On Saturday, Mark and I took the overnight train to Kyiv and got settled in at the hostel. This hostel is more like a home-away-from-home for me; I know everyone who works there, a Ukrainian friend of mine owns it, and its a really small place with only 10 beds. I always stay there when I’m in Kyiv, and this time was no exception. But a wonderful surprise awaited there; almost all the other guests were Peace Corps Volunteers from my group who were in town for the Eurocup, so it was like a mini reunion with several long lost friends that I hadn’t seen in ages! I love running into other PCVs : )
Saturday night we had big plans; there was a Eurocup match between Spain and France that we wanted to watch in the Fan Zone (the main street of Kyiv, Kreschatik, was turned into a pedestrian zone for the Eurocup, complete with beer tents and huge screens where the game was broadcast!). But before then, Mark and I had dinner plans with my friends Graciella and Artem in Independence Square. We went to this really cute Crimean restaurant and sat on the veranda, enjoying the atmosphere and spending a lovely evening hanging out.
But just after dinner, a gypsy woman with crazy face paintings came up to our table, with a huge bag covering the lower part of her face like she was huffing something inside of it. I leaned away from her as she invaded my space, and my friend Artem told her off in Russian. Instead of moving on to the text table to beg (as we assumed she was doing), she took off running and left. I looked down at the table, where my cell phone and wallet had been sitting, and realized that’s why she took off running–she’d stolen them! They’d literally been sitting right in front of me, and I didn’t connect the dots until she was out of site.
Needless to say, I freaked out. The wallet contained $300, a credit card, my Peace Corps-issued passport (which has my Ukrainian work visa inside), my accreditation card (that says I’m a legal resident of Ukraine) and a key to the room at the hostel. The loss of the passport and the accreditation card were the most upsetting, because those would be hard to replace. I was also devastated at the loss of my cell phone–I had no way to get in touch with anyone without it, and I had no one’s number written down! And my sister was flying into Kyiv the next day, and her only way to get in touch with me if anything happened was through my cell phone. I was so upset, but luckily for me, I have some amazing friends.
Graciella flagged down a police man in Independence Square, and Artem (who is Ukrainian) explained the whole situation in Russian. Soon a Jeep full of cops pulled up, and they demanded we come with them to the police station to file a report. Again, I could not have remained calm and composed without Artem’s help… the cops didn’t speak any English, and conducted the whole affair in Russian. Artem served as translator (my Russian is terrible) and explained what happened to the cops, while I called the Peace Corps Safety Officer and told him what happened. Then I used Graciella’s phone to call America and ask my Mom to cancel my stupid credit card. Graciella even offered me the use of her spare cell phone (everyone in Ukraine has at least two cell phones, don’t ask me why) so I had a number I could give my sister just in case.
We were at the police station more than 2 hours, and by the time we finished filing the report the Eurocup match was over–France had lost. We ended up just going back to the hostel, I was pretty bummed out. I already realized that if my passport was gone, I couldn’t leave the country with Tori for our upcoming Eurotrip… the stress was pretty intense.
Luckily, the next day things really started looking up. I had a breakfast adventure with some of my favorite PCVs, where our objective was finding the fabled New York Bagel place. After a few different metro lines and some exploring, we finally found it! Having a tuna bagel greatly improved my mood, not to mention hanging out with Lee and Janira ; )
But the best part of the day was when I caught a bus out to the airport, and met VICTORIA at the airport! Her flight had gone really smoothly, and our reunion was wonderful. I can’t tell you how good it was to see her, and the stress of the last week just melted away as I hugged her and told her what a bad week I was having. Thank God my sisters, I happen to think mine is the best. Plus, she even looks incredible after flying 20+ hours ; )
I took her back to the hostel, where she met my friends and dropped off her stuff. She was pretty tired, but agreed to check out Kyiv that evening with me and Mark. We considered buying scalped tickets to the match between Italy and England, but decided to just watch the game in the Fan Zone. It was definitely the smart thing to do–the game was pretty boring and Tori was falling asleep by the second half ; )
But here, you can see what a wonderful time we were having! This is Tori having her first taste of “kvas,” which is kind of like a non-alcoholic beer. Its an Eastern European specialty, and I’m a big fan, and I’m proud to inform you that I got Tori hooked on it too ; )
Tori was finally with me in Ukraine! To hear about our adventures in Kyiv and Tori’s first train ride, on our way to Crimea, check out the next blog post ; )