I have a few minutes to update the last few days there.
I ended up going to the dentist 6 times while there. They were making me a new crown and it was supposed to be put on this Tuesday, but obviously that wasn't going to work out. So they put a rush on it the day we left and I went in twice that day, getting it put on an hour before we left for our train. And by the way, if you know my husband you know that he is...lets say, ahem, grivna conscious (cheap) and he made me WALK to the dentist on a Friday night on to Lenin Ave, which is VERY busy and about a mile each way...all to avoid spending the $3.oo on cab fare. Yes, that was hectic.
Alexander took us on another outdoor excursion, as he calls it. I called it crazy since it was cold and snowy and icy. He took us to a place by the Dneiper River that docks ships and in the summer months does cruise tours to the Island. It would be really beautiful in the summer. Not so much in February though. Then we walked to where there is an amusement park type of place, which wasn't running because of the time of year, but it was interesting to see all the old rides, I certainly wouldn't want to get on that ferris wheel, which in Ukraine is called a Devil's Wheel. But I was sure surprised when I saw a camel standing in the snow! And then a llama and donkey too! That was neat. Then we walked to a pretty little spot over a stream with a bridge and 2oo+ yr old oak tree's. Again, would be really nice in the summer time.
Then we drove over to where the ships dock and explored that a little. Alexander told us about when he was young he swam out to where the ships were and took the oval window out of it to make himself a telescope! He had to re-inact what he was trying to say because his English isn't good, but he was so funny. When he was showing us what he did he was tip toeing saying "I take..take..take..." I think you had to be there to get that it was really funny, but it was :)
That night we went to pick his wife up at her mothers house, we were all stuffed in his little car, and we almost got into a car accident. It was freezing rain again and there was a gas truck in front of us with a car in front of that. It was dark and we were going down an incline in the road, which is a WHOLE nother story..The roads there are HORRIBLE. Anyway, the car in front started doing a u-turn in front of the truck and we almost ran into both of them. But thanks to Alexanders awesome driving we managed to miss both! But it was scary. Seriously, who ever is going to Zap needs to get him for a taxi driver. He is the sweetest man I have ever met. He took such good care of us, just like he was our family.
The night we left for the train station, which is a very stressful part of the trip because there are a million people there, it was freezing, and its a 'rough' place to go. But the biggest stressor is that the train only stops for 5 MINUTES. Yes, 5 minutes, then it's gone. More about that in a minute.
Rich and Alexander went to check on our tickets to see where we needed to be. Alexander had us put our luggage in a circle and then stand all around it so no one would steal it. It was dark and cold and a Friday night, which make it even 'rougher'. He said people will steal the shoes off your feet! So anyway, when they went to check on where we should be, the kids and I were standing around our luggage, trying to blend in. Then 4 guys started beating the crap out of another guy right next to us!! I kid you not. I have never seen anything like it in real life before. They had him down on the ground kicking the heck out of him, his face, his whole body. Then they drug him up and were punching him. I was staring, the kids were staring with their mouths open and it was a little freaky. I was hoping someone would DO something to stop it, but no one did. It was terrible. Then the guy got away and ran off. The thugs were then walking all around us hollering something. We just tried to ignore them and again, *blend* in.
Then Alexander and Rich came back and we told them what happened, and then a totally DRUNK old, old man comes up to us and starts talking and talking in Russian. Alexander tried to get him to move along, but he wasn't moving. He was so drunk. We gave him some bread and I dug out my change and gave it all to him. He was so happy he started crying and hugging me. Let me tell you, its a HARD life in Ukraine. That's the biggest thing we got out of the trip. These people have so little, and so little hope of anything getting better. So they all drink, and the women are so...lets say, 'desperate' looking. It's a hard life.
So then we carried our insane amount of luggage (which I will NOT do again) to where we thought we needed to be. Many MANY stairs and a long walk. Then Alexander went to make sure we were in the right spot and he was gone a few minutes and we see him RUNNING back to us. Rich thought, "oh Sh*t" we're in the wrong place and it only stays 5 minutes! So we had to book it to the right place and got there as the train was approaching. Everyone started running to where it would be stopping because they all knew the 5 minute thing. But we had the absolute last car on the train, so we had to go ALL the way down to the end of the train. Again, very cold out, dark and we are so worn out from all the stairs and luggage. Alexander took Lindsey and was way ahead of us. By the time Rich and I made it down to the end with Alex, we were the last ones outside the train and we thought they were going to leave with out us. But Alexander met me where I needed to get on, and it was so rushed, I gave him a big hug and he was gone. He was worried it was going to leave with him on it! But I didn't even know where Lindsey was, or if she was on the train. It turns out she was in a different car, and we eventually found her.
Ok, words of advice here, if you are going on the train, try to AVOID getting the very last car. Think of a snake and how the tail end goes all over the place.... well, lets just say it was a VERY bumpy 11 hours! No sleep. 5 people, VERY small space and felt like we were in a storm at sea!
So, we got all situated on our cots and we still had the door open because we needed the air in there...again, 5 people, small space....need I say more. Anyway, a young guy walks by our door and stops and pops his head in and says in broken English, " do you know what car we are on?" and he's eying us up...it was weird. Rich just stared at him a second and said "#12" and the guy walked away. Rich said he felt like saying "dude.. if you don't even know what car you're on, you have some issues" It was funny! But we shut the door and locked it after that. We thought maybe he was sizing us up.
So we ate our bakery goods we brought with us and it laughed about what a crazy time we have had. They had sheets and a little hand towel for us to use and Lindsey joked that she was going to bring it home as a souvenir. We said, "NO your are not!" but didn't think much more about it. Then the next morning when we got off the train we lined all our luggage up in the snow outside the train and looked around for our facilitator, which wasn't there. We were debating what to do when a train worker came out and had a hand towel in his hands. He holds up 4 fingers and says in very broken English, "there were only 3 on the train" he then pointed to all our luggage (10 peices in all) and wanted us to open up everything and look for that stinkin towel! At that point Rich just shook his head and said " I'm not opening them" and the guy kept pointing to the bags. It got weird. It was a stand off between Rich and this guy, which didn't look like he liked Americans at all. Then Rich got out some grivna and said "how much" the guy shook his head and motioned towards the luggage again. Rich shook his head and held up the grivna. The guy got mad and just grabbed the grivna and walked off. I looked at Lindsey and said if she had that towel, I was going to wring her neck. She swore she didn't.
When we got home and unpacked, there was the stinking towel! She is in trouble for that one.
Then on the way home in Kiev, the little plane we had looked like a twinkie! It was so small and then they had to de-ice it over and over again. Not good. Then once we were on it we were taxiing down the runway and some guy directly behind me got on his cell phone. Dumb. The flight attendant came and was all excited and told the guy to give it to him, and the guy refused. The plane slows down and stops and the captain came on and said "there's a passenger in seat 18 who refuses to follow the rules of the airline and if he doesn't do so right now, we'll turn this plane around" The stinkin guy STILL wouldn't give his phone up. But a different flight attendant came and told him to show it to her and prove it was off. He did, so we continued with the flight.
That night in Germany we had another issue with our hotel room, and we thought we were all going to have to sit in the hotel for the night, it was stressful, but it got worked out. Our luggage however, did not stay in Germany, so we had NOTHING but my purse. Not good.
The next morning on the flight, there was ALOT more de-icing, it took about 40 extra for the de-icing. Luckily I was pretty much over my fear of flying by that point. :)
On a happy note, in Chicago the flight was overbooked, so they asked if anyone wanted to change their tickets and take a later flight. We volunteered, but they only needed 3, so Shane and Lindsey took the regular flight and Rich and Alex and I took a later one. So we got 3 FREE ROUND TRIP TICKETS ANYWHERE IN THE US! That's huge for us :) Very happy about that.
I think that's all. Can't wait for the continuation in a few weeks.....