Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day 19.3--Dr. Appointments and US Embassy

We were picked up at 7:30 this morning which was MUCH too early for a bunch of teens and preteens...especially when they don't go to bed on time.  Honestly, it's like a slumber party here every night and I have a harder time getting them to go to sleep than I do with my toddlers.  It's 10pm here right now and they are still wrestling and goofing off in the dark.  The Mom tone of voice is already being used ("Para spaht!" which means "Time to sleep!") so people are getting the idea that they'd better toe the mark.  After the catastrophic morning (okay, that's an exaggeration but wait 'til you hear the story), I would think they would be all over the idea of getting to bed on time.  I guess we're just too young to relate choices and consequences when goofing off is so tempting...

So, people crankily rolled out of bed at about 7:05, some choked down a little cereal, others inhaled it (give you one guess who that was) and Ruslan didn't get anything to eat at all.  He's had a little cold and I'm guessing that getting up early and being a little under the weather didn't lend itself to much of an appetite.  We were five minutes late getting out the door and I was trying to convince him to at least take a banana or yogurt but, like any Ukrainian, he stubbornly refused.  If I'd pushed it, he would have relented but he insisted he wasn't hungry.  I don't know why I didn't just take it with me anyway, but I didn't.  I was too concerned about the money I needed to make sure I had with me and the fact that we were already late.

The drive was silent.  No one spoke, no one wanted to be there.  Everyone was exhausted and kept to themselves.

The traffic was crazy.  The moment we parked and I set my foot on the ground, I had the horrible realization that I had left all the paperwork at the apartment...everything Marsh had signed and notarized so we could get their visas at the embassy.  What was I thinking???  Oh, yeah...money, breakfast, Ruslan, late cranky kids.  As a matter of fact, the night before when I was setting out the money I would need, it never even occurred to me that I needed those papers.  I sheepishly called the female facilitator because, honestly, the man intimidates me and told her what I'd done.  It had taken us almost an hour to get to the medical center and I knew my forgetfulness had to be costly in time and money.  However, she acted like it was okay and we'd be able to take care of it.  It was decided that Chris would go back with our driver and pick up the documents while I was in the embassy so we could keep our appointment.  Hooray for big, responsible kids!  They are literally like having another adult around.

We got to the medical center about 20 minutes late, but I determined that it wouldn't have mattered if we had been there on time because the person we were there to see didn't show up until after we had arrived. 

We sat in a long hallway, lined with chairs, that had doors all down one side.  It was like something out of a movie about the Soviet time.  The soul-draining flourescent lights flickered at one end of the long hall and women in white coats went in and out of doors, locking them as they came out and unlocking them as they went in.  The only thing that called us back to 2012 was the TV blaring an American infomercial that had been voiced over in Russian.  Since it was advertising ladies undergarments, I took it upon myself to brave the long hallway and go turn it off.

We were in there for almost two hours.  During that time, Ruslan had x-rays done and people were going from door or door and knocking and entering and leaving and speaking in hushed tones and through doors cracked part way open.  It was really uncomfortable for me because I didn't know what was going on, the kids were all exhausted, the papers were still at home and I realized that I hadn't mentally prepared for any of this.  It had taken so long to get to this point and the concerns about so many things were so long and so deep and it's just been so many days that I suddenly realized I was overwhelmed...and tired and homesick for my babies.

Later, I was called in to talk to the doctor and be present during the kids' examinations.  Nastia was first, all was well.  He filled out paperwork and explained a lot of things in English, for which I was grateful. 

Then, it was Ruslan's turn.  He came in with a bandage on his arm.  I realized he'd had his blood drawn and talked to him about it.  In his characteristically calm, "no problem" way he acted like it was no big deal and gave me a smile.  He was then examined and the doctor made the poor kid drop his pants right in front of me.  When I realized the doctor was going to request that, I hurried and carefully examined Nastia's paperwork on the desk and made it really obvious that I wasn't looking.  Like these kids haven't been through enough.  Sheesh.

Back out into the long hall, then into the cashier's office where we were barked at to wait.  I suddenly realized I needed the money I had brought and had just a little more than was needed.  I realized how unprepared I was for the experience because, though I had come with the money, I hadn't actually thought through paying it.  It felt like I was in a dream.

Out the door we went and back into the car.  It wasn't long before we were off the highway and onto a more private road.  My facilitator (the intimidating man...who is really very efficient and knowledgeable, he's just an Ukrainian man in every respect) called to ask me if Chris and Patty had their passports.  Oh yeah, those too.  When I looked back to ask the kids about their passports, I saw Ruslan.  His face was this weird yellow color, his eyes were dark as was the area surrounding his mouth, but his lips were white and his eyes were half-mast.  He looked like he was going to die.  I was shocked enough to warrant an "I fine, I sleep" from him.  My brain was putting it all together...no food, no drink, blood drawn...and my next question to my driver was, "Is there a store nearby?"  All I could think of was to get some juice into the kid. 

One ear on the phone, two eyes on the kid getting ready to pass out and Nastia yells, "Mom!" and grabs her throat.  I asked the driver to pull over and just in time, she's out of the car before she throws up on the dirt.  I asked my facilitator to wait because I had carsick kids...and does he know where a store is???  His response:  "There is nothing around there.  You'll just have to wait.  Yes, she's throwing up.  That happens."

Okey dokey, thanks.

My driver pulls out some paper towels for Nastia which she leaves on the ground, Ukrainian-style.  I pick them up, American-style, and off we go again.

Ruslan is bound and determined to be a man and won't let this little blood sugar issue lick him so he decides to look a little perkier, but I'm scared to death the kid is going to die on me.  As I exit the car I asked Chris to get Ruslan a banana and some bread or something when he goes back to get the papers and passports, but it turns out that you can't take food in the Embassy, even for kids on the brink of death.  Great.  I'm 0 for, like, 4 at this point.


The kids and I are the only ones who could go into the Embassy.  No driver, no facilitators, nobody but us.  Oh, and no purse, no bag, no cell phone, no electronics...just passports and bodies and paperwork in hand.

I don't know what I was thinking, but I was really disappointed to find out that everyone working at the US Embassy with their American police uniforms with little American flags on their shoulders are not American.  I think I was hoping there would be some kind of party...you know, "Hey, welcome home!  We know you are just dying to get back to The States so we thought you could use a nice, friendly American-style welcome!  We're so glad you're here!" and no one would scowl or bark or look irritated at me and wish I'd go home.  Just a little piece of American heaven for a few minutes. Nope.

We're called up very quickly and we stand at the window while the papers are reviewed and forms are filled out.  Both kids insisted on standing with me, even though I was sure Ruslan wouldn't be able to stand much longer.  His color was better, but he was blowing his nose and shifting his weight.  I never could get him to sit down.  I thought maybe it was because he wanted to be a part of what was going on.

After forms were filled out and we had kind of come to a stand-still until the other papers arrived, the person helping me sent me to the cashier's window to pay.  My facilitator had said to come back out of the Embassy about 25 minutes after being dropped off so I could get the papers from the kids.  However, just as I had received my receipt and was heading back to my helper's window, a security guard escorts Patty and Chris to me and they hand me the papers.  It was the most perfect timing of anything that had happened that morning!  It was a relief, too...everyone was safely with me again and I had everything I needed.  (sigh)

I will just step aside from my story for a minute (which is almost done, don't worry) to say something about my facilitators and agency.  I don't know how to emphasize enough that there is NO WAY I could have done this without them.  I don't have any idea how anyone could do this without people who know exactly what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, what is going to be required, when it is required, where to go, how to get there...really, it's mind boggling. 

It's literally embarassing that I forgot the papers.  They handed me the packet which included all major adoption documents, originals and copies, birth certificates (which I didn't have to do anything with but put on my John Hancock on a few papers...didn't even have to figure out where to go or to get a driver to take me there), even two copies of headshots of Ruslan and Nastia (which I had no idea would be requested at the Embassy), all put together neatly in plastic sleeves and I LEAVE THEM AT THE APARTMENT??  I can't even be trusted to bring them where they needed to be with them perfectly complete, let alone complete them myself. 

Because of these capable people (whom I have determined work 24 hours a day/seven days a week), I am able to focus on being a mom in a totally new situation, in a forgein culture, and just make sure everyone is fed and safe and happy (if I have any control over that)...which, honestly, is probably more than I could handle without the Lord's help anyway.  So, kudos to my facilitators and coordinator and all the behind-the-scenes people who make my life easy so I can make it complicated by leaving things in places I shouldn't leave them...and then call them and beg their advice about my mistakes in the early morning hours!  You all should have a big "S" on your shirt!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled story...

We left the Embassy knowing that we needed to bring back the doctor's paperwork tomorrow afternoon (the blood work will be done and recorded by then) and finish out the process.  At that point, we're done and ready to go home.

Even though Chris and Patty brought food, Ruslan wouldn't eat.  But, instead of silence in the car, the kids were goofing off on the way home.  There was a tangible, literally physically tangible, difference in the feeling in the car.  On the way there, it was heavy and sad...on the way back, it was obvious burdens had been lifted.  Nothing changed, no one ate or had something fun or new to do...I think the big hurdle was over for everyone.

We got home and most of us napped, which helped a lot for the rest of the day.  The girls and I made olivye (Ukrainian potato salad) and there was much rejoicing (and eating) when the boys got up.
The boys on their bed.  The foot on the right is Nastia's...she was threatening to wake them up with her spoon.  Patty is crouched down in the back there because she was using the fan and paper pieces to make "snow" on the boys.  So, this shot is just before the awakening ensued, all instigated by the sisters who were anxious to have olivye!

The kitchen helpers proud of their work...and really glad to eat it!
My brother, Dave, called me during the afternoon, too, which was a very welcome connection with home.  I needed it right then because a wave of homesickness just came over me not long before.  Thanks, Dave. 

I can't imagine what it would be like to be forced to be separated from family members for long periods of time, especially one's little children.  I can't help but mourn over the things that have gone on in this part of the world that had excruciating consequences in so many lives.

Later, while grocery shopping yet again, we were picking out treats to take home to the little ones and I decided this was a party night.  We needed to celebrate that we did it all...sure, we still have to go back to the Embassy tomorrow, but that's just a follow up.  The big hurdles ended today!

So, everyone one chose a candy and we headed home to make dinner.  They all pitched in.  Ruslan requested that we make the apartment look like "a restauran" where we move the table into the center of the room and eat there.  Of course, we did and Patty made it look pretty.  We are counting our kopecks so we made the Ukrainain version of Ramen Noodles, opened cans of fruit and put out the olivye.  The candy was, of course, dessert...everyone chose some kind of chocolate.

The "restauran".  The word in Russian looks like this:  PECTOPAH which, if read phonetically, says "restoran".  Learn something new everyday, right?  :)
It was a great ending to a day that really didn't start out all that promising.  We are all counting the hours until we are on a plane headed for home. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Day18.3--Recording and Benches

Wow...Day 18.  You know, I know a lot of stuff I didn't know before, thanks to spending so, so many days in this country.  I figured out that we will have spent a total of about 8 weeks here between April and now.  I am actually beginning to understand what people are saying and can answer them.  Not too complicated, of course, but I can read their facial expressions and pick out enough words to kind of figure out what they are saying.  I also don't see the letters the same way anymore.  It used to be that they all looked like our letters used the wrong way, but now I am starting to sound things out without having to think about it first.

I also know a lot about things I never thought I would know about...and most of them are things I never even knew about. 

I can navigate in the metros (as long as I don't have to change lines...just got my first experience with that today and there is definitely more to know!), on buses, in stores, pay for things, ask for things and I even know "the drill" on pretty much everything that is needed to survive here.  I also don't feel as uncomfortable or out of place.

I know how long we will swelter in an overnight train before it starts to cool off.  I know how to get on and ride a tram and how to know if there is someone to take my money or if I have to pay the driver.  I know how to pay for metro coins and how much they cost.  I know what I can cook here without the staples of flour, oats, etc.  I know how to survive on four plates, seven forks and no cups...with four children to feed.  I know what brands of milk and butter and cottage cheese are the best.  I know how to say words and describe things I couldn't even hope to remember two weeks ago.

It's been hard to transition from city to city and doing it without the help of Marsh's Russian, but the experience has been worth it.  There is no easy way to learn anything.  If you really want to know it, you have to pay the price.  And that payment is usually uncomfortable, even painful at times.  But, like all things, the difficulty will pass and you will be stronger for it and know more than you could have anticipated.

I'm not sure where all that knowledge will go, but maybe it serves its purpose just in showing me what I'm capable of.  I have to admit, the experience has required me to turn to the Lord in prayer MUCH more often than a typical day on our little farm does.  Before we even left the apartment this morning, I must have prayed every five minutes.  I needed His help with the recording session I had, I needed His help in giving me wisdom and patience and love in a trying situation. 

Perhaps He is trying to show me that it's not just in the challenges of being in a different country and mothering two children who don't speak the same language that I need to turn to him every minute.  After my bazillionth prayer, I thought about our "hearts being drawn out in prayer continually" and wondered why I don't turn to Him more often on a daily, hourly, minute-to-minute basis in the comfort of my own home.  Sure, when it's hard, I'm right there on my knees (or in my head) begging for help and His wisdom.  But, I need that help every hour, not just in the hard times.

So, that is how my day started...pleading with the Lord to help lift the burdens with which the Adversary was hedging up my way.  The Adversary likes to do that.  He thinks it's fun to watch me suffer. 

We had a lot of great experiences again today.  I'm going to take you on a picture tour of our day, but you have to imagine how we got from place to place...metros, buses, trams...all packed with people and really, really hot and humid.  If you see faces glistening in pictures, it's not an optical illusion.  We are sweating.  I have learned to accept that washing is not going to change the sweating factor.  It is only to take off a few layers, not solve any problems.

After going grocery shopping, AGAIN (nothing like feeding teenage boys and two young ladies), we went home to have lunch and then headed out to meet my sweet, sweet, sweet (I can't put enough "sweet"s in here) friend Zoya who was taking us on a walking tour and then helping us get to the recording studio where I needed to play a little part in Marsh's most recent project...

We took the metro and met Zoya at a certain stop.  We walked up and got on this tram that takes us to the top of the hill where St. Andrew's and St. Michael's and St. Sophia's cathedrals are.  This hill has a monument inside what looks like the Sacred Grove.  It marks the area where Volodimr dedicated this land for the preaching of the Gospel several hundred years ago. 

Once at the top of the hill, there is a fabulous view of the Dnepr River.

Here, the kids look at a diorama-type display of the tram track and the sites around it.

At the top of the hill, nearest the tram stop, is St. Michael's cathedral and a working monastery.  This is not the original building.  The original was destroyed prior to the Second World War to make room for a second, circular government building to match the one that is off to the left of the picture (which you can't see...sorry).  It would have created a semi-circle.  But, then the war began and not only did construction halt, but much of the city was bombed and, of course, people were put through terrible things during those years.  The government building was never built, but the cathedral was reconstructed.  Inside, there is a gated area that surrounds the only remaining original foundation and bricks.

Funny...I just realized that I meant to take a picture of the statues behind Chris and Nastia, but never did.  They are of Olga who helped bring the Gospel to Kyiv and some other people.  I became distracted from my goal when we realized the sister missionaries were standing there talking to this woman in the yellow dress.  The woman came over and offered for us to take a picture with her doves for 40 grivni which is about $5.  It told her I couldn't part with that much so she lowered it to twenty.  I finally explained that I had limited funds and needed to feed all these kids for four more days and get us home on what I had.  I don't know how it came out that I have eight children, but as soon as she heard that, she offered the picture for free.  After a long conversation about Heavenly Father and the fact that we are all brothers and sisters, I gave her 3 grivni and an Article of Faith card with the missionaries contact information on it.  :)

Thus, no statue picture.

Posing with a 350 year old tree.
Chris took this shot of St. Andrew's spires near the old tree.  QUITE an impressive picture, Chris!  St. Andrew's is right by the SDA office and is a really visible landmark on this upper area of Kyiv.

We made our way to this cute park area with statues and benches that are quite whimsical.  It was apparently started to protest the "old way" of art here, but it has become a landmark itself.  Here are some fun pictures of this children's area...

Strong brothers protecting little sisters. :)

The kids are on top of a huge set of play equipment with slides and ladders and such.  I don't know why I didn't zoom out and get the whole thing!  Sorry.  The tiles were so hot that Ruslan couldn't hold on to them so he had to keep switching hands.

Believe it or not, this is a sculpture!  It is called, "Just Like Home" or something like that...it had to be translated. :)

Another great bench...overlooking the city and the three hills that Kyiv was named for.

Teeter totter bench!

The view of the city from the eye glasses bench.

Notice the sculpture behind Chris?

Yes, they are sitting on a bench.

At the end of the walk we found the cutest little park with sculptures all around.  I love how the big kids don't feel like big kids all the time.
 Then it was off to the bus, then to a tram, then for a walk to the recording studio...

Marsh and my brother, Dave, who is doing the voice over and engineering work for Marsh's project, Skyped with me during the recording session.  There to the right is the microphone that was placed near the computer so I could hear them in the sound booth.  Except for some technical difficulty with Skype, it was like they were in the same room.  It was so nice...I felt like I was home for a little while!

The kids came in to say hello to Dad and Uncle Dave.  Uncle Dave met Nastia for the first time over Skype.  :)

After another tram ride and two metro lines, we were home and found this optical illusion outside the apartment building...

...the cat is actually sitting on wire mesh up in the air!  It was so interesting, I had to get a picture.

Back at the apartment, Ruslan helps Nastia put in the earrings Zoya gave her.  Zoya is the best substitute grandma in the world!

And since we didn't get home until almost 8pm, dinner was sausage, cheese, bread, watermelon and the Ukrainian version of Ramen Noodles which are even cheaper here than they are at home!  All this food, and then some, was gone in a matter of moments.
We also found out today that the kids' passports are here!  Yay!  Tomorrow morning, we go for their doctor's appointments and then to the US Embassy.  We'll have everything done by Wednesday.  However, our wonderful travel agent friend, Lorie, could only find four tickets to get us home Thursday so we have to wait until Friday.  But, it works out better logistically for the family at home and allows us to arrive at a reasonable hour, rather than at midnight which is what it would have been on the Thursday flight.

Zoya was so cute when she found out that we were staying an extra day...she said we can do something fun together again.  It was a good way to respond because I was choking back tears. 

Blessed Zoya.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 17.3--Sunday and Crazies

We got up at 7:30, were walking to the metro by 8:30, got to church by 10:05am (it ended at 1pm) and got home at 2:30.  How could I ever be late to a church that is four minutes from my house...especially when I own a car that runs? 

I have to admit that I was a little nervous about getting us there using the metro for the first time by myself.  I had the sweet Obolone missionaries offer to meet us and help us get to the actual church building.  Elder Waters and Elder Crookshank met us at the metro in Obolone, took us on the correct bus (which took 40 minutes to arrive at the stop) and walked us to the building.  Then, they turned around and headed back to their own area for their church meetings that start at 11.  They also talked me through how to get back.  They were so sweet to do all that for us!

Once inside the building (we entered during the opening hymn), Elder Peterson came and offered to translate the meeting for us.  There were some primary children and some youth so everyone had classes to go to after Sacrament Meeting.  They met some very nice kids who were super friendly.  Chris even had a friend who could translate the classes for him! 

Here the kids are waiting outside the church for us to be able to leave.  It was the only picture I got today.  I had no idea Ruslan wasn't smiling and just as I loaded it up to put it on the blog, I showed it to him and said, "Ruslan!  Look, you're not smiling!"

He has a very good grasp now on what the blog is and how many views it's getting every day.  When he saw a crazy picture Chris took of him on another post, he asked me to remove it.  I did, of course, but the damage has been done!  We'll just leave that part out of the explanation.  ;)

So, when he saw that he wasn't smiling he was shocked and a little disappointed.  So, he said, "Chris smile, me no smile.  Me Barak Obama."  Then, he pointed at the picture and, sliding his figure across the screen said, "Internet...'OBAMA'" telling me he wanted me to write "Obama" at the bottom of the picture.  We were laughing hysterically at his comments!

Both kids said they enjoyed church when Marsh asked while we were chatting this evening, so Ruslan's comment isn't indicative of the time he had there, I guess.  :)

Both girls had blisters on their feet when we got home and we entered an apartment that must have been in the upper 80s in terms of temperature.  I closed all the windows hoping to keep the temp down today, but apparently that didn't work.  I'm sure it got up to the 90s in here...it was a little like an oven.  I finally opened all the windows when the sun went behind a neighboring apartment building.  It's cooled off, but I know we're still in the 80s.

It was a long afternoon and there were a few tears by Nastia.  This is not an easy situation.  She needs to be working, doing and fed...I think she ended up hungry and bored.  I have learned this is the worst combination for her.  It was so hot outside, that being out there wasn't any better.  But, we overcame the hurdles and now it is coming upon bedtime. 

Chris decided that it would be illegal in America to have people living in the kind of heat we experienced today!  I think he is pretty much sold on the good old USA after this experience.  :)

As the evening came on, the restlessness has turned into downright crazy behavior.  We have seen paper airplanes used as darts into the fan, leftover dinner fed to the resident wild cats that live just below our window (guess the bread and cheese were more appetizing than the dead pigeon nearby) and, as I write this, I am fearing for their safety and the safety of myself and the laptop as a game of "keep away" mixed with wrestling and paper airplanes has ensued.

So, I think I'll close and try to regain some control and calm...although I must admit I would much rather have "Me Barak Obama!" and "Me Won!" being shouted out along sweating and giggling happening than tears and quiet Ukrainians.  Much better memories!

Pause in the craziness to pose for a picture.

Craziness resumes rather quickly.  Ruslan is holding the prize paper airplane that is now sweated on and crumpled and worn to an unrecognizable state.

Ruslan is taken down by little sister!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Day 16.3--Touring Kyiv

I have been here for so long I can't remember what number day it is...every night I have to check the prior day's blog to know what number to put on it!

This is going to be more like a travel log...you know, the kind where the boring uncle makes you sit and watch the slide show of his trip to Europe?  So, feel free to tune out, but I'm doing this anyway for the benefit of certain people who will actually LIKE my boring slide show!  ;)


Since we are just waiting here, I wanted to make the most of our time.  It is highly likely that at least Chris, Patty and I will never have a reason to return to Ukraine, so this is our one and only chance to see some things...and our one and only day to do it.

We met up with my generous, sweet friend Zoya who offered to take us around.  She told us how to use the metro to get to her and it all worked out perfectly.  I must admit that I was a little nervous doing it all by myself without Marsh, but I sure learned a lot and it went just fine.

We first went to The Lavra, an ancient religious area that is enclosed by walls and encases a huge territory of Kyiv.  As usual, the gate has a small church at its entrance.  We women show our respect by covering our heads in the cathedrals and church squares.  Patty aptly wondered by the women cover their heads here to show reverence, but won't cover the rest of their bodies...good question.

Here are the kids with Zoya just before entering the Lavra territory.  The mural behind them to the left is one that was painted in the 1000s and has been uncovered and restored.  The girls have scarves on their heads as a sign of reverence as they enter the square.

We were amazed to find a HUGE throng of people within the square.  Turns out, the Moscow Patriarch was visiting and speking and praying.  We just happened to walk into the area while it was all going on.  The grass you see to the left on the ground it actually plants and flower petals where the patriarch walked to get to the canopy in the distance.

Here, a priest leaves as the gathering ends.  There were several priests in gold outfits all gathered under that canopy for the ceremony.  All the priests are paid and have very nice cars.  Within the gathering area, you could pay to confess sins (we saw a woman doing that) and you could pay to put people on their version of a prayer roll (we saw a LOT of women doing that), but the more people you list and the more prayers you request in their behalf, the more money it costs.

I learned a great deal about the Russian Orthodox church and the Moscow and Kyiv patriarchies today.  They are constantly fighting, even physically to the point of killing each other, over who should rule "the church".  It's very political and there is a lot of money involved.  This helps me understand why in church both Sundays we've been here, the conversation about the fact that our "clergy" are not paid came up.  Here, it is a major point of discussion when people are sharing the gospel.  They just can't imagine not paying a clergyman for forgiveness, prayers or anything else they need spiritually.

The other thing wise Zoya shared was the way she helps people here understand our temples.  The orthodox churches have an outer area within the cathedral where eveyrone gathers to listen to the priests or to pray for loved ones, dead or alive.  But, there is also always a wall or gate and a large fabric curtain just beyond it that another Ukrainian called a "veil".  Beyond that curtain, only the priests are allowed and special ordinances are performed.  When Zoya answers the question, "Why can't we go inside your temple like you can go inside our cathedrals?" she explains that the orthodox church has their worship area and their sacred area in one building, ours are simply in two buildings.  She reminds them that they are more than welcome to come into our worship building, but the temple, where sacred ordinances are performed, is reserved for those living certain laws. 

I added another picture of the cathedral below because it is so beautiful and you can't see it in this shot.  This was on our way down to the Lavra caves.

Kyiv from the high Lavra hill.

Another view...everything you can see here to the Dnipr River is in the Lavra territory.

I am panning to the right with these pictures...see the big mother statue on the right....

She is larger than our Statue of Liberty!  Apparently, once she was standing, it was realized that her sword was higher in they sky than the Lavra bell tower, so it was demanded by the priests that her sword be shortened.  It was chopped off and is now a stubby, flat-tipped sword. 

On the way to the caves, we found this giant ball of painted Ukrainian eggs.

Here is a close up...it was quite a sight to behold.

There really wasn't opportunity to take pictures at the Lavra, so I don't have any.  But, the caves are where mummified priests and saints were found with their bodies so well preserved, it became a sacred site.  We had to take a small candle into the catacombs so we could see. 

As we looked at the burial sites and the mummies in glass coffins, covered in beautiful robes of sequined fabrics and crowns and shoes, Zoya showed us where some of the areas were for "seclusion".  A monk would stay for three months or three years or even nine years in a hole underground with just enough room for a bed and an opening large enough to pass food and water through.  The idea was that they come closer to God through suffering.  They believe that since Christ suffered for our sins, we need to suffer.  It's all about sadness and suffering and pain.  They hoped to put away all temptations, even to the point of cutting off fingers to avoid thinking sinful thoughts.  Maybe the pain of cut off fingers changed their thought processes?  I don't know. 

Anyway, as we walked away from the catacombs, I had Zoya ask Ruslan and Nastia what they thought was a better way to serve Christ...was it to live like these monks did by suffering and never seeing the light of day or was it better to be out in the world doing good?  They both immediately said we should be out in the world.  When Zoya wisely asked, "Why?"  Ruslan said, "Because there is no point to life if you're just living in a hole." 

He's right.  Christ went about "doing good".  He lived and loved and worked among the people, lifting them and teaching them and showing them how to live.  If we shut ourselves completely away from the world, we don't fully understand the responsibility of a true follower of Christ.  Yes, we should seek personal righteousness, but if that is only to keep ourselves clean, the focus is inward.  Christ's focus was, and always is, outward.  It's about everyone else.  So our personal righteousness should be sought so we can become more like Christ and bless more people because of who we are.  Just my two cents.
We then headed down the hill toward the big mother and the war museum.  The boys were just a little excited.  These cannons were on display near the entrance and traditional music was playing...it was pretty cool.

Inside a helicopter.

Getting closer to the big mother.

In the distance there you see the eternal flame...which Zoya says isn't eternal because it's only lit on special occasions.  :)  In the tunnel ahead are the statues that follow...

These sculptures tell the story of the invasion of the Nazis in 1941 in chronological order.  Here is a representation of the people's struggle during those years and the different bands of people who tried to stop the occupation.

The look of horror on this old woman's face is not visible in this picture, but as you go through the museum that I will talk about in a minute, it becomes clear as to why she is so horrified.

Here is a representation of the farmers in Ukraine who helped supply food for the soldiers.

The statues on the water behind the boys represent the midnight invasion over the Dnepr River where the Ukrainians surprised the Nazis and took the territory back.  This day is celebrated in November as a type of independence day.  They had been occupied for three years.  Zoya's mother was 23 at the time and her grandmother helped make weapons and bullets for the army. 

Here is another shot of the statues, but if you look closely between the adults, you'll see the children.  See how the mother is trying to guard them with her hand?  Inside the museum that the kids are standing out in front of in the following picture, they show the extent of the Holocaust in Ukraine.  A whole section is dedicated to the concentration camps for children...which I never knew existed. 

Zoya knows a woman whose mother sent her to take food to the concentration camp fence at night, trying not to get caught.

  She also told the story of another woman she knows.  This woman's mother was following the manditory order for Jews to come to a specified location at a specified time.  They were told if they didn't, they would be found and killed.  So, people took the sick and elderly on their beds to this location, huge lines of people all going to make sure they were obedient to the decree to appear with their papers and a small bag of valuables.  This woman's mother was taking her as a toddler to this "gathering".  An older woman, a stranger on the side of the road, was watching all the people going by...as were many others...just standing and watching.  There was a feeling of foreboding.  The stranger offered to the young mother to take the toddler.  She said, "Let me take your child, I will make sure she is taken care of.  Let me take your child."  At first, the mother refused and then, Zoya suggested she was inspired, she changed her mind and let her little girl go.  The young mother was killed along with 200,000 others in a matter of two weeks, slaughtered in groups and left in mass graves. 

The stranger raised that girl and she is one of Zoya's acquaintances today.  

The entrance to the museum

The top floor of the museum is directly under the big mother.  It is a memorial hall that reminded me of our Vietnam memorial.  This is a shot of the ceiling in side...an incredible mosiac surrounds the circular ceiling.

Here, Patty and Nastia stand against one of the many walls within the memorial hall.  The letters are names of those who died in the war, guilded in gold.

My hope was that my children would be able to feel the presence of sacrifice and pain in the history of this country.  I'm not sure what they got out of today, but time will tell, I'm sure.  I know I came away very changed.  I have been moved by the suffering that has happened on this soil, but today the heat and the lack of water and the aching feet were just nothing compared to the reality of what so many others have gone through.

We have nothing to complain about.  We are so blessed.  But I think our generation will need to pay just like every other one has.  I fervently hope that our suffering and our learning will not be to the degree that it was for these people.