Thursday, September 15, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things

Living internationally, it is normal to have days were you ask yourself, "Why am I even here?" Those are the days where every little thing the other culture does just gets on your nerves. We, here in Kiev, like to call those, "I hate Ukraine days".

Today was an I hate Ukraine day for me. Every little detail drove me up the wall. Like, why is it so hard to create slopes on sidewalks, at crosswalks and curbs for strollers and wheelchairs? Why must you breathe on my neck when it is not a crowded bus? WHY does everyone smell like B.O. and a chimney? Yes, those days do exist, and it is in the I hate Ukraine moments when we must stop and look at why we have come to love it here as well.

I thought it was about time to update our blog; considering Nyellie is now days away from her first birthday! Adam and I have lived in Kiev, Ukraine for little over 2 years and are beginning our third school year at Kiev International School. Here are some reasons we love the great city we live in:

I am sitting in our living room admiring a beautiful bouquet of vibrant red mums. Babushkas (grandmas) line the sidewalks and metros selling anything they have to offer to make a living: flowers, goat's milk, produce. Not only are the flowers inexpensive and beautiful, but you can walk away feeling good about supporting the real 'mom and pops'.

Kiev has such a relaxed pace of life. Sure, it's a massive city of over 3 million people and we have something planned nearly every night of the week, however, I cannot deny the significant amount of time we get to be with our daughter. The quantity of quality time we get with Nyellie is one of the biggest reasons we love it here.

Kiev has the most incredible parks. The numerous parks and little forests are great locations for grilling shashlik with friends. Many parks have beautiful sceneries of Ukrainian architecture, churches, the Dnipro River, and other important Kiev landmarks. In spring they are landscaped with beautiful lilacs, tulips, and other beautiful flowers.

Nyellie enjoying a day out at the botanical gardens. Kiev's most beautiful park.

There are many activities to do in and around Kiev that are fun and affordable.

Adam and I explored the activities to do in Kiev for his birthday. We went to a Cubano Restaurant with great food and live Cubano music, had a picnic and paddled across a lake (about $3 for 1/2 hour), dressed up for Madame Butterfly (an Italian opera, at Kiev Opera House, based in Japan, with U.S. Naval officers, and in Russian subtitles! Also about $3 per ticket).

The central location of Ukraine is ideal for travel. Not only can you take an overnight train and wake up at the beach in Odessa or in the Carpathian mountains, but you can find great deals on airfare. Spontaneous trips to other countries are also feasible. We've found flights to Norway for $16, Poland for $30, and Spain for $60.... and have made it back safe and sound to tell the tale!

At the Black Sea in Odessa, Ukraine.

Kiev is beautiful! Although there are many Soviet buildings that are drab, ran down, and dark, the city also has very beautiful and impressive architecture rich in detail and color.

Maidan square in downtown Kiev. The glass domes are actually skylights for one of Kiev's many underground malls.

Learning about customs, cultures and traditions are always something Adam and I are drawn to. That is why we love learning about Ukraine and working at KIS where there are over 55 nationalities.

This is Lovers Bridge. After a couple gets married they put a lock on the bridge.

Learning a new language! The US has got to get on board with this. It is almost embarrassing when we travel and everyone from other countries knows 3 or more languages and we know..... English. We're trying!

I thought this would be a neat photo of my mom and a sign in cyrillic. Later I learned it was warning about ticks. Whops.

I think Kiev has some of the longest and fastest escalators in the world. Long escalators and underground shopping malls are just some of the unique fun things about Kiev.

Ken Chapman, Adam and I having fun in the Kreschatik metro station.

Life experiences! We shared our welcome to Ukraine with the Swine Flu, also known as H1N1. School was shut down for the month of October 2009, and spectators were required to wear masks at the Dynamo soccer game. It didn't stop the fun though, as smoke bombs and cheering filled the stadium.

There are many other reasons we love Ukraine, but these are just some of the highlights. It is always fun to go back and look at our photos and see the many adventures and experiences we have living abroad. This week we were invited to celebrate Mexico's 201st Independence Day, at the home of the Ambassador of Mexico. Our community through school and ICA church are an incredible support as we live far from family. We have been able to endure many I hate Ukraine days, thanks to the love and encouragement of our community and Kiev family. We look forward to another eventful year full of I hate AND I love Ukraine moments!

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