Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ten Days in Kyiv

Today, I loose jet lag privileges. I have been in Kyiv for ten days; the allotted time for recovery from the flight from California to Ukraine. It's been a full ten days. The first few days were spent settling in and shopping. Luckily, the shopping is affordable. There are so many options here, compared to Albania. Each wine glass is classier than the last. The knives are sharp and efficient. And the cutting boards! Who knew there would be such a selection? I stocked up on spices at the Embassy's commissary. There's nothing like finding cumin and chili powder in a foreign country. So, I have the comforts of home and then some. There wasn't any internet in my apartment, so they installed wireless for me. I am feeling at home here in my oddly set up apartment. (The kitchen and dining room are at opposite ends of the apartment). My place is a ten minute walk from school. We'll see how I survive winter morning walks!

My first introduction to downtown Kyiv was a river cruise down the Dnipro River. To say that it was a hot day would be the understatement of the century. It was extremely hot. The river glowed a fluorescent green, which made us all wonder about the anatomy of the Dnipro fish. Cruising the river was a nice way of getting a view of historical Kyiv. Two returning teachers, and their daughter, took us to an American cuisine based restaurant to cool off in air conditioning and with a beer.
From the left to right: Brenda, Carolyn, Val, me, Jon, Alyssa and Rachel in front of the WWII and Forced Famine Memorial.

This past Saturday, a group of us set off to redeem last Saturday's extremely uncomfortable sight seeing day. We had a gorgeous day indeed. This is a group of us from school (minus Brenda's friend from the states and his interpreter). These are new faces that you'll probably see often!
The parks are so lovely here. Kyiv is called the greenest city in Europe, and that's not because of any recycling initiatives. (Though, I think those are coming to the city too!). There was plenty of shade!
Our main objective was to see the cave monasteries (Perchersk Lava) where many monks are mummified and interned. There were churches and museums surrounding the caves. We went into a fascinating museum that was filled with miniatures. We're not talking doll house miniatures. This artist (forgot his name!) in the late 1950s to the late 1960s carved and created tiny works of art only visible through a magnifying glass. One incredibly small flower (it was a chrysanthemum) had 99 petals painstakingly carved. I can't remember if it was from a seed or a bone. There was an Egyptian pyramid scene set into an eye of a needle. There was the smallest 12 page book in the world. I've never seen anything like this. Incredible. We also went into a small church, after buying a head scarf. From now on, I'm just going to travel with one in my bag. You never know when you might need to go into a church!
The mummified monks were incredible. I was nearly as claustrophobic as I was going into the Egyptian pyramids. Many people were kissing and crossing the lids of the monks. I'm not exactly sure why these monks are so holy.
Here are Alyssa, Jon, Hans (Brenda's friend from America) and Brenda in front of the Iron Lady of Kyiv. There are Soviet symbols still present on her shield.
Today, we ventured back out to see more of Kyiv. We saw the outside of Saint Michael's and Saint Sophia's (above and below) but didn't go inside either of them. I am feeling much more orientated to the city and I am prepared to call Kyiv "home" for at least a year. It's a busy, buzzing metropolis filled with parks, churches, museums, the opera house and restaurants to explore. I'm not going to be bored here!