In times, where tensions between Russia and Ukraine were still fresh and the war was still ongoing, I stepped into the furthest of Eastern Europe by entering Ukraine. I’d experienced my first job as a language teacher, my first organized Couchsurfing Host and a survival camp. Enjoy the summary of my first time visiting Ukraine.
- 07.15 – 08.15
- 2 months
Workaway in Khmelnytskyi
Back in Czech Republic, I had applied for a Workaway as a Language teacher in a language institute in Ukraine, called OLA. In Kraków, Poland, I received the positive answer by Skype and so, I renewed my plans of looking at Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, but booked a BlaBlaCar instead to Ukraine and went straight from Warsaw to Khmelnytskyi. As I arrived, I had to locate the building myself, but fortunately, had no problems with Maps.me in doing so. I found the OLA school and entered. The forth floor was for volunteers and as I had been showed around, I entered a room and I saw my future roommate, Nobuhiko Tsuda. He had placed a chair onto his desk and placed the laptop on top of the chair, so he’d be able to stand and not having back problems. He “Hi”d me and I entered, unpacked my important luggage and relaxed. I was working with a Japanese, an American, Venezuelan, Polish and a Canadian. Also a Spanish showed up later and took Nobu’s place. I had an agreement for one month to work as a German teacher. English, Spanish and Japanese were also taught in this school, as well as Ukrainian and Russian. I was very exited to take my first steps as a teacher and realized soon, that I’d been placed into a precarious situation by Valentina, the owner and Workaway host. While all my other friends had mainly beginners to teach in their languages, I had only a few people, that wanted to learn German from me and the problem was: they were all older than myself and studying German for years in universities. As ridiculous as it was, I tried my best to teach people with excellent skills in German, as a matter of fact, their grammar knowledge was far better than mine. Only in pronunciation I had a lead, but it did not prevent, that after a week, I had been informed, that my “Students” we’re not having a further need of my skills and I got literally asked to leave. I felt absolutely terrible and as I am writing those sentences, while sitting in Jind, India on a Workaway mission, ironically teaching English. Way better here, I have to say. Back in OLA, I enforced a three week stay, telling her, that this was the not the agreement I had made in Poland, not to mention, I came into Ukraine for her and her school. After that incident, I spent rather boring hours as a barista, had lots of time and felt outcasted. Normally, this would have been a negative second Workaway experience, but if I would not have gone there, I would not have met two of the greatest and closest people in my life right now. Nobu from Japan and Katie from Canada.
Nobuhiko was traveling around Europe as a cameraman. While I had been trying for a long time to collaborate with the Youtube channel Easy Languages (My Youtube Adventures), we finally agreed to a deal and on top of that, Nobuhiko decided to join me on this adventure and met me later in September in Switzerland, to go for an unforgettable adventure, trying to get famous Youtubers. Katie from Canada has been traveling for most of the time until this very day and we had crossed paths spontaneously in Odessa and Lausanne (2015) and Sri Lanka (2016) and I am about to meet her soon again in Cambodia (2018).
Couchsurfing in Odessa
A Cabriolet-BlaBlaCar brought me from Khmelnytskyi to Odessa, directly to the apartment of my CS host. I had organised a Couchsurfing for ten days. I had two months to spare until my meeting with Nobu in Switzerland and so I decided to begin, by enjoying a Summer holiday at the Nr. 1 coast destinations of Ukraine. As Ukraine was incredibly affordable due to economical crisis, I dared to treat myself better than usual for the first time on this journey. I smoked Shishas everyday, ate outside all the time, drank with friends and new friends and had a fantastic time. I also intended to find another volunteer job, in order to support my economics, and it was my CS host, that helped me with that request. It was an adventure camp for scouts, in a forest not too far away and so, I departed from my Couch surfing and dove into my next adventure.
In the morning I arrived at a piece of lawn, that had been abandoned and transformed into a kind of forest. It was dirty, trashed and no forestry animals could live here; It was not a real forest. I spotted children, teenagers and adults, sitting around a tent, that was supposed to be the HQ. The kitchen was twenty meters away and as I’d discovered a hole in the ground, that was supposed to be the stove, I realized: this is not a simple scout camp, this is a Ukranian survival camp. Not only did they kept normal children here, but also orphans and excluded ones. We all slept in hammocks, getting ambushed by mosquitos and showered in the wild, bringing water from a well. I gave it all I could, but I did not managed to remain there longer, than for seven days. The circumstances of living were simply too hard and I could not recognise a reason to treat myself this way, other than a challenge (and I already lived like this, I don’t need to prove anything). Thanks to my CS host, I could return to her place spontaneously and sort a plan B. This was another unforgettable trip.
This survival camp left me in shards of apathy. Mentally dead, I started to recover by continuing my holidays with local dishes, and desserts. The longer I stayed, the more I learned about good cafes and restaurants and about transportation, and history. I also began to learn more about the life of my Host, until she invited me to her country, Moldavia. I met the mother of my CS host and learned about the mother’s physical issues that are making her single life difficult. On our way back to Ukraine, I made an offer to my CS Host that still amazes me today; I offered my spare month of free time, until the meet up with Nobu, to take care of her Mother in Chisinau. Like a spontaneous made up Workaway. So, what was an absolute spontaneous idea took actual shape. Everyone seemed very thankful for what was about to happen next, and so I left alone by bus to my next country, Moldavia. A typical Ranik Mayer story was about to take place and if you’re curious about the outcome, then you can read my Summary of Moldavia on this Link.
It was surely a trip of divided feelings. While the OLA Workaway was a failure, the people I’ve met were absolutely lovely and worth it. My first CS experience is until today the most craziest one I have ever experienced. The experience of Eastern Europe struck me and left many impressions, but all in all, I gained strength, experience and love from this journey.