"SIX WEEKS IN KIEV"


By

Roger Merritt

Part I


Monday, May 3, 1993


[Roger Merritt is an American citizen, from Tennessee, who lived in London, England, with his wife Linda at the time of this trip in 1993. Roger was a church worker in New Cross, located in SE London, for over five years.]

This is a diary of my trip to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, and the cradle of Russian culture. After many months of preparation and anticipation, I had just a few second thoughts when the time came to leave London. My wife, Linda, was very sad to see me go, and I was reluctant to leave her alone as I began to realize that I would miss her dearly. 

I was going to Kiev to meet a group of David Lipscomb University students, from Nashville, TN (my alma mater) to teach conversational English using the Bible, and to encourage a local congregation of the church of Christ that was only about three years old. My compatriots from the States were primed for the trip, and knew each other very well. They were all 7-10 years younger than me, so they were not sure what I would be like as a co-worker, but I had a fair amount of experience with missionary trips already, and had been to Eastern Europe twice before, so I was ready to prove that I was very enthusiastic, and dependable.

Linda accompanied me to Gatwick Airport on British Rail. We sat and talked for nearly two hours after a smooth check-in. I was very sad at this point, but curious enough to continue through with it. It was just God and I now, and what lie ahead for me on this trip. "Lord, please protect Linda, and protect me while we are apart," I prayed. [Linda was a nursing student at the time, and was busy with classes and training in Epsom, and Kingston.]

Waiting to board Air Ukraine International, flight 502, I could hear Englishmen talking about Kiev in business terms, comparing notes.

On the plane, I sat next to a sweet little old lady who was speaking Ukrainian to a stewardess. Little did I know that she would take such a liking to me, and talk to me the whole flight in her quiet, innocent, Ukrainian-accented voice. Turns out she was a British citizen (immigrated in 1948), but was born and raised Ukrainian. She gave me a summery of her life story, and it was rather interesting as refugee stories tend to be. She was "recruited" by the Germans during the WWII occupation of Kiev, and went to work for the Reich in Bavaria. She tried a few different jobs that, I think, were office-type jobs. After the war she was in the U.S. controlled territory (luckily) and she had the choice of immigrating to the U.S., Canada, or England. She chose England, where she has lived ever since with her husband (no children), in Leeds.

She spoke about being paralyzed in her legs, some time ago, but having been treated with acupuncture, and now is able to walk normal. This was her first airplane flight ever, and first trip back to the Ukraine after a 45 year absence. She is going to visit her older brother, who is not well, and whom she has not seen all these years. Her niece, who she has seen (been to England on a trip), is collecting her at the Kiev airport.

The landing was fine, but we had to walk from the plane to the terminal. By the time we got through passport control, and waited for our luggage together, I finally found out what her name is: Maria Kindzerski. I gave her my card, and then hurried with my luggage through customs. This was chaotic, and not well supervised, especially the x-ray machines. I virtually sidestepped them so that I wouldn't endanger my film. The only thing the attendant was concerned about was that I declared how much currency I had on me.

I was through and around the corner, where a large crowd of spectators were creeping in to see arrivals, quicker than I thought possible. At the arrival lounge I met Mike Coulter, Tim Johnson, and Scott Broadway, whom I had heard about but never actually met, though I had spoken to Mike Coulter on the phone. We greeted one another, and proceeded out of Borispol Airport (what an unsightly place!) into darkness, and drove into Kiev in Tim's beat-up Toyota van. Mike and Scott were 1992 graduates of David Lipscomb University, in Nashville, TN, and were spending at least a year in Kiev as teacher/missionaries. Tim, who looked to be in his forties, with a stocky build and balding head, is the father of three young girls, and is the full-time preacher for the Kiev church of Christ that meets in School 53. Tim and his wife Darla are from Texas, and have been in Kiev for a couple of years.

Mike, with dark hair and a friendly disposition, asked me some typical questions about London, and then turned and talked to Scott, who had just arrived back from the States earlier today, and was tired. Scott is slightly less than average in height, somewhat muscular, has neat blondish colored hair, and wears glasses. Tim dropped them off at their flat, somewhere amidst tall, dark, lurking buildings. I felt very disoriented having just entered Eastern Europe once again, and a rather backward portion of it, as far as I could tell. I was very thankful for Tim and the guys to escort me into Kiev at this time of the night--very thankful--but for some reason, I may not have shown it, considering the darkness, and murkiness of my first impression of Kiev. I got the run-down on things by Tim as we drove further on through quiet streets to the Johnson's house. We passed a Lenin statue on the way, and I thought to myself, "I thought those were all gone." Apparently not...

The Johnson's house was a classic example of slightly untidy, but friendly missionary hospitality. The house looked old, but I have no idea how old it was, and it was detached. They rent the house for a reasonable amount, and it provides them with adequate dwelling space that is a bit more than the norm. [I didn't realize it at the time, but detached houses are very rare in Kiev, and this was the only one I was to set foot in my entire visit.] I met Darla, Tim's wife, who is plump, and seems to be fairly confident and knowledgeable. We talked enthusiastically till 12:30AM about all kinds of interesting topics on the Ukraine, and life in general. Tim made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to phone London for me. Unfortunately I would not be able to speak to Linda, tonight. After things quietened down, I tried to sleep on their couch that folded into a bed. I kept thinking about my flight, and the trip so far, and how incredible it was going to be living in Kiev for the next six weeks...


Tuesday, May 4th


Well, I didn't sleep very soundly, and then I was awakened at about 6:30AM by the Johnson's 9-year-old daughter Ashley, who was anxious to show me a children's book and teach me to count to ten in Russian before I had woken up properly. She was not the least bit shy. Next, I bathed in their tub, and ate some cornflakes for breakfast.

Today was the day for stark, difficult, reality! Yesterday was too good! Early, I had to grapple with my suitcase (that weighed a ton, and wouldn't roll properly) onto a bus, then the Metro, and then a tram, and steps, and pavement, etc., to get it to my flat. I wanted to say, "It wouldn't have been asking too much to take a taxi, would it? Rush hour is too crowded on public transport!" But I mutely resigned myself to the task of getting to my destination without drawing too much attention.

Darla mouthed some excuse--that I did not hear properly--about not being able to take the van this morning, and escorted me on an eye-opening expedition to my flat, halfway. We walked about a block to the first bus stop, and we met Susan Smith--a Registered Nurse and missionary from Texas--who was waiting for us. She was a tall and fairly bulky woman, maybe in her late-20's; looked almost Ukrainian, and adapted to living here. I found out that she is going to Odessa soon for a few weeks of work, and that two of the Lipscomb girls that are coming, will stay in her flat. She gets along well with Darla, and I am surprised at how loudly they speak in public (just a bit too loud for me, but hey, they know where they're going and I don't). I feel like a complete babe in the woods at this point, lugging my suitcase around.

If Kiev looked dismally drab at night, daylight didn't do much to enhance the appearance of the place at all! All the pre-WWII buildings look fine and elegant, but the post War buildings are peculiarly shaped, and, for lack of a better word, Stalinoid. I'm not trying to dismiss them all-together, but they reflect a poor design, or something (like a dehumanizing system!) but they have some strangely good features, too, if solidness means everything. 

Could I be forgiven if I think everything looks a bit rundown, or half finished? Maybe "finished" is an abstract concept in the former Soviet Union. Please allow me a little while to get used to things--it's just my first day! [I eventually became very comfortable with the way Kiev looked. I read that during WWII, many public buildings were destroyed; first by the Ukrainian's, to keep the Germans from occupying them, and second, by the Germans, when they were forced to flee! The city suffered cruelly in the war, losing perhaps as many as 400,000 dead, and thousands of buildings, from churches, to museums and apartment blocks. About 80% of all residential houses were destroyed. When they rebuilt, there was a shortage of steel to reinforce the concrete. So, they had to make extra wide foundations out of brick, which some derisively call "totalitarian" style architecture.]

After wearing my arms out carrying the suitcase and being squashed in the Metro, we meet Mike Coulter, who is waiting for me at the Tolstoy Square Metro, where Darla and Susan deposit me, and depart to make some errands and shop. Mike and I continue, on my weary way, to the flat where I am going to live. "I shouldn't have packed so much," I thought as we took the #1 tram a good distance to Gnata Uri Street, where the flat was still another five-minute walk. It was in a dilapidating, but ordinary state-of-decline tower block (not much different from many council blocks in South London, at first glance) with a drab green color and identical, maze-like sameness. I hope this is a "safe neighborhood," and how can I get any "closer to the people?" kept running through my mind. The arrangement to see the flat, I should mention, was made by Mike. He found it in the classified ad section of a Kiev newspaper, so I am indebted to him for this favor.

We were right on time for the appointment with Nina, the agent, or "owner," I suppose (home ownership is not common). She had short, died-blond hair, looked about 45-years-old, was fairly attractive and did not speak English [this was the only time I ever saw Nina]. All I could do was pretend to look around a bit as Mike did all the talking. I was fatigued and perspiring from the journey, but thankful for his representation.

The flat looked like a suitable size for me; tidy, efficient, and worth at least the asking price of $55.00 (U.S.). [That was the total amount that I paid for the full six weeks. Not bad!] The flat consisted of three rooms: a living room/bed room combination with a double bed; a bath with shower and toilet; and a small kitchen with a little balcony space attached. On closer inspection, it is certainly basic, self-catering, has a minimum of furniture, though adequately secure, but right now I just wanted to take whatever I could get. I'm not going out there dragging my suitcase another exasperating minute! There was a phone, a TV, and an iron and ironing board, which I didn't expect, and it was on the third-floor, which is fairly close to the ground. I paid Nina the rent, and with a few words of gratitude she handed me the keys and left. I noticed there were four keys, all different shapes and sizes that went to the four locks on the door. "I have never seen so many locks," I muttered to myself.

Moving right along, Mike wanted to show me how to get to the school, exchange some money, and buy some groceries. He asked me to lead the way back to the tram to see if I remembered the way. We boarded a crowded tram; "Might as well get to know your neighbors," he said, as we went seven stops to the Polytechnical Institute, and walked to the Metro. [I literally had to count the seven stops to the Polytechnical Institute for a few days until I was used to the surroundings.]

We took the Metro two stops to Universitet, and Mike showed me to the entrance of School 135, where we would teach English. It looked like a typical, solid, old building to me. We then walked to a barbershop nearby where Mike got a haircut. I sat in a chair and nodded asleep while I waited, trying to look at a map of Kiev. Next, we walked to the Lenin Monument (the same one I saw last night), at the corner of Kreshchatik Street and Schevchenko Boulevard and went into a hard currency grocery store, which had an unmarked entrance. [this was to become about the most central location for us because of our need for groceries], where I bought $9.00 worth of bottled water, Coke, juice, milk, and pasta in what was Central Kiev's closest thing to a western grocery. It was stocked mostly with German, American and Western European products. It was modest in size, but it gave me a sense of familiarity that felt reassuring--a material and psychological godsend. [After seeing for myself what the State owned gastronomes had to offer, I'll never again underestimate the value of groceries!]

With my bag of groceries, we walked along Kreshchatik Street (the main street of Central Kiev), and saw an American Baptist preacher giving a message on the sidewalk. Moving on, we went to a place where people openly exchanged money on the street. This was Mike's idea, not mine. The street name for the currency is "kupons" or coupons. I'm not sure how to spell it yet. The rate was 2,900 coupons to the U.S. Dollar (it goes up every few days), and Mike exchanged a twenty dollar bill for me.

Reversing our direction, we walked back up busy Kreshchatik to another shop that became known to us as the "Coupon Store." It sold mostly damaged canned goods and packaged foods that were slightly past their sale-by-date from the west, for coupons. We saw Darla and Susan coming out at the same time. Darla had spent 56,000 coupons on groceries ($20.00). I went in, looked at the shelves, and fancied a jar of Ragu Bolognaise sauce, Raisin Brand cereal, and Campbell's chicken soup. The cereal was past the sell-by-date, but I didn't know it until I had already handed over the money--they don't let you inspect anything before paying. That's the last time I buy any cereal from this shop! [After that I mainly got German muesli from the cash store.]

By this time, Mike had to go do other things, so he led me to the tram stop and pointed me in the right direction toward my end of town--West Kiev, or Borschagovka. It felt a little scary when Mike left and I was all alone for the first time. I took the #1 tram, and made it back to Gnata Uri and the flat on my own. I felt very foreign and alone, but tried not to show it. It was about 2:30PM by now, and quite warm. I stayed in the flat the rest of the day, only going out for a walk around the area near dusk. I cooked dinner; a can of soup, and I rang Darla for instructions about how to phone London and the States.

On my walk, I wandered around through the housing estates that seemed to connect all the way around, endlessly--mostly ten story tower blocks, some taller--all drab. Lots of people were still out walking, sitting, talking, or watching. Most noticeable were the children out playing about, "It must be safe," I thought. Curiously, I noticed a park that was thick with pine trees as far as I could see, but I didn't go in because it was getting dark. I walked passed some children playing hopscotch on pavement with chalk, and went back to the flat. [This was one of the few opportunities to explore the neighborhood that I ever got. Most days left absolutely no time for leisurely walks.]

I tried phoning Linda, and the phone would not find an outside line when I dialed "8" to get out of Kiev. The lines were nearly always busy, and there was no tone at all for a while. Then I got a call from someone speaking Russian. I didn't expect that! Finally I tried again, and this time I got through to Linda! I talked to Linda about everything that had happened to me. Thank goodness I got her.


Wednesday, May 5th


I tried to sleep in, but the phone rang and woke me up at 8:00AM. It wasn't anyone that I knew, just a voice in Russian. I got ready and went to meet Scott and Mike at Universitet. I arrived early, so I walked around a bit, checking out the scene around the outside of the Metro. It took about 40-minutes to go the route I will be taking everyday. It would probably only take about 10-minutes to drive in a car, I thought. [The route would usually take anywhere from 40-50 minutes depending on how crowded the trams where.]

In a short while, Scott and Mike showed up, (having just come from the barber shop) and Scott himself had the clean look of just having received a haircut. We then proceeded down the escalators to the Red Metro line, across the Dnieper River to the Tourist Hotel, where we were to lunch, and then bring the David Lipscomb University group to spend the night, and have dinner, before going to the "Goodbye" party at 7:30PM at the school for Mike Coulter. He is going back to the States soon.

This was a big day for meeting people! Right after lunch I began meeting some Ukrainian church members, and youth, who came to accompany us to the Airport. Sergei, was about 24, a tour agent, and organizer of the bus we rode to collect the DLU group. Apparently, Sergei is one of the new breed of Ukrainian businessmen. He got into the profession with the help of Herald of Truth, who paid him handsomely to handle their travel arrangements, and be an interpreter in the early days of broadcasting in Kiev. [Herald of Truth is a religious broadcasting service of the churches of Christ.]

Allec, a 30-year-old Metro train driver, seemed very dedicated and involved. He spoke fair English. Misha, a young man who seemed pretty important, spoke fairly well too. And Andre, who seemed like a talented 17-year-old, stuck by me once we got to know each other, but I could tell he was more interested in meeting girls. Though interested in Christianity, he is not yet a member, but he is very eager to learn English. He told me about himself; he lived in Budapest, Hungary, when he was very young, then Leningrad, then 10-years in distant Eastern Russia, near Vladivostok. We joked a lot and also seriously compared English/Russian vocabularies. He knew a lot more English than I knew Russian. We discovered that we had about the same amount of knowledge of German, and had fun speaking it for laughs! We had to do something to kill time.

We waited a long time at Borispol for the Nashville group to come out, and then we all boarded the bus. In addition to the Kiev team, there was a small team bound for Minsk, Belarus, by train tonight. They were led by Frank Chun, a friend of Doug Varnado (a church minister in the Nashville area, and teacher at DLU). I remember meeting Frank with Doug in London in 1991, as they were passing through after a trip to Prague, and Poland. Both the Kiev group and Minsk group had dinner at the Hotel, where the Kiev team would spend one night, and then, go to their individual flats (in groups) tomorrow. The Minsk group left for the train station immediately after dinner, to travel to Minsk. Dinner was not bad--four courses, and two bottles of Pepsi, each. The main course was egg-fried beef with beets, and rice. Tea and ice cream were complimentary for afters. [Almost all of our meals from this point on, consisted of the five B's: Borscht, beans, beets, beef, and bread.]

Over at the souvenir desk, I bought a Kiev University t-shirt, and two packs of postcards for $6.00, which in retrospect was grossly expensive. I will have to learn to watch my spending a lot more closely from now on. The Kiev group then went together by Metro to school 135 for the "Bical" (goodbye) party for Mike Coulter, who was returning to the States after spending one year in Kiev. I now began to learn some of the names of the DLU group. They are:

         Chris Lovingood, and Michelle Swenson (group leaders),

         Josh Boyd (who I had met the year before in London, with the DLU Acappella Singers)

         Misty Dennard

         Robyn Ealy

         Mitch Edgeworth (group treasurer)

         Jennifer Foster

         Donnie Freeman

         Kristen George

         Heather Hutcheson (sister to Phil Hutcheson, a great DLU basketball player)

         Kevin Minister

         Amy Morrison

         Luke Shouse

At least four of them had come to Kiev last Summer to teach English.

Entering the school auditorium, we were surprised to find it full of kids, parents, and teachers. The American missionaries the Johnson's and Susan, were there, and a few church members.

We stood in front of the audience, introduced ourselves, Cris Lovingood made some introductory remarks, and we sang three spiritual songs for them in chorus fashion. Then Mike and Scott each led the kids they had taught in some English spiritual songs. The children did not have the greatest vocal harmony, but they tried hard.

Next, one of the Ukrainian teachers from the school, a woman English teacher, got up and gave a somewhat emotional tribute/speech about Mike Coulter, and about how much she had grown to appreciate his help, and quoted some lines from the poet Pushkin. She spoke in very good English and then translated it in Russian. Then, Mike gave a nice farewell speech, that brought tears to my eyes, and I had only just met him two days ago! He was apparently loved and admired by all at the school. He could speak remarkably good Russian, I thought. Then Scott spoke a closing prayer that was translated by one of the Ukrainians.

We mingled, meeting one another, as little girls passed trays of snacks around. I met Arthur, a young Armenian man. He is mature with his English, and is the main translator at the church, I found out. He is studying here, and told me about the desperate problems his people are having in Armenia, where there is fighting with Azerbaijan. Eventually, the party ended, and I made my way back to the flat on public transport.

Later, tonight at the flat: This flat is something else! People evidently decorate the shelves with empty boxes and containers of western look-alike products...The bathtub and sink share the same faucet (it swings back and forth)...The phone keeps ringing with Russian voices wanting who knows what?...The cat meows all night, wanting to get in...The moon is full and so bright that the light gets in and disturbs my sleep...And, there are no curtains except for a very thin sash! "Am I going to be able to handle living here?" I thought to myself, but I tried to block everything out of my mind, and went to sleep. 


Thursday, May 6th


Today the DLU students got moved into their flats, so I thought I would have most of the day to myself to get acquainted with Kiev. I started to go looking around Kreshchatik, a wide and grand thoroughfare, Kiev's fanciful version of the Champs Elysees, but before I could descend upon it, someone called my name. Looking around with a (?) on my face, I saw Allec, still wearing the same shirt from yesterday. He was waiting to meet Scott Broadway, outside of a restaurant that we were going to try to reserve everyday for lunch, and he saw me coming. [This was the Ukraina Hotel, a large old building. It had an old fashioned elevator, with all the moving metal parts exposed, which didn't seem to work.]

This changed my whole course for the day because I decided to wait for Scott with Allec. It seemed like the polite thing to do. Allec asked me if I wanted something to drink? I said, "sure, I'll have a Coke, or something." When he returned, he handed me something that tasted like bitter fruit juice, and I quickly realized that he probably couldn't afford to buy me a Coke. Lesson #1 in Kiev: Do NOT make insensitive requests. I have a lot to learn! When Scott came, the three of us ended up wandering all over the building looking for the manager, and in the end discovered a nice cozy restaurant in the basement that we didn't know existed. When we found the manager, I helped Scott reserve a few tables with an instant loan of 15,000 coupons, and Allec was there to make sure the communication was crystal clear.

By now, a few more of the DLU group had arrived outside, so I followed Scott, Misty, and Amy around for a couple of hours. We took a #20 trolley bus north along Kreshchatik, past Komsomol Square (formerly "Stalin Square") to a hill, and went further to the old Supreme Soviet building. We got off the bus where a long ring of parks meander along the river, by a palace, a wooden amphitheatre, a soccer stadium, and then the "Arch of Unity," and many nice views across the River Dnieper, towards huge housing estates, suspension bridges, river boats, and industrial plants, etc. The walk was leisurely and pleasant.

Then we were back at busy Kreshchatik Street, stopping to look into a big Post Office. I decided to take a detour and walk over to Independence Square, formerly, "October Revolution" Square. It was a spot I recognized from a travel documentary I had seen on British TV with Michael Palin, called "Pole to Pole." In the program, Palin was traveling from the North Pole to the South Pole, via as-close-as-possible, the line 30 degrees longitude, and he happened to traverse right through Kiev. [BTW, I have seen Michael Palin twice in person in London, but that is another story!]

We all met at the restaurant at 3:00PM (I never would have known if Allec hadn't seen me this morning). Just as I got there, a pedestrian was hit crossing the street by a car. Some of our group saw it happen. Susan, the Texan nurse, was there and immediately went to help the man in the street. Brave woman! She used to be a Paramedic, and is experienced with this sort of thing.

Lunch was good, I thought. I was mildly disturbed by the reaction some of our group members made about the food. Not everyone liked it. [This was a frequent thing for a few days, and it used to tick me off when they became picky.] Lesson #2: Don't complain about the food! These youngsters need to learn to be more tolerant. Listening to them, I was determined to like the food (besides which, I thought it was pretty alright to begin with) and as much about Kiev as possible. I found out that one of the young men, Donnie, was a vegetarian, and did not touch the pork in brown sauce, so I ate it for him. [This was the beginning of a great relationship between Donnie and I, as I never refused to eat his main meat courses.]

After lunch, I walked around with Mike Coulter, Robyn, Kristen, and Heather. Both Kristen & Heather have red hair, an unusual sight in this part of Europe. We later began calling these three girls, "Ruben and the Red Heads." We went to the cash store, where I bought some precious, but expensive toilet paper, and then went to the coupon store.

Tonight, we went to the school for our big enrollment session for English lessons, at 7:00PM. I had to put on a "DLU-Kiev" shirt like the rest so that we would match. We introduced ourselves at the front of a room packed full of people who responded to an advertisement, about six inches in length, that was put in a local newspaper. What a turnout! The crowd was a mixture of young and middle aged, mostly mature, educated people, who seriously wanted to learn and practice English.

Before I knew it there was a crowd of people wanting to talk to me. Thirteen enrolled very quickly, as they stood around me, and I was supposed to have two already pre-enrolled, making a total of fifteen. They were coming at me like I was handing out free money. I think the fact that I introduced myself as having come from London, they thought I was British. Maybe that was an attractive motive for them to come to me. Perhaps they thought I would have a better command of English? Or, maybe they thought they could relate to a European better than an American?--I don't know.

A group of three or four just wanted to hang-around and talk to me for a long time. I saw Andre and spoke to him. He said that he has a Geography exam tomorrow at school. Next, there was a closing session with just the teachers, then a song and a prayer. I left at 8:35PM to return to my flat.

Late that night, I kept trying to phone the States to Mom and Dad, but could not get an outside line. I organized my student's names into a file, and sampled some of the offerings on TV. I seem to get only three channels; one from Moscow, and the other two are Ukrainian. Watching TV will take some getting used to...I want to learn all I can about the culture, and that includes the entertainment culture, but I don't want to waste a lot of time. I am thankful to at least have a banged-up old TV, because it would be monotonous in this flat without one. I sorted some things and prepared for bed.


Friday, May 7th


I managed to phone my parents this morning before leaving for the school. It was a little before mid-night there as Mom answered the phone--Dad was asleep--but she woke him so we could talk. I had to talk fast because it was past time for me to go. They were glad to hear that I was OK, and adjusting. [This was the only time I got through to them on the phone, even though I tried many more times after that.] As I hurried to get to the tram, I saw some boys playing baseball in a disused tennis court.

When I reached the tram-stop it was about 8:15AM, and I was surprised to see how many people were waiting. When a tram comes, it usually has two cars, and a whole crowd of people try to cram on to it at once. The big problem is that it is already crowded by the time it gets here from the outer suburbs.

Today was our first official day at School #135. I will briefly describe the school. It is a connected set of brick buildings, that look fairly old, but I don't have any idea how old they are. There is an older section (the main part) that has been added onto in front, with a narrow courtyard in-between. The old part is three stories tall, and is shaped very similar to a lot of older elementary schools in America--similar to the one I went to in Charleston, Illinois (Jefferson Elementary School). Straight inside of the front doors, is the central staircase, and just to the left of the stairs, is a little desk with a wooden key cabinet. This is where the key lady sits, an old woman, with a semi-permanent smirk on her face, to administer the keys to the rooms one needs to use. Our rooms are located on the third floor, to the north-end. [These were the only rooms I ever went into, except for the small auditorium that we used for parties, and the rest rooms. The rest rooms were not very sanitary, I must say, and lacked doors on the toilet stalls--the toilets were holes; the type that you squat-over, and there was never any toilet paper.] Our objective today, was to have a 15-minute appointment with each of the people we signed up last night, to fit them into a weekly schedule, and tell them about the course in a little more detail. This took all day until after 5:00PM.

However, before we met with our students, we established our daily routine of meeting together at 9:00AM in a room, and having a devotional period with singing, a short talk, and prayer. Chris Lovingood spoke about the problems the Apostle Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians chapter 2, and compared them to our difficulties getting around Kiev. Josh Boyd led a lot of songs that were new to me, but I liked them.

These are the names of the students I met with:

         Alexander Larchenko--a business man

         Ugene Lytvynov--a graduate student in math

         Vika Rodionova--Radio Journalist

         Kira Shorokhova--Geologist

         Marina Mazarkaya--university student of political science

         Nick Ostrovsky--Scientist (his wife was a teacher at the school)

         Dimitry Khustov--Clerk

         Yury Zorin--Math Teacher at Polytechnic Institute; PHD candidate

         Michael Lukashevich--Associate Math Professor at Polytechnic

         Olga Platonova--Software Manager

         Anatoly Fedorovsky--Software Developer

         Michael Savchenko--Fund Director; former Naval Officer

For lunch we ate at the Lybid, which means "swan," at Victory Square, about three-tenths of a mile down the hill on Shevchinko Blvd., from the school. The food was alright, and it took about an hour to eat with full-service. Luke Shouse read a hilarious letter that he and Chris wrote, mentioning each of us by name, in humorous fashion, that they plan to fax to Nashville, to let them know that everything is going well.

Tonight, I had no plans to spend with the group, so I took my time going home. There came a brief heavy downpour while I stared out the window of the tram, and stopped in time for me to walk to the flat. People, people, lots of people walking to their own flats. I tried my usual best to move about un-noticed, not wanting to draw any attention. I reached home at 7:00PM; phoned Pete Hodge in London (my co-worker at New Cross), and got him first ring. I told him about my day, and my up-to-date impressions. His daughter, Lisa, finally had the baby girl she was expecting.

Watching TV is a hoot! I have seen a few British and American commercials that are dubbed over, i.e., Gillett razors, Bounty candy bars, Snickers, and "American cigarette commercials" that must be imported. I have also seen the fantastic Russian version of Wheel of Fortune. Imagine a Russian Pat Sayjack! 


Saturday, May 8th


A beautiful, sunny, spring day! Not too warm. This was our first "sightseeing" day. We met at the Lenin statue at the bottom of Shevchenko Blvd. Everyone brought an item of food: bread, vegetables, fruit or biscuits, etc., and we walked to nearby Shevchenko Park and had a picnic on a bench. Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861) was raised as a serf, but became the Ukrainian poet laureate, a revered artist, and literary hero. Yesterday, I walked through this park and saw dozens of serious chess players going at it. "Shakmati", for chess, in Russian, is a very popular game, and the enthusiasts congregate in a corner of the park.

After lunch, we walked a straight line down Vulitsya Volodimisrskaya (a main thoroughfare that links many important cultural sights and parallels Kreshchatik) to the Opera House; the Golden Gate; St. Sophia; St. Andrews, and Andriivsky Spusk...

The Opera was rather ornate, built in a Rastrellian style baroque stolidity. Adjoined to it was a complex of Opera administrative and departmental sections in the exact same style. Next, we came to the Golden Gate, once famed througout Europe in their day for being covered in beaten gold; the main entry way through Yaroslav's wall. For some reason, the Golden Gate was closed to visitors, but we decided to have a group picture made in front of the restored, but massive wooden gate. From here we continued on to St. Sophia Church.

St. Sophia is the oldest monastery in all of the former USSR. It has an old Byzantine interior, built by Yaroslov the Wise, in 1037 AD, and has an eastern baroque exterior, with 19 cupolas that are bright green and gold. I had to pay 100 coupons to get in, and the others only had to pay 30 coupons, since they are students. Mosaics and frescoes adorn the ancient walls inside, but a funny thing about the old mosaic of Mary is that she looks like she is wearing blue pants. They call her, "The Virgin in Blue jeans," for a laugh.

The sheer age of this place was staggering. Once outside, the urge to start buying souvenir paintings took us in earnest. I even yielded to the temptation myself, and bought a watercolor painting of The Bogdan Khmelnytsky statue (he was a Ukrainian war hero, and lived 1595-1657), with the tower of St. Sophia in the background, for $11.00. I talked him down from twelve.

The backside view of Sophia's cupolas are majestic. How inspiring to see such a fine example of Russian Orthodox architecture with my own eyes! And the ornate bell tower is the tallest in all the former USSR.

We walked out onto Bogdan Khmelnytsky Square, where we ventured into a typical "Gastronome," a state owned grocery store. It was drab, spartan, and not consumer-friendly like western groceries. Every product is behind-counter. You can't touch anything, and there is a queue at each counter. Grocery bags are not provided, as usual, in a lot of European countries. Outside, we saw a man carrying a little monkey, and he promptly gave it to a woman in white uniform. I don't know why.

Now we were a short distance from St. Andrew's Church, at Andriivsky Spusk, the artsy part of town. St. Andrew's, designed by Rastrelli and completed in 1753, is supposedly located on the spot where Apostle Andrew once preached, and looks like a baroque confectionery with blue, green, and gold icing on top, as it stands next to the "Spusk," or descent. The Spusk is the oldest cobbled road in Kiev, winding in an "S" direction downhill past medieval buildings to the old-town of Podol, on a flat basin beside the Dnieper River. 

Walking the Spusk gives one that old-world feeling, with tinges and chills varying from the bohemian to draconian. Paved with cobble stones, and lined with old fashioned street lights, souvenir shops, and galleries, it's the place to be for dolls, lacquer boxes, carvings, paintings, etc., and if you look western, the hawkers and vendors descend on you like flies.

I bought a policeman's hat for $5.00. Some of the group were buying fur hats, dolls, and watches in what felt like a buyers frenzy. I wanted to take pictures, but couldn't stop long enough between twists of the cobbles, and staying away from the vendors! We will definitely be coming back here a lot. As the whole group trickled down the Spusk, we compared souvenirs, and then went our separate ways.

A few of us metroed back to Kreshchatik to hit the hard currency store, which a few referred to as "Kroger's." I bought bread at a state bread shop, and went back to my flat. The rest of the guys went wearily by taxi to one of their flats to cook a meal. My evening was solitary, but at least I had my Collins Independent Travellers Guide to the Soviet Union to read. A little dated, but informative!

A note about the bread: "Baton" bread is my favorite--white, with golden brown crust--but it only takes two days to get hard. Still, at a few cents a whack it's great value. You can get by on bread with peanut butter, or cucumber and tomatoes. [Bread started out costing just 49 coupons, but went up to over 100 later on.]


Sunday, May 9th


Today was Victory Sunday, the day they celebrate the end of WWII, or "The Great Patriotic War" as they say. We gathered at Leninsky Metro to walk to church. There, I was introduced to Sasha Pivovarsky, a Ukrainian young man who just returned from the States after attending Lipscomb for a year. He was Chris Lovingood's roommate on campus.

The church meets in school #53, which is a little less than a mile from school 135, where we teach. I sat with Andre, and he showed me a copy of Reader's Digest in Russian (that's new to me). There were about 70-80 people there. The kids had a separate service. The songs were simple choruses from memory. Tim Johnson spoke on "husband and wife relationships" from Ephesians 5, and Arthur translated. The Lord's Supper was after. I gave 4000 coupons for the contribution, and later found out that this was "too much." They don't need so much for their budget, and money is so tight for the nationals that having too much in the church bank account could be a bad thing.

After church I was approached by a few who wanted to study English, but I already have a full schedule. I met a young man, about 18-years old, named Ruslan, who is fluent in English and keen to study the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. "He is unusual," I thought to myself.

About six of us went to eat lunch at a cafe next to the cash store. It was on the mistaken assumption that they serve hamburgers. What I had was way over-priced, even if they ARE trying to be a "hip" place. The music was too loud, and the walls were very bare.

Getting stamps and envelopes was a big item on our agenda, so we ambled down to the big post office. You have to have special envelopes to send letters or postcards out of the country, so we decided to get a lump sum of 200. The two ladies at the counter gasped, but complied with our request, at a cost of 39,000 c. (I got about twenty envelopes.) Leaving the post office, we passed by dozens of people waiting to use a few public telephones, inside the post office, that could make international calls.

Next, I went for a Victory Day walk-about-town with Luke, Chris and Donnie, who are housemates somewhere on the other side of Kiev. We went to watch the selling of books and trinkets on Independence Square with its fountains and crowded atmosphere. I bought the ubiquitous Kiev souvenir book for $3.00, and two Ukraine flag pins for 1000 c.

The weather was pleasantly bright. Luke, Chris, Donnie and I went to the giant 320-foot-tall silver Statue of Victory at a special war memorial park. The statue is nicknamed, "the Iron Lady" or "Brezhnev's mother" in the guidebooks, and was crowded with lots of people. Soldiers, families and civilians of all ages were milling about looking at the military display of old tanks, planes, rockets, canons, even a scud-missile. Russian band music and singing was in the air as we squeezed through the crowds and entered a WWII museum. The museum had a lot of war memorabilia in Russian, and children's artwork.

A dramatic procession of heroic statuary leads you back out of the war memorial park. Not far away is Kiev-Pechersk-Lavra, a series of monasteries clumped along the riverbank, positioned over ancient catacombs; also called the "Monastery of the Caves", but we saved this for another day.

The guys were ready to go home after a coke and a brief rest on the grass, but I continued on my own. I was running out of film, but felt like strolling through the ring of parks that straddle the Dnieper, looking across at the densely packed housing estates.

I passed Mariinsky Palace, with its Rastrellian baroque facade--a nice little Tsar dacha for Catherine the Great. Then I came to the wooden amphitheatre (same one mentioned a few days ago), where a military band was playing. I don't know what they were playing, but it sounded good to my ears. A female opera singer came out and added some fantastic notes to the music. It won me over. I'm a fan! I loved it!

I couldn't stop walking till I reached Leninsky Metro (boy are my soles sore!), and made my way home on transport.

Linda called tonight at about 9:40PM. She was missing me. We talked about all that has happened so far. There are no adequate words to express missing the one you love.


Monday, May 10th


Our first day of teaching, and the day Mike Coulter leaves to return to the States. He will be sorely missed--everyone loves the guy--and he speaks the best Russian out of the whole bunch of Americans. What a shame he's leaving. [I don't know what ever happened to Mike. If anyone knows, please let me know]

My allergy is pretty bad, but it has been worse. The weather is excellent, only a little warmer than before. I learned the word for "excellent" (at-lich-na). Josh led devotional. Chris, Luke and Donnie were real late. [The first of many times and elaborate excuses.] Today was also Donnie's 21st birthday. My readers were all here today, except Alexander [he disappeared, but was quickly replaced].

What a full day! My readers impress me with their fluency, and ability to read, particularly Vika, Michael Lukashevich and Lytvynov. [There were others, too.]

We ate lunch at Hotel Ukraina (near Shevchenko Park). I sat with Chris, Robyn and Donnie (the vegetarian), who let me have his meat again. I think we will get along well, indeed. I was a little perturbed to see that a group of young Mormon missionaries have discovered our cozy restaurant. Is there anywhere that these people have not infiltrated? Next, we'll be running into them in the cash store! [Please forgive me for expressing my attitude about Mormons. They are nice people, but I dislike their doctrine. I have had lengthy discussions with them in London and in the States, and I know that some of what they teach is wide from what the Bible teaches.]

I found a kiosk with Kodak film that only cost $4.20 per roll of 24 exposures. That's cheap by western Europe standards. [Sometimes when you paid for a product in Dollars you had a better deal, compared to the prices in most of Europe. Film was not easy to come by in Kiev.]

The cash store, which is a life-saver for us westerners, has mostly German products, but accepts U.S. Dollars, and Deutschmarks. You'd better have the correct amount, though, because they refuse to make change for large bills, and don't expect them to give you change back in coins. They resort to IOU's, or change substitutes, like, a can of coke, or chewing gum, etc.

All I wanted for dinner tonight was bread and jam. I am getting used to brewing tea bags in an old coffee jar. There is only one knife in the kitchen, and it has a loose handle. To wash the dishes, I'm using shower gel that I brought!

 This kitchen is the pits, but I think I will survive. The small gas stove I use to boil water--the oven doesn't work...The kitchen faucet only has cold water...The refrigerator is the small compact kind, that only has enough freezer space to place a couple of ice trays, but at least it is a quiet appliance...And the table is just a small one-chair affair...The wallpaper is a very old, faded, red-checkered pattern...And I can't open the balcony door, or windows, because the neighbors cat will get in and pillage my dry foods, and shed its long hair all over the place!!

Other than these slight inconveniences, I am getting along fine. I challenge all American Christians, and all Americans for that matter, to try living in a different culture that is less affluent than our own culture. It might do us all a lot of good!


Tuesday, May 11th


I had two free hours before my first study, so (following our devotional) I walked around the back streets near the school, wandering over to the Golden Gate. This was the medieval gate of Kiev, and is now the center attraction of a nice park with old benches and iron fountains--an elegant place under tall trees. I had to sit down because my right leg was giving me some pain (just soreness I hope). The blue sky, pleasant shade, and people going to and fro made matters relaxing. I wish I could stay here all day.

After a few minutes, a small film crew began setting up and filming in a shady area, and began telling people where to sit, literally. I don't know what they were supposed to be filming. Realizing the time, I decided to remove from the park and head back to school. At school I started writing a letter to the Alfrey's (friends of mine in London), and had a study with Nick Ostrovsky, the scientist, before lunch. Nick's wife is one of the regular English teachers at the school. The school, incidentally, is an elementary school, and children are present, but our lessons do not seem to impede on their normal activities as far as I can tell.

We ate lunch at the Lybid, in Victory Square, where I sat with Scott and Chris; enjoyed the Beef Stroganoff, (Donnie's too), and mostly listened to conversation.

The afternoon sessions were with Yury, Olga, Anatoly, and Marina. Anatoly is a Ukrainian Jew, and a believer in Christ. His father is a Christian Jew also; immigrated to Israel a couple years ago, and finds being a Christian more of a struggle there than it was in Kiev.

Marina is nearly finished with university, lacking one exam in history. Her special topic is "U.S. foreign policy in the Middle-East," but she does not like it. She is perceptive for her age, and very good with English.

At the flat I tried to phone my parents, but couldn't get an outside line. I watched some television, wrote in my diary, and did some reading before retiring for the night.


Wednesday, May 12th


Another bright sunny day. Scott led devotional. Lessons went well, except I scheduled Nick and Kira at the same time, how embarrassing. At lunch the group was critical of the food at the Lybid, but I thought it was good.

At the Lybid exchange desk, I changed $20.00 for 58,400 c. Chris, Heather, Robyn and I went to the Ukraina Department store on Victory Square, next to the Lybid (not to be confused with the Ukraina Hotel, on Shevchenko Blvd). This is Kiev's version of a shopping mall. It was dark and drab, unlike the normal western counterpart, which prides itself in brightness and presentation. It caters to the needs of the people, but lacks creativity, and is overly security-conscious. They do not trust the "consumer" (a misnomer) to be allowed near the merchandise. Everything is behind a counter, or watched by minders. The normal procedure is to pay first, then retrieve item. I bought a notebook of paper to do some letter writing. Outside a mob of people were milling around in hopes of exchanging money, but few seemed to get any action.

Tonight after work was special. We went to the ballet at the elegant opera house--a wonderful experience! Thanks to Chris's good friend Sasha Pivovarsky, we had tickets at local prices. The story was "Swan Lake," and we found it to be most entertaining. Everything in the show was top-notch. At intermission we sifted through a crowded refreshment room, and surprised the counter-lady with an order of a dozen cokes! It was almost comical trying to pass the coke bottles to our comrades in the overly crowded room without sticking one in someone's face. The second half of the ballet was wonderful. The music, costumes, and dance were unforgettably beautiful. The opera auditorium is the most elegant I have ever been in. This was a truly memorable highlight so far, but I've never been to a ballet production before to compare it with.

I made it home by 10:35PM, exhausted. I must have dreamed Swan Lake as the music kept wafting through my mind all night.


Thursday, May 13th


A long, busy day. My readers are opening up and telling me more about themselves. Yury and Nick end up asking me a lot of questions about the "Free Market Economy" (as if I'm an expert). They all tell me how bad the communist system was and how very little has changed.

For lunch we had to do our own thing. I went to the Ukraina Hotel with three others, and we had no trouble getting a table. The menu was Beef Steak with all the trimmings, for only 5,000 c. Without thinking about it each of us laid down a dollar tip, which wasn't much to us, but to the waitress it was a huge amount! We must think about these things more in future. No wonder she was so willing to seat us.

The afternoon was full of conversation, and my throat began to get sore. Mike Lukashevich, the math teacher, wanted to talk about ourselves, but Marina had a lot of morally challenging questions.

Tonight was our first student party. [We had one every Thursday night on a different theme of American culture.] The theme was Country Western Cowboys, and what a turnout! We handed out free bandannas, played country music on the stereo, had a quiz, square danced, and ate tortias with tomato salsa. It was exciting to see them respond to cowboy lingo. We enthralled them with our "howdy's" and "yeehaw's." We even sang "Home on the range." Don't laugh, O.K.? They really enjoyed themselves. As I departed the building for the Metro, a good looking Ukrainian guy, who appeared to be in his early twenties, explained to me that he has rarely been to a party--without alcohol--that was so much fun. I thanked him for that as we parted ways on the busy boulevard in front of Universitet, and then descended into the bowels of the Metro.

I reached home at 10:00PM, and phoned Michael Savchenko to see about changing his appointment. I've gone and doubled up a time-slot on the schedule again, darn it.


Friday, May 14th


The weekend is finally here! It has been a demanding first week for my mental and physical stamina. We are busy with our teaching schedule and there is not enough time to do personal things. Even letter writing is hard to squeeze in, and I LIKE to write letters. How else am I going to communicate with my world?? [Email was unheard of yet!] Phoning is almost impossible. And, unlike several of my co-workers, I refuse to get up in the wee hours to get a line. I am not getting enough sleep as it is!!

The trams were atrocious today! They are so packed it is unbelievable. Wednesday was a lull, but Thursday and today were Mincemeat! The team is tired, but we only have a half-day on Friday.

Vika, my first reader, was 30 minutes late because of traffic. She told me about her work assignment to cover a tedious trial about metal production by a newly privatized manufacturer. There is a dispute over national control and who has the upper-hand. Vika is a radio reporter, who works for a small BBC world service affiliate, and her broadcasts are in English. She is very objective and factual. She shared her difficulties in combining work and being a mother of a three-year-old child. Her mother cares for her son most of the time.

Kira Shorokhova and her husband Pavel (who is reading with Heather) wanted to invite the whole team to their children's elementary school benediction tomorrow. I explained that we had plans already, but they would hardly take no for an answer (they should have mentioned it sooner in the week). Anyway, we had a good study, and I found out that Kira was born in Azerbaijan, but is reluctant to talk about it.

We were free to go at Noon. I picked up some groceries at the cash store. The bread shop was not open (you're never to know when it will be), and I bought some bananas at a market as I passed through Polytechnic. I wasn't able to understand the vender when he told me how much the bananas cost, so I fumbled a little with my money, nervously, and handed him some notes. He sort of examined my money and handed back some of it and took some different notes out of my hand. It's a bit disconcerting to transact money when you don't speak the same language, but for a handful of bananas, I'm not going to get bothered. This is just the beginning, needless to say, I've have a lot to learn.

When I got home I crashed. It took the rest of the evening to rest and wash clothes in the bathtub. The neighbor's irritating cat keeps trying to get inside. I tried letting it in, but it just won't leave me alone! The cat wants to be stroked and petted, and I'm sorry, but I don't have the time and energy to pamper a cat...AND, it sheds long white hair everywhere! 

Other than that, it rained during the afternoon, and the phone rang several times. I have a response written on paper (in Russian) by the phone, but now I have it memorized--"I'm sorry, but I do not speak Russian, I'm English..." I kept the TV on for company, and since the set is so old and worn-out I don't change the channel too much for fear of breaking the knob. They seem to like Spanish Soap Opera's, here, and local news can be almost comprehensible.


Saturday, May 15th


I rang Linda this morning. She was working late-shift at the Epsom Hospital today. We talked about our week, and had more time than usual to talk since it was Saturday morning. There is three hours difference between Kiev and London. Linda is missing me something awful. I can't help but remind her that this trip is just a short duration, and I'm learning so much everyday. I probably won't have a chance to do this again...

I went to meet the group at Arsenal Metro, and we walked to Perchersk-Lavra, where we intended to visit one of the Ukraine's most sacred religious sights. Lavra is a functioning monastery, going back to the beginning of Kiev--founded in 1051 by the monks Antonius and Theodosius--on the banks of the Dnieper River, and contains many fine baroque buildings in gold, green and white. It is a Kremlin-like structure, with a substantial walled-enclosure to protect it. To get in, one must enter through heavy wooden doors, and pay for admission. A fairly long queue was already formed when we got there.

While waiting to get in, Chris Lovingood and I met two Jewish ladies from Israel who spoke English, and are teaching Hebrew. I presume they are teaching some of Kiev's native Jews, who apparently don't know the tongue of Israel. They thought our purpose for being here was commendable, and the feeling was mutual.

After we had been inside the gates for a while wondering from building to building, I met a young man from Cleveland, Ohio, of Ukrainian descent, making his first trip to the country of his ancestry. He was proud to be here, and I readily understood his feelings (sort of the way I feel about England, I suppose). He actually learned Ukrainian in school, and was brought up in a mostly Ukrainian community in Cleveland, how interesting!

After seeing the expected cathedrals, and printing museum, we went to the totally unexpected museum of Miniatures. This would take too much effort to explain, but take my word for it, it is famous. It is the work of a Ukrainian specialist at making tiny miniatures. Some of these objects were so minute that it required a microscope to see them. Unbelievable things, like lock and key sets, motors, clocks, model ships, and many other objects that were smaller than the width of a human hair, or poppy seed. What a rare collection! And, according to the sign, it has been exhibited around the world. Which makes me wonder why they don't send it to where people will pay a better price to see it, rather than the small general admission price to enter the Lavra???

We saw some decent souvenirs today, and I succumbed to buying a matrishka doll fashioned after the U.S. Presidents: Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter and Lincoln. The usual dolls have Soviet leaders heads on them, but I decided to be different and get this one with American Presidents (I'll probably regret that decision in the morning!).

Unfortunately, the catacombs were closed--and they are one of the main attractions! [I never made it back to see the catacombs.] It was looking dark and rainy, so we headed for the bus stop and caught a #20 trolley bus and went to Kreshchatik, where we explored the other big department store--Kiev's "Gum." The lights were off, which seems to be the norm. There wasn't much there that I wanted.

I have tried to find a can opener to buy, and have come to the numbing conclusion that the Russians do not have can openers. For that matter, they do not even produce any goods in cans. Not surprising, when you see a number of tellers using, not the cash register, but an abacus! Many food products are stored in Jars, not cans. Jars! The canned goods I have seen in the cash store, and coupon store are all western. You cannot find a can opener for sale because they don't produce anything in cans.

Next we went to the "Red Restaurant" on Kreshchatik, and it was empty at 5:00PM. It was a nice looking establishment, probably built in the 1960's. Chris ordered dinner for all of us, which he is in the habit of doing because he has the best knowledge of Russian, and he is a very talkative person anyway, and it is expedient for one person to do it for the group.

Chris likes to be cheeky with the waitresses, and usually makes it into an amusing routine. For the first time we had "Chicken Kiev," which did not contain much chicken, but was all right. Donnie, who usually doesn't eat very much because he is a vegetarian, explained why he is vegetarian. It is not because he has a moral objection to killing animals--he just doesn't like the taste of meat. He then went on to tell why he is a Libertarian, since he was in such a talkative mood. I thought he was a little bit of an oddball, but now I'm sure of it. At least he is NOT an obnoxious person, generally.

After dinner, we went for a short walk to Khreschaty Park to see the "Arch of Unity," near Komsomol Square. Some still had not seen it. The Arch is a large steel rainbow-like arch going over two male statues; one representing Russia, and the other the Ukraine. Very symbolic of the intended friendship between the two countries--but in reality, an empty promise.

Behind the arch is an abrupt staircase going up a hill and into a wooded park area (that I have already mentioned a few times). We marched along to the Mariinsky Palace, and took some twilight photos. On the way, we were all talking away, having fun, and suddenly we were silenced by seeing a man having a bowel movement between some bushes...It is not surprising, considering the lack of public facilities in so large a park.

While there was a little bit of evening light left in the sky, we were drawn to the Amphitheatre to sounds of symphony music (the same outdoor venue that I listened to on Victory Sunday). We sat down and were fixated to some powerfully beautiful music. "At-lich-na!" It was an Eastern Operatic style that we were not familiar with, but sounded very appealing to our ears. Some of the others knew a lot more about music than I did, and were impressed. A woman opera singer was making a glorious performance...And it was all free in the park!

After this performance, I was ready to go home for the evening and retire a happy, happy man.

The End of Part I.
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