Ukraine–“I’m heeeere”

I made it.

I absolutely could not sleep at all last night. My bus for the Rome airport was to leave at 6:10 a.m. I made certain not to drink any caffeine or eat any chocolate after 5:00 p.m. I had no nap. I found myself fading. Yet I still fell asleep around 3:00 a.m.

I have got myself so conditioned to thinking that I’m going to screw up a trip that now I don’t fall asleep. As a result, I was exhausted on the bus trip to Rome. The day was beautiful, sunny and warm as we drove through the mountains. The sun shone in on me through the bus window and I found myself nodding off. But not enough to catch any real sleep.

We arrived at Fiumicino Airport a few minutes early so I had plenty of time to grab a bite to eat and surf the Net. The wait for the flight to Ukraine seemed to take forever. Eventually, though, boarding time came. Unfortunately, we sat on the tarmac for nearly an hour which got us to Kiev an hour late. I still had enough time to make it to my connecting flight to Lviv.

I purchased several pounds of Italian and French cheeses, Italian espresso ground coffee, Italian sausage along with Swiss and Italian chocolate bars and three bottles of Italian wine to take to Ukraine. I was concerned that, at customs, an official would open the suitcase, see the loot and confiscate it all (and probably put it in his briefcase to take home). Rather, when I arrived in Kiev, my bag went straight to the connecting flight to Lviv. No one in customs stopped me as I walked through to get to my departing gate. I was golden.

The food was purchased for my the family of my brother’s girlfriend. Since her parents will be hosting me for several days in Odessa, along the Black Sea, it was only appropriate that I bring a few tokens of my esteem. Due to the economic crisis in Ukraine, some things are in short supply–among them the delicacies that I take for granted every day in the grocery story–cheeses, salamis, coffee and wine.

The chocolate bars are offerings to the clerks who help me with my genealogy research. In reading about genealogical research in Ukraine, I found out that it is customary to give a small token of one’s esteem to someone for helping. I spoke to Edward, my Airbnb host and he said chocolates or ceramic pieces would be fine. I opted for chocolates because it would be more of a delicacy that can be enjoyed rather than a trinket for a shelf.

I was thankful that I got all my smuggled goods into Ukraine with no problem. Immediately upon my arrival in Lviv, I phoned Edward my host and he called a taxi company to have someone pick me up. As I exited the terminal, taxis were lined up with cab drivers all shilling for business. Within five minutes, my cabbie had arrived and within fifteen minutes after his arrival, I was at the apartment of Edward and his wife. A fifteen minute cab ride to the center of Lviv for–$2.58. Including tip!

Edward is a thirty-one-year-old man from Seattle who spent his earlier years traveling the world with the military. He lived in Iraq and Kazahkstan. He’s traveled all over Europe. He ultimately opted to move to Lviv where he met his wife. They now have a seven-month-old daughter.

Upon my arrival at the apartment, Edward showed me around. I have a large bedroom-office upstairs with lots of privacy. I was starving so Edward had some cabbage rolls and beet salad ready for me and it was delicious. We sat up until midnight chatting and getting to know one another.

He is a wealth of information, knowledgeable about this area and a delightful person, with a generous heart. I am going to like my time in Ukraine.

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