It’s official. We’re in Kiev.
We had to leave Kazakhstan for a few days to get visas for another year, and I have to admit I was really looking forward to a change of pace and scenery.
Traveling here was amazingly easy. Time difference? 3 hours. Flight time? 5 hours. Cake, I tell you, cake. At least compared with what it takes to get us all to America!
I think we are in the honeymoon period of culture adjustment, because Jake and I have been amazed at how friendly everyone is. We are used to the post-Soviet no-to-yes culture, but here the “no” is a lot shorter it seems, and the “yes” very jovial and warm.
Example? We were at the airport and needed to get a taxi to an apartment where we are staying. I asked a girl on duty how much a taxi should cost, since I knew the taxi guys would fully exploit my ignorance. She shrugged, and said, “how should I know? You’ll have to ask them.”
This is the “no” that I’m used to running into.
So I went on undeterred.
“Yes, but they will lie to me,” I said, fully expecting another shrug of the shoulders and an unconcerned look away.
To my shock, she said something like, “Yes, God knows what they will charge you.”
Then, after offering some amazingly-good cookies to my sons and myself, she said, “I will call a taxi for you.”
She called the taxi, negotiated with two companies to get the best rate, and then showed us where to change money and walked us out of the airport to make sure we got into the correct taxi.
I could have kissed her.
Actually, I did kiss her — which is way more culturally appropriate here than a good ol’ American hug!
As we were cramming all of us and our stuff (two roller suitcases, pack and play, stroller, etc.) into a toaster-sized taxi, I just had to laugh.
I sort of apologized, “This is funny a little bit,” not wanting to offend our driver.
He shot back, “This is not funny a little bit — it’s extremely funny!” and started laughing.
At the Kazakhstan embassy, however, it was back to reality as the officer asked why we didn’t have a copy of Jake’s contract, why we didn’t bring copies of our passports, etc., even though we’ve never needed this kind of documentation before and the consular website makes no mention of it. I kind of yelled at him, or rather, I spoke rather loudly in a sort of confrontational way, at which point he went ahead and made some copies of our passports with the copy machine right behind him and said we could bring the contract when we will pick up our visas.
I think I yell more now than I did when I lived in the United States, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Sometimes it gets things moving that would otherwise stall, but I still don’t know. Is it worth it?
The short story is we are supposed to get our visas Monday, which might leave us a few days to see the Black Sea. I’m very hopeful.
Here are a few pictures of us enjoying our time here: