Welcome to Kyiv

Our first two and a half weeks or so in Kyiv have been a whirlwind of activity. I started Russian lessons, explored the city a little, and my husband started his job. To say the least, we have definitely been busy!!!

My husband’s supervisor met us at the airport with a big SUV for our many bags. We cannot thank her enough for what she did for us that day!!! She took us to our temporary apartment right in the city center and instructed us on how to use the washer, dryer, etc. and also pointed out some sites and stores to check out along the way. She also bought us some groceries (meat, fruit, vegetables, tea, honey, bread) to hold us over for a few days, which we thoroughly appreciated.

Luckily we arrived on a Friday, so we had a weekend to settle in and get over jet lag. We did a lot that weekend- We explored some of the sites (St. Sophia’s Cathedral, the Maidan, and Golden Gate Park, among others) and tried out restaurants around the area (we found a fantastic seafood restaurant, and Georgian food is highly recommended those who have never tried it before!). We also basked in the beautiful weather and tried to come to terms with the fact that we are finally living here now!!! In Europe!!!

The following week was busy with meetings for both of us at the Embassy, my husband jumping in right away with his job, getting internet installed, and me finding grocery stores, dry cleaners, etc. in the area and getting essentials for the apartment that we did not take with us to post. UAB arrived Thursday of our first full week here so we were able to have our own pillows, towels, and the rest of our clothes and hangers, among other things. I spent a good portion of Thursday doing laundry and unpacking about half of the UAB and finding a place for things.

The following weekend was more of a recoup and rest weekend with a little sightseeing thrown in. The following week I started Russian lessons, had a hair appointment at a beauty salon, tea with other Embassy spouses, and discovered the wonders of online grocery delivery!! Yes folks, they can deliver groceries, household items, etc. to your door same day!!! It saved me the trouble of going to two or three different stores and trying to decipher what items are without the help of Google Translate.

From my limited time here thus far, here are my impressions of Kyiv:

1)It is very hilly. I have a feeling my legs will have nice definition by the time I leave here.

2)Most servers at restaurants speak English, there are English menus (or items in English) at a large amount of restaurants, and there are many signs around town in English. In fact, we stumbled upon a pub that had country music playing and U.S. memorabilia on the walls. A good amount of stores have workers who know some English. In general, I’d say this city is pretty easy to get around if you don’t know the language. If all else fails, use Google Translate.

3)There are coffee shops (sometimes multiple coffee shops) on every corner. Coffee is a big deal here and the locals really like it.

4) You can get pretty much anything you need here, you just have to know where to go. Yes, that includes peanut butter!! I found a lot of American brands such as Tide, Dove, Kleenex, Glade, Lays, Pringle’s, and Colgate, and also Barilla pasta and pasta sauce, and there are non-dairy milk and yogurt options here!!

5) The variety of cuisines in restaurants is noteworthy. There are French, Italian, Sushi, Ukrainian, American, Middle Eastern, Uzbekistan, and Georgian restaurants, among others.

6)Cost of living is sooo cheap!! Most things are about 1/2 to 1/3 the price compared to the U.S.

7)There are so many trees, parks, and greenery around here. Very lush and beautiful landscape.

8)Drawbacks/inconveniences- Appointments need to be made in advance for pedicures and hair styling. No walk-in places like in the U.S. Also, it takes 2-3 times longer to wash and dry clothes.

9)The streets are narrow (well, except for the main streets) but the sidewalks are wide. I suspect that is because the snow will accumulate in snowbanks on the sidewalks during the winter.

10) Food: more variety than expected in the supermarket. Right now, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, cucumbers, radishes, avocados, bananas, oranges, mangos, lemons, kiwis, and apples are the produce you will typically find at the grocery store. I do have to say that the potatoes are excellent here, along with the honey. I am starting to see street vendors selling strawberries. Other differences – if you order a salmon salad, you will probably get raw salmon (like lox) on your salad. And pretty much every salad has a hard boiled egg on it. If you order cheesecake, you just might get this:

Well, those are my first impressions!! I will have some follow up posts soon on the excursions around town that my husband and I have gone on in the past few weeks..

The Time Between Packout and Post..

As if the packout wasn’t tiring enough, I spent the following week on the go with a jam packed schedule..

First stop, Savannah,Georgia. Savannah has been on my bucket list for quite some time and it lived up to and even exceeded my expectations. The drive was not bad- around 6 hours or so. The city was quaint, charming, and full of cute restaurants and shops. I couldn’t go to the south and NOT have shrimp and grits, so that was my dinner.

It was everything I could have hoped for and wish I could have stayed there for a few more days at least! I hope to go back during home leave to spend more time in this charming city!!

From Savannah I drove about 10 hours to D.C. It was a loooong day and wish I could have planned better to break it into two days, but hindsight is 20/20 as they say.

I had one day to run some errands in D.C., then my husband and I went to up north for his brother’s wedding. It was a quick 48 hours and about 4.5-5 hours drive each way, but hey, at least I didn’t have to drive!!

My husband had two more days of training before we left, so I ran errands and checked things off my list of to-dos. Then, we were off for 24 hours in Paris!!

We ended up with three checked bags each in addition to our carryons. The red eye flight was uneventful. I attempted to sleep during some of the flight, but alas I did not get more than an hour of sleep. I think I was too excited for our day in the city of lights…

I traveled to Paris about 10.5 years ago with one of my best friends, and it was just as great coming back this time with my love. We were tired and jet lagged, but we did a lot of walking and eating in those 24 hours that we were there!! We had crepes, croissants, soufflés, sandwiches on baguettes, escargot, and great wine. What more can you ask for?

We needed that extra day to decompress and somewhat adjust to jet lag, and of course Paris is such a beautiful and wonderful city to be in, so why not?? Paris is another city I definitely hope to travel to again- for more than 24 hours next time!!!

The Packout

Hi All! Now that I have a minute to collect my thoughts, I took some time to tell about the move overseas.

These past few weeks have been a complete blur for me. It all started about three weeks ago with the packout. Two days of backbreaking work, sweat, running around, and answering all the questions from the movers. We had professional movers move everything for us and a person came to clean our apartment after, but it was still two very long and exhausting days.

Day 1:

I ran to Dunkin Donuts to get food and coffee for myself and the movers. Two movers came to move our UAB and HHE, which for those who aren’t in the know of foreign service acronyms are Unaccompanied Air Baggage and Household Effects. We were allotted 450 lbs for the two of us, and arrives by air much quicker than HHE, which goes by the literal slow boat.

We had an area blocked off for UAB with stuff we wanted sooner – towels, pillows, clothes, some household goods, etc. Somehow we filled our 3 allotted boxes that the movers had for UAB but were still underweight by 80 lbs!!! I was pretty annoyed because I could have found 80 lbs worth of stuff to send if the movers would have had another box that we could have filled. I will have to plan better next time and put some heavy smaller items in UAB!

Word of advice- bring the towels, pillows, and hangers with you in your checked luggage if you can if you are going to post. Or mail them to post before you leave so they will be there when you arrive. Same with pans, cups and plates. Trust me on this.

From reading other foreign service blogs, I thought there would be at least 3 or 4 movers, but there were only 2, and they worked tirelessly with hardly any breaks from 9:30 – 4:30. I watched them carefully pack everything we were taking to post. We were also underweight in HHE by about 1,000 lbs!! This makes me feel better because it gives us a little leeway to buy some stuff in Kyiv. A chunk of that amount was also household consumables, so that will not be included in our next HHE.

I swept and cleaned as stuff was packed up, even though we had a cleaner come. There was an embarrassing amount of dust and debris and some items I thought I lost!! (Hello, earrings and necklace).

After day 1 I of course decompressed with a tasty beverage

Day 2:

Day 2 started out the same. This time there were 4 movers and it went much quicker. They started around 10 and were done by 2:30. It was bittersweet looking at stuff that will be in storage for (we believe) 18.5 years!! By then we probably won’t want any of the stuff, but hey, we’re keeping it anyways. Among the items in our HHE was furniture and precious momentos, as well as some camping equipment and bicycles.

After the movers left I raced to the cable company to return our cable boxes and came back in time for our house cleaner, who did a phenomenal job of making our apartment sparkling clean. I then checked in to my hotel later that evening and crashed hard after taking a well deserved soak in the tub in the hotel room.

It was mentally draining, answering questions about what stuff went where, keeping an eye on the movers to make sure they pack our stuff nicely (at one point a mover started to wrap a Kleenex box with about 2 tissues in it for storage. I literally had to remove it from his hands and say “that’s staying here, no need to pack this!”). It was physically exhausting cleaning out the fridge and pantry and sweeping up after the movers and scrubbing the walls and baseboards with Mr. Clean magic erasers. It was emotionally draining looking at items that I hope are shipped safely or that I won’t see again for a long time.

Even with all the emotions and physical drain of the packout, I have to say it went well with only a few hiccups, which is the best that anybody can hope for.

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