Nazi Buses in Disneyland & Honey Badger Babushkas

  
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Question of the week: When you visit a country, do you ever actually really experience that country? And, does it matter?

This is what I address this week and I use my experience in Ukraine, first as a tourist, and then as someone who lived there in Lviv, as the basis for this discussion.

I find this topic to be quite interesting to explore and, as I learned in Ukraine, often our experiences as a tourist are more akin to that of Disneyland than reality.

 A famous comic book villain once said, "Reality is often disappointing."

This Week's Wine: Pianerosse - Nero di Troia - Puglia - $8

Correction:

Apartment Price in Lviv: ~275 euro/month

Transcript

Hello. Hello and welcome back to no fairy tale travels this week. I want to pose a question to you when you visit a country, do you ever actually really experience that country or is it sort of like a fairy tale version of it, a Disneyland, a version of that country and not really the real deal, the real thing. And then maybe even more interesting than that is, regardless of the answer, does it even really matter? So that's what I'm going to talk about this week. If you have any questions, comments, or thoughts, go to no fairy tale travels dot sub stack .com. Find the post for this episode and leave me a message now. All right. What am I drinking this week? PN, a Roseau narrow de Troya. Gosh, darn. I have a great accent. Anyway. Point is I got some new wine, not just the Illuminati, two bucks cheaper and not so bad.

So I want to start this one off with a little story about how I started to think about this, which is when you go to another country, do you experience that country? So I'm sitting in the central square of Levine, Rynok square and Ukraine, and I'm around a table with a few other guys, a few other foreigners, and we're having beers in the middle of the day, chatting and having a great time. And one of the guys, there was a long-term or in Ukraine and long-term ex-pats in Ukraine. They always have an interesting story or many interesting stories to tell you, especially about how they ended up to come there in the first place and live there, but we're all drinking. And as we start to drink a little bit more and more, he gets a little bit annoyed with us and he says, you guys, you, you keep talking about how much you love Ukraine.

You don't even know Ukraine, this little area where we are right now. This is Disneyland. This is fake. None of this is real. This is not Ukraine. What you love is not Ukraine. And I thought that was a very interesting statement. And I started to think about it and think about it and where we were was a central area. That was all pedestrian zone and very, very nice, very peaceful, very fun, lots of interesting things to do. It is still maybe one of my favorite places ever so much so that I almost don't want to tell anyone about it. And there's so many interesting just experiences that you can have from the different types of food, to the drinks, to the theme, to restaurants and bars and cafes. And in the summertime, you have local musicians from the music school playing the violin or singing opera or the guitar, or even little bands on almost every corner of the street.

The women are just they'd put any Victoria's secret catwalk to shame, and they have a beautiful, bubbly personality that is quite difficult to match on any large scale. I mean, it is a terrifically amazing place. It really is a Disneyland Disney land for tourists. And it's so much fun, but it's not Ukraine. He was right. I would end up spending many, many, many months in Ukraine after that. And the moment that you leave that central area, where as a tourist, you are going to spend your entire time. So the moment you leave it, everything changes. It's not all for the bad, but it is just completely different. It is not that fairy tale experience that you just had. It turns out that in normal life, the girls dress a bit more, normally a bit more modestly. It turns out that they aren't all walking around smiling at everybody because they're probably going about their daily life and not just on some sort of catwalk strutting mode, walking in the kind of high street of Leviev and normal life.

You're not always just bouncing around in a great, great mood, you know, happy, filled with life as the giant yellow buses from like Nazi Germany drive by and throw so much smog in the air that you can't breathe without choking. I mean, I feel like Corona virus is the least of the worries sometime there. One of the apartments that I had in a local neighborhood, at some point it was on the second floor. So first floor, if you're in some European or many European countries and it was facing the street, it was a very nice apartment. I think it was a 200 euros a month, which was actually overpriced, but that's okay. And it was a very nice apartment and the windows you'd open up the top. They would fold in just a little bit like standard European windows. I don't know how to describe them.

I don't know, window terminology, but whatever you could sort of crack the top open and lean the window back towards you and get some fresh air in there during the day. The problem was that the buses would go by four times an hour and shoot Smog up into the air and it would just come into the apartment and fill it up. And you're just sort of choking. So you have to remember four times a day to run to the windows and close them. You don't get that in the central square area where all the hotels and hostels are because everything is made very nice and new and clean and, and the streets are pedestrian zones. So there's almost nobody driving down them. Certainly no buses, certainly no Nazi Germany, era buses.

And as you go farther away from the city center and you live closer to, or you go closer to the train station, which is where I also lived. At one point there, you start to see more of the reality. You start to see the babushkas, the grandmas selling all of the stuff, the clothes, the shoes, the coats, and the knickknacks outside the train station. I believe that now they're trying to clear that out. They may have finished clearing that out because they want to make the city look nicer for tourists. But when I was there just a few years ago, it was still there and still functioning. And I remember some of my local friends and they were telling me that, yeah, as they grew up, that's where they would go and get their clothes. So that was their experience for, it's almost like getting hand me downs.

I don't know if you've ever had hand-me-downs. I remember as a kid, I used to think about how awful they were. I hated getting hand-me-downs. I wanted my own thing, but now I think that if I have kids, I'm going to ensure that they get hand me downs so that they can appreciate the new things that they have as much as the people who I knew and do know in countries where they never had new things until they were older in life. And we take a lot of that for granted in the west and the states, especially. So reality is not a fairy tale. And I want to tell you one of the funniest things about reality as well. I was thinking about, which is kind of a funny thing who are the most horrible group of people to meet that you can think of in the world.

There's all sorts of funny stereotypes. And they all are based in reality to some degree, some more than others. Let's talk about Brits in Spain. Although I do think that they're good, fun, but you have to be in the partying mood to, to not hate that. Um, but aside from those, can you think of just another group that's kind of annoying. A lot of people will say gypsies, but there's one group that's not just annoying, but straight up terrifying. They're like the gangsters of the supermarkets. Okay. And it is a babushka in Eastern Europe. You get in the way of that woman and her onions. Oh my God. Oh my God. Or God forbid, there are two checkout lines and one goes faster than the other. And this babushka sees you. And she knows that she has power over you. She has babushka power.

She better not say anything or do anything because there's a gang of babushkas and what'll happen is they'll yell at you, but then they'll yell at each other. And then it's like a little, I don't know, it's like the honey badgers of the human species. They are ferocious monsters in those grocery stores. And you encounter them a lot when you live in more normal areas, uh, of Ukraine, at least because you have to go to the store to fill up your water every day so that you have water to drink. So you go there and you fill it up for 25 cents or so, and then you come back home. So you encounter the babushkas a lot more regularly when you're in the city center, you don't really encounter them that much. Who do you see drunk tourists mostly. And those people are pretty easy to handle for the most part.

Just make sure you Dodge the vomit. And now you don't have to worry that much about that unless you're in a L K F in Hong Kong at 11:00 PM. But my point is that the, it changes you go from just seeing a relatively young people, um, having a good time and, and just buying their stuff in the shops and being very quick and, you know, getting through it and all the food is clean and sanitized in a way that it's not in the more real markets, right. Where you have dirt on the onions still, which isn't a problem it's just different, right? So you get a sanitized fake Disneyland version versus reality. Reality who Mickey mouse, Mickey mouse becomes Honeybadger babushka.

Oh my God. I think in Kiev, just, I just want to say, I think in Kiev is where I saw like a Honeybadger babushka little fight in the store. It was terrifying. It was terrifying. It, it devolved into just a brawl of like onion flinging swinging in the little bags and everything. It was, it was very, very terrifying for all of us, non Honeybadger, babushka types to see them fight, to get into the faster line at checkout. But anyway, what the hell am I talking about? Okay. So, so I had this fake experience in Ukraine for such a long time. And then as a result of staying there longer, I was able to end wanting to save some money. Cause it wasn't exactly a great time for me financially. I started to live in more normal places with more regular people and experienced the life there and realized that it was dramatically different than what I had experienced when I first came.

And then what so many other people, pretty much every tourist experiences when they come for a weekend or a week or any short period of time where you just want to go and have fun now, is that really a bad thing by the way that some people have the fake experience and some people have the real experience? Well, it depends on your perspective, I suppose, because an experience is an experience. So it's nice to have one. It's nice to have some different experience of then that, which you have every single day 'cause I can tell you that is not exciting. Monotony has never been a descriptor of excitement.

So I would say on a philosophical level, which this entire discussion really is that it's good, that you had that experience, which is different, but then you get some people that were, that could be upset by the way, if they have the non fairy tale experience in the real experience, as you do get, you can be upset because you didn't have that fairy tale experience. And then you get people who have the fairy tale experience who tell everyone how amazing that country is based off their fairytale experience. We're not just the country necessarily, but that's their frame of references. They define that experience as that country. So my had a great time in Ukraine and Ukraine is amazing because I had a great time in central [inaudible] Reinach square, where in a day I spent what a local would earn in a week and a half, that kind of thing.

So there's many different ways to look at it, but what upset the guy in the central square when we were all talking is that last one where we were saying how much we loved Ukraine when we didn't know a single thing about Ukraine who, oh, okay. I didn't have too much wine. I'm still standing, almost tripped there. Um, we didn't know a single thing about Ukraine at that point. And it just upset him. It upset him because we were praising something that might not have been in his mind. I don't want to say it wasn't worthy of praise, but it was worthy of nuance. It was worthy of perspective, a perspective that we lacked perhaps in his mind, at least. And I am inclined to agree with him.

And I don't know, it just really got me thinking once again, I don't know that any experience is better than another so long as you have an experience. Although if you don't have the one you want you to get upset. Yes. But I think he wanted us to understand the whole picture and not just our overly myopic view of reality. Maybe he felt it was selfish. I'm going to agree with the selfish thing, by the way, that's a little bit of projection right there because of something I experienced later where I was in a similar position to this guy. So maybe he felt it was a little bit selfish that we're praising this thing without knowing any of its negatives.

You know, I was thinking that when I started this discussion, this monologue, it's not a discussion this monologue that I was just going to say that it's bad, that we don't have a complete view of the places to which we travel. And then it's bad for us to come back and say, I love this place because of my fake experience there, or is a real experience, but it's not representative of the place, but now I'm really not so sure. I mean, I can understand why he was upset, but you can also understand from the most logical of perspectives, how a, you can have a really good experience in a place where you can actually afford to do what you'd like to do and where those things that you'd like to do are made really nice for tourists. So it's really easy to have that experience so I can understand how that's such a positive impact on someone and then how they would associate that with the country, especially if that is their only experience with that country.

Our brains are pattern recognition machines, and that's the pattern that we have established for that country, regardless of whether or not it is in the whole accurate on the whole, in the whole, I almost said ins gazumped and dissolved. Um, but the point is, so it makes sense, but I think those of us, and I'm now going to put myself in this man's position, not for Ukraine, uh, but for places where I've spent a significant amount of time, when you have spent a lot of time there, and you have experience doing things on a more local level away from tourists, and you have experienced dealing with the difficulties of daily life, maybe not as much as a local person, who's born and raised there, but a lot more than a tourist who's in Disneyland. When you have those experiences and you do hear somebody who has only been there and only experienced the stuff that only the rich people can experience a no local can really experience that on a regular basis without bankrupting themselves.

And you hear them tell you how amazing that place is when they have no idea how hard life is in that place for a regular person. And they don't know anything about that place except for their fairy tale experience. It does really, it does upset you. It does just feel like that person is being selfish. It, you want to give them perspective because maybe, maybe the psychology of it. I think this is kind of interesting to think about. Maybe the psychology of it is that if they say this place is positive, you just internally assume that they understand all the negative things and that they are also saying that those positive things include the negative things. Maybe that's what's happening, psychology psychologically. And then that's what upsets you because you know that those are negative things. So how could they ever be positive? I don't know.

Or maybe it's just that. So this is getting up to the next level, not lower because I don't actually know the psychology of this. I'd love to know the psychology of it, which is why I'm reading a lot of interesting things these days. But anyway, on one level, it's just, Hey man, you're saying you like stuff, but there's a lot of bad stuff about it. You should take that into account as well, because you're completely disregarding all of our horrible experiences. And you're glossing over all of the bad things, which in a way makes it seem like you are diminishing the hardships of someone who is forced to experience all of these difficulties. You're almost diminishing the, the toughness, the mental toughness that it takes for that person who has experienced hell maybe to go and serve you in your rich foreigner person, restaurant, and put a smile on for you and pretend like they haven't been working for 12 hours for pay wearing clothes that were bought at the train station while you're wasting food and throwing around money. Like there's no tomorrow.

Maybe that's just what it is. We just lack of empathy can be really upsetting. I'm not sure why, but I find it upsetting. I found it upsetting something similar to me happened to what happened to this guy in Ukraine, the guy I talked about. So I was the, I guess you could say perpetrator in Ukraine and the victim when I was in Kosovo and I was at a restaurant where only wealthy locals, very wealthy locals and foreigners go. And there was a foreigner who was sitting there. And I had been there many, many, many times before spent a decent amount of time in Kosovo. And the girl was telling me how much she loved these countries over here. She was talking specifically about Kosovo and Albania, and she rattled off a few things which no local ever gets to experience. And she talked about meeting some locals and I know the locals that she was talking about and what she didn't realize is that when she sees them, that's a of their reality and all these experiences that she has are only available to rich people, very rich people who don't associate with lower classes, their lower classes as defined by the cultures there.

And certainly, actually the people in those restaurants don't want to associate with foreigners or maybe to some degree they do, but the only other people there are foreigners. So she didn't realize that her experience was fake.

And she was talking about how nice these places are, how nice. And it was so upsetting from my perspective, for her to not realize how God difficult it is for people who are living there, born and raised and can't get out. Yeah, it really me off. I'm happy that she had that nice experience there. I'm happy that she got to go to all those rich person restaurants, but I do wish that she had a bit more of a complete perspective before she started spouting off about how great these places were without being a bit more nuanced.

So I guess I have become the, uh, I don't know, the grumpy guy in Rhino-Rack square that I began this story with, who chastised us for saying that Ukraine was the best place on earth because of our Disneyland experience. I think that's a good place to end this it's kind of come full circle. I don't blame this girl for her experience, by the way, which you should know if you listen to the first half of this podcast, because I was one of those people. And I talked about how I believe psychologically. Um, it makes sense that we can come to these conclusions and we are all ignorant of a great many things. The problem oftentimes is not knowing that of which we are ignorant. And sometimes it upsets other people. Why does someone else's ignorance upset us? I'm going to leave it with that. So cheers. And I hope you have a great weekend.