Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Double-U: Ukrainian Underwear, or How to Not Lose Your Luggage

Tired of introspective philosophical posts? Good, me too. So let me tell you a story.

As you might remember, though I arrived on-time in Kyiv, my luggage did not. Thankfully, I'd packed my somewhat respectable "city outfit" and some deodorant in a carry-on. Between that, and the generosity of the other girls on my team, I wasn't doing too bad.

When the team got to Kyiv ready for the tour, my luggage was still nowhere to be seen. I don't mean that it wasn't in Kyiv. I mean that no one knew where it was. The company hadn't tracked it down yet to tell me that it was stuck in an airport in South Africa. And while the sanitorium we were staying at had a laundry machine, and I was content to wash and rewash my two t-shirts until the end of time, there was one thing out of the bag I was really missing: underwear.

My leader had told our student tour guide that I would have to do some shopping if we hadn't found my luggage. (He was envisioning full-out shopping. I was envisioning a week of slobbery and as little money-spending as possible.) So, about five minutes after I had met her, Tanya pulled me aside and told me she was taking me shopping.

Now, apart from the awkwardness of telling this girl I barely knew that I didn't need blouses and shorts, as my leader had told her, but that I needed underwear, add this to the equation: Did you know that in downtown Kyiv, there aren't exactly stores where you can buy a pack cotton panties? Because she did. The solution: a lingerie store in the square.

Ten minutes later, I was trying desperately to do mental calculations of European sizes, while a kind storegirl tried her best to speak English to me as I went through racks of what I usually buy for other people's bridal showers.

As I handed over my grivna, I heard Tanya's cell phone going off. Sure enough, my luggage was found the moment that underwear became legally mine.

Now, this makes for a great story and some interesting souvenirs, but friends, let me save yourselves some of my embarrassment with this simple advice:

Do not pack cash in your check bag. Especially those fancy looking gold dollar coins. These ones.

I'm usually a pretty smart person, but for some reason all reason deserted me when packing my U.S. "souvenirs" for the Ukrainian students. Oh, I thought, these would probably be cool for them. In they went with the keychains and the peanut butter.

I really don't care a whit that they weren't in my luggage when I got it back. I was just glad to get it back! But I might have preferred making a different first impression on my dear friend Tanya.

But I suppose I should look on the bright side. They didn't steal my underwear.

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