Tuesday, November 23, 2010

3 years ago, we met Reed and Lena for the first time. I realized that I never took the time to blog about our early days in Ukraine, before we met them. I blogged a bit about our time in Kiev, but I never went into great detail about the day we met them, because I was so eager to share about our actual first meeting. So, I am choosing now, before I forget to share this with you and even more so, to put it down to share with Reed and Lena some day.

I am going to start with the day before we met them, Tuesday, November 23, 2010. I am going to break these 2 days up into 3 blog posts, and this is going to be the most boring– my apologies. The photos in this blog post are not my own. I will use photos from Flickr and if you would like to see the source of the photos, you can click on them.

We realized shortly after arriving in Ukraine that Aaron had forgotten his gloves. In late November, the weather was still pretty mild, a lot like it usually is here. Jacket weather, but hat and gloves not quite necessary yet. But, we knew it would get much colder over the duration of our trip, so we knew we had to find a pair.

We asked the advice of our new friends who were on their second Ukrainian adoption. They were very familiar with Kiev and offered to take us out the next day to a cheap, warehouse-type store to find gloves. So, that’s how we spent our Tuesday, waiting to pick up our referrals and taking the subway in Kiev with Meredith and Mike. It was a totally rainy, gross day. We took the subway to a huge store, sort of resembling a Costco, right next to Hillsong Kiev.

Ukraine Kiev Subway Platform

 

(a Kiev subway station.)

 

After finding gloves and picking up a few other items, we had lunch at McDonalds. Mike and Meredith took us back on the subway and walked us back to our apartment, where we hastily packed things up so that we could go get our referrals and hop on the train. Our friends wished us well and left us to prepare.

4pm. We hauled all of our stuff down the several flights of stairs from our apartment– I think we were on the 4th floor. No elevator. We drug it all outside, into the now-cold, dusk fall air. And waited. Time ticked by. Another set of new friends, Patty and Tom, who would also be going to pick up their referral called us to see if we knew where our driver was. Nope. So, we waited some more and it grew colder as the evening turned to total darkness. We eventually piled our suitcases in the tiny alcove just inside the door of the apartment building and took turns standing outside. It was around 5, an hour after our designated pick-up time, when our driver pulled up. Patty and Tom were already in the car, so we to squish to all fit in the little SUV.

The race was on. We were supposed to be there by 5:30 and Kiev is a big city with horrible traffic. It’s really quite beautiful by night, old buildings all lit up, but the traffic is awful. Stop, go, jerk one direction, jerk the other, stop, go some more. We finally pulled into the SDA, what the building where you received referrals, closer to 6 now. Our driver banged on the door. No answer. He banged on another door. No answer. Tom, Patty, Aaron and I stood around nervously, wondering if we would get the needed paperwork. Our driver banged some more and finally someone came to the door. They argued in Russian for a minute, then he said they would let us get our referrals. Phew.

All we had to do was show our passports and sign our names. We were handed a bulky packet of papers. Perfect! We tucked them in a safe place, waited for our friends to do the same, and we were off once more. We made another stop for our driver– I’m not sure where, before heading to the train station. We were going to take a train leaving just after 7.

Kiev Central Train Station

Our driver picked up our tickets while we consumed more McDonalds with Patty and Tom. A fully packed McDonalds on a Tuesday night. I remember having a conversation with a stranger, perhaps in the military and something about family in New Jersey, but it’s very possible that I made that part up, mixed in with all of the craziness of that week.

After we were done at McDonalds, we were off to the train. I love train stations. Something about all of adventure and the history. But, I was glad we had our driver to guide us to our train and help us find our room. They were sold out of second class, so our driver had to buy us (at our expense, of couse) first class tickets instead.
***

Saying goodbye to the driver, sitting down on the little train beds, was such a relief. Here we were, able to just sit, in privacy, for the next several hours. We took off our shoes and extra layers and pulled out a deck of cars, to play on the tiny table. The first class train car was really quite nice.

We enjoyed the quiet for awhile, to play cards and just talk, before we decided to go to sleep. 9:30, I still remember that detail, oddly enough.

In theory, sleeping on the train isn’t bad. If I had my pick of long-distance travel methods, that would be it. You can stretch out and relax, in privacy. Two little beds, all to ourselves. The usually-gentle sway of the train is lovely.

However, we did not sleep well.  No one had told us how long the train ride would be, what time we would arrive, or how we would know to get off. Mike and Meredith told us they thought it was about 12 or 13 hours to our destination. But, what if it was less?

As the night passed, the train regularly slowed and light poured in from outside. There would be an announcement in Russian about where we were and the train would come to a complete stop. Occasionally, it would get noisy, with the sounds of suitcases and voices as people got on and off the train.

To be continued tomorrow, with the next day’s adventures.

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