Category Archives: Adoption

Going Home

We did it– we have her visa!!!

Rewind 14 hours.

We took the metro one stop to meet Oksana early this morning. She escorted us to the embassy. We took the metro some distance, and then we walked through a park. It was a chilly, windy morning, but the park made for a very nice walk.
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We arrived at the embassy, and we got in for our interview pretty quickly. Since Lyuda is only 13, I said the oath for her and signed a bunch of papers. Done. Then we just needed to wait for her visa. While we waited, we met another host family who was finishing their daughter’s adoption. We waited for over an hour, but we got it!

When we walked out of the embassy, Oksana had a little surprise for Lyuda… balloons!! Oksana is just so sweet and thoughtful… she told Lyuda that it was her day and the balloons would let everyone know that she had something to celebrate.
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We walked back to the metro, and I asked Oksana to join us for lunch. We went to a restaurant called Star Burger. I would highly recommend it for Americans looking for some yummy food like home.
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We sat and talked with Oksana for a long time. Although she is young, she is so wise. She can pass wisdom onto Lyuda so loving, like recently when she told her that she is beautiful and doesn’t need to wear makeup. Lyuda stopped wearing makeup that day. No kidding.

When it was finally time to go, there were tears. The first time Lyuda has cried when saying goodbye to anyone. Oksana is wonderful, and our adoption was so much better having her help.

We headed back to our apartment for a little bit, but not for too long, as Lyuda’s godmother wanted to meet up with us.
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We first walked around a bit. I wanted to see if the festival of the eggs (pysanky) was set up yet. Not entirely, but we saw a bit.
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We decided to take the metro to do a bit of shopping. We went back to Petrivka, where there are many markets and stands to shop at. I was hoping to find one last gift.
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Lyuda’s godparents bought her some new shoes, as well as a couple of other gifts. They were so sweet– they insisted on paying for the metro and buying us all dinner. We were glad for the opportunity to meet them. Her godmother said “thank you for adopting her. I am so happy!”

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Lastly, back to the apartment to pack. Lyuda has gotten a lot of phone calls tonight to say goodbye. There was a particularly adorable moment between her biological grandmother and my mom where they were saying “hi” to each other on the phone. What a special family that Lyuda brings together.

One Step Closer

We got one step, or more like one giant leap closer to coming home today. But, let me rewind and tell you about it.

We left our apartment before 7am to drive up to a small town, to “unregister” Lyuda. We arrived at the office at 8:30. They didn’t open until 9am. We walked around and took some photos.

The office where we needed to go.
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The library up the road.
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Inside the library.
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The polyclinic (doctor’s office).
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Once our facilitators could get in, we waited some more. When they finally came out, they looked frustrated. “We can’t unregister her because she’s not registered!” Aiyiyi. After making a few phone calls, they discovered that we needed a piece of paper that a family member had picked up yesterday.

This instantly made me nervous, because Lyuda and this family member don’t have the best relationship (no fault of Lyuda’s). Fortunately, we were able to get ahold of this person after a couple of calls to other family members. I could tell Lyuda wasn’t thrilled to call this person, but she sucked it up and demanded that they give us this paper. Oksana even commented on how Lyuda knew how to talk to them forcefully to get what we needed.

They agreed, but we had to drive an hour to go pick it up. Typical Ukrainian village road that we drove on today for a few hours. I don’t recommend Ukraine for the easily carsick.
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While waiting for this person to meet us, we saw a bunch of goats go for a walk.
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Once we had what we needed, we headed back to the registration office. Here are Oksana and Lyuda waiting for the good news that we got what we needed there.
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Then, we had to drive an hour to the passport office. It was 11:30am, and they closed at 1pm. Fortunately, it was just an hour away. Once we arrived, we waited some more, and with just about 2o minutes left in their working day, we were called into the office. I could see the passport on the desk, as I listened to Olya and the director of this office speaking. I so badly wanted to just grab it off the desk and get out of there. Fortunately, a few signatures later and it was ours.

Everyone, Lyuda especially, was thrilled to finally have our hands on this important document. It’s the key to going home. Lyuda could not stop smiling.
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Lastly, we had to drive back to Kyiv to get her medical exam file. We needed her passport before we could do this.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the drive back to Kyiv. This is true rural Ukraine.

A potato stand along the side of the highway.
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The massive deforestation happening everywhere we visited.
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A pair of storks, in their nest on top of a street light. One also flew over our van as we were driving down the highway.
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Entering back into Kyiv oblast.
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Taken for Reed, of course.
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We were able to pick up her medical file in Kyiv, and then we are done, until tomorrow when we will go to the embassy again. If we can get her visa tomorrow, as we should be able to do, we will be ready to go home!!

We walked around in the mall and stands under the Maidan tonight. We have seen this man with his impressive attire, mustache and hair. We gave him some money and took a photo. He really wanted us to be in the photo with him!
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Hopefully just two more sleeps in our apartment beds, and home we go!

More Walking

We didn’t have anything that we needed to do today, just another day of waiting for Lyuda’s passport.

We spent the morning waiting around for the building inspector to come do a test of the sewage system, and then another guy to come fix the TV. Once we could finally leave, we grabbed lunch at a very busy Puzata Hata.

From there, I had a little walk in mind.

Lyuda sitting down and sharing a drink with a statue.
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Back up Institutka, past the National Bank again.
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Director Lyuda.
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My mom wanted to see Mariyinsky Palace, the ceremonial residence of the President. Unfortunately, it was all under construction. However, we did see tons of soldiers boarding buses.
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We walked down another street, past many well-guarded government buildings.
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I wanted to go by the Dynamo Soccer stadium. For Reed.
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A memorial to Serhiy Nigoyan. He was the first protester shot and killed during the revolution in 2013/14. Have I told you to go watch the documentary Winter on Fire yet? It is a must see, although not kid friendly. Available on Netflix.
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Next we walked to the Friendship of Nations Arch, originally built during the USSR times, and now apparently a symbol of the friendship between Ukraine and Russia. It’s lit up in a rainbow at night, perfect for the anti-religion USSR and/or the homophobic Russia. Take your pick.
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The Friendship of Nations Arch is right along the Dnieper River, which you can zipline across. No thank you.
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Some cool graffiti found on our way back to our apartment. It says “United Colors of Ukraine”. On the left side is a coal mining hat, which represents the Donbas region, where Reed and Lena are from, an area which is currently the warzone. If you like these, you can see more here, use the arrows at the bottom to scroll through them.
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We only went back to our apartment for a few minutes for I made them go out again.

Statue with a migraine? I feel you, man.
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I wanted to go back to St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery.
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Painting the trees. Wondering why? Read here. I’ve asked many Ukrainians and gotten the same answer.
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I wanted to take some pictures. She is eating sunflower seeds and staring me down.
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I had this picture in my head two weeks before I actually snapped it. The monk dressed in black, up against the bright blue walls. Some of the monks are older, with long hair and heavy beards. But there are many like this one, who are very young. In case you are also curious why the monks wear black.
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A motorcycle, parked inside the belltower.
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We went back down the sculpture alley that we visited last week, but I was more into the murals than the sculptures today. Except that these guys needed to be photographed.
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Literally, the mural on the right depicts St. George slaying a dragon. However, but I think there’s a lot of symbolism here, as George is displayed as a Cossack, killing the greedy hands trying to take his land.
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We visited a famous little hedgehog.
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We wrapped up the night with pizza and ice cream.
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To everyone knows that my mom doesn’t eat sugar or much dairy, that is bean cream (like ice cream but made from beans) in a dried papaya cone. 😉
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Apparently Lyuda’s passport is ready. However, we need to go to another town to do some additional paperwork before we can pick it up. We have an early morning planned, and a very busy day. Please pray that we can get it all done tomorrow, so that we can head home on Friday!
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Today is Sunshine Day

There’s usually at least one trip of any trip that I just don’t handle well. All of the exhaust, the little stresses, etc. suddenly hit me. That day was today.

I sent my alarm for 8am, after being up late trying to publish my blog post (internet problems). We didn’t have anywhere to be, but we were expecting to hear about Lyuda’s passport. I didn’t really want to answer a phone call half asleep.

After 10am, Oksana informed me that Lyuda’s passport wouldn’t be ready today. Maybe Wednesday. Not even maybe tomorrow, but maybe Wednesday. Ugh. None of us were pleased with this. My mom is ready to go home. Lyuda is ready to be an American. And I need to jump back into real life, before my inbox and laundry pile grows much more.

I decided to cheer us all up by going to get lunch at the Very Well Cafe. A good meal can make a big difference for a bad mood, right? Once again, we got a table at this busy restaurant without a problem. However, when I went to order, they were out of the delicious Pesto ravioli. Being a vegetarian in Ukraine is often difficult, and the menu options were limited. Potatoes it was.

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We decided to walk up Institutka Street, and make our way towards Pecherska Lavra, to check out the caves. It has interesting architecture, and this walk takes us by the WWII memorial and the Holodomor memorial.

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We finally reached Pecherska Lavra, and we all needed to buy scarves. Mine was the most expensive, at about $5, and Lyuda and my mom each found one for $3. Then we headed down to the caves. This is a popular place for Orthodox pilgrimages. There is no entrance fee for the caves. We did also pay about 35 cents for 3 candles to take down into the caves, which are only lit by small candles. Women are required to wear knee-length skirts in addition to the scarves, but they have little apron type of things that you can wear for free. The monks will yell at you if you don’t have one. If visiting, you should also be aware that certain passages are only open to pilgrims, not for just walking through. There are signs letting you know if it is exclusively for prayer. Also be aware that being so bundled up can be quite warm, and with the tight passages and many stairs, I’m not sure I’d recommend it for a hot day. This article has a picture taken inside the caves, although it was darker than that.

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The cave passages are very tight— I think anyone over five and a half feet would need to duck, and I wouldn’t recommend it if you are wider than average. The caves are dark, one-way passages that you wide through to see bodies wrapped in ornate shrouds inside of coffins. The pilgrims kiss the glass of the coffins and/or the icons pictured.

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This entire experience left chills up my spine— the tight passage, the dark space, wearing the scarf, and the tall, darkly dressed figures of the monks. I had to remind myself that for most this was a sacred place, not something intended to be scary.

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I was glad that we went and had the unique experience of visiting this special place. At the same time, I was quite glad to leave, uncover my head and stretch my arms.

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After this, we grabbed a quick ice cream cone (you must try the soft serve ice cream stands that are everywhere) and headed to the metro stop, the deepest in the world, Arsenalna. We wanted to go to a supermarket, but the nearest location wasn’t coming up on my phone. We decided to take the metro to a different location. We made it through the chaos of the metro, and went to the biggest grocery store I’ve found in the Kyiv city center (it’s near the Palats Sportu Metro stop, in the Gulliver mall basement).

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Back at our apartment, we encounter lots of internet troubles. I think I fixed them now (I was too impatient to wait until tomorrow afternoon for the landlord to fix it), by following the wise tech advice of the IT Crowd, “have you tried turning it off and on again?”.

We ventured out once again for dinner, to Sushiya, a sushi/Japanese chain restaurant. Their fried rice is delicious! Lyuda read the place mat out loud, “Today is Sunshine Day”. I glanced over, “Today is Sushiya Day”. “Oh. Not Sunshine?” No, Sushiya. The name of the restaurant.

Feet So Tired

We started our day off going to church with Oksana. The second we walked up to the church entrance, we heard people speaking English. American English. Woohoo.

Her church is huge. They have a Ukrainian service and a Russian service, plus English translations. We were a bit late, so we walked in during the worship part of the service, complete with brass instruments. We’ve been to Orthodox church services, which is what most people think of when they think of church in Eastern Europe. This church service could have been any non-denominational American church, minus the language difference.
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Oksana wasn’t supposed to translate today, but the translator had gone home sick. She ran down to the translation spot and we had little FM radios to hear her voice.

Their church had special speaker today, Pastor Gennadiy Mokhnenko. He is part of a documentary which is being shown at many film festivals, about his work with drug addicted, orphaned children. The documentary is called Almost Holy. He is passionate about a “World Without Orphans”– you can read more about his ministry on his website.

My take away message: The war is so very real.  The orphan crisis is so very real. But God is working through people like Gennadiy Mokhnenko.

After church, we grabbed some food quickly from a stand, and then hopped the metro to meet my Ukrainian teacher and her husband. They had proposed a visit to the botanical gardens.
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She and her husband both speak English very well. They showed us the park. All over the park! At the end of the day, we had walked over ten and a half miles, and most of that was at the botanical gardens. Hence the title of this post, feet so tired.

The park was FULL of people. So busy, but I think everyone wanted to enjoy the beautiful weather in the great outdoors.
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This is an ancient Scythian monument, now covered in graffiti.
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The park has different sections dedicated to different regions. Most from within Ukraine, but they also have a Korean, Tibetan and French section.
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Um, seriously? Could Kyiv be more beautiful? The tall building in the distance, just to the left of center is the bell tower at Pecherska Lavra and you can see the motherland statue on the right side.
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After showing us a good chunk of the park, they suggested that we see the nearby monastery, Archangel Michael Zvirynetsky Monastery, which has catacombs.

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This property is incredible… both my teacher and her husband clearly love Kyiv a lot and told us a lot about the history of various places. This one for example, was a Scythian/Pagan place before it was Christian. The symbols on the buildings are a mix of Pagan and Christian.

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Unfortunately, the catacombs were closed for the day, but instead we briefly went into one of their special church services. We had gone into an Orthodox church service with our Tour Guide last Saturday at Pecherska Lavra, but this was entirely different [a video of Russian orthodox church service, and this is somewhat similar to the service we saw at Pecherska Lavra].

Today, it was a special service for a special holiday, unique to this monastery– something related to Reverend Fathers and Martyr Zverinetsky (Zverinetsky is the name of the caves). The room was dark, almost too dark to see. It wasn’t full of church goers or observers, instead this seemed to be some special event, not entirely open to the public. It was clear that this was a sacred space.

We had dinner with my teacher and her husband at Solo Pizza, another place that I can now recommend. We loved talking with them and getting to know them better.

Hamming it up on the metro escalator on the way home.
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Pirohiv Of Pies

We slept in this morning. I’m not sure what time my mom got up, but I finally got up sometime after 10. I think Lyuda was out until nearly 1! Impressive.

We moved apartments yesterday, did I mention that in my post? We were staying on the Andreevsky Descent, which was a great location, but the apartment was booked for the weekend. Instead, we moved to a little street off of Kreschatyk. Also a great location.

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The entrance to our previous apartment.

For lunch, we went to the food court instead of the Globus mall, again. This is a great place when we need something quick and we don’t all have to agree on one spot.

I planned a big adventure for the day, to Pirohiv Open Air Museum. Pirohiv literally translates to “of pies”, hence the title. It’s unclear why it has that name, but I sort of like it.

Pirohiv was one of my more ambitious excursions. We first needed to take the metro, which I have mastered.
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However, next, we had to take the trolleybus. A new challenge.

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For anyone who wants to head here, you want to take the blue metro line south towards Teremky. Get off at Ipodrom. Cross the street, and find the trolley bus stop. Get on trolleybus #11. Take it to the last stop, Музей народної архітектури. Cross under the road, and start heading south. You will see where the path goes to the left, and then you’ll see a wooden sign saying “Музей”. You walk on the sidewalk for probably three quarters of a mile, maybe a bit less and then you’ll see the entrance.

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After getting off the trolleybus and crossing under the street, you can also look for this big sign and follow the direction of it.

The only confusing part is paying for the trolleybus. No one asked for money, and no one else paid on the way there. But on the way back, we had to pay 1UAH (about four cents) each.

This park is gigantic. We were ready to start walking, but then we saw that they had bikes for rent. Despite the awareness that this park was quite hilly, we went for the bikes. They cost 60UAH per hour to rent, so just over $2 per hour.

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Those are giant pysanky, Ukrainian painted eggs.

This park is full of houses and other structures that were brought from all over Ukraine. All different types of unique Ukrainian architecture.

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On the bottom right of this photo, a little girl on rollerblades. She was maybe 5 or 6 and had some impressive skills.
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As Lyuda and I road side by side, a man took our photo, and he said “wonderful Ukrainian girls!” in English. As I road past, I yelled “I’m not Ukrainian!” It took him a minute, and then I heard him say, “oh.”

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So much of the park looks like a fairy tale. I would love to bring my kids here and take all sorts of photos.

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There are people dressed in costume.
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I think that bees are living in the roof of this house. See how the bottom is lighter than the top? And there were bees everywhere.
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These round things are bee hives, and one of these buildings is an apiary.
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Beautiful, woven fence… there was woven everything, including exterior walls.

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I love how colorful some of the homes are.
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This is one room inside of the blue home, pictured above.
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A garden with tulips in the front yard.
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It was fun, and exhausting. Between the bikes and the hills, my legs felt pretty disrespected! But, we survived. Today was over seven and half miles of walking, plus an hour and a half of bike riding. Whew. This park could be a whole day adventure, but you definitely need to be in good shape for it!

For dinner we headed to one of Oksana’s suggestions, Milk Bar. They have American food, like milkshakes and melt sandwiches, and french toast for breakfast! Our dinner was good, but not quite as amazing as the Very Well Cafe that all 3 of us unanimously love.

Cher…

Today, we went to visit Lyuda’s older sister. We met her in Cherkassy. Before these past couple of trips, I could never keep Cherkassy, Chernivtsi, and Chernihiv straight. They are each their own city and oblast (like a state). However, I’ve visited them all for different reasons in the past couple of months, so now I know about them all.

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It was a super, wet rainy day.

We went to the mall and went to a sushi restaurant. Only Oksana can convince 3 people who’ve never had sushi before to go to a sushi restaurant. She was the rockstar of this trip, translating for all of us and breaking the ice between us.

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We just sat and talked. Her sister has the sweetest baby boy (making her AUNT Lyuda), and he was our entertainment.
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After we finished lunch, we went to take some photos of Lyuda and her sister. Sweet baby fell asleep in the car on the way. We asked our driver if he could stay in the car with him while we took photos, and our driver didn’t even hesitate to say yes. Our driver constantly goes above and beyond!

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It was a brief visit, but definitely worth it for everyone involved.

Rainy, rainy Ukrainian road. This is a typical village road.
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