December 28th, 2008. Ukraine Day 1: Arrival in Kiev.
Jess picked me up at the airport without fault. I was kind of foolish to think that the airport would end my traveling, what with it being nowhere near our destination. First we jumped onto a bus, then walked for ages, then a train, then a bus, and finally we were met by Inna, daughter of Slytvana, who brought us to Jess’s first host house in Kozelets.
Kozelets is north of Kiev by about an hour to an hour and a half bus ride. The extra travel described above got us first to the city from the airport, through the city, and then to the bus to Kozelets. Here’s a quick map. I landed in Kiev, marked with a yellow circle. Kozelets is marked with a blue circle.
Prior to zipping out to Kozelets we grabbed a quick snack of pizza at a local Kiev eatery and stopped by the peace corps office to pick up a few things.
Kozelets is the center of a district, though it’s not all that big. I’m not sure of the exact population but my map reports that it’s less than 10,000. Pictured below is an emblem that was given to me by Inna and Slytvana on my last day in Ukraine. It shows the symbol of the town: a statue that can be found in the center of town. The Cyrillic spelling of Kozelets is on the left (more about Cyrillic later). On the right is the name of the Oblast (like a province or state). The back shows the town crest with the name Kozelets again. Check out the sweet hammer and sickle above the flower.
Upon arriving at the house, we promptly sat down for our first true Ukranian meal which consisted of Borsch, a potato/onion thing, and pieces of pork. Slytvana would point to something that I hadn’t yet tried and state “Mike, the pig is fresh and delicious.” At which point I would go ahead and try the pig. Ukrainians are proud of their food. And really? They should be. The food was all extremely delicious.
I stayed up as long as I could. Jet lag finally claimed victory shortly after 7pm. I was staying in a small guest room with a twin bed and a desk that was decorated with flowers and unique little trinkets. The house as a whole was quaint and a bit retro. The kitchen had a small table and an old gas stove. There were at least three cats in the house. They fight a fair amount, in part because Ukrainians rarely neuter their pets as evidenced by the uncommon sight of stray dogs in Ukraine. As I fell asleep, it was absurdly quiet except for the occasional dog barking.