This is a long, detailed description of our first adoption trip to Ukraine–a place that is so different in some ways and so alike in others. I am proud of myself for surviving and grateful to God for his peace and my husband for his patient and adventurous spirit. Thanks for your prayers and support.
TRAVEL DATES: November 15-21, 2015
I am a world traveler. Well, I am now. Cedar Rapids to Minneapolis to Amsterdam to Kiev. Always wanted to go to Europe–and now I have!
From 35,000 feet: Gorgeous sunset over Eastern Europe.
My traveling honey.
This battery-powered fan was a life saver on this trip.
We arrived in Kiev and found Alex, our in-country facilitator at the airport. His English was good and he answered a lot of our questions on the 45 minute drive to downtown.
First stop was at a local grocery market. We loaded up on bread, butter, cheese, crackers, cereal, milk, yogurt, and a bottle of wine. I think we spent like twelve dollars.
Then he drove us to our apartment. It was beautiful with a gorgeous view.
view of Khreschatyk Street
God was amazingly merciful to me on this trip. I slept peacefully every single night. That is a miracle for me! We woke up for our SDA (State Department of Adoption) Appointment at 10 AM.
The appointment only took about 30 minutes. During this time our facilitator and the SDA worker spoke mostly in Ukrainian. That was frustrating because I thought, “Why do we have a translator, if no one translates?” That would become such a common frustration, I just stopped wondering.
We signed our names on two different pages of the SDA ledger. I believe what we were signing for was 1. Acknowledging they shared with us the original facts and documents about the boys’ placement in state care. 2. Declaring we want to adopt those boys and therefore request a visit with the officials at their places of education.
Before we knew it the appointment was over and we were told to wait a few hours for our “Referral.” As best as we figured the referral is an official letter to the various schools saying we’re legit.
Outside the SDA building
St. Andrew’s Cathedral
Famous Ukrainian movie stars
Jeremy wanted to spend the afternoon “sightseeing.” He reassured me that he had studied the map of Kiev for hours the night before and he knew exactly how to get us back to our apartment. Again, miraculously, I trusted him. I’m so glad I did.
We visited Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti). I strongly encourage everyone to watch this documentary on the 2014 revolution “Euromaidan” that occurred in Ukraine on the very streets we walked.
This is a covering over a building that was burned during the revolution.
Cossack Mamay monument
200 foot Independence Monument “victory column.”
Hey! That’s us!
Beneath the glass dome is an awesome upscale mall.
We stopped for dinner at a chain Italian restaurant that we were told “Americans like that place.” We did. Viva Oliva was delicious and like everything else in Ukraine, affordable. We ate there on our last night in town as well.
Divide UAH prices by 25 to get approximate USD.
Turkey filet with cream sauce, mashed potatoes and sweet pepper.
A bottle of red.
Coffee always served with this sweet coconut flavored crispy dough ball.
Next day we met another facilitator, Lisa. She has been our point person in Ukraine ever since. She is very kind and has become a friend. She explained that we would need to get permission from the directors of the 2 schools we wanted to visit. We were starting with Sasha’s school (university = grades 9-12) in Kiev.
While we waited for our documents to be copied to be given to the school inspector, we did some underground shopping. Literally there are shops under ground–the street crossings for pedestrians go under the street. Jeremy bought a new leather belt. And then he got a snack at the Corn House. Who knew a cup of canned, buttered corn was a great treat?
Eventually we were able to visit Sasha at his school. This was the first we’d seen him in nearly a year, although we’d spoken over the phone through our interpreter Nina many times.
Sasha’s school. Walking ahead: school inspector and Lisa.
Sasha was planning on coming with us the next day when we met up with his brother at the boarding school. We were trying to talk him into just coming with us to our apartment for the night. But he was insistent that we come to his apartment. Unbeknownst to us, he had people waiting there to meet us.
I won’t go into all the anxiety of going to another part of Kiev after dark and HOW WILL WE GET HOME? Our driver took us there, warning us to watch our wallets but Sasha’s pastor said he’d bring us home. So off we went!
It will need to fall on another blog post to tell all about how amazingly blessed we were by meeting Sasha’s mentors, pastor, flat-mates, and friends. If you want to make a real difference in real kids’ lives, give real American money to Open Doors Fund. They are changing the destinies of orphans in Kiev.
The next morning, we met at 8:00 to travel to Vova’s orphanage/boarding school.
But first, a stop for coffee. Mobile coffee trucks are EVERYWHERE. And they are awesome.
Mobile coffee trucks line the streets.
Honestly, one of the best cups I’ve ever had came out of the back of this van.
Then we begin the 2.5 hour drive through the country. Driving impressions: Drive as fast as possible until something or someone requires you to momentarily slow down.
MISTLETOE! It’s a parasite that grows in trees. Kiss on!
Skvyra–Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Skvyra–An important dude of Ukrainian importance!
We stopped in the village of Skvyra to pick up the school inspector for Vova’s school. She rode with us to visit the school.
Here’s a map of Kiev to Bila Tserkva to Skvyra to Velykopolovets’ke. It was a wild ride!
Reunited! Once we found Vova, we met with the school director who seemed to be trying to talk him out of coming to America. In the end he said, “I’m going.” Thataboy.
So grateful for the folks who work in this school and provide for the needs of these kids who are so hopeless and so alone. We are honored to be able to reach into this place, grab a couple hands, and pull them out. Yes, we’ll keep providing for their needs–but they need a family. We can do that.
Father and his sons
Here we are !
Jeremy, Sasha, Vova
A pretty building
Me and Vova
Our interpreter let us know this day that we need to decide TODAY what we want their names to be on their birth certificates. This was a huge decision, suddenly thrust upon us to hurry up and decide.
We had a meeting with the boys about this. More to come on that–suffice it to say, they will be receiving new names when they join this new family.
Next day while we waited for papers to get notarized, we walked to a McDonalds. Coffee was good. Burger was so-so-o-kay. Fries were everything I remembered after many years of not eating McDonald’s!
Then we were done with the official stuff that had to happen on this first trip. Jeremy still had some exploring he wanted to do so he asked to be dropped off at the University Metro stop so we could see St. Volodomyr’s Cathedral.
Ukrainians are NOT afraid of color!
After viewing that spectacular site, we took the metro back to our apartment. This is me. Following my husband with a trusting spirit. Because every word looks like gibberish to me. I. am. so. lost. here. For example the letters below spell UNIVERSITY. I can’t tell you how out of control I felt this whole time yet how safe in God’s hands I felt.
We got on a plane one day early. The U.S.A. and The Bushlack Home were calling to us. We were ready to go. Speaking of “going,” the Amsterdam airport is very interested in customer satisfaction. They provide little kiosks for you to rate your experiences at security, restaurants, and yes, even, restrooms.
One more quick moment: The “Tulip Fairy” of the Bushlack family got a small tulip surprise from this airport shop:
Of course buying tulip bulbs meant now we had something to declare at U.S. customs. 😦
One day we went from Kiev to Amsterdam to Minneapolis to Cedar Rapids.
And just like that, we became world travelers. There and back again. Only two more trips to go.