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Diary #1: The Trip

(Sept 6, 1998)

Hi folks,

We don't really know who all wants to hear (and see) about our trip but we're certainly willing to send our diary anywhere there's interest. That way we might get return correspondence. (My goal is to break down the messages to less than 10 pictures but even so, the volume may be too much. Tell us if you want picture-less messages.)

Anyway, our first installment covers "the trip". After two frantic weeks of packing we loaded up the borrowed truck (thanks Beau) and drove to the airport at 5:00am, September 4.

We had 17 boxes and 6 suitcases! I'm still not sure what all we did or did not pack - Gabby is staying in the house so we just took the things we'd want to get settled in our new country: clothes, computers and other necessities. We waved goodbye to Gabby and watched our boxes get wheeled to check-in.

I was surprised that United Airlines just took it all in stride -- they just gave us a bill that approached our personal air fare. Of course United cancelled our first leg. The agent said "good news, bad news" The flight was cancelled but we had been re booked on a flight that was scheduled 15 minutes earlier than our plan. This sounded just fine but he hadn't told us that the "earlier" flight was in fact over an hour late! Since our connection time in Chicago was only an hour and a half, this delay was some cause for concern. But it allowed Marianne a chance to call Gabby.

As it turned out, the San Francisco to Chicago flight was uneventful. It finally felt like we were on our way. In Chicago, Marianne had just enough time to call "home". Then we got on a completely full flight to Frankfurt. Our exit aisle seats had plenty of leg room and, all in all, it was just a long, uneventful flight.

In Frankfurt we had three hours to kill but at 6:00am there's not much to do but walk and sit. We did both. We also took pictures but for some reason Marianne and I look terrible so we will NOT send these to anyone! Finally, at about 1:00pm on September 5, we arrived at the Kyiv airport.

All 23 pieces of luggage arrived in reasonable shape. I think we had as much luggage as all the other passengers put together. The next hurdle was Customs. We smiled a lot, tried to follow instructions and just sort of muddled through. Marianne's rudimentary German served better than English. We "talked" with most of the folks at Customs and eventually, we were released. No taxes. Pretty amazing.

Marianne's school Director, Mike Tewalthomas, met her with flowers. It was very nice. He helped for the final step or two at Customs and, within an hour of landing. We found ourselves standing at the curb with four carts of bags.

Mike had a small van and Sasha, the school administrator, had a second one. It was just barely enough but we shoehorned everything in. The 30-minute drive to our house convinced us that Kyiv is really a large city. We drove past lots of industry and high-rise apartment blocks. The city itself is on seven hills and is quite dramatic (see later diary editions for pictures).

Ultimately, we arrived at our new (temporary) home. It's a one bedroom "TDY" apartment that the school arranged from the US Consulate. It is quite convenient since school is only 4 minutes away and it comes with everything needed for a short stay. Importantly, it has a phone (380 44-xxx xx xx) and Marianne could make her "safe arrival" call home. (So did I.)

Coming up: touring the city.

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Originally sent September, 1998. Edited for website May 11, 2001