Friday, December 12, 2008
One year ago...
Would you like to go for a train ride?
I’ve got three hours to kill and two hours worth of battery on my laptop so I thought I would let you tag along and we could chat. It’s been awhile since I filled you in on the little details of our trip.
Just put your luggage on the top bunk, have a seat and make sure you take your coat off. It’s hot in here.
Let me catch you up on our morning.
It started early. We got up at 5 a.m., worried we weren’t going to have enough time to get everything together before Lev and the driver arrived at 7 a.m.
We didn’t need to worry.
Lev didn’t show up until 7:30 a.m - and he didn’t have a driver with him.
He thought we were going to take the Metro.
With all of our luggage? HA! I don’t think so.
We may not be willing to fork over $250 for a ride to Vinnytsya (He found a cheaper driver – he REALLY wanted to go by car! ), but we’re not suicidal. We’ll hand over $30 for a cab ride to the depot, thank you.
An hour and a half later we pulled up to the depot and climbed out.
Talk about packed.
There were people everywhere.
We hoisted the bags out of the trunk and made a beeline for the ticket counter.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going (I was trying to keep from bumping into a babushka) and I tripped over the door jam, falling flat on my face.
My facilitator kept walking…
Meshack was too far behind me to see…and all the natives just stepped around me.
No one stopped to make sure I was alright (I’m fine, thank you.)
No one stopped to help me pick up my stuff.
And no one laughed at me (at least on the outside).
They all just kept walking…like herded cattle going through a chute at Meshack’s clinic.
I didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or really teed off.
I chose neither. It’s just another reminder of the stark difference in cultures between Ukraine and the west.
I found another HUGE difference just a little while later.
After we purchased the tickets, (second-class - its not so bad), we decided we had better take a bathroom break before getting on the train. So Lev led us to a back room where we paid 30 cents to use the bathroom.
I walked in…
And I walked right back out.
Thank goodness for McDonalds.
There was one across the street with a western toilet! I bought a ‘vater, nyet gaza’ to appease my conscious for using their facilities.
I’m now good for at least four hours…maybe more.
I’m rationing water and chewing lots of gum just to be sure.
We’re passing through some little village right now. I’d ask Lev the name, but he is asleep…recovering from a nasty cold. He’s refusing my motherly advice. He’s taking Echinacea shots and cough syrup. He says he’ll be fine. He won’t even take the cough drop I offered him to help sooth his throat. I guess I don’t blame him. I’d be a little nervous to take medicine from another country too. For heaven’s sakes, I brought a whole medicine cabinet with me just in case I caught something!
Well, that town went by pretty fast.
The countryside looks a bit like northern Minnesota. Trees everywhere (remember, I’m a Kansas/Colorado girl – trees are few and far between)…but it’s also flat. And through the trees I can barely make out some farmland.
I bet it would be pretty in the spring and summer.
Here comes another little village.
There’s a house!!! I knew they existed, but all we’ve ever seen are apartment buildings!!!
A real house.
I have to admit I’m a little nervous about meeting the little girl.
We don’t know what to really expect…and we don’t know what kind of reception we’ll get from the orphanage. It sounds like they rarely have people come in to adopt. I got an email from a reader last night who said they had adopted from Vinnytsya last summer and were one of the first ones to adopt from there.
She also gave me all kinds of information on Vinnytsya. (Thanks, Leslie)
Unfortunately, we’re going to a small town south of there by about 50 miles. We can’t afford to stay in Vinnytsya and drive everyday, so I think we’re going to be stuck without some conveniences, as Lev would say.
The Aspen trees have changed to pines now. It’s very green…
The guys are sleeping…
I think a 2-year-old and myself are the only ones awake in this car. Every once in awhile you can hear her jabber (at least I think it’s jabbering…it could be fluent Russian and I’d have no idea.)
We just passed a shrine of some sort. It looks like it may have been a train accident monument or something. It was right along the train tracks and there was nothing else around. Just a mound of dirt and a huge orthodox cross.
As crazy as it sounds, I would really love to take a quiet walk through these woods. It’s been nothing but tons of people around us for days. Days upon days upon days of people talking in a language that I can’t even begin to understand…except for the occasional ‘nyet,’ ‘da,’ and ‘immodium.’
Some quiet time alone with God would be nice.
Did you know my name is Russian?
Yea, shocked me too.
Evidentially my full name has Russian origins. Several people here have commented on it. And it was one of the first things our facilitator, Sveta said.
I assured her that, no, my parents aren’t Russian. They’re German. Actually, German, Dutch and American Indian. I think in the geneology somewhere it shows that some of them may have made a stop in Russia along their way to the U.S. But, we’re German.
It may have been too much information.
Hey. There’s another small village…with some houses. And those houses look new! Brand new. They kind of look like something that may have been built in the U.S.
Right next-door is a run down home.
Wealth and poverty are neighbors in this country.
The ride has really been pretty smooth. I actually didn’t realize we had started moving until I looked out the window. No jerky stops or starts.
There was only one spot where it got a little jerky…but it didn’t last too long.
These trains may not be state of the art, and the windows may be so dirty it looks like it’s foggy outside, but I can’t complain about the ride.
My boots are holding up pretty well - my feet too. I haven’t worn my tennis shoes since we got off the plane last Monday and I really don’t miss them too much. The boots make me feel like I’m blending in, even if I’m not.
Lev and Meshack say I don’t blend in…but what do they know? They’re men.
I think I am. People are constantly asking me for directions or for the time.
Wish I could help them out.
I just smile and say sorry in English. They usually shrug and walk away.
We’ve been on this train for an hour now and we haven’t made a stop yet. I’ve typed three pages worth of copy in Word and gone through two Strawberry Low-Fat Nutri-Grian Bars (Melinda are you proud of me?)…and only a quarter of my water bottle. Pretty good, I’d say.
Oh…we’re slowing down. We must be getting ready to stop.
I’ve tried taking pictures out the window, but it’s so dirty, I’m sure the pictures won’t come out.
All of the trees around here look like they have HUGE bird nests in them. Now that the leaves have fallen, it looks like the trees have little balls of twigs stuck in them. Upon closer inspection it looks like maybe a plant or something is growing the trees to make them look like that. It’s crazy. These trees look like something from a Dr. Seuss book! The one that just passed was FULL.
A guy just stopped by and offered me his stack of magazines. I’m not sure if we was trying to sell them to me or was just being extraordinarily nice. I just smiled and shook my head. He walked away.
We’re slooooowly slowing down. We must be going all of 5 mph right now.
If we stop anywhere near a sign, I’ll let you know where we are.
There’s no sign.
That stop lasted all of maybe five minutes.
Just long enough for people to get their junk and get their tail off the train.
And once again, you could barely tell we had started rolling again.
Someone is out in the hall making choo-choo noises to the 2-year-old. They walked by and the baby smiled at me.
Too bad by the time he’s an adult he won’t remember how.
We’re back to aspen and other deciduous trees now…and the farmland teases me from the other side of the tree line.
To all of you back in Kansas…stay warm…and stay inside. I hope you get your electricity back soon. Mom and Dad, there are a ton of board games in the bookcase by the fireplace. It should help keep the kids busy.
Everyone warned us about the cold weather here…but we’ve been enjoying daytime temperatures in the 30s and 40s, while at home they’re dealing with a huge ice storm and highs in the teens. I think we’re having a balmier winter than they are.
The trees thinned out there for a moment and what I saw, reminded me of Kansas. A couple of hills, with a plowed field in front of them…just like home.
The baby down the hall is crying again…and Lev just got up to use the facilities. Didn’t his Mom ever tell him to go before he left the house?!
We’re slowing again.
Now Meshack is headed to the bathroom…or the ‘toilet’ as he keeps calling it. He thinks it makes him sound much more Ukranian. I just can’t bring myself to calling it a toilet. It sounds so crude.
Besides…if it’s the hole in the ground version, it’s not even a toilet.
I asked Lev how I would know which train station we were supposed to get off at. He gave me a quizzical look.
‘Well,’ I said. ‘If you and Meshack are sleeping, one of us has to be aware of when we’re supposed to get off this thing. As much as I’d like to visit Belarus…I certainly don’t want to go there today!
He laughed at me.
He had set his alarm on his phone.
We still have an hour to go.
I have 40 minutes of battery power.
Meshack just came back and said something to me about the toilet. If he’s complaining about it, it must be bad. So I’m sorry…you’re not getting a first-hand report on the conditions of the toilets. I’m not going anywhere near them.
Meshack is taking pictures of the compartment now. I may share one with you, if I don’t look like too much of a dork.
Every once in awhile we go past a train crossing. As near as I can tell, there’s a person sitting in a booth waiting for the train to come by. As it approaches, they go out and pull the gate down, so no one can cross. Not exactly efficient…but it does the job.
The trees have thickened up again.
Those of you getting ready to travel…here’s a word of advice. Stay away from the fizzy water. It’s terrible. If you go into a grocery store and can’t figure out which water is which, just look for the BonAqua label with a LIGHT blue lid. That’s the water with no gas. It is everywhere in Kiev - kind of like Aquafina. I tried looking at the label to see if it is made by the same company, but wouldn’t you know it, the whole thing is in Cyrillic.
We just passed a house not even 15 feet away from the train tracks.
How can those people sleep at night?!
The ride is starting to get a little bumpier. Not nearly as smooth as in Kiev.
It’s noon now…and I’m starting to get a little hungry. What I wouldn’t give for a Schlotszky’s Turkey, Bacon Club right now. All I have are more Nutri-grain bars and chocolate covered pretzels…and those are supposed to be part of our gift bags to the orphanage workers.
Oops…we just went by a crossing and the arm wasn’t down. Someone must have been sleeping on the job.
Well the battery is running out so I had better close for now. I’ll be sure to let you know how our visit goes, in the meantime…das vedanya.