Tuesdays

I always have a small to-do list on Tuesdays, but I leave it for later and walk out the front door.

With no one by my side, I walk slowly. I think and observe. I love people watching.

On the subway, I usually stand, silently eyeing those around me.

I memorize their sequined shoes, chipped manicured nails, scars on their skin. I still try to read the posted advertisements, the Cyrillic alphabet offering new hints to its mystery every now and again.

As I ride the escalator to and from the subway platform and wait for the train to arrive, I watch everyone moving in different directions. Where did they come from? Where are they going?

Isn’t it mind-boggling that we’re all in this world, twisting and turning in every imaginable direction, sharing space but passing each other by?

I keep my ear buds in, listening to an audio book or ambient music — Robert Miles or Paul Oakenfield or Deep Forest. This is both background entertainment and a deterrent for possible conversation. Without them in, someone inevitably asks a question or tries to strike up a conversation, and I hate not being able to converse in the local language.

kiev park

My Tuesday excursion usually begins in Shevchenko Park, quite a bit smaller and more urban than the park near our home. It’s a sea of activity any time of day, any time of year.

Retired men lay out chess pieces for drop-in games. They rotate among the boards for fast-paced play — move a piece, tap the timer, move a piece, tap the timer. A game of speed that looks much less stressful than the methodical chess strategy I learned as a kid.

University classes are back in session. Twenty-somethings walk by, a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other, sometimes with urgency in their step and other times as if this day will stretch into two or twelve or twenty. I want to tell them it won’t last forever and to cling to these moments because they’ll blink and be consumed with childcare and performance reviews and all-consuming thoughts about the shoulds and coulds and woulds.

Even I ask myself: Where did the past fifteen years go?

I find an out-of-the-way place to sit down, settle in for the next couple hours. I accumulate my yoga teacher training assignments over the week, and this is where I’ll record videos and type up written assignments. Even sitting off the sidewalk under the trees, I get some strange looks. But I’m already a stranger in a foreign land.

On the average day, I spend the first twenty or thirty minutes writing in my journal. On Tuesdays, I reserve this habit for the park.

I keep the blank book open on my lap, making notes about whatever comes to mind. Do Ukrainians listen to audio books too, or is that an American phenomenon? Who pays for the newly planted fresh flowers, and who decides what to plant? What genius designed the benches in this park, with their wacky angles and artistic design? What would people think if I filled the little free libraries books written in English? As I observe people, do they observe me?

I like the cool breeze on my bare ankles and blowing through my hair, which I’m growing out. It’s the longest its been in years.

Where will I go when winter settles in?

coffee shoes

Eventually, the clock ticks toward 1:00, and my growling stomach reminds me it’s lunchtime. My favorite Tuesday meal is a warm, cream-based soup and a latte. I will brave just about any weather conditions to sit outside on a patio or screened-in porch.

This is a highlight of my week in Kyiv. I sip my coffee while thinking about this incredible city that few people know. I’ve tried to convince several editors that this a city they should be covering — all these editors who claim to be interested in off-the-beaten track and “undiscovered” destinations — and they brush me off. No one is interested, they say. It is a war zone.

This amazing city — my home — is my win and their loss.

When I’ve taken the last sip of my latte, I often order one more so I can linger a little longer, though there’s never any pressure to leave.

And so I stay, watching cars drive over the pot-holed streets and construction workers lowering themselves into manholes, nannies pushing prams and pigeons vying for a spot on the sidewalk to fight over a moldy piece of bread.

On Tuesdays, there is no rush.

 

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