, but we have been in the midst of some of the previous crucial events or have friends and relative who have got a little bit too close to their liking to other events.

However, a few truths about conflicts and events that turn into big global or at least international news can always be established. It is actually often perceived by a distant TV-viewer as something much worse and bigger than it usually is in reality for the people who are in the midst of the process, or at least standing next to it. A very interesting study was carried out in the US after the bombings at the Boston Marathon in 2013. It actually turned out that people who consumed lots of media regarding the terror attack got more stressed about it than people who were at the actual site of the bombings!

The study can be read here: “six or more daily hours of bombing-related media exposure in the week after the bombings was associated with higher acute stress than direct exposure to the bombings”

As I remember Euromaidan, a gloomy regular Kiev winter day

The same things can in many ways be said about the events in Ukraine. I personally lived in Kiev during the Euromaidan and could get more worried about what was going on by following Kyivpost and Ukrainska Pravdas live coverage than by actually walking down to Maidan and see things with my own eyes. Luckily I did spend some time on Maidan and have my own view of the mass movement that really was there. I worked centrally in Kiev and used to go down to Maidan during lunch time and sometimes after work to get my own impression. During the last brutal days of Euromaidan I was however not on Maidan itself.

During the events here in Odessa on the 2nd of May we had difficulties understanding what all of sudden happened just a few blocks away and the high number of dead shocked the citizens, but the reactions here were probably not the ones a distant media consumer could anticipate. After the events here it has been very calm and a clear pro-Ukrainian government stance has been dominating, in an Odessa slowly moving into its usual relaxed summer mode.

The conclusion is that one always has to make up one’s mind, listen to what people on site say and that the situation on the ground here in Ukraine in many ways has been different for us living here than has been how it could be portrayed in foreign media. We did not walk between burning tanks when we went to work in the mornings and hide in bunkers after work, but that did not mean we took everything seriously and were prepared for a drastic change of the situation to the worse. This change did luckily never come here in Odessa and there is at the moment nothing that indicates that a spread of the violence outside the distant eastern Ukraine is likely. Therefore for us it is business as usual and we do our best to contribute to the struggling Ukrainian economy. Join us indirectly in this if you can!

Borschification in progress

The Carphatians

I am sure you all have noticed that these are tough days for Ukraine and its hard working people. We sincerely hope that the current political crisis will soon be solved in a peaceful way, that will allow us all to look forward to a brighter future which this country both deserves and has the potential of creating. In the meantime, our own commitment stays unchanged and focused on building up Beetroot, and in this way contributing as a bridging factor with increased value exchange and communication across borders. In that respect we are happy to update you with some good news from our location down in Odessa.

17 months after we rolled into Kiev with our Lada, the Beetroot is bigger and growing faster than ever. We have also spent enough time in Ukraine to start to get an understanding on how things are working, from everyday practicalities to specifics of the local IT market. The recent Christmas and New Year break gave, just in-line with its purpose, some time to look back and reflect on things as well as building up energy to be unleashed this coming year.

New office

A few months ago, we once again grew out of our old office and moved to a new, more spacious one in the center of Odessa. Each move to a new office undoubtedly gives a boost to the whole team, not only because of increased space and change of environment but also the feeling of growth and the “climbing-the-ladder” effect. Our new Beetroot “garden” has a very cozy atmosphere which makes us all feel like home while at work. We have our own entrance, kitchen, shower, meeting rooms as well as two floors which will allow us to grow in peace for a while. Of course we kicked off work in the new office with a big party with lots of friends and colleagues invited! The party was preceded by a seminar where some of our guests presented their activities and shared some thoughts on different topics, both technical and business related.

During the autumn we launched our new Beetroot website to be more up to date with our present state and capabilities. All comments, suggestions and feedback regarding the site are more than welcome. Sometimes you get blind by working to much in your own garden and second and third opinions are very important.

To give you a view of our activities and what Beetroot is today, here are some numbers and quick facts

Beetroot so far:
– done 4 office upgrades
– 18 persons working in our Odessa office
– another 15 developers and designers engaged in 7 partner teams in Chisinau, Kharkov and Kiev.
– 6 open positions to be filled in Odessa within the coming month
– 25+ clients
– clients from 7 countries
– had 1000+ travelling hours on trains, buses and planes to make everything work
– kicked of the development of our own project deskhive.com together with partners. An Airbnb-like platform for short-term office space rental with beta launch in March 2014

Some of our humble plans for the rest of 2014 are (in an non-quantified format)
– Continue a stable and organic growth both in Odessa and through our project teams thanks to close partnerships with our clients
– Increase the capacity and quality in our focus areas (both technology and client wise)
– Increase our local presence in targeted client markets
– Continue to work with improvements of working environment and chances of personal and professional growth for the whole team.
– Much more which you will see during the coming year:)

BukovelIn other words, the journey continues and there are exciting times ahead! I myself kicked off the year with a train tour through Europe meeting resellers, existing and potential clients as well as some good old friends. I started off with a couple stops in Germany, went down to the French alps for a few days of skiing, continued to Switzerland and last but not least, had a massive trip back to Ukraine through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary. Trains trip can be very enjoyable and even productive, as long as you prepare some “offline work” to be done in the free-from-disturbance environment a train can offer. The past weekend was spent with a big part of the Beetroot team in Bukovel in the Carpathians, a first skiing experience for some and great team building for us all.

We will try to keep you up to date with what’s happening a little more regularly than in the past (not a promise, but an ambition). Good luck everyone and stay tuned!

1 year anniversary

Bambam! 16th of September was Beetroot’s first year birthday, counted as our day of arrival to Kiev one year ago and symbolized by our long Lada trip between St Petersburg and Kiev. It was celebrated with a small and genuine champagne ceremony at the beach in Odessa.  It’s time for a summary and a general status update on how things are developing by the black sea.

Let’s start with filling you in on the past three summer months. The Rootbeet blog has been sleeping while the Beetroot and we have been doing quite the opposite. Odessa is obviously a wonderful place in the summer and so thought many of our friends and acquaintances who decided to visit us and the “pearl by the sea”. We would have done really well as a hostel here with constant batches of friends, families, clients and others passing by for some days to enjoy sunny and cosy Odessa. We counted at least 8 nationalities hosted in our flat at some point. This really made the summer for us with plenty of memorable and happy moments. It also helped us to take some mini-vacations here and there and helped us not to spend all our awake time working, which otherwise would have been a very likely scenario. 🙂

When it comes to Beetroot, we’re growing up. We’ve been just a baby before, but this summer, we took some major steps towards a more mature childhood. Together with a number of key clients we have been focusing the summer on recruiting new Beetroots to the team and we feel both lucky and privileged that we already have such a dynamic and great team of people in Odessa. Each developer is in direct communication with their client, current clients working in a range between website building for web studios, exciting start-ups and educational platforms for some of the largest companies in Swedish.

The office in Chernomorets football stadium which, when we moved there in May, felt like a place where we could grow for a while is now almost full. We are 13 people at today’s date and a few more to be integrated in the team before we move out in the end of October. We expect to sign a new “Beetroot garden” (office) in the nearest future, but we’ll spare you the details until they are fixed.

Parallel to taking care of our Odessa “headgarden”, we are also deepening the cooperation with our Moldovan project partners where now around 15 developers are working with Beetroot client projects. We often enter these projects when they are in a very early stage, meaning that an important part of what we do is working out definitions of the scope and development plans together with clients, needless to say, a very stimulating process.

Over the past year, we now and then got the question if we deal with design services. For a long time the answer was no, mainly because we hadn’t found designers who were good enough and at the same time with the possibility to smoothly integrate into our model.  But for last couple of months, we are comfortable in answering yes to design requests. We have set up a small Beetroot Creative Studio in Chisinau together with one of Moldova’s most skilled and progressive designers. The first delivery will be our own new Beetroot website which will be launched in the next couple of weeks! And the Creative Director himself, Dima, is in Stockholm as we speak, designing the new website of a prominent consultancy company. A site which will be constructed in Moldova during the autumn. Since July we are also testing out working with a skilled team of designers in Kiev. While design and development often goes hand in hand, specifics of the work processes differ quite bit. That’s why we are in a stage of experimentation when it comes to the design services, much like the stage we were at for development services during last autumn.

Something else in the category of important, interesting and exciting news is our cooperation with a team in Kharkov highly skilled in iOS development. We are now engaging a couple of developers in building apps for people with disabilities for a Swedish client as well as building an app for an American start-up. Together with this team we can offer very premium iOS development and we are looking to work closer and closer with our friends in Kharkov during the autumn and winter.

Having summarized the Beetroot news, I would also like to mention a milestone in my own life. In the end of May I graduated from Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship (CSE) which mean I am officially a Master of engineering with a focus on technology based entrepreneurship. CSE has been an invaluable base of support during the past year and creating my master thesis forced me into thinking about some things concerning Beetroot in a wider way. For anyone interested in a detailed summary on how we came to a location decision for Beetroot, how we worked out our different models etc., just contact me and I’ll send over a copy of my paper “Assessment of IT outsourcing locations within CIS, a field study in Ukraine and Moldova”.

That’s all for now, stay tuned and we’ll try to keep you more regularly posted on our progress and experiences during the coming autumn. For now, we are just concluding that the first year for Beetroot has been way over expectations, and we consequently have high expectations for the upcoming year, which we will be trying to overachieve as well. 🙂

Odessa – Bucharest, the shortest way

I recently went to France for a couple of days. I had a flight from Bucharest to Paris, a city about the same distance from Odessa as Kiev, so not as remote as it might sound. The problem is that there’s no really convenient way of travelling Odessa-Bucharest. I have done it once before, then I took the easy way and went by bus through Chisinau, a little far but this is the conventional route and what most people would recommend. However, this time I decided to try a straighter but very custom route, something that proved to be a real hit for a dedicated traveller. I went the same way both to and from Bucharest, but these two trips turned out to be quite different. I’m writing this to anyone who is thinking about doing the same trip, alternatively to someone without anything better to do than to read about me going from one place to another in a corner of Europe.

Odessa – Bucharest

  1. Got up early and took the tram to the central bus station in Odessa
  2. Was lucky and within 20 minutes I was on a bus to Reni, a town down in the south western corner of Ukraine, just by the border to Moldova and Romania.
  3. Arrived after 4-5 hours. The driver turned out to be a local celebrity and stopped a dozen of times to talk to people on the street while driving through Reni. People started to jump of one by one until only me and one other guy were left. It turned out that we were both going to Romania, so the driver drove us to the border in the outskirts of the city, let us off and wished us good luck.
  4. So now I had a travel mate, Daniel. A young Ukrainian gentleman studying economy in Bucharest and on his way back after the May break. A very nice companion, not only for the good company, but who did the trip several times before and now naturally lead the way.
  5. We walked up to the first border control, which turned out to be a combined Ukrainian and Moldovan one with two offices located on the road opposite from each other.
  6. After some standard border hassle and silly questions we got our stamps and walked about 3 km, through the very southern tip of Moldova, until we reached the Moldovan/Romanian border
  7. This border is not allowed to cross by foot so we had to try to find a car. After many rejections by people who probably thought we were trying to bring something fishy into the EU, a guy stopped and offered us to cross with him for a symbolic fee, of course we said yes.
  8. We passed the Moldovan and the Romanian border checkpoint and our driver was kind enough to drive us all the way into Galati, the first Romanian city on the other side.
  9. Got to the Galati bus station only to realize that the bus to Bucharest was full, so we walked over to the train, waited for a couple of hours, and 4 hours later we arrived in Bucharest. I said goodbye my new friend with a promise to stay in his student dormitory whenever I happened to pass by.
  10. The trip all in all was about 12 hours and 560 km. I even had some time to visit a friend in Bucharest before I got out to the airport a little after midnight and continued to Paris a couple of hours later.

Bucharest – Odessa

  1. After a couple of productive days in France I once again found myself at the airport in Bucharest, Henri Coandă International. The trip I had in front of me should show not be as easy as last time.
  2. Went straight from the airport to the train station, Gara de Nord. Was lucky and had a train to Galati departing in 8 minutes and 4 hours later I arrived in Galati, so far so good.
  3. Took a while before I managed to find a reasonable taxi to the border, but eventually found one and a little later I got dropped off by the Romanian border checkpoint.
  4. Found myself standing at a more or less traffic-free road together with a Romanian border police waiting for a car willing to take me across the border. This time I had to wait much longer, Sunday afternoon turned into evening and was not until I joined a group of three Ukrainians, standing by the road of the same reason as me, I managed to get a ride, this time for an even more symbolic sum then last time. The driver also offered to drive me all the way to Odessa for 150 Euro, I said no.
  5. Once again I walked the 3 km through Moldova to get to Ukraine. I asked the border guards if there possibly was any chance of getting to Odessa in some way this late Sunday evening. The answer was “probably not, but if you wait for a couple of hours there might be a bus from Varna heading for Odessa passing by. Otherwise I could advise you to hang around here and try to get a seat in a car going in the right direction”.
  6. Really needed to be in Odessa the day after, so I walked down to a bar some 100 meters into Ukraine and asked around. I ended up hitchhiking with Konstantides, a Greek truck driver in a beautiful Volvo, transporting an elevator from southern Greece to Moscow.
  7. The roads down there in the south western corner are quite terrible (or “katastrofa” as my fellow Greek repeated at regular intervals) and we sick sacked between the holes and bumps in 20 km/h for 60 km, listened to Zorba and managed to have some kind of conversation despite Konstantides very primitive Russian.
  8. 3 hours later, an hour before midnight, I got dropped off on a pitch black road outside of the city Izmail, where my driver planned to spend the night. I found three women standing by the road having a late night neighbour to neighbour talk. I explained where I came from, where I was going and asked the way into town. They said it’s not every day a Swede who left Paris in the morning gets dropped off by Greek truck drivers on their road, and helped me to call a taxi.
  9. It was the best kind of taxi, old-Soviet-man-in-very-well-taken-care-of-Lada. He drove me with great enthusiasm to the train station, I had my last piece of luck for the day and got a train ticket for the train to Odessa at midnight. I even had time to have a well-deserved steak at one of Izmails culinary venues before I left (first time I had to eat anything since my breakfast Ciabatta on the plane).
  10. Got on the train, travelled the 250(!) km, arrived in Odessa at 07.00 after 7 hours sleep and went straight to the office, boosted with energy after the wonderful trip. This resulted in a total time of 20h for the trip back to Odessa, but since it included almost a full night of sleep I still consider it a success.

Crossing borders

We took a combined work and leisure trip to Chisinau Friday-Sunday with our Niva last week. In this way we got some real insights in the specifics of crossing the border between Ukraine and Moldova as two Swedes in a Ukrainian car (according to the reaction of the border guards, it’s nothing they see every day). We chose the passing in the very south-east of Moldova, which means avoiding Transnistria, but also that you technically need to pass the border twice since there is a small slice of Moldova to be passed before you exit to Ukraine and then go in again. The system for this is quite well organized, you just get a small note telling how many people you are in the car passing the first control, you continue on the one road to follow, and then you give the note back at the end of the slice. We got a hitchhiking Ukrainian border guard onboard for this stretch, it’s normal. The more unusual help we gave to a Ukrainian border guard at the “real” Moldovan border crossing. Basically, he had locked his key into his own Lada, and wanted to test if our Lada key could work instead, it did. 30 seconds of tweaking, and his car was open. Maybe we should consider investing in a steering wheel lock.

Next step was buying a green card -road insurance for Moldova, I thought it was a bit expensive (20 EUR), but was informed that this insurance was valid not only for Moldova, but also for Russia and Belarus, and for 15 days, so I would get a lot of value for my money… right. Anyway, the crossing continued with us getting some comments about our nice car, and the usual questioning session on what we have been doing in Ukraine, what we will be doing in Moldova and so on. One guy thought it was a fun thing to call us the Swedish hackers, so he did so about 10 times, each time followed by his characteristic laugh. A second guy, in the passport control, looked at our latest edition Swedish passports, turned them in inside out with the comment “what kind of a country is this?!”, it was followed by a discussion with a colleague weather we have finger prints or a chip in the little “window”, just for interest. A third guy took a careful look at our car papers, to make sure that we are really allowed to take this car abroad. It’s hard for a foreigner to officially own a car in Ukraine, so the papers of our car is on the old owner and we have a document saying that we are allowed to use it and so on, it’s normal. A fourth guy was seriously interested in joining us to the Leningrad concert on Saturday (which was truly great btw). The last step was paying the road tax of about 5 EUR, since we didn’t have any Moldovan Lei, we had to do it in another box where Ukrainian Hrivna was ok, for this, we got no less than 3 A4 papers as receipts.  The whole process took less than one hour waiting included, and in general, it was a very cozy and relaxed border crossing.

On Saturday we had the experience of crossing another, less official border, the one from Moldova to the generally unacknowledged autonomous region of Transnistria. The idea was to join one of our friends (and business partners) who were going to do some paragliding over the Dniester river. Arriving at the border, the first sight is parked tanks and soldiers equipped with rifles (no need to mention what kind) and dressed in Russian uniforms. You also get the chance to have your passport checked by KGB, in our case represented by a polite and nice guy. Filling the immigration card we got a special note to fill out our “otchestva” which means fathers name. Since my father is Eje, I am Andreas Ejevich Flodström and Gustav is Magnusovich Henman when travelling in Transnistria.

Right after crossing the border, we were stopped by the police at the first crossroad, apparently it’s a common procedure to do so with foreign registered cars. He was looking for some “safety issue” to remark on and it didn’t take him long to find our tinted windows (in fact, even looking for safety issues with two Swedes carefully driving with their seatbelts on is a bit funny considering the safety of some of the other cars that passed). I had to walk after our documents into the police station to sit down with the officer. I pretty much know the normal procedure by now: Let the officer sit down and talk about the seriousness of your “crime” and how much trouble this could cause you. Make him understand that you pretty much understand the non-seriousness of your crime, that you were not born yesterday and that you are not going to open your wallet without any proper motivation. So I got to read the actual paragraph in the law which states that our side windows shouldn’t be too dark. I asked him how we could fix the “problem” since it was obviously both dangerous and illegal and got the answer: “Naaaaaahhh, it’s nothing scary, just pay me the fee, and nobody will bother you more”. I asked to get a receipt of the fee (about 5 EUR), which I got and even managed to get him to write the date. He asked me for my “Otchestva”, I said I don’t have any, he said “but you have a father” and ones again I got a paper saying I am Andreas Ejevich Flodström, maybe I should put them all in a nice frame on the wall, maybe together with some Transnistrian Rubles. The officer wished me a good day and a safe trip, and we where off. On the way back a few hours later we were stopped again by his colleague who soon realized that we already had been there. “Ahhh, you have already visited us haven’t you? Then have a nice day!”

In general, I don’t want to make a to big deal about border crossings, but rather about the very beautiful landscape of both Moldova and Transnistria! I am truly impressed, and for every time I visit Moldova, I want to see and feel more of it. Considering how our partner relations in Chisinau are developing, I will probably get many more chances. Our overall experiences of Moldova, are highly boosted on the plus side. As for Transnistria, I would like to see much more of it, it’s probably the place in the world that has kept most from the Soviet times, a fact they seem to be quite proud of.

The soundtrack of this trip =)
http://youtu.be/QD9ODx2_nNU

No electricity

Yesterday evening the electricity went out for the whole block. It has shown some signs of instability for the whole week, but there have never been any longer breaks, so I expected something similar. Now the electricity has been out for 12 hours, and I am reminded on how electricity dependent I am. For the first few hours, I could continue working almost as usual in the dark with my mobile internet. My Samsung Android eats battery fast though, so I soon lost my connection. The warm water and the stove are both by gas based, so that’s fine, heating is also not electric, so no need to worry really. But my phone is out of charge, and soon my computer as well.

I had 30 to-dos on my list this morning, 6 of them I can perform without internet. Without computer, I could perform 2, and they are done. I guess better go and find some nice café, and then buy some candles for tonight.

A first experience of Ukrainian e-commerce

Rozetka

About time for Beetroot’s second half to start screaming here as well (and not only at ryssen.se where I’ve been writing sporadically until now). Since me and Andreas often spend time at different places, doing different things and getting different experiences this will hopefully widen the picture of all the exciting activities we have going on down here.

Rozetka

For the moment we are both in Odessa establishing our new main base and office. We haven’t been this stationary in a long time which includes a lot of new experiences. For example, yesterday I did my first online purchase ever in Ukraine, at rozetka.com.ua. The conclusion is that e-commerce works quite different here than what I’m used to. However, the first steps are quite similar; choose the products you like, put them in your cart and proceed to checkout. This is when your world starts to turn upside down. The checkout includes a form where you fill out your name, address, phone number, way of delivery and payment method. The only two options for how to pay is by cash on delivery or by bank transfer (if you have an Ukrainian bank account), card payment is not an option. Delivery can either be made to your door for a democratic sum or for free to a central pickup point. You then press place order and get the message “thanks for your order, we will contact you soon”. It took 10 seconds before I got an sms confirming my order and 30 seconds before I got a call from a very polite sales person. He read out loud and asked me to confirm every single entry in the order form. We then discussed when it would be suitable to get the delivery since I need to be present to meet the delivery guy, show my face, sign some papers etc.

The fact that e-commerce works this way in Ukraine most probably depends on a built in mistrust in people, internet and electronic payments. It will probably take a while to overcome these doubts and until then, e-commerce will continue to work in this transitional, compromising way.  Anyway, good experience and I’m now awaiting my delivery on Saturday sometime between 12-16, will get back on the accuracy of this.

A lunch to remember

The Institute

The InstituteWe are doing our best to establish ourselves in our new neighborhood, we are aiming to find a good “столовая” (сanteen) which could give us a good daily lunch to a sustainable price-level.  We put our faith into the Institute on the other side of the street – students usually have a chance to buy cheap lunch food. We went in, met the security guy and asked him if they had a good canteen we could use, and he said that: “Sure it’s over there at the left, but I will speak with the director at first”. We took three four steps into the building were a lady “stopped” us and asked who we are. We made a short explanation which seemed to satisfy this lady.  Nothing seemed to satisfy the next lady though, the director, the big boss. She had decided her mind about the unusual invaders without even letting us open our mouths, “This is not a canteen for everyone so you can leave”.  We said “thank you” and left the building.

The story could have ended there, but we also had our eye on the “Avto remont” (car service) on the other side of the institution territory (don’t ask me how they organized that thing).  So we just crossed the yard and went into the car workshop, simply to ask the guys some Niva related questions. We didn’t have time to open our mouths in there though until the director of the institute was behind us again. She had obviously followed the suspects over the territory and was now ready for some telling-off. She didn’t believe anything of what we said, and our explanation that we need the workshop for our Niva on the other side of the street didn’t seem likely for her. “There is no Niva on the other side of the street, show me your documents!!” I have rarely felt myself so disbelieved before, and our surprised smile over her reactions didn’t fall into taste either “What’s so funny!”.  Finally she let us go without calling the police (which she threatened to do), and we eventually found another canteen connected to the police institute. This turned out to be exactly what we were looking for, with borsch just in our taste, so now we have a lunch place.

After the lunch we had a short walk home and got our sights on an office building close by with the sign “office for rent”. We walked into the building (with our previous experience in mind) and asked for the director. We were showed in to a room packed with flowers and met with “Viktor Anatolevich”. He had been the director there since way back when they used to construct assembly lines for factories from all over the Soviet Union.  We were shown some pictures of the good old times, and also got a look at the room that now might become our office. Overall, this was a lunch to remember!

Moving to Odessa

I went up early to get going to Odessa and hit the road with two lives packed into the car and a good mood at around 09:00. I managed to drive for 20 min before the car stopped; I suspected an empty fuel-tank since I had my doubts about the fuel indicator’s correctness (which indicated the tank was fairly full).  I am starting to get quite used to these situations – so I grabbed a taxi, luckily I found one of those great old guys who are ready to help you with anything, so that’s what he did. We got the fuel, but the Niva didn’t start anyway, the battery discharged – and once more I found myself in a Lada towed by a random Taxi.  The car started from the towing and lack of fuel turned out to be the actual problem. I then discussed with my driver on how to negotiate the best price for a potential workshop visit. Taxidrivers masterplan: “I do all the talking, and if they ask, you are my friend from the Baltics, it will be 20 % cheaper than if you’re my friend from Sweden”. Luckily we didn’t have to execute the plan, and I took of towards Odessa after a warm hand shake and a after paying a very “democratic” (this is a very common way to describe anything that is fair) sum to the driver.

I arrived to Odessa without further problems. The roads between Kiev and Uman (half way) were awful, with literary thousands of holes in the road, the second part was better.  Another surprising thing for me was to realize that Russian was not enough for me to be able to speak to the citizens of Uman. It’s in the middle of Ukraine, so sure, Ukrainian would be the normal language, but still surprising considering that both Kiev and Odessa are cities where Russian works very well.

The road between Kiev and Odessa:

 

A day with Stas and the guys

Niva at Stas

Niva at StasThe plan for the day was to move to Odessa, it didn’t happen that way. We had asked our  guy Stas to make a full overview of our new Niva before the first master test, moving all of our stuff from Kiev to Odessa. I knew already that there would be a delay of some hours because some parts were missing, but I kept my hopes high and expected to get rolling at around 2 PM and do the 7 hour ride with style.  When I arrived there were still some “details” left to do, so I was invited to sit down and have a coffee in the meantime. What was supposed to be a small coffe-break turned out to be a full day with the guys in the workshop, I finally left them at around midnight.

It was a quite interesting afternoon for me in any case. I found a good corner of the workshop where I sat and worked for much of the day; let’s say I gave quite a good contrast to everything else in the environment. I also got surprisingly open minded stories about Stas private life, his three wives (from which wife no. 2 is the present one) and about his favorite movie (Braveheart). At around 10 PM, the radio arrived, but the antenna was missing, so we raced through the city to get it from one of the night open car part shops. I was informed (as usual) that the seatbelt wasn’t needed, because Stas has a good friend he can call if the police would stop us. Stas took all of the safety measures needed though since he made the sign of the cross every time we swept by a church. When I left the workshop at midnight, (a time when new clients still arrived), I had passively inhaled smoke roughly equivalent to one year of cigarette consumption.