Saturday, March 20, 2010
FUN WITH TAXI DRIVERS WHO DON'T SPEAK VERY GOOD ENGLISH
Meet Alexander. He is our designated taxi driver. The thing about the Ukraine is there are a LOT of taxi's throughout the city, but very, very few that speak any english. So when you find one who can communicate with you, even a little bit, you want to secure his services. Well it seems that Alexander actually drove another family around several months ago and that is how we heard about him. He is a very nice guy. He knows a little, and I do mean a little, bit of english. But hey, some is better than none. Alexander loves to try and learn new english words, so the trips around town are always exercises in language for all of us.
Small problems do arise like the time Robin, Logan & I were heading back from the orphanage. During what seemed like small talk, he was telling us about the great river and his friend who owned a second-hand clothes store (we need to get baby clothes for the trip home), and we were agreeing with him, saying "da" (yes in Russian). Robin and I look at each other and comment, "this doesn't look like the way back to the hotel". Next thing we know, he pulls off the side of a 4-lane busy road and gets out. He opens Robin's door, has her get out. Comes around to my door and motions for me to get out, only I can't because Logan has fallen asleep on my lap. "2 minutes, 2 minutes", is what he keeps saying. Robin assures me she'll be fine & the two cross the busy traffic and disappear down the embankment. Two minutes turns into twelve (I kept track) and Logan wakes up. I'm about to get out when they reappear and cross the street again. Once back in the cab, Robin just smiles, shakes her head that she'll explain later back at the hotel and off we go again. This detour for Robin resulted in some photos and sand in her shoes. Basically it was a big river with a large island in the middle. For some reason we must have agreed that we wanted to see it. Next time better to keep our mouths shut.
So we figure we're on our way back to the hotel, but oh no. Next stop, his friend's second-hand store. Guess we said da to this as well. We go in, find 2 pairs of pants, a sweater and a hat (actually Robin found the hat while I was gone-I'll explain in a minute). Let's pay and get out of here. Oh no, not so fast I didn't have any Grivna on me (their money). I was planning on exchanging some later after getting back to the hotel. "No problem", Alexander says,"Bank, around corner". Ok, I'll be right back Robin. Yeah a half hour later! Around the corner, down the street, out on to a busy street, past several banks and we keep going. "Where the heck is he taking me?" Finally, after 10 minutes we pull over at a bank (like the 4th one we passed) and go in. Simple exchange-of course not. The machine won't read my brand new crisp money. Out we go, two doors down to another one where they don't use those machines. Money exchanged. (In my mind I'm thinking, why did we go all this way?) After getting the money I find out. We go to his taxi, but we don't stop. No, no. He pulls my arm and we cross the street. He parked across the street from the Irish Pub (yes the one you read about earlier) because he wanted to show it to me. We walk in, he says some stuff to the lady working and we leave. Not sure what the whole purpose of this visit was but hey I'm just along for the ride. Finally, back to the shop to pay for our clothes and pick up Robin and Logan. It only took 35 minutes.
We get in the cab, Robin and I look at each other wide-eyed and chuckle. After returning back to the room, we agree that from now on we will not say "da" to anything else. And before you think Alexander's like American taxi drivers (driving us around to make more money), the cost for the ride was the same as to and from the orphanage. I gave him a 10 Grivna tip (which equals about $1.25) and he at first rejects it, but finally takes it. He is a very nice man and we are glad to have him driving us around. We just have to be careful what we agree with, or the next thing I know we'll be at his house for dinner. (which the other couple who preceded us actually did) BTW-he is a full service cabbie. He will even take our laundry to the cleaners for us, and pick it up. Cost for his service-nothing. American cabbies could learn something from him.