This post is four months late, but I say better late than never! In case you missed my recap of the first part of my trip to Ukraine in October 2013, you can click here to read it. It’s pretty funny and includes mental gypsies. Seriously.
Anyway, after our first afternoon in Kiev, Melissa and I went to bed early since we were so jet-lagged. The next day was Sunday, so we just explored the city, shopped a little (in the cool underground malls), avoided the people dressed up in costumes and the ones holding pigeons who wanted money, and ate some delicious food. Have I mentioned how much I loved Ukraine’s food?! It was a lot of soups and unique chicken/pork/sausage with rice dishes. We ended up going to this cafeteria style restaurant several times during the trip since we could just point to what we wanted instead of confusing people with our American dialects. It was SO GOOD…but I wasn’t a fan of the Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj music blasting. I like their music, but it didn’t really fit with the traditional Ukranian theme and the waiters and waitresses dressed up in Hansel and Gretel-type uniforms. Very random.
The time we spent at Simon’s orphanage was definitely interesting since I have only visited one other orphanage in my life (in Guatemala). It was a very soviet looking building that probably hadn’t been remodeled in a very long time (all of the buildings are like this). It was actually clean and pretty nice on the inside, which was surprising since hundreds of children live there. We met with the director and shortly thereafter, Simon greeted us with big hugs! It was so nice to see him.
Luckily we were able to take him with us on the remainder of the trip, so Melissa and I had fun helping him with his English and making him try on the new clothes she bought for him. He also loved playing with our iPhones and skyping family back home.
At one point, we had to drive literally 5 hours to Simon’s birth town, Olevsk. Adoption can be a rocky process with a lot of hurdles to overcome, and we definitely experienced some of those. The side trip to Olevsk was not supposed to happen, but we had to go to complete something with Simon’s birth certificate there. This was an interesting experience. The city was literally crumbling to the ground…the buildings were dilapidated and falling apart while the people were a little scary. Anyway, we had this crazy taxi driver who probably didn’t realize what he got himself into…but let’s just say he was missing some teeth. He was hilarious though and told Leysia his entire life story during the five hour drive. His car was about the size of a Hot Wheels car, which was really funny since me, Melissa, Simon, and Leysia (and all of our luggage) had to fit inside of it. We were crammed in there like sardines. As we were speeding (the driver was literally going 100 mph) down the roads filled with massive pot-holes and passing people left and right (scariest ride of my life), we realize we all need to make a stop at the next gas station. The gas station was fairly nice, so it should have a fairly nice restroom as well, right? WRONG. The “restroom” was a HOLE in the GROUND that was behind a big piece of wood that was shoved into the dirt. It was the most horrifying experience of my life…let’s just say it was time to cover that hole and dig a new one. Melissa and I were crying we were laughing so hard…we had to use these holes in the ground since we didn’t know how much longer we’d be in the car. Simon laughed at us and thought we were crazy and the taxi driver looked at us when we came back to the car and said “EXTREME?!” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
This post is getting kind of long, so I’ll just summarize the rest of the trip. Basically we drove from Kiev to Zhytomyr (Jitomer), to Berdichev, to Olevsk, back to Zhytomyr, and then finally back to Kiev for a few more days. We did a lot of driving, but it was interesting to see all of the behind the scenes adoption stuff go on. We stayed in some pretty neat apartments and hotels (one had glittery walls), shopped, watched a brawl happen in a supermarket over condoms, hung out with an American family from Alabama, visited Kiev’s gorgeous cathedrals, avoided gypsies, ate at a T.G.I. Friday’s, went to Ocean Plaza Mall (the most amazing mall I’ve ever been to), took a ride on one of the world’s deepest metros, and more!
I stayed in Ukraine for 8 days, while Melissa and Simon stayed for 14 since they had to get everything finalized with his passport. On my departure day, I was picked up at the Kiev apartment at 3:00 a.m. by a nice driver named Oleg. He drove me to the Kiev-Boryspil airport and walked me all the way to the check-in desk which was so nice! This was the first time I had ever traveled halfway around the world all by myself (I’ve always traveled with someone or in a group), so I was a little nervous. Luckily I had zero delays and made it to Frankfurt, Washington D.C., then Atlanta with no problems. I was so excited to see David when I landed and got my luggage!
It was an amazing trip. I am so grateful that I was able to go and be a part of my brother-in-law’s adoption and see new parts of the world. It was an experience I will never forget!