The Dnieper River runs through Kiev. In the years immediately following the Chernobyl disaster, residents were advised not to swim or eat fish from the river because of radiation contamination. Larissa was so proud to tell me that she took a daily swim in the river. It was like her own personal "fuck you" to the authorities. She was an unconventional lady but I wanted to tell her, "You are swimming in radioactive water (probably). What point are you trying to prove?" I didn't say anything but I thought that it was insane on her part.
Being a city dweller and living in an apartment, Larissa didn't own any land. However she did have access to the city parks. Apparently she made a hobby of secretly planting vegetables in parks around the city. One day my Russian Mom, Larissa and I made a trek to several different parks so she could harvest some fresh potatoes. I vaguely remember seeing a man following us for quite a while but I didn't pay particular attention to him. At one of the parks, I remember you had to go down a set of stairs. While Larissa and my Russian Mom rooted around in the bushes for the contraband potatoes, I stood at the bottom of the stairs waiting for them. It was kind of boring frankly. Suddenly Larissa and my Russian Mom started waving their arms and yelling, "Phew! Get out of here! Leave!" They were looking in my direction. I turned around and the man I'd seen earlier was standing on the steps, uh, pleasuring himself. Maybe "pleasuring himself" isn't exactly the correct phrase to use as you might imagine him reading a book and eating an ice cream cone. To be precise, he was masturbating. To me. I have no idea why; he must have been a sick man. It's funny to me that he was just a few feet behind me and I was oblivious the whole time. He could have finished, zipped up and left and I would have never been the wiser if my Russian Mom and her friend hadn't made such a big fuss. I'm not sure if I should be mad at them or grateful to them. Anyway, I know I visited some amazing tourist sites in Kiev but to this day the things I mention here are what I remember the most.