Tag Archives: Traveling

Days to Remember

We had a really wonderful, touristy weekend. This post will be long and picture heavy!

I wanted to hire a tour guide on this trip. While I’m fairly decent at being a self-tour guide, thanks to the internet and books, I could see the benefits of hiring someone as well. I heard Tourguide Kiev was highly recommended. When I saw a family post about their recent tour in both English and Russian, I knew she was the one.


We walked by St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery on the way, where this man was playing a bandura. We gave him some money and took his photo.

We met Helen from Tourguide Kiev at the Maidan. She started our tour off with a recent recap of the events of the last couple of years, including the protests at the Maidan. Helen did a bit in English, then explained it in Russian to Lyuda, back and forth.

Then, we headed up the hill, visiting Prince Volodymyr, who overlooks the Dniper River, and learning a bit about him.

We walked through St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, where we tried to stick coins on the dried up fountain. If the coin sticks, you are free for the day. If it falls, you need to stay and pray. We also bought some beeswax lotion from the monks. They had a little stand selling honey, and other bee-related products.

Helen and Lyuda being goofy.

We walked down by St. Sophia’s, and then stopped in a little cafe. Helen had a drink that she wanted us to try, called the hot pitch. Chocolate, coffee, cream and walnuts lit on fire.

Next, we hopped in Helen’s car and went over to the museum of microminiatures at the Pechersk Lavra Monastery. Artwork that you need a microscope to see. You can check out this artist’s work here.

We walked around Pechersk Lavra a bit, including into one of the church services, but we hardly scratched the surface there. Lyuda has a lot of respect for the Orthodox church, and I admire that, especially when she’s in the company of two clueless Americans.

Lastly, we headed by the World War II museum, and the giant Soviet statue Rodina Mat.

Helen had lots of silly ideas for photos.


We finished off our tour at the Rodina Mat. I mentioned that she didn’t need to drive us all the way back to our apartment, as we wanted to get dinner first. Dinner! Oh, she knew just the place. She dropped us off at the Very Well Cafe… Lyuda and my mom both got chicken, mashed potatoes and tomatoes and I got pesto ravioli. We all took the first bite of our food and say “mmmm, yes. WOW.”

After we were finished eating, we walked by the House with the Chimeras, and then headed down towards Khreschatyk. As we got close, Lyuda said “is there a concert?” In fact, there was. Khreschatyk is closed to car traffic on weekends, and on this particular day, there was a stage in the middle of the street. We just danced and laughed and had a wonderful time.

This man in the greenish jacket was probably about 40, but could really bust a move.

We ended our night dancing and laughing and having lots of fun.


I had a couple of things I wanted to do, but we were planning for a slower day. We decided to take the metro to the Hidropark stop and visit the Museum of Miniature Ukraine.

This lady sat on the corner of our street the entire weekend, with many street dogs tied up. Lyuda translated the sign, “Help the homeless dogs and cats. Thank you.”

Lyuda wasn’t so sure about this whole Metro thing at first, but once she saw that I knew what I was doing, she was okay with it. On one of the escalators that takes you deep down.

The Museum of Miniature Ukraine was quite easy to get to from the Hidropark metro stop. It was just a short little walk on the island, which seemed like a rundown version of Coney Island or Gorky Park– there is an amusement park, swimming beaches and other things to do.

Above, there is a picture of Lyuda in front of the real Rodina Mat statue; here she is with the mini version.

Here’s the mini version of Maidan. You can tell it’s not the real thing because it’s not busy enough.

This is Donbass Arena. We drove past it every day on our way to visit Reed and Lena. Simpler, happier days in Donetsk.

We often drive by this church, and I had been wanting a good photo, so unique.

As we walked out, someone found this coin. Aaron didn’t think that coins in an amount this small existed. Here you go, Aaron.

We grabbed a quick lunch at the food court of the Globus mall under the Maidan, a good compromise as we all could get what we wanted. Lyuda chose McDonalds and my mom and I went for Ramen Burger. My mom tried the burger with the ramen patty, while I just got some noodles with vegetables.

My last idea for the day was to go to the big “hipermarket” Ashan. I shopped at a smaller Ashan in Donetsk, and I’ve been to this large one in Kyiv twice. There were many things I couldn’t find in the smaller Kyiv “supermarkets”, but Ashan has it all.


Today, we had another two hour drive up to Lyuda’s region to apply for her passport. Fortunately, things went smoother today, and all of her passport paperwork is in for processing. They expect we can pick it up on Monday. If all goes smoothly, we can go home around the middle of next week.

When we got back in the late afternoon from our little roadtrip, we were all feeling a bit worn out. We spent the rest of the afternoon on various devices, and only headed out again for dinner. We went to Pizza Celetano, a popular Italian chain. We struggled through ordering, and were nearly done with our meal with a couple walked in and said “English menus?” We shared bug-eyed looks and whispered, “did they just say English menus??? They have English menus???” That would have made our dinner much easier!

When we were finally ready to leave, it was POURING rain outside.

Some ducking under awnings, and running into a small shop, we were able to dodge most of it and make it home, only minimally wet.

As you can tell, we are mostly enjoying ourselves here. So much to explore and experience in Ukraine. On the other hand, I’m glad to have the end in sight and a reasonable idea of when we can return home. We’re looking forward to being all together as a family!

Moose, Storks and Babushkas

Yesterday, we were able to pick up the tax ID without incident. That was really the bulk of our day– we walked around just a bit in the morning, and we went out for dinner when we got back, but nothing too exciting. However, we were quite glad to get that tax ID.

From the trip. My mom’s second book will be called Babushkas on Benches.

We noticed this mosaic on the bus stop on Wednesday and yesterday I asked the driver to stop. I am in love with it. Can someone recreate this in my house?

Storks’ nests are everywhere on top of poles. And storks are huge. It made me think of a friend of mine who is not a fan of birds. 🙂

Another stop on the way home, to see ceramic lawn ornaments.

This one is for Lena. No, I didn’t buy it. I’m sorry, it was too heavy and big for my suitcase.

Chernihiv? Moscow? Kyiv? Which do you pick? We chose Kyiv for the night.

Today, we had a free morning. We didn’t too much, just exchanged money and grabbed lunch at a food stand. We got burgers, and I was quite impressed that they had fish burgers and vegan burgers. Both were only tak-sobi (so so), but still exciting to find. In the afternoon, Oksana, Olya and our driver met us to go to the big city of Lyuda’s region to apply for her passport. We were all happy to see Oksana.

One of our stops, at a favorite gas station. Lyuda, Oksana and Olya got these hot dogs, which are inside of a loaf of bread. Oksana made Lyuda ask me for the money in English– I appreciate that she helps and encourages Lyuda to learn English.

We drove up to this city, almost two hours away, and when we arrived we found out that the passport office was closed. Argh. Please pray that we can do this on Monday, and that it will be a quick thing. Lyuda requested that we visit her grandmother, and Oksana suggested that this might be a good opportunity. Sure!

When we pulled up to her grandmother’s town, we were surprised to find tons of soldiers, and a guarded gate. We explained why we were there, but they told us that we would need someone with registration to let us in. Argh. This small village is one of the main training camps for the soldiers. While we are very far from the war zone, the war was suddenly very real as we could hear gun fire in the distance and we were surrounded by soldiers. Fortunately, the matter was easily cleared up with a phone call, and we were able to enter the town.

Her babushka welcomed us with open arms, literally. Hugs all around. She lives in a classic Khrushchyovka 5-story apartment building. On the 5th floor.

We got to see photos of a young Lyuda, as well as all kinds of other family photos.

Walking back to the car to say goodbye.

Back in Kyiv, our driver twisted down some old, gorgeous streets on our way back to our apartment. Sometimes, Ukraine looks very Soviet, but many times, it has ornate beauty. This was one of those times.

Oksana had suggested a restaurant for dinner, Gastrorock. While its vegetarian dishes were lacking, overall the food was very good. I would highly recommend it for meat-eating Americans coming to Ukraine– English menus and the street (just off Andriyivsky descent) is worth the walk.

That’s it for today. The plan for the weekend is explore Kyiv.


Goodbyes have been the center of the last two days. I told my mom before we arrived at the orphanage that I wouldn’t be upset or disappointed if Lyuda was less than thrilled to be leaving. Us picking her up for her new life means leaving all of her friends behind.

A scene from the town where Aaron and I stayed for a week on our first trip

On the five hour drive from her orphanage back to Kyiv, I asked her what she would miss… instead she just said thank you for coming. She has wanted to spend as much time as possible on my phone talking to her friends… but teenagers. 🙂

Tuesday was mostly about driving up to her region (5 hour drive) to pick up the court decree and then pick up Lyuda.

However, as we were driving back, Lyuda showed me a large, nasty looking burn on her arm. It was inflicted by a teacher at her school, intentionally. When we stopped, I showed it to our facilitator and asked what we could buy to help her. We picked up some ointment, which I’m guessing is like neosporin. However, after applying this ointment, it only seemed to get worse. Our facilitator suggested that we take her to a doctor, and I agreed. The doctor prescribed some antibiotic tablets that we dissolve in water and apply to her wound. It is looking a lot better already.

Wednesday we had two tasks to complete– going up to a town about an hour and a half from Kyiv and getting her new birth certificate, then going to another nearby town to get her tax ID (like a social security number) changed. Once we arrived in the first town, I asked her if she had lived her and if she remembered it. She did. I asked if she still had family here. Yes. “Would you like to ask Olya if we have time to see them?” Yes.

We had some extra time to walk around the town. I enjoyed this little town, lined with stores selling colorful (fake) flowers and churches always towering over us.


My mom is going to write a book called “Babushkas on Bicycles”, a compilation of the many photos we have taken here of just that. Many, many people in rural Ukraine ride their bikes everywhere, or any other form of transportation that they have available.

Club Tornado, which I read aloud because it made me think of Kansas. Lyuda turned to me and said “you can read Ukrainian?!” I don’t know how she had missed that while my vocabulary is limited, I can sound words out just fine… we later had a debate over whether a sign was in Russian or Ukrainian (let’s just say it ended in our facilitator and my mom informing her that “mom is always right”… and lots of laughing).

After we finished this up in this town, we went to say goodbye to her aunt and cousins. I loved the opportunity to meet some of her family.

Then we went to change her tax ID… here, we ran into issues. We are supposed to be able to pick up this new tax ID this afternoon. Will you pray it goes smoothly? We were supposed to be able to file for her new passport today, but that did not happen because of these tax ID issues. We were waiting in the car for awhile while Olya filed the papers.

Lyuda and Lola (my mom).

A place we drove by that really could be Kansas.

One of Lyuda’s friends called and asked if she could come to her old orphanage to say goodbye and our facilitator agreed. From the minute we rolled up, it was clear that this place was really different from her second orphanage. All of the children were standing around, watching us, smiling and laughing. Lyuda ran ahead of us, and they kept asking everyone, “have you seen Lyuda?” She was clearly a big deal here.

One man who worked there rolled up on his motorcycle, little dog on the back, just to say goodbye. Lyuda went to shake his hand in goodbye, but instead her pulled her into a big embrace. This same sweet exchange happened with Alexander from her second orphanage.

I liked this place a lot, as far as orphanages go. The children and adults were friendly. And, the children were silly and wild, happy and laughing.

Saying goodbye… notice the little boys hanging on our driver’s window.

After we left the orphanage, we headed back to finish up the paperwork for the tax ID… so now we wait and hopefully it will be ready today.

On the way back to Kyiv, we found a house and car for Reed. His favorite color is orange.

Back in Kyiv, walking around for dinner, and looking for a shop.

12935323_10100299703094450_1254044233_nToday was a little bit crazy, but we picked up Lyuda! I will have to write in more detail about it another day.

In short, goodbyes were said, and now she is stuck with us forever! 🙂

Tomorrow, we are off to get a new birth certificate and other documents. Thursday, we will apply for her passport.

The Court Decision

I’d like to detail our full day, but that’s going to have to wait until I’m not so exhausted. Instead, I’ll tell you what you want to hear… Lyuda is officially a part of our family now!

There is a mandatory 10 day waiting period where someone could appeal the decision (very rare). I will pick her up in early April. In the meantime, we are heading home.