I said my last goodbye yesterday. After a week of travels and adventures, my mother headed home. In some ways, it was the hardest one of all. My last connection to home, my biggest support and comfort, the one who helped me keep a level head when we were stuck in all those airports, is now a thousand miles away. And in that respect, it was immensely difficult. I love my mommy and I don’t want to leave her for five months.
But in other ways, it was the easiest goodbye. I’d already gotten partially used to being out of American culture, I made it across the ocean, and we’d had so much fun in Vienna. We’d spent a lot of time together. Oh, also, I’m in UKRAINE!! Yay! The fact that I had finally, finally, finally made it to this country made it easier. I’ve wanted to do YWAM for seven years, I’ve wanted to come work with orphans for six, I’ve waited to do this DTS for a year, and I’ve been traveling for a whole week. And even as I write this on our four hour train ride to the base, I still can’t believe I’m here. Mostly I’m hungry. I’ve switched over to the time zone just enough to want to eat something at every meal, but not enough for me to eat an actual meal’s worth of food.
Backtracking to Friday, I’ll spare you the details of our delayed flights that caused us to land in Kiev after dark. Probably a good thing, because we were exhausted as it was. We found our hostel, where half the staff spoke moderate to fluent (i.e. that host was from California) English. We exchanged our money and went grocery shopping for our early breakfast, heard some American songs on the radio, and memorized the map to get us to the metro. And we got the best hot chocolate ever in the shop down the street. I’m not exaggerating this time, it was even better than Vienna’s! I’m pretty sure they just melted chocolate and put some whipped cream on that thing. Saturday morning we took the metro to meet my new friends that are taking me to the base and will help me pull around my 50 pound suitcase.
I’m currently accompanied by Josh (pictured left) and Igor, two of the staff from the base. (I’ll do some introductory posts of the staff and students later, when I’ve met anyone.) They helped my mother get back to the airport and then took me around Kiev for a bit before our train to Vinnitsa. First, we saw Miaden Square, where the revolution took place two years ago. Igor was actually there, so I learned quite a bit about it. Then we took a walk up the hill through the park, where we were treated to a spectacular view of the city and saw the lover’s bridge, which had recently been replaced because so many locks had been placed on it.
Then we went to see two of the orthodox churches nearby. St. Sophia’s we only saw from the outside, since you had to pay to get inside. This is actually just the belltower. After you go through the gate and walk through the courtyard, you can find the actual church, which is no longer used other than a tourist attraction.
We also got to see St. Michael’s, just up the street. This one was free to enter, but no pictures were allowed. Just believe me when I say it was gorgeous. Gold ornamentation everywhere, and paintings of saints on every wall and column. Definitely worth the walk up another steep hill. In the medieval ages, all of the bells in the set would be rung to alert the city of danger. They've since been replaced, but in 2013, during the revolution, permission was given for all the bells again to warn people of the police violence. This was the first time the bells had been rung since 1240 when the Tartars invaded the country. I can’t even wrap my mind around how old some of these buildings are!
Our Kiev visit concluded with a traditional Ukrainian buffet lunch. I’m still trying to get acclimated to the different foods and spices, and after a week of Viennese sausage, albeit delicious, I went straight for the chicken with soft baked french fries and garlic bread. However, I did try Josh’s favorite dish, something like pierogi's with cabbage, and it was surprisingly tasty.
After a four-hour train ride, I finally made it to the base at Vinnitsa! I met two of the other students, Mitch and Tamara, over another delicious meal. Mostly, I’m just glad to be home!