To Thailand and Back

Many adults in Kyiv never had a chance to learn English growing up. Younger drivers, such as Bodan (not real name), often speak some English or other EU languages in addition to Ukrainian and Russian. Bodan also speaks Thai having worked in Thailand previously. Due to traffic, we had a chance to have a long conversation.

Bodan: Hey, how are you today?

Bryan: Good. How has your day been?

Bodan: Traffic has been so bad today. The weather is warming up and everyone is heading out to their country homes. Let’s see if we can avoid the traffic.

Bryan: How long have you been driving for Uber?

Bodan: Just ten days. A friend in the United States told me about it. I decided to give it a try. My wife likes flowers so I should have some extra money to buy her flowers. Plus, it’s nice to talk to people and I also practice my English sometimes.

Bryan: Your English is very good – maybe you don’t need to practice anymore!

Bodan: Thanks but I am always forgetting certain words.

Bryan: I know how that is. I am learning Russian right now.

Bodan: And how about Ukrainian?

Bryan: I’ll get there. First I need to learn Russian. But everyone in Kyiv mixes Ukrainian and Russian together so sometimes it is hard to know what I am listening to.

Bodan: Yeah, we definitely do that here. It takes time to learn languages. You know, I lived in Thailand for three years so I had to learn Thai. It is tricky because one word can mean different things depending on how you say it.

Bryan: Really, you lived in Thailand? What took you there?

Bodan: I had a friend who owned a tour company so I joined him in Phuket. I took groups of tourists all around, showed them the sights, and helped them understand Thai culture and history. I had to learn all about the history of the monarchy. Rama One, Rama Two, Rama Three…

Bryan: How many Ramas were there?

Bodan: Eight of them.

Bryan: And the new king?

Bodan: No one likes him.

Bryan: How about the food? It wasn’t too spicy for you?

Bodan: Yeah, at first it was! But I got used to it. And then I wanted more of it. It’s like a….how would you say it?

Bryan: Addiction?

Bodan: Yeah, it’s like that – the spicy food makes you feel good. I really liked living in Thailand. We don’t have many Thai people here in Kyiv. It’s too cold for them. Sometimes I go to get a Thai massage here in Kyiv and I speak Thai to the massage therapists and they don’t understand me. Either I have forgotten everything or they are from somewhere else, not Thailand.

Bryan: And how do you like being back in Kyiv?

Bodan: It’s home so good to be back of course. My family is here. There are some frustrations though. Kyiv has its own rules.

Bryan: It seems to me things are changing. What do you think?

Bodan: Yeah, but slowly. At this rate it will take us what – a hundred years to be truly European? If we had the right politicians, we could make changes quickly. I just wonder when that is going to happen.

Bryan: Hopefully soon. Any strange experiences driving?

Bodan: I’ve only been doing this a little bit so not yet. I’ve already seen parts of the city I have never been to before. Plus, it is flexible. If I want to work, I work. If I don’t want to work, then I don’t. It’s nice to make the extra money when I am doing my other job.

Bryan: Maybe I should be an Uber driver and practice my Russian. If people told me to go a different route though I wouldn’t understand.

Bodan: You would be fine because the GPS tells you where to go – if they want to change the destination they can do that on their phones. Hey, we’re passing the television station I used to work out. I used to help produce shows like “Ukraine has Talent” there. It was a fun job.

Bryan: That’s me over there. Enjoyed talking to you!

Bodan: Me too. Good luck!