Yes, it’s been over a week since my last post. There are a number of reasons for that, the main one being that I was in Kyiv for my EL Fellows Orientation last week. A number of you have asked me about the spelling, so let me explain: Kyiv (“Keev”) is the politically correct form since it corresponds to the Ukrainian pronunciation, whereas Kiev corresponds to the Russian pronunciation. It’s a similar issue with Ukraine; if you say The Ukraine, you are treating it as a region of Russia rather than as its own country. All political issues, but politics between Ukraine and Russia being what they are, these carry a good bit of significance.
So, back to Kyiv. I was there from Tuesday until Sunday, and it was a busy time, but a wonderful experience to be with colleagues. I’ll do another post shortly about my time there, but let me just tell you about getting there.
I took a jitney (known as a “marshrutka”) from Cherkasy to Kyiv on Tuesday afternoon. A marshrutka has a set beginning and end point, and then it also picks people up along the side of the road on the route and drops them off wherever they request. A man might get picked up along the way, stand by the driver, and get let off at a dirt road a few miles up. The seats were quite comfortable, and I felt a sense of peace as I sat there, knowing that I did not need to worry about what I was doing for the next 2 hours and 45 minutes and could just look at the fields of spent sunflowers out the window. That’s about all there was between here and Kyiv, with some villages and various rest areas along the way.
Olga, my counterpart here, had kindly taken me to get on the bus, where she asked the driver for a receipt for me, told him not to put anything else on top of my bag, got on the bus with me to make sure I got a good seat, asked me if I knew where I was going when I got off, and reminded me not to forget my bag. She’s like my Ukrainian mom — younger than me, sure, but I do often feel like the child here! She apologized when I said, “Thanks, Mom!” but I told her that I was truly thankful to have someone looking out for me. She was also good enough to let me know that we would stop at some point along the way where passengers could use the restroom and get a cup of tea. So, I was totally in the know when we did stop, and took care of my needs (including grabbing an unfortunately conceived mango-flavored Bounty bar and some not-very-tasty wafer cookies) with about 30 seconds to spare. Living on the edge!
When the marshrutka came to a stop and most people filed off, I took my cue and picked up my heavy duffle from the back. All I could see around me was a parking lot with buses and snack vendors, but by pronouncing “Metro?” with my best Russian r, the driver pointed the way (and looked at me a bit funny). Now, the metro in Eastern Europe is an experience that brings you close to the core of the earth. I believe that if a crack opened in the cement walls, molten lava would come bubbling out. Let me show you what it looked like on the escalator, looking forward and back from the same point:
The escalator also moves at double the speed we are used to — at least, it seems like that when you are jumping on — but then again, if it didn’t, it would take too awfully long to get to and from Middle Earth.
Once I got to my station, I found and checked into my old buddy, the Hotel Ykraine. A different room, but still with a good view of Independence Square. I met my co-fellow Melanie from Georgia at the hotel entrance, and we had a cathartic late-evening dinner at the hotel restaurant, sharing stories of unsuccessful shopping experiences and life as an illiterate.