Our sweet facilitator spent the night in our apartment last night and we were all three picked up at 4am to drive to a larger train station almost 2 hours away. (It can be difficult to get tickets on short notice, especially in the smaller stations...facilitators have connections and can get around in this system in a way no traveling American could ever hope to.) Since the facilitators usually don't live in the region the families are adopting from, they often live with the families in the apartment during the process to save money. Families do, however, have the option of renting a separate apartment for the facilitator, but it's then twice as much money per night. Just interesting info. :)
Our drive was so beautiful. I loved it last time we traveled it, too. This country is just so, so beautiful and fertile. I've never seen anything like it...the soil everywhere is rich and dark. There are fields and fields and fields of corn, sugar beets, and other crops. The morning mist gathers in the little valleys between the hills and rests on the green crops until sunrise.
We experienced a sunrise that can only be compared to something you might see on a National Geographic program about the African savanna. Here is a very out-of-focus picture because we were traveling quite rapidly down the road, but I'm posting it so you can use your imagination! It was one of the more spectacular things I have ever seen.
We arrived early at the train station and waited for a little while. We were AMAZED at the changes that had been made since we were here just a few months ago. The whole country has been turned upside down because they are hosting the Euro soccer championship and all the games leading up to it. (Ukraine is out of the running, by the way) Train stations and airports have been added onto, revamped and redone. There are flags and signs and souvenirs for the championship everywhere. One other thing that was done was the addition of two brand-new express trains. Just two.
|This blue train is what we're used to riding on.|
Notice the Euro 2012 signs...they are everywhere in the hosting cities.
Upon arrival at the station, we went to wait under the new, glass pavilion area and found this beautiful, silver, shiny train outside. We didn't imagine it was ours, but it was!
There was more leg room than an airplane, it had reclining seats with headrests that curve around and let you rest your head for real. Each seat had it's own retractable food tray and foot rest, several different cup holders, reading light and OUTLET! *gasp!* There were TWO bathrooms in each car with actual flushing toilets, water and soap dispensers and an electric hand dryer...you know the wave-your-hand-in-front-and-it-turns-on kind? The doors between cars are all glass and slide open when you push the Star-Trek-like button on the side. There is even a refreshment car and movie screens that play a loop of pictures of different cities in Ukraine..no music videos or porn! Best of all...A/C, clean windows and no smoking allowed! Honestly, I kept saying "wow, wow, wow". Our facilitator was like a kid in a candy store...giggling for quite a while. If you've never been here, you're thinking I'm crazy for making such a big deal about this but you have to remember...we're not in Kansas anymore! Literally.
|We've been asked to keep the identity of our facilitators off the blog, so just focus on the fabulousness of the right side of the picture instead. :) See the cool sliding door back there?|
I never posted what I wrote about the overnight train down to our orphanage region this last week. It was one of those memorable experiences that just HAS to be written about. It's not every day that a really conservative, modest LDS girl gets to sleep in a train car with two strange men who strip down to their underwear to climb into bed. The best part, though, was when those boys stopped up the only air circulation vent because they were cold. I fanned myself all night and didn't sleep very well, as you can imagine. (Disclaimer: They were fabulous young men with whom we will correspond. As you know, I can be a little dramatic. :) The anticipation of what we might encounter sharing a cabin with who-knows-who was a LOT worse than the reality of the situation. We were both SO grateful that our traveling companions were these guys instead of anyone else. We couldn't have asked for nicer people to be with...even if Volodia kept us up until 11pm playing a million games of Uno...with Vegas-like strategy.)
I'm sharing pictures I was able to take out the window of the fabulous express train. (Until riding on this, I have not been able to take any real pictures out the windows because they are so old and filthy...sometimes with condensation between the two panes.) I spent way too much time and way too much battery trying to get a good shot of the one thing I covet here. Their gardens. If you look closely, you'll be able to see their little fence lines, their perfect rows, their vegetables in rectangular bunches. They plant them everywhere...even between the housing area and the train tracks. All of them are equally well groomed and well cared for. They all look like they've been sprayed with Miracle-Gro since the plants were seedlings. Often, we'd pass gardens where little babushkas wearing their housecoats and scarves on their heads and standing out in their garden with a hoe. I could never capture that on camera traveling at 140 km/hour, even if the windows were sparkling clean! It's just something you're going to have to imagine yourself.
Here is a picture of a babushka in our orphanage region so you can really apply it to this picture in your mind. She looks like something out of photos from the early 1900s but she is literally here today. These cute little ladies are everywhere. When riding on the old trains, I feel like I've stepped back in time. It's as if the country folk and the train line were frozen in the mid-1900s.
|This cute babushka was overwhelmingly delighted seeing herself on our camera screen. She asked if she could have a copy of it for herself. We will, of course, oblige on our return trip!|
We road and slept on the air conditioned express train for seven hours. Upon arrival in Kiev, I realized how refreshed I was! I don't know that I have felt that good since we got here. No wonder people don't smile much in this country! A little a/c and comfort can do wonders for a person.