My endless quest for ever-cheaper labor has brought me to the capitol city of Ukraine, Kiev. Programmers and artists here can be hired for about $20,000-$30,000 a year, and I believe minimum wage (yay for interns!) is about $0.75 an hour.
I've been to all the major city American cities, and spent time in several major European cities including London, Berlin, Stockholm, and Copenhagen, which I feel gives me a little perspective on what makes a metropolis tick. So here are a few things you might not have ever heard about Ukraine.
Ukrainians are Huge Fans of Half-Life 2
This city is very clearly modeled after City 17 from the Half-Life series of games. It's amazing that they were able to construct such detailed reproductions of City 17 in only ten years, since the game was released in 2006. The attention to detail is truly remarkable, but I feel they kind of ripped off the entire aesthetic and should have done something of their own.
It's been done!!!
Seriously though, it's very clear the Citadel was meant as a metaphor for the encroachment of modern technology (or capitalism) on an old culture steeped in tradition.
Don't Judge a Book by its Cover
After a 17 hour plane flight (actually, three planes), and a lost bag (more on this later), I finally made it into the city center to find my new accommodations, and was greeted by what looked like a nuclear bunker from the cold war. When I saw the outside I seriously almost checked into a hotel because it looked so dirty and run-down. I thought for sure there would be rats and people shooting up heroin inside.
When I finally figured out the odd lock mechanism, the entrance was even worse. This is a straight-up ripoff of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.:
But when I got into the apartment, everything was completely pristine:
Why Make a Crosswalk When You can Build an Underground Mini-Mall?
The major intersections in Kiev do not use crosswalks at all, or pedestrian bridges, or anything else to move from one side to another. Instead, they build tunnels under the roads for people to walk through. I imagine at one time under the Soviet Union these were probably utilitarian tunnels, but since the onset of capitolism every extra square foot of space has been dedicated to selling you stuff. Which is cool, because I got some really nice things there at low, low prices!
The entrance looks like a subway station.
The inside is a combination of an American strip mall and a Chinese bazarre.
Things get scarier at night.
You Can Buy Animal Parts at the Grocery Store
Ukrainian supermarkets are very modern and sophisticated.
But like everything else compared to the west, it's just a little more brutal.
Texas chainsaw massacre-level.
Bambi's mother looks delicious.
Mutant turkeys and pseudobunnies, presumably from the zone.
The real question is, who has better quality food? Although I am repulsed by the barbarity of the Ukrainian meat market, it involves less processing and thus fewer alterations and opportunities for introduction of bacteria. Amazingly, I did not pick up any "rotten meat" stink at all, even though hundreds of pounds of dead animals were laying out in the open.