It’s Been QUITE Awhile. So Let’s Catch Up, Shall We?

It’s Been QUITE Awhile. So Let’s Catch Up, Shall We?

Even from across the ocean, my mom’s endearing nagging still has an affect on me. So, after getting on my case for the past month, I’ll cave to her demands and catch you all up on what’s been going on here since I’ve basically been MIA.

Here are the top 6 things that happened since my last post:

1) Went on my first day trip out of the city! Kaley, Carolyn, Luke, Devin and I all boarded a bus to Zhytomyr, a fairly big city about 2 hours away in the central part of Ukraine, to escape Kyiv for the day and see somewhere new. Zhytomyr is definitely different than Kyiv: much more “Soviet” – it was like stepping back 20 years in time. We started off the afternoon eating at “The Meat Restaurant,” a swanky little restaurant in the city center decorated kind of like a nightclub in a movie. After our meal (which was pretty tasty), we headed to our first destination: the Korolyov Cosmonaut Museum. Sergei Korolyov was a famous Soviet cosmonaut from Zhytomyr, so not only was there a museum dedicated to him but there was a massive statue of him and you can tour his childhood home! The museum was great – there were space chairs for people to try out, a lot of colored lights, some mirrors and rocket models, what’s not to love?!  And there were even two full-sized rockets outside! After the museum we walked around the city and came across a pretty awesome Lenin statue. And by awesome, I mean my Lonely Planet described it as Lenin emerging from a huge chunk of bedrock, basically making it sound like the Lenin version of the new MLK Jr. memorial in DC. Sadly, the description definitely amped up the awesomeness of the statue. The Korolyov statue was much cooler – especially when the two girls playing around it noticed Kaley and I taking pictures and decided to start posing for us. They were great little models! We finished out the day at a local coffee shop and then it was time to catch a bus home. Now, on the way to Zhytomyr, we took a charter bus: all was well and the ride was comfortable and quite safe. The same cannot be said about the ride home: we did not have the luxury of taking a charter bus. Instead…we got to ride home in a GAZelle…aka the scariest vehicle I have ever been. There were probably about 20-30 of us in this tiny van and the driver was INSANE. Imagine 2 hours of driving on the road’s shoulder, about a foot away from the guard rail (when there were guard rails), going super fast with sudden stops to let people on and off while an old black and white Russian movie plays on the van’s TV and you get the idea of how our ride home went. Needless to say, we were all VERY happy to make it home in one piece!

2) Got my first visitor from home! One of my friends from growing up, Sunnie, is currently coaching lacrosse in Cheltenham, England and came to visit me for a few days! We had a ton of fun walking around Kyiv – she got to try Georgian food, saw a ballet and got some great souvenirs – and catching up on what we’ve been doing the last few years. The best part of Sunnie’s visit by far though, was getting to see someone from home in person – definitely helped to keep the homesickness at bay.  It was really nice being able to show her the highlights of Kyiv and what Ukraine and Ukrainian people are like. And while showing Sunnie around, I definitely realized how much I’ve come to regard Kyiv as my city. It really is starting to feel like home!

3) Went to my first protest/rally! In November 2004, thousands of Ukrainians gathered on Maidan/Independence Square to protest the presidential elections and thus, the Orange Revolution was born. Basically, the election results were tampered with to declare Viktor Yanokovych the winner instead of Viktor Yushchenko. In the end, the protestors won out, another election was held and Yushchenko won the presidency. 7 years later, on November 22, people still gather for the revolution’s anniversary and Kaley and I headed down to the Maidan to join the crowds. Yanokovych is the current president and, understandably, wasn’t too thrilled people wanted to celebrate the Orange Revolution’s anniversary and, thus, tried to block people’s attempts to do so. In addition to these measures, there were pro-Yanokovych protestors there and LOTS of police officers in full riot gear (highly amusing moment: seeing Ukrainian police officers standing next to and ordering from a donut shop…some things are universal, I guess). Kaley and I heard different people speak about the revolution and lead the group in song. We also saw one very energetic woman dance around and thrust an orange in people’s faces to take a bite from (I took a bite from it!). After a few hours, the Orange Revolution celebratory group had tripled in size and decided to march from Maidan and try to take over Khreschatyk St. – which the police quickly prevented from happening. Overall, it was a very exciting afternoon and I enjoyed my first protest type of event :). To prep for the event the day before, Kaley, Carolyn and I watched a really great documentary about the revolution. Check out the trailer!

4) Celebrated Thanksgiving! The Fulbright office was really sweet and put together a super nice Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday for all of us American pilgrims in Kyiv :). They did a great job at making sure almost all the fixings were there, though I definitely did miss my aunt’s stuffing and my mom’s pumpkin pie. On Thanksgiving, Kaley, Devin, Ruth (another Fulbrighter who just recently got here) and I headed over to Carolyn’s apartment to join her and her friend from home, Zak, for dinner. We had to make-do with a chicken and had more desserts than one dinner party should ever need, but it was a perfect Thanksgiving dinner nonetheless. We had an amazing time together and I even got to Skype with everyone from home for a few minutes! Even though I missed the annual Alexander-Nolte Thanksgiving get together, I had a great time with friends here :).

5) Went to a remembrance march! From 1932 until 1933, millions of Ukrainians died from hunger during what is known as the Holodomor. On November 26, Kaley, me and our friend Maki joined hundreds of other people, if not thousands (I’m really bad at estimating numbers of people!), to walk from Arsenalna metro station to the Holodomor memorial (not too far away) and then stayed for a vigil. The walk and following ceremony were very somber yet very beautiful. We were all given a candle with a ribbon tied around it along with a ribbon to tie around our arm. Each candle ribbon had on it the name of a different child and their age who died during the Holodomor – making the experience that much more personal for me. During the ceremony at the memorial, different religious leaders gathered to lay flowers and wreaths and light candles, different leaders spoke and a choir sang beautiful, somber, hymns. As a third generation Holocaust survivor, a Virginian with lots for friends who were at Virginia Tech during the shootings and an American who clearly remembers 9/11, I have a deep appreciation for remembrance ceremonies such as these. Sometimes, language and cultural barriers don’t matter – even though I couldn’t understand what was being said and sung, I definitely understood the accompanying feelings. So far, this remembrance ceremony tops my list of the most moving and memorable experiences I have had here.

6) Went to my first Ukrainian Orthodox church service! Our Ukrainian friend, Yulia, and her boyfriend, Dima, took a group of us Americans to church at the Lavra this past Saturday. Growing up, all the church services I went to everyone sat in pews/chairs, sang hymns together and heard the pastor give a sermon about various topics that relate to God’s message. The Ukrainian orthodox service Yulia and Dima took us to was very different but extremely fascinating.  The inside of the church was beautiful – like all the churches I’ve been to, every inch of the walls were beautifully painted so mixed with the lit candles/low lighting, burning incense and priests in ornate robes, it made the service feel very majestic. At the start of the service, one priest stood in a small area in the center of the room and worshipers and monks approached him one by one, were anointed with small oil crosses on their foreheads, and then kissed his ring before walking away. During and after this portion of the service, other priests and monks read prayers (which sounded almost like chanting and was very pretty) and two choirs sang hymns. At different points during the prayers, worshipers would cross themselves and many bowed. It was all amazing to watch. While inside the church, the women all had to cover their hair (we all wore scarves so that was easy) and everyone stood, the entire time. The service we went to was an hour long – Yulia later told me they are usually two or more hours. I was quite thankful it was a “short” service that day!

Well, that is about it for what has been going on in my life for the past month and a half. I am going to Bykivnia tomorrow morning with Kaley, Carolyn, Maki, and two of our other friends, Aaron and Amy and then Kaley and I are off to the Western Ukrainian city, Lviv, to visit our friend Amanda for a few days! Hopefully, our first train ride is fun and uneventful – I will be sure to post about these upcoming experiences before I head off to Italy with the parentals for 10 crazy days!

Also, I’ve finally updated my photo site as well as this blog, so be sure to check those out as well!! Here’s the link: http://toukraineandbackthepictures.shutterfly.com/. Enjoy!!

Power Plants, Ghost Towns and a Healthy Dose of Radiation

Power Plants, Ghost Towns and a Healthy Dose of Radiation

I just realized that I haven’t posted about my trip to Chernobyl a few weeks ago with my roommate! So here we go and I apologize in advance for the length – I have a lot to say about this topic (it is what I’m here to research after all!!).

The Before:

Before going to Chernobyl, I didn’t know what to expect. Chernobyl is the reason I am in Ukraine in the first place – it’s why I got my grant to do research here. But even with knowing the specifics of the accident (for a brief background go here) and growing up involved in the Children of Chornobyl program it didn’t prepare me at all for actually going there. I didn’t know how I would feel, exactly what I would see and how this experience would impact my upcoming research. But in the end, seeing it in person translated what I’ve learned on paper into a completely new experience.

The During:

Kaley and I departed Kyiv early with a busload of other tourists from around the globe (there were some Estonians, Brits, Fins, Japanese, and an Aussie) for the two and a half hour ride to the Chernobyl area and Exclusion Zone. On the way there we watched a really good documentary about the accident and its aftermath, which definitely helped set the stage for the day.

After passing through a checkpoint to get into the area, our first stop was the Firemen’s Memorial. It was beautiful – built to honor the lives of the firemen who first arrived on the scene and lost their lives due to the radiation exposure. The plaque on it said “Those Who Saved the World” which sounded about right to me, especially because these men worked so hard without knowing how much danger they were actually in.

Our next stop was a quick photo op on the road to the plant with the entire Chernobyl Power Plant in the background. I didn’t realize how big the complex was – Reactor 4 (the one that melted down and actually caused all the problems) was on the very end. I think what struck me most was that everything there looked so…normal. I was expecting the plant to be scary and in my mind I had built it up that it was this grey, lifeless place that represented some type of a scar on the face of the earth. Literally, I pictured it as a scary movie set pre-technicolor film. Instead, everything there just looked normal and peaceful and it was an absolutely gorgeous day. And it really didn’t look any different from plants in the US that I’ve driven by except that it was no longer operating.

After our photo op, we drove to Pripyat. This was by far my favorite stop and the one that was the most haunting. Pripyat was a city built during the 1970s that housed almost all of the plant employees and their families. It was a thriving little town with about 50,000 people until the accident. Right after the accident, people were still allowed to play outside and go on with their lives, not knowing what had happened a few miles away (you can actually see the plant from the top of the Hotel Polissia in Pripyat). The entire town was told to evacuate on the afternoon of April 27, 1986 (more than 24 hours after the accident) and no one has returned to live there since. Apart from the tours that come through the area, it is now a Soviet ghost town. We were taken to 3 places in the city: the Hotel Polissia, the famous amusement park, and the gymnasium/swimming pool.

At the Hotel, our first Pripyat stop, we were allowed to go inside, explore and even climb to the roof to get a view of the entire city. There was broken glass EVERYWHERE and the place was just left to decay over time. What was pretty remarkable, though, was that the trees and nature have completely taken over the town. There were trees growing inside the hotel: through cracks in the walls and floors and on the roof. And all of the windows were broken, not from vandalism but from 20 years of weathering and no one there to maintain them. Kaley and I made a friend on the trip, Stefan from Australia, who said something that stuck with me. He pointed out that how in cities, trees planted along the road and planned parks often look out of place and like they don’t belong. But in Pripyat, it looked as if the buildings were the ones that no longer belonged and the trees had the right to be there. I completely agree with his statement – it was as if the roles had switched. Instead of civilization taking over, like it is everywhere else in the world, here nature was taking the opportunity to take over. But while I enjoyed the hotel, part of me doubts how much was just decay and how much was put there for the benefit of the tours. Did the TV really fall apart like that? And if so, where is the back of it? And there was artwork everywhere (it was basically graffiti but I thought it was really good, thus I deemed it Pripyat art): how and when did people come do that? There are checkpoints you have to go through to get into the area and the forests aren’t exactly something you would want to cut through…

After the hotel, we went to the amusement park which was my favorite spot of the day. When talking about Chernobyl, most people think of the infamous Pripyat Ferris wheel and amusement park that people still played at right after the accident. Imagine sitting on the Ferris wheel, enjoying a day at the brand new amusement park your government just built while there is a nuclear spill a few miles away releasing lots and lots of radiation and such into the air. SCARY. Anyways, the park was incredibly eerie, it was like someone just hit the pause button and everything froze for 20 years. The Ferris wheel was even in position waiting for someone to jump on board.

Our last stop in Pripyat was at the gymnasium/swimming pool there. We walked through the gym first: the basketball hoops were still up and there was an old team banner discarded to the side. Right before we got to the pool, we walked past a shelf where someone had left a notepad and pen to use as a guest book. I, of course, signed my name and where I was from – how could I not? The pool was pretty cool – it was filled with debris but the diving boards were still up waiting for someone to jump off and the lane lines were all piled in a closet off to the side.

Next stop was lunch (thankfully everything was NOT locally grown) in a new building nearby. The food was really great! I did figure out that I do not like borscht though – major yuck.

Finally, we ended the tour about 300 yards away from Reactor 4 for one final photo op. It was surreal to be standing so close to the worst nuclear disaster in history. There was a small memorial built where we were taking pictures which was nice but something so new, pretty and clean looking felt almost out of place so close to the remnants of Reactor 4 and the sarcophagus covering it.

Right before heading home, we stopped to go through radiation detectors and were warned by our tour guide that if we had too high of readings we might have to leave our shoes (I’m still not sure if he was messing with us or serious – either way, I thankfully still have my sneakers).

The After:

We got back in time for dinner (Kaley and I took Stefan to our favorite place: Varenyky Popeda – the 50’s themed spot). After we ate, we walked out on the Maidan to see a dance competition being taped and Khreshchatyk all lit up and full of life. I think that was the strangest part of the day: going from a completely deserted, overgrown area to a totally alive and vibrant one.

A couple days later, Kaley, Luke and I went to the National Museum of Chernobyl here in Kyiv which capped off our tour quite nicely. The museum had a lot to offer and see – with an entire exhibit dedicated to the children (I plan to make contacts at the museum over the next few months who will hopefully help me with my research). My two favorite parts of the museum were the road signs/city names they hung up in the entry hall – one side looked normal, listing the city in black on a white background while on the other side, it changed to the city name written white on black with a red slash across it. I didn’t think to count them but there were at least 50 signs there, each with a different town name on it. The other part I enjoyed was that the museum had a survivor speak that day (he was one of the workers at the plant). We heard him talk about how he and his family have to get regularly checked for different diseases and cancers. His presentation ended our trip on a somber, yet enlightening, note.

All in all, I am glad I went on the tour – it will definitely help me connect to my research on a deeper level and it was amazing to see something I’ve studied and known about for years in person. What sticks with me the most, though, is how hauntingly beautiful the entire area was. We couldn’t have asked for a better day and everything in and around Chernobyl was just so green and colorful. The area really was gorgeous yet the desertion and emptiness definitely served as a reminder of what happened.

I’ll post again soon (coming up: how my classes are going, MLIF – my life is Fulbright, and some pics of the crazy heels girls wear here in Kyiv!) – until then, thanks for reading and stay classy 🙂

And, PS: to see all the pictures I took, please go here! (Seriously, please go look, I’m quite proud of them!)

Exploration Days 1 and 2, New Finds and the Opera!

Exploration Days 1 and 2, New Finds and the Opera!

I will get better at posting more often – I promise!! This past week has been super busy: lots of sightseeing, discoveries and my first trip to the opera! Before I dive into telling you about everything, quick notice: I will no longer be posting pictures here. It takes forever to upload them and I just have so many that I would rather create albums for everyone to see…so…you can see all my pics through ShutterFly here: http://toukraineandbackthepictures.shutterfly.com/

Anyways, without further adieu, off we go to talk about the last week!

Last Sunday, Kaley, another Fulbrighter named Luke, and I spent most of the day walking around the older part of the city taking pictures and enjoying the sites. We went to the Maidan Nezalezhnosti first, then to St. Sophia’s Cathedral, walked across the street to St. Michael’s Monastery, saw St. Andrew’s Church whose teal and gold spires took my breath away and wound our way down Andriyivskyy Descent which was lined with tons of vendors selling beautiful crafts (definitely going back there for Christmas gifts!!). After a delicious lunch of sushi and fried rice, we went to the botanical gardens at Taras Shevchenko University (sadly, kind of a bust) and walked past St. Volodymr’s Cathedral before heading home. I loved getting to see so much of the city and will be going to take tours inside each of the churches we saw sometime soon – the outsides were amazing, I can only imagine what the insides look like!! After sightseeing, Kaley and I found my new favorite store: a grocery store in Arena City called Furshet. Basically, it’s the Ukrainian version of Wegman’s (there is a cafe/restaurant inside and everything). It definitely trumps the other grocery store we were using.

Nothing really happened on Monday so let’s skip to Tuesday! I went down to my university, Kyiv-Mohyla (didn’t get lost at all, thank.you.very.much.) and figured out what classes I want to take for this term: Introduction to Public Health, Ukrainian and Protection of States’ Rights in the International Court of Justice. While searching for the right people to talk to in each department I made some new friends. I think what amazes me most about this country is just how genuinely nice the people are when you talk with them. At Kyiv-Mohyla, the students and faculty were more than helpful, showing me to the right offices and making sure my questions were answered. When I stopped at the drugstore on the way home, the ladies there were extremely patient with me as I tried to explain that I needed a hairdryer (drawings were needed but we got there eventually) and when they told me their store didn’t sell it, they walked out to the street with me and pointed out a store that did. The people here are simply, just amazing. Dinner was my favorite part of the day though, when I met up with another Fulbrighter, Vivica, and we tried out an Uzbeki restaurant. If you ever have the chance to try out Uzbeki food, DO IT!!! We had a fantastic rice dish with lamb and really good dumplings filled with minced lamb and spices that you eat with sour cream. End with a chocolate and almond pastry at a local French cafe and you can’t ask for a better evening! Or wait…maybe you can…which brings me to Wednesday!

Wednesday, I went to my first opera at the National Opera House with Vivica, her friend Robert and Kaley. Before meeting up with everyone, Kaley and I grabbed dinner at an Asian restaurant (in Kyiv, they don’t really differentiate between the different Asian cuisines…Asian themed restaurants serve Chinese, Japanese, Thai, etc.) and it was delicious – definitely going back there. We met up with everyone and I got my first taste of the opera. I loved it. We had seats in the first row of the balcony so the view was perfect. We saw Iolanta by Tchaikovsky. Even though it was in Russian and I didn’t understand the lyrics, the music and actors conveyed the story so beautifully that the language barrier didn’t matter. I’m going back to the opera again tomorrow to see La Traviata by Verdi. Hopefully, we get the same seats.

Thursday and Friday I just ran errands, so onto the weekend! On Saturday Kaley and I went on a Chernobyl tour…yes…a tour to see the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster and the abandoned nearby town of Pripyat. It was beyond amazing, so much so that I will devote my next blog post to talking about it! On Sunday, Kaley and I met up with Luke, another Fulbrighter Devin and our new Aussie friend Stefan to explore Kyiv some more! We went to the Kiev Pechersk Lavra which was amazing. There were so many churches all in one place it was crazy! While there, we went through the Lavra’s famous caves to see the mummified Saints. Really cool (until I started to freak out when we couldn’t find the exit…that wasn’t so cool). Also a little scary when the caves are really cramped and everyone down there is holding a candle. Lit flame + small space + every woman there wearing a head scarf = fire waiting to happen. After the Lavra and some lunch we visited the Memorial to the Holodomor Victims (to read about the Holodomor, go here) and I plan to go back and see the museum there. We ended with the Great Patriotic War Memorial (aka the WWII memorial), which was massive and a little daunting. Though I loved the two painted tanks they had there – very cool concept: painted with flowers and children are allowed to climb on them – my guess is to promote peace.

Finally, this brings me to this week. I had my first day of classes (which I will write about separately) and on Wednesday Kaley, Luke and I went to the National Museum of Chernobyl (which I will talk about in my “everything Chernobyl post” next).

So, that was my week in a nutshell…sorry to bombard you with such a long post! I will get better about posting regularly in the future. Promise!

Ponies, Big Wheels, and Brides…Oh, My!

Ponies, Big Wheels, and Brides…Oh, My!

I feel like I’ve been slacking on the blog posting – I promise to do better and blog more! I feel like so much has happened since my arrival post! I am fully adjusted from the jetlag (thank God!) and have explored some more. I can definitely cross getting lost off my list of things to do in Kyiv as I got lost trying to find a building at my campus and wandered around the area for about an hour. At least I got some great pics out of it!

This afternoon marked the beginning of one of many exploration days (tomorrow will be number 2 as Kaley, another Fulbrighter named Luke, and I plan to have a “photo day” in the heart of the city). Kaley and I went to one of the museums next door to our apartment building, the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko Museum of Art. There was tons to see from Byzantine pieces to works from Japan, Turkey and Iran. The most remarkable thing about the museum wasn’t its exhibits though, it was who we saw there. Apparently, this is the place to be if you’re getting married. We saw 4 different wedding parties taking pictures and we were only there for about an hour and a half!

After the museum, we wandered across the street to Taras Shevchenko park to people watch and take pictures. Brilliant idea on our part. While walking around the beautiful park and eating some really yummy ice cream, we saw children running around at the playground, old men playing chess, cards and dominoes, a fundraiser for stray animals (Kaley and I both bought something), and children being led around on ponies. Wait, wait…ponies? Yup, that’s right. If you’re in the mood for a miniature horse ride, then head on over to Taras Shevchenko park. Ponies not your thing? That’s ok, you can also rent a big wheel type cart or one of those little Jeeps we all loved so much as kids (sadly, there were no Barbie ones). Just another day in the park, I guess.

 

 

After getting over my initial amusement with the ponies and the big wheels, it was time to check out the rest of what the park had to offer. Fittingly there is a huge statue of Taras Shevchenko in the center, right across from the university named after him. While wandering, Kaley and I made some new friends, too. We started taking pictures of the gentlemen playing chess and cards and a few of the men came over to talk to us. One thing I am definitely learning how to get better at is communicating despite a language barrier. This typically involves lots of gestures and pointing but it always works out for the best. This time, we were able to exchange names, get their blessing to take pictures and shake hands without much of a language problem.

 

 

Tomorrow I will post about our photo day adventure – till then, pro-shya-váy (bye) and dyá-koo-yu (thank you) for reading!

I Made It!!!

I Made It!!!

After a tearful good-bye with the parents, I boarded the plane to Munich for the long flight over the Atlantic, enjoyed a 5 hour layover in one of the weirdest airports I’ve ever been in, boarded a second plane to Kyiv and landed in my new city!

Kaley (my roommate)’s and my apartment is fantastic!!! It’s even better than the pictures our landlord sent us. We each have our own room (and the beds are mighty comfy) and there is plenty of storage for all of our stuff (probably a good thing since we’re both girls with 2 big suitcases full of clothes and shoes).

We explored the city some after I got in and it really is gorgeous! Within one night: we saw/heard a protest, found a great 50’s style restaurant, went to a drug store, crossed streets underground, got hit on by a weird guy and figured out how to get back home without getting lost. Pretty productive night if you ask me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today we are both still adjusting to the jetlag (I couldn’t stay awake, she couldn’t stay asleep) and went to the park across the street from our apartment building. We got breakfast from a vendor there (crepes with apples mmmm) and I even got complimented by the woman in line in front of me for pronouncing my order right! The people here so far are really nice – they can tell I’m trying at Ukrainian and smile when I get something right 🙂 Most of the people we’ve come across don’t know English or only know a few phrases but they try to help us (ie: lots of pointing at the pictures on the menu at dinner last night) and are really patient with us which is good. I’m already picking up a few phrases, so hopefully within 10 months, I will be practically fluent…haha we’ll see.

After breakfast in the park, we went to the grocery store and everything is so cheap! Only downer is we ended up buying Kaffir (a sour, milk drink) instead of regular milk, so, sadly, I will not be having cereal for breakfast tomorrow. The rest of today we spent unpacking and making our apartment feel like home.

Tomorrow we’re going to go by the Fulbright office and to our university (Kaley went on Monday, I need to check in) and back to the grocery store to buy actual milk this time! I can’t wait to spend days exploring the city with just me, my camera and a map though! Exploration day 1 will probably happen sometime this week – pics to come!

I have been orientated!!

I have been orientated!!

Sorry for not posting the past few days! I was at the DC Orientation for Fulbright, meeting everyone else who is going to Eastern Europe and Eurasia and getting tons and tons of information about the next 10 months!

Things I learned at orientation:

1) It’s Kyiv, not Kiev and it’s pronounced Keev, not Key-ev. Who knew?

2) I am not the only one going who doesn’t speak a lick of Ukrainian. Phew.

3) The Fulbrighters going to Ukraine rock! We all got along really well and have some really cool projects (one of the scholars is studying nationality through sports and is focusing on Euro 2012 – I want to get paid to study soccer!!).

4) Electronics are cheap and clothes are expensive. And be very, very careful about which ATM you use (ones connected to a bank: good. Free-standing ones: bad and most likely to be hacked).

5) Tons of us are going to be in Kyiv and 3 of us are at the same university, all studying political science! So, I will not be alone in my field, university and city – thank God.

6) Out of those 3, I found a roommate and travel buddy! Her name is Kaley and from the looks of it, we have found an apartment to call our own – fingers crossed that it works out – we’ll know within the week if it’s ours! Number one clue as to how I knew we were going to become fast friends: she looked at me and asked if it was bad that she already made a Google map pinpointing all of the museums she wants to visit in Kyiv. It was meant to be.

With the orientation answering almost all of my questions (such as what’s the best phone plan: Skype – $7 a month with unlimited calls to the USA), I finally felt prepared to buy my plane tickets and make it official!

So, I depart from Washington, DC on September 4: look out Kyiv, HERE I COME!!

Here we goooo…

Here we goooo…

When I started applying for a Fulbright grant last September, I never thought I would actually get it. I remember going through the process (which wasn’t the easiest thing I have ever done, let me tell you) and thinking “well this is a long shot…thank God I’m also applying to (fill in a company, organization, fast food chain name here) so I will actually have a job once I graduate and become a real person.” But, lo and behold, June rolls around and a nice little email pops up in my inbox telling me I got the grant and Kiev would be my home for the next 10 months. After a brief period of jumping up and down, crying, and calling/texting everyone I knew, it finally sunk in: I got the Fulbright.

Once I could feel all my limbs and remember my name again after the excitement of finding out, I had to start focusing on the journey ahead. Step 1: buy more winter clothes. Kiev is much colder than Virginia. Step 2: find somewhere that is selling winter clothes in the middle of July. Step 3: start learning Ukrainian. Step 4: settle for learning the Cyrillic alphabet. Step 5: well, you the get the idea.

As my “to do” lists started piling up, I decided to start a blog to keep track of my journey from Virginia to Ukraine and back. So, as my September departure (I don’t have an exact date yet but I will let you all know as soon as I do!) draws closer and my nervousness about the path ahead increases, I invite you all to join me as I take on the world (well, maybe just Ukraine) via this blog.

I’ll try my best to post often and I  guarantee a good story or two as I immerse myself into a new culture and lots of research.

So, here we go – time for my Fulbright dreams to become a reality!