Once in a great while, the thought crosses my brain that I must have been crazy to move to Ukraine. The rest of the time – 98% – moving to Ukraine is among the smartest things I’ve done.
To make a long story short, I spent 16 months working in Iraq – back in 2004-2005. It chanced that someone would ask a question, Where would you live if you could live anywhere you wanted? When you are sitting in a desert, surrounded by barbed wire, with virtually no entertainment aside from being able to have your socks custom embroidered… it is not unnatural for your mind to wander. Where would I live if I could live anywhere?
The answer was not really a specific place, per se. It rather concerned a lot of the aspects of living like…
* A place where one can afford to live,
* A place where you can have a higher quality of life – but with a lower cost of living,
* A place where Americans are not typically shot at. That immediately disqualified most of the Middle-East, large portions of Africa and Asia, South America, and for that matter, some portions of the United States.
* A place that is basically as “free” as the United States – or “as free as it used to be” – which sort of precluded a lot of countries like China, Iran, large parts of the Middle East… parts of the United States and England.
* A place that is mostly temperate – where the summers are not too hot and the summers are not terribly cold, but more willing to tolerate colder winters than hotter summers…
* A place where if you had the money, you can get pretty much find and get everything you would want – like high quality internet access,
* A place where most people are generally friendly – and preferably speak the same language (i.e. English)
* A place near at least an airport, or other major transportation hub – seaport, trains, etc.
* A place where you are not taxed to death.
* A place where you can get reasonable medical services.
Well, the list did go on – and included a number of things relevant to my line of work (in logistics). I set about to find such a place. Being surrounded by military and civilian contractors with military experience, there was someone who had been to just about any place one could ask about.
So, I set about doing what research I could to devise a short list. What I came up with then… in the heart of the Sunni Triangle (Al Taqaddum – just slightly beyond eyeshot to Fallujah) was the following list:
2. Republic of Georgia
4. Costa Rica
There were a few others like Moldovia, but for the most part – Eastern Europe, or certain parts of the Far East. My first visit to Budapest indicated that “the Market” had already been there – pretty expensive – and given its problems now… a good choice to not have gone there. Republic of Georgia… very good to not have gone there. The whole Northern Caucasus history is was what dissuaded me on that issue – otherwise at the time was a higher risk but viable option. Costa Rica – just seemed too close to a lot of regional problems, and a bit hotter than my liking. Same for Thailand. And military coups…
My second vacation from Iraq was to Odessa. It seemed to me a combination of the two places I liked most – northern “small town New England” with the kind of international and festival attitude of New Orleans – before Katrina and BP. I considered it perfect then, visited again – and it stuck with me. Now, almost five years later, I still regard Odessa as close to a perfect place to live. Certainly things can change – indeed – some things can change quite radically in a very short time.
Odessa and Ukraine have its problems and complications just like everywhere else, but overall – I have no intention of leaving Odessa or Ukraine. About the worst that most people can say about Ukraine is that it is corrupt. It is – but it about $12 Trillion less corrupt than… well… Washington, DC.