The police pay a visit to the guest house

Trip Start Oct 02, 2011
Trip End Oct 27, 2011

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Flag of Ukraine  ,
Monday, October 17, 2011

The lobby was infested with police. When we slinked past the desk it wasn't exactly reassuring to hear Yelena, with a tremor in her voice, say "I don’t know what’s going on!"  Were they coming to demand Manfred’s car insurance certificate? Relieve us of our passports which would be returned only with a hefty bribe?  Or maybe even worse?  In any case, we thought it would be best to lie low.  So we tiptoed  up to Carole and Manfred’s room.  The photo through the slits in the blinds shows the parking lot, with a police van, unmarked cars, and more milling police, both marked and unmarked.  Each officer seemed to have a cell phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  We just sat nervously in the room.  Every few minutes we’d look out the window and see a slightly different configuration of cops, cells, and cigarettes. 

This police occupation was being played out on top of an even more pressing concern: our hopes of getting to Shalanki today were rapidly diminishing.  In the midst of my Healthy Start Cole slaw and coffee we got the message that our translator, Boris, would be late for our planned 9 o'clock lift-off.  He had a doctor’s appointment, but should be back by 11.00.  So much for our planned early start. Then we were told that his return from the doctor’s would be delayed. 

At about 12.30  we heard that Boris had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor!  We felt horrible to hear the news.  And, of course, the excursion was canceled.  We called Peter, the missionary who had invited us to the Georgian restaurant, and asked if he knew anyone who could translate for us.  He said he’d work on it.  We engaged in deep in thumb-twiddling in the bedroom, avoiding the still-present police force, and waited for more news on all fronts.  Then at about 2.00 or 3.00 we were delighted to hear that a new test revealed that Boris didn’t have a brain tumor after all!  And the trip to Shalanki was on again!  So we called Peter once more, thanked him for his efforts, and told him we no longer needed his translator locator services.                            

Meanwhile, the police continued their milling.  Maybe they weren’t after Manfred’s car or our passports at all; maybe the translator had left the doctor’s office without paying his bill.  Even though, of course, they had arrived well before he left the doctor’s.  But as Boris had told us earlier, “The key to understanding ex-Soviet countries is to always think illogically."  I was working on it.

Finally the last policeman made his last call, put out his last cigarette, and drove off.  We scurried down to the lobby and breathlessly asked what was going on.  Apparently the limo driver of a high government official, totally plastered, had checked into the guest house the previous night.  And when he woke up he found that a laptop had gone missing (it was never clear if it was his or the official’s).  In any case, when the official was told of the loss he made a little call, and the police came running.  Why it took half a dozen police and four vehicles, why they kept coming and going out of the parking lot and in between trips spent most of the time posing with their cells and cigs, and why they stayed for over 3 hours and seemed to accomplish absolutely nothing was never clear.  I reminded myself, “always think illogically,” and immediately felt better. 

With the police finally gone, the coast was clear.  So we decided to go for a walk.  We retraced our footsteps of the previous day, up the hill.  We went past the church under construction, which was today being actively constructed (see photo), past the ritzy half-finished  houses still guarded by the German Shepherds, and walked through a field into a serious oak forest.  The the branches of the oaks broke the sun into beams. 

Deep in the forest we found a trail and followed it down hill.  Suddenly we started slipping and sliding—we realized we were walking on a surface carpeted with acorn ball bearings!  We began walking much more slowly, but still almost fell on our rears multiple times. 

At one point we stopped to get our bearings (not the ball type), and heard a noise behind us.  It was a herd of goats, white and brown, escorted by a shepherd carrying some sort of metal jug.  They followed us down the hill, winding in and out of the sunlight. 

On the way back to the guest house, on a winding dirt road, we passed a gaggle of geese.  For years the family narrative has been that Grandpa Klein grew up on a goose farm.  Was this actually true?  Could these geese be the descendants of the ones he herded as a kid?

And would we find out tomorrow?
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Julie on

Am waiting with baited breath for the next installment

Sylvia (Goetheer) on

Happy birthday ,Carole,,... Have a great rest of the trip.
I hope you all find what you are looking for..............

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