Friday, September 2, 2011

Tuesday, August 30th, Part II

Greetings from UKRAINE, everyone!!!!! : ) I love it here!!!!!!!!!!

My flight touched down at 3:45 PM yesterday. The plane was semi-full and everyone around me was speaking in Russian/Ukrainian except, of course, my seatmate. Haha, how did we end up next to each other? I said hello to her in Russian (she looked 100% Russian, Denis- she looked exactly like Nastiya from Fairbanks) and she looked at me with an expression of panic and replied “uh...English?” She was a French woman working for a pharmaceutical company in Switzerland, coming to Kiev for training. 
Lunch on Ukraine International Airlines. Blue & yellow are the national colors of Ukraine.
According to the information, this sandwich is supposed to be pretty healthy.
Does it look pretty healthy?

Yeah, Ukrainian-sized beer!
When the plane landed,
we (as in, everyone on the entire plane) crammed ourselves into a little shuttle, standing room only, which took us across the tarmac to customs. It was pretty hot, about 28 C, and some people here have yet to discover deodorant. But hey, that's okay.

Customs was a like a semi-orderly mob scene. There were 4 line blobs for Ukrainian citizens, 2 blobs for foreigners without visas, and one blob for foreigners with visas. Every 15 minutes about 60 new passengers would get dropped off by a shuttle and they'd immediately begin milling about behind you. It took about an hour of standing in the blob to make it to the customs official, NOT because there were so many people, but because the customs officers worked very, very, very slowly. I was in the foreigners with visas queue. There was a huge group of foreign students in front of me (from one of the -stans, I think) and when almost all of them had been processed, the customs official simply got up and walked away. So, then my blob line had to merge with the blob line next to us (for foreigners without visas) and it took that much freakin' longer.

Some other Americans struck up a conversation with me- a couple guys from the Bible Belt who come to Ukraine to give away Bibles (they got excited upon seeing the priest in line in front of me, but it turned out he was from Brazil and didn't speak any English) and a dentist jumping through the hoops to bring his Ukrainian fiancee to the States.

My entry 'interview' was surprisingly easy, thank God. I realized I didn't have any paperwork from the school or even the address of where I'd be staying. I just told the customs official I'd be staying here in Kiev in teacher housing for such-and-such a company and she eventually stamped my passport and let me through. All that worrying for nothing!

Then came my moment of triumph. Since it took so long to get through the queue, the luggage had been unloaded soooo long ago that it wasn't even on the screen anymore. I searched through all the “old” luggage that had been pulled off the conveyer belt and just like my paranoid self had fretted about during all the flights, my luggage wasn't there!! Nothing! I had kind of suspected all along that I should have picked it up in Zurich and rechecked it by hand. I advise you, dear reader, to remember this warning the next time you travel! I went over to the 'Lost & Found' office and a woman with remarkable customer service skills for Ukraine went through things with me. It didn't look good for a while, but she was finally able to locate it and it was amazingly in the same airport as me! Another official- he was really cute, oh those Ukrainian men! and nice too, helped me to find it. My bags were all wrapped up in plastic with “rush” stickers on them. Some how they had been expedited during the unloading process, who knows....the important thing is that I was there and so were the bags! And I didn't cry once, which is such a knee-jerk reaction for me.

I went through the final set of doors into the huge crowd and saw my name on a sign right away. During almost all of my travels, I've navigated everything on my own, and so it was really pleasant to have an experience like this, where I can leave things in someone else's hands. In fact, the entire arrival is the best one I've had in a Russian-speaking country. I'm finally at the point where the language is comfortable to my ears and it makes a huge difference. Third time's the charm, right?
Teacher Services Rep & Cowboy
Kiev Airport, Terminal "G"
That blue sign with the "stadium" flower is for Euro 2012, the upcoming big soccer (football) tournament.
Driving thru Kiev
Awesome buildings, right? They look like they could turn into transformers!
Everything is always under construction here.
A GIGANTIC monument called Rodina Mat. Apparently there's an elevator inside to take you up to the top. (update: this is still unconfirmed)

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