Walking The Streets of Kiev / by James Pollak

Following our mission around the center of Kiev and the sobering effects of reflecting on past events at Independence Square, Dima and I headed back towards the direction of our Hostel but not without what turned out to be a long stop off at a local Ukrainian bar. The beers started to flow and we found ourselves in deep discussion over the disparities between the wages in our home countries. He would show me how much something cost in the Ukraine to which I would then calculate the equivalent were it priced in the UK (more specifically London) - the disbelief on his face each time I turned the calculation round, we'd end up in fits of laughter at how far apart it was. At the same time I tried to remind Dima that whilst an earning in London might appear significant to someone living in the Ukraine with that same figure, he should be more than grateful he's been able to build his own house off his income, something unheard of at least in my experience of London in the current climate.

As the night got later and our heads got lighter we worked our way into the bar, by which time there was a band playing. I can only really remember hearing lots of Metallica covers which although I wasn't quite expecting (I could have been thrown back into Camden at 16 years old for a moment), it seemed to go down extremely well with everyone inside. Dima and I sat back down and talk turned to our partners back at home. It was fascinating sharing and challenging the expectations of our different backgrounds. Married and with a child, he could not understand the concept that shared my home with a woman I wasn't married to with no child at 30 years of age. I guess I hadn't thought too hard about it previously as it seems much more common within my circles in London. I challenged him as to why he thought this was so strange, him saying if I didn't have kids now I was going to be an old man with no strength to nurture them. It was at this point we decided to have an arm wrestle to settle the dispute. Here I was, at a bar in the middle of Kiev, having an arm wrestle to settle a dispute about having kids.

Unfortunately I lost (sorry kids) but it seemed to spark a harmless game of arm wrestles between some other locals. Lucky for me Dima won those rounds too so despite the sore head in the morning I slept a little better that night.