Sunday, July 7, 2013

Boxes, Spiderwebs, and Mafia Restaurants

The past 12 days in Ukraine have consisted mostly of unpacking and rigorous house-cleaning.  I have left the house a few times only to find myself on narrow neighborhood streets with blind corners and changing right-of-way.  Upon exiting the neighborhood I am in a maze of traffic.  Lane markings are non-existent or completely ignored.  Parking places are made exactly to the size of a compact car almost as if the forensic team outlined the car in chalk.  The lane between the parking places is likewise no wider than the width of a car. Naturally, this makes getting in and out of a parking spot very challenging and all the more so with a minivan. 

All this while, I've taken refuge in our home and working hard to make it home.  I love the house.  I love the space.  For the first time in our married lives we are living in a single-family home.  The kids each have their own bedrooms and for me the master bathroom is the cherry on top.  We will certainly enjoy this place for the year that we can live here.  I'm not looking forward to packing and unpacking all over again next summer, but for now I am happy to be here.  But where I actually am, I have no idea!

I have made a bit of progress.  I remember the name of our street now -

Бул. Каштанова, 32 (transliterated that's Vulitsa Kashtanova 32)

The name of the district is still a tongue-twister:  Софіївська Борщагівка (Sofievs'ka Borshchahivka).  Try saying that 5 times fast!

With my mom

The highlight of the past 12 days has been having my mom here.  She has been a tremendous help.  I don't know what I would have done without her.  What I do know is that I would still be a long way from having things unpacked and certainly the house wouldn't be nearly as clean.   She vacuumed up the spiderwebs from every room, scrubbed the kitchen and bathrooms, and mopped the floors.  She left today and the house is lonelier without her (and dirtier too - the back door has finger smudges again, Mom :) )

Working, working, working

Having Mom with us was also a good excuse to get away from the mounds of boxes and suitcases and to see a bit of our new city.  We enjoyed lunch at a Soviet-style restaurant - very fun!  
Picking out some new foods to try - a green drink made from tarragon was a hit

Typical Soviet-era foods

Note the newspaper on the ceiling - a common form of "wallpaper" at a time nothing was available

We walked up the long street to St. Andrew's Cathedral.  Matthew's constant complaining reminded me to forget the idea that our kids are ready for a European vacation.  We're still a few years away from museums and historical sites.  
Tourist shopping along the street to St. Andrew's

Matryoshka dolls come in any shape, size, and personality

Soviet antiques anyone?

Almost to the top of the hill

St. Andrew's Cathedral

On the way down - you can see how unhappy Matthew is!

Street musician playing the bandura

On Sunday we walked down the most famous street in Kyiv - Khreshchatyk Street.  On weekends a portion of the road is closed to traffic and you can walk down the center of the street.  We had lunch at a "family restaurant" called Mafia.  Seriously, that is what they describe themselves as on their menus.  I'm still trying to figure out how the two concepts go together.  Sushi is very popular in Kyiv and practically any restaurant and fast-food joint offers it.  George and I ordered a set to split between the two of us but then Matthew and Elizabeth ended up eating half of it.  Who knew we had children with such culinary preferences?  Good thing too since children's menus of mac n cheese and chicken tenders are not to be found here, but there's plenty of sushi!
Walking down Khreshchatyk Street

Independence Square

Back at the house the kids are constantly begging to open another box.  It's like Christmas for them to discover once again their old toys and belongings.  And not unlike Christmas, they prefer to leave their discoveries all over the floor.  

George worked for days to set up the swimming pool left by the missionary family we're house-sitting for.  The kids LOVE the pool.   With temperatures in the upper 80s to low 90s (and humidity at 100% this morning), the pool is very refreshing.  

It's good to be here in Kyiv.  It will take some time still to feel at home (and know my address) but we've had a good start.