So the last few days have been a bit crazy, but I wanted to start catching up on what we haven’t updated on. We will continue chronologically. I apologize if some of these details get a little dull, but I’m trying to write down all the details we can, both for my memory and to share with our little one when they become old enough to hear more of their story.
SO! On the evening of December 2nd, we were picked up by some truly incredible friends of ours (who are watching Dumbledore and Toulouse in our absence) that took us to the airport. While most airports tend to get slow and shut down around 9 or 10PM, our tiny Guam airport isn’t one of them! At 2AM, the airport was packed with tourists heading home, restaurants were busy and there was no room to find seats in the waiting room. Seemingly, we were the only people leaving home as well.
At the airport in Guam, and ready for the next big adventure!
We took a Korean Air flight to Seoul, and by the time we landed at 7AM, our internal clocks were scrambled enough that we were ready for lunch! Incheon Int Airport is gigantic and we had a beautiful Korean lunch for breakfast. Unfortunately, flying East to West seemed to mean fewer flights so we had a LOT of time to kill during our 7 hour layover.
Now here’s where the fun begins: when we booked our flights to Kyiv, the majority took the route of Guam –> Seoul or Taipei —> Amsterdam, Paris or Frankfurt –> Kyiv. There was a real steal of a one-way flight, however, that went through Kazakhstan. It involved taking an airline we had never heard of before (Air Astana) and flying through a country we were very unfamiliar with, but the price difference was more than enough to urge us to book that route.
Admittedly, before we traveled, I didn’t know much about Kazakhstan, other than the Kazakhs had a strong tie to horses and that Borat was filmed there. I didn’t have any expectations regarding our two flights on Kazakhstan’s main airline, Air Astana. To us, we just needed to get from point A to point B the cheapest.
I am here today, however, to say that Air Astana offered the best coach flight I’ve ever been on, and if anyone happens to find themselves traveling through Europe to Asia, I highly recommend booking through Air Astana. From the moment we boarded, traditional, peaceful Kazakh music was playing over the speakers. Our seats had more leg room than usual and were donned with goody bags filled with blankets, pillows, slippers, ear buds, shoe bags (while you wore slippers), toothbrush and toothpaste, lotion, and ear plugs. The flight attendants each spoke 5 languages completely fluently (Kazakh, Russian, English, Korean, and Chinese were ones we heard) and seemed to have the social grace of an ambassador. And the food!! For airline food, it was delightful. Hot meal choices of beef stroganoff, turmeric chicken that included fresh salads, desserts, olive plates, etc.
Air Astana was a highlight in our very very long travel day (32 hours, including layovers). While Kazakhstan was experiencing a blizzard at the time we landed and we had to trudge through the snow to get to the terminal, we were left with a very positive initial impression.
Finally, we arrived in Kyiv at about 9:15PM. The passport process and baggage pick up were both a breeze and soon, we found ourselves exiting the airport to see a man waiting with “Ryder” on a sign. Niko became the first introduction to the team we would be working with in Ukraine. He spoke perfect English (and 7 other languages), and ushered us into his car to take us to the apartment we’d be staying in in Kyiv.
On the way, Niko stopped at a 24-hour deli, so we could pick up basic necessities like water, and food. We ended up with a sampling of varenyki (Ukrainian dumplings filled with anything from meat, pickled cabbage, onions, mashed potatoes, and the list goes on).
Apartment buildings (from what we’ve seen so far) can be a little deceptive. The outside may look a little run-down and the entrance may seem slightly scary, but the interior of the two apartments we’ve now been in have been wonderful. Due to the number of people traveling through Kyiv at this time of year, we ended up with a 2-bedroom apartment in Kyiv that was located very close to the Department of Adoption and Child Protection (DAP), where we would have our ministry appointment on Tuesday.
Beds in Ukraine all seem to be rather close to the ground too. Mattresses are firm, a bit like Japanese futons, but are raised 6-8 inches off the ground on platforms. We contacted family and easily fell asleep in our exhaustion from the longest day ever.
(More on Kyiv and our DAP appointment to follow!)