I Knew I Was In Ukraine When

This post is meant to be a funny, anecdotal collection of some of my experiences here in Kyiv. It has been interesting and hilarious! …So, without further adieu, I knew I was in Ukraine when:

– we were in line to clear customs and the customs agent just left her desk. And never came back. We had to eventually realize this and go stand in a different line.

– cars that don’t feel like waiting in terrible traffic… don’t. They just drive on the sidewalk.

– Jaro asked our landlord about a cleaning service and he responded, “What? You have a wife.”

– we went to the open air market and it means exactly what it says. Raw meat, fish and cheese is just… Out in the open air. And no, it’s not on ice either.

– while attending the Kyiv vs. Donetsk futbol game, fireworks exploded. Inside the stadium. At first I thought they were gun shots, but then was only slightly relieved that it was just a bunch of pyros holding flares. They throw the burning remnants onto the grass and the security guards have to go pick them all up.

– we used the metro which is actually a system of old nuclear war bunkers that have been retrofitted. You know, where people could go to survive a nuclear explosion. I thought we were taking escalators to the center of the earth.

– while visiting the very popular Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Monastery of the Caves), we watched women in stilettos climb nearly 45 degree angle cobblestone streets. I think we sat and watched the suffering for about half an hour. Traveler Tip: This whole area was really quite beautiful and well-maintained. It is amazing to me how much respect is paid to to the deceased. I had to wear a shawl on my head and we all had candles to light our path through the caves. Very cool!

That’s it for the excitement this visit, thanks for reading!


An American Girl in Kyiv

Writing a quick entry to let you know how we are doing in Ukraine. Everything is pretty good! There are some major cultural differences between here and Amsterdam and I think that is just part of the experience of living in both eastern and western Europe – they are different! Here in Kyiv, from the people (lots of beggars and drunks), to fashion (lots of stilettos and acid wash) to the food (lots of “American” attempts #fail) to the architecture (lots of beautiful churches and then crumbling streets), it is a bit of a culture shock. It takes some getting used to it. Jaro and I spent the weekend exploring all over the city so the I could get to know my way around. Now that he is at work, I feel very comfortable on my own with our immediate surroundings. Key word: immediate. However, I do have a map and know how to use it. When Jaro was here in August, he found us an apartment off the main shopping stretch- Kreschatik. All the major designers have stores here. It is a bustling and very dangerous part of the city. Dangerous because of all the shops, of course. Thank you, Jaro, for finding something where I feel right at home! The apartment itself is very nice, completely renovated, clean and new. From the stairwell, you would never know… It looks like the stairway to hell. Like a war zone. Like the type that would inspire a horror movie. Also, the apartment across from us has a padded leather door, I’m pretty sure a mad scientist lives there. And yes, you can hear the political protests from our balcony. A man sits on a stage with a microphone and shouts. All. Day. Every. Day. Ahh, city livin’. I am having difficulty with the language, since it is a different alphabet. This was expected. Reading streets signs and menus is hard (okay, impossible), but some things have English translation which obviously helps a lot. Of course, I can read price tags so that gets me by! Jaro taught me some basic Ukrainian phrases over the weekend and we will keep working on building that. What makes it frustrating is the lack of Ukrainian spoken here – everyone speaks Russian. Poor Jaro tries to communicate with people and it’s a struggle. But, his Russian will get better (even though he really doesn’t want to resort to it), which will make things easier for us. So far so good with food. We’ve had a few misses (several “um… Let’s not finish that”), but overall we have eaten at nice restaurants. I will post more soon about things we have done and seen here. Again, once we get our computer I’ll be able to start sharing pictures via Flickr or Facebook. Thanks for reading!


Gracias Barcelona

We recently spent five days in sunny, HOT Barcelona! Had a great time with Jaro and some old friends of mine, exploring the city and seeing all sorts of stuff I didn’t see the last time I was there. Katie and Blake are a great couple that I grew up with that now live there. Cray! It was so comforting to see familiar faces. We got to experience the Catalunya Independencia celebration, which basically entailed a huge parade through the streets to the Arc De Triomf where there was a huge outdoor festival. Those Catalonians sure have a lot of pride. So much so that when you try to talk to them in Spanish they reply in Catalan (which I can’t understand, which probably means I can’t understand much Spanish either), or worse, English. But, at least they throw a good party. We also strolled around Parc de la Cituadella and saw a pretty impressive light show at the fountains of Montjuic. Katie and I even got to spend a day at the beach on the Mediterranean drinking beer and catching up. So fun! Traveler Tip: Yes the beaches are topless, but my top stayed on as I cannot compete with all those bronzed tits on the Med. The rest of the days, I was pretty much on my own and let’s just say, it will take some getting used to. I did some tour buses (and fell asleep like a homeless person on one), Gaudi architectural tours (very cool and worth the expense) and had many a meal sitting alone at tapas bars and cafes (its quite humbling to request a table for one). It was lonely some of the time and sometimes I just wanted to give up and sit in the hotel. Oh wait, there was no Internet or English TV. At all. So I didn’t bother.  But, I’m hopeful that exploring places will get easier as we travel around and I get more comfortable being the “foreigner.” 🙂 We did go to one of the biggest sporting events in the world – a champion’s league futbol game. FCB vs. AC Milan (thank you, Nike). It. Was. Insane. The stadium holds 100,000 people and every single seat was filled with screaming fans. For comparison, Soldier’s Field only holds 61K max. It was a very cool experience. Traveler Tip: The stadium only serves non-alcoholic beer (which everyone still drinks, weird), and you can smoke anywhere, including your seat. So I would imagine the nose bleeders probs felt like they were sitting in clouds.. Gross. All in all, we had a great time and I will post some pictures as soon as I get a chance. Gracias, Barcelona!

Amsterdam House Hunt, part een

Well, hallo there. I have some exciting news. Jaro and I had our apartment search with the relocation agency last week and it was a success!

We looked at seven places around the city and I could not believe the range of sizes and amenities we saw. Some teeny tiny, others colossal. Some about to cave in, others fully renovated. I am so surprised at what we can afford. And where we can afford it. At the end of the day, (can’t believe we were ready to commit after only a day), we were torn between two places and you won’t believe what we picked. We went with a 2-story, 2-bed, 2-bath, design dream for Jaro …. a LOFT!! It is huge, beautiful, spacious and sunny. We could have brought all our furniture from the States. Oh well, it will be fun to buy new things and decorate this place.

It’s the type of apartment we will not be able to have once we’re older with pets and/or children, so we are very excited to enjoy it while we can. Who are we? We even have our very own (enormous) rooftop. I hear it’s the best way to watch the NYE fireworks that explode literally all over the city. It is in the heart of the neighborhood we wanted on a quiet street between a beautiful park and a bumpin’ outdoor market. I cannot even explain to you guys how cool and how “us” this area is. Not that I think I’m cool… Anyway, we move in on October 1st, once our shipping container clears customs and we finally have all our own things.

Hooray for living abroad!


Corporate Housing

Hi all! This first week has been great so far. I’m sure many of you are wondering where the heck we are living since we don’t have an apartment yet. Well, wonder no more. We are in a minimalist/modern apartment on Valkenburgerstraat (yes, that is a street name and a fairly simple one at that) and overlooking the Uilenburgergracht canal. I included a map to show you in the following post. It is a really nice place, and is a good location for Jaro to get to the train and for me to wander around. We are really close to the city’s biggest flea market, Waterlooplein, which has all kinds of antiques and is a great people-watching site. It is also close to the house where Rembrandt lived and worked for most of his life. It’s a nice little pocket of the city, but not the area where we want to live. We start that adventure tomorrow- we have our house search appointment with our agent. House Hunters International goes to… Amsterdam (our own “episode” coming soon to a computer screen near you). Please wish us luck as we try to find our home.


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

mark twain