River of Thoughts

Christine Royse Niles — Changing the world one word at a time


Day 18 – Wednesday, 30 December

First class train pillows resemble bricks a bit less than their second-class counterparts. I will say, also, that the bathrooms in the first-class car are infinitely better than the second-class. Almost worth the increased price! As a result of the improved environment, my sleep was slightly less bad than the first train trip. Mark is starting to get a bit of a cold, so he barely slept at all.

I was up before the sun, and as the light came up, I packed our things away. Mark needed to sign some documents at the US Consulate so that I could pick up Lena by myself; I worked a little bit on filling out the documents as the train approached Kyiv. Around 8, our translator told us that the train would arrive on schedule and that we would be going straight to the US Consulate when we arrived.

As I climbed off the train, our driver was waiting to help with our luggage. The guys hauled all of our stuff into a pile on the platform, and then we all hiked to the van. As we drove to the Consulate, we saw that Kyiv had been hammered…heavy, wet snow decorated all of the trees, and several branches had snapped from the weight. Crews were everywhere trying to clean the city up from the recent storm, and we learned that they had gotten nearly 1.5 feet of snow in just a couple of days. Our driver told us that the airport was still closed, but that they hoped to re-open it later in the afternoon. Since our flights were due out very early the next morning, we sure hoped so, too!!

We arrived at the Consulate, putting the final touches on our documents as the driver parked. Pretty much nothing is allowed inside the consulate other than documents, so I grabbed the folder with our forms, and left all our other belongings with our driver and our translator. We were searched as we entered the Consulate, and then followed the signs to the Immigrant Visas room. Last time we were here, the place was deserted and we were able to walk in, sign everything, and walk back out. This time was different.

A sign on the wall announced, “Maximum occupancy: 13.” We counted about 16 people before the four of us entered. But thankfully, the US government is incredibly thoughtful, and had equipped the waiting area with a watercooler. We each pounded several little cups full of water like they were shots, and then settled in for a wait. Eventually, a woman behind a class window asked if anyone was in the sitting area that had not yet submitted their documents. We went up to the window, they pulled our file, and then they directed us over to another window to sign our documents in front of the Consular Officer. He congratulated us, witnessed Mark’s signature, and added the documents to our file.

Once the other family had completed the same process, we all returned to the van. Our translator asked if anyone was hungry, and we all excitedly replied “famished” in unison! We debated a little bit about where to go, and we finally decided on the downtown underground mall where a food court offered several options. The other family chose McDonald’s and we chose something that looked like gyros, but ended up being more like a Panini…regardless of what it was called, it was really tasty.

When we were all finished eating, we returned to street level. A nice Russian-made watch was the one thing Mark really wanted to get while we were there; on our last trip, he found an inexpensive one that looked cool, but broke pretty quickly after we got home. We knew that there were higher-quality ones to be had, so the search was on. Our translator discovered that the shop he had in mind was closed, so he led us a few blocks further to a department-type store.

The watch-shop offered some good choices, and after examining several, Mark chose one with an orange face. He showed it to our translator, who was not able to conceal his reaction… “Orange???” he asked in shock. After a bit of discussion, we determined that Mark did have plenty of clothes that would, in fact, go with an orange watch. Further, since Mark also has a couple of other watches that are more grown-up, a fun orange watch really would be alright for him to purchase. Once our translator was assured that this was not a frivolous purchase that we would regret, we paid and went back outside to meet our driver.

We watched and shivered in the cold sunlight as our driver inched through the holiday traffic. As soon as he was close enough, we piled quickly into the van. He extricated himself from traffic at the next intersection, and we headed away from town. After a quick stop at the grocery for some bottled water and a couple of snacks, he dropped us off at our apartment at about 2:00.

We hopped online, checked email and watched a movie, and then Mark bundled up and walked back to the grocery store for some dinner. He got a little off-track on his walk home, and ended up walking the VERY long way back, but he found his way just fine. We ate and then set the alarm for 3:20 AM and went to bed for the last time on this trip (hopefully)!

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About Christine

I am a writer, a project manager, and a corporate refugee with a heart for orphans around the world. My two daughters were adopted from Ukraine at ages 12 and 14. I post about writing, chasing dreams, and making a difference in the world, and sometimes I share fun snippets of fiction in-progress.

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