On Thursday, 7 August, we literally used planes, trains, and automobiles to travel from Virginia to Ukraine in about 23 hours. The travel went well and our luggage made it. Unfortunately, the luggage did not make it in the same condition that it started in. Both of the suitcases that were checked baggage were badly bent on the side, as if someone tried to pry them open. Suspicious that both suitcases were damaged in an identical manner. Thankfully, all of our belongings made it through but we will have to find some new suitcases for future travel.
Mary's suitcase damage.
James' suitcase damage.
After our arrival, we were met by our facilitator Lesya and our driver Vitally. They are great! They helped us get settled into our apartment for the next few days. The apartment is fantastic! We are located in downtown Kiev within walking distance of food, shopping, and the sites of the city. Here are a couple of pictures of our living room and kitchen:
The apartment kitchen.
The living room and door to bedroom.
After getting settled into the apartment, we stopped by a local cafeteria for some plov (Ukrainian rice dish) and shashlik (kebab) for dinner. We then stopped by a market for some groceries before coming back to the apartment for some much needed rest. For the majority of the next fourteen hours, we slept! Neither of us has slept for that long in years! It felt great to recharge.
Since airline tickets were cheaper for us to arrive a day early, we had an extra day today to see some of Kiev. We hired Eugene, a driver recommended by Lesya, to take us to the Kiev Ukraine LDS Temple and some of the memorials. We enjoyed an Endowment session at the temple in the Russian language (Mary had an English translation headset) and the peace that can only be found in the House of the Lord. After changing, we drove to the Presidential Administration building where the guards kindly let us onto the grounds for some pictures. We then visited the Ukrainian Famine Memorial and the World War II Memorial. The Famine Memorial was very powerful...a sad, sad experience in the early twentieth century history of this nation. The memorials were on a hill overlooking the Dnieper River and the city of Kiev. It was an awesome view of the city.
The Kiev Ukraine LDS Temple.
The Ukraine Presidential Administration Building.
The Ukraine WWII Memorial.
Overlooking the Dnieper River and Kiev.
Following our tour of the city, we stopped by an Italian restaurant for a dinner of bread, lamb, lasagna, and mashed potatoes. Although that combination sounds odd, it would not be too big of a surprise to those who know our eating habits. We finished the evening with a little bit of window shopping. Since we both love books, our eyes lit up when we saw a bookseller among the shops at an underground mall (the mall is literally beneath the streets of the city). We found several titles of interest including a copy of Robert Jordan's "Winter's Heart" in Russian. While perusing other books (all of the titles were in Russian) Mary pointed to one of the books with the title "Новый Завет" and said, "This must be 'The Hobbit'!" After James saw the title in Russian, he chuckled and kindly informed Mary that it was a copy of the New Testament. Both great books, but I have to give the nod to the New Testament as the more important of the two. In all fairness, Mary has shown exceptional courage on this trip. Where I know the language and have lived in this area of the world before, Mary is seizing on this adventure and embracing a new culture and language with enthusiasm. It will be fun to see what other situations come our way during this experience.
With the first day of our adventure behind us, we are grateful for the many friends and family that support us. We have been greatly blessed and look forward to this adoption opportunity. Monday can't come fast enough!