My travel has become stranger but also more exciting over the years. The kind that when I told people, they were both “What the hell?” and “That’s so cool.” The kind of stories that were neat to tell your bartenders but not your parents, for a wide variety of reasons.
When I visited Ukraine, the first thing I did was going on a tour of Kyiv’s sewer system. Tour guy called our little excursion “urban exploration”, while in the US, we would call those trespassing on public property. But when a Kyiv local told you that it was “totally fine” and legal, you had to take his word for it.
The toxic waste green colored boots tour guy gave me were strangely both too loose and too tight. My legs were swimming in the empty space and did not touch the leg panels of the boots in any direction. Thankfully, there were these strings to hold the boots up, so I tried to tie those around my thighs as snuggly as possible, and I could start feeling the blood flow being cut off around my left thigh. With the risk of tripping in the sewage, one thing I didn’t understand was why I chose to wear a white sweater that morning. I stood out from the other tour participants, not in a good way of course.
I lifted up an unmarked sewer lid on the side of the road to climb down the sewer. That was as wild and ghetto as it got and made me wonder about the legitimacy of this again. The sewer was pitch black but surprisingly clean. No rat or cockroach ran around like in the movies. Besides the quiet murmuring of water, it was all a dense silence. The space smelled like soil after a spring rain, earthy, cool and refreshing. Tour guy spoke, and his voice echoed, bouncing off all the walls in the narrow pathway. Most of the time, I couldn’t see him at all. But still, I trustfully trailed along the voice that echoed in the dark.
Tour guy said he had a special treat for us and we should follow him closely. We shined our flashlights in the dark cramped alley, seeing nothing but the back of the person in front and followed his footsteps. Nobody wanted to be left in a sewer in Ukraine. We all tried to enjoy the strange view while still keeping an ear out for instructions. And then I heard the splashing sound of water crashing on cement. The little flashlight shined my eyes onto a rainfall waterfall that dropped right from above into a big circular empty space that livened up the dead silence of the hallway. The splash of water stream bounced off the walls while glistening under the flashlights. It took my breath away. At the end of the tunnel of a part of the human civilization that people often forgot, here was this astonishing waterfall that awoke all the senses. The drop of water from the November rain waterfall landed on my hand. I closed my palm. The little things in life, the hidden things in life, they shined.