Sunday, August 30, 2009

First Sunday

There are fifteen teachers in my group, and it is a monumental hassle to get that many people together in one place. Keep in mind that we all live separately, nobody speaks the language (None of the teachers, at least. We do have native coordinators that help usher us around sometimes.), nobody knows how to read, and Kiev has five million people in it, with plenty of room to get lost. Add to that figure the fact that these girls look killer every single day, which is highly conducive to running late. Today we met up with the other Kiev group (about 6 teachers) to try and find the church. I left my house at 8am for an 8:45-9ish meetup at the metro. Of course I was only the second person there. The last person didn't show up until after 9. Rode the metro until the end of the line, then crammed on a bus for another 15minute ride. We arrived at 9:50 for 10:00 church, which was probably a miracle.

Church is on the second floor of some building, and consists of one hallway and about 5 rooms. These rooms contained the nicest toilets we've seen since America, and FREE filtered water. YES!!! Drinking water is a precious commodity here, and this was not only free but also non-carbonated. A truly exciting perk. (ILP warned us that lots of teachers get kidney stones because they stop drinking water. Understandable, since it's a bit difficult to get a hold of).

The branch doubled in size with us there. Literally, not figuratively. It's the Kyiv International Branch, and consists mostly of US government/embassy employees and their families. The branch was ready for ILP with nametags for not only us, but the rest of the branch as well. They gave us all maps of the area, bus lines, phone numbers if we get lost, getting-to-know-you forms and more. Seriously prepared. In the hall after church, the primary president (over maybe half a dozen kids?) recruited primary teachers. Me and another teacher are in charge of the entire nursery. We don't know the girl's name yet, but we'll meet her next week:)

After church we stood out at the bus stop for half an hour waiting for Bus 24 (as instructed), but it never came. We met a giggling old grandpa with a full set of gold teeth who chatted at us in Russian for about 15 minutes. After a while we came to the conclusion that Bus 24 didn't exist, mostly because a couple Ukrainian kids our age told us so (in broken English, of course). So we hopped on the next bus that came with a question to the attendant, "Metro?". We rode the bus for quite some time, not entirely sure where we were going. The attendant who stands aorund checking tickets didn't speak English, but "metro" is the same in Russian and English (hallelujah). She waved us off the bus at the right stop and we stumbled into the metro. We rode it to the connecting line, which is always tricky to navigate. I got to ask directions again from two other people who don't speak English. We got home at three. That made church a 7-hour roundtrip pilgrimage.

I would like to pause here to explain two things, since they are both quickly becoming huge parts of my life. Number one. I am becoming the group expert at asking Ukrainians for directions. Getting lost is one of my favorite things to do, especially since this city is so beautiful. I have become the designated directions-asker of the group. Its thrilling, in a small way, to be able to effectively communicate with a stranger who doesnt speak the same language. Also, it takes skill to find someone who is nice and wont walk off with a toss of her unfairly-gorgeous hair. Yesterday, a lady tried to pay the metro fare for four of us. Points for Alena.

Second, a bit of a Kiev lesson. Kiev is separated into Left Bank and Right Bank by the Dnieper river. It flows north to south, so if you stand looking downstream, the right bank is on the right. Counter-intuitive, if youre looking at a map. Kiev has a killer metro system broken into three lines--red, green, and blue. These intersect in a triangle. I live off the stop called Druzhby Narodiv aka Дружби Народів. That means Friendship of Nations, in English. The metro is sometimes as deep as a dozen stories underground, and requires the longest escalator ride of your entire existence, both up and down. Each stop has two sides, going either direction, and its nigh impossible to remember which side you need to be on, since theyre perfectly symmetrical. Also, all signs are written in Russian. So just reading directions is not totally feasible. You just have to memorize what the name of your stop looks like.

Дружби Народів is on the green line, third south from the center triangle intersection . I am pretty centrally located, most of the other teachers live on the outskirts.
This place is gorgeous, by the way.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. sounds surreal, alena. what an adventure! sounds like a life-changing, perspective-changing, changing-changing experience. you go girl.

  3. Hey Alena, I was just wondering if you have a picture from your recent adventures of you in Ukraine that I could use for the cover of the family letter. I am planning on getting it out in the next few days, so let me know whether you could get one to me. Just email me at catydid_86 (at) msn (dot) com. Thanks!


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