We are working to try to catch up on the months in 2015 that we missed, but hope you enjoy reading about what has been happening in 2016.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

December 2014

December turned out to be a crazy, but good month. We studied Russian as usual, found an apartment and moved, celebrated Christmas with friends, and saw the new year in. We started out the month with a normal schedule, meeting with our tutor(s) and studying Russian, but soon that was mixed with time spent looking for apartments.

One of the daily challenges we faced was power outages from about 4:15 PM until about 6:15 PM (give or a take a little on either end). We got caught without keys once, because we always used the garage door opener, but we learned! These were happening all around Ukraine and the villages around Kiev, but not in Kiev itself. Another reason to move to the city!

Denise made different kinds of Christmas cookies and froze them before we moved, so that we would have some to share even when we were really busy.

Hope enjoys being part of the International Church's youth group just about every Friday night.  She has really enjoyed being able to get to know some of the young people there.

Hope got to be the Christmas tree one night at youth group
On one of the realty websites I (Phil) contacted about 12 different realtors about 12 different apartments and was surprised to only have a couple get back to me. The realtor we ended up working with was going to show us an apartment, only to have the landlord decide he did not want to rent to foreigners. She found us other places to look at and we finally settled on the one obvious choice for us. She was great to work with and spoke clearly on the phone so I could understand her. That is significant!

We really had it narrowed down to two apartments. One was less than five minutes from a subway station in NW Kiev, and the other about a 15 minute walk from the same subway. The further one was bigger, but the closer one was nicer. After we took the walk from the apartment to the metro one time to check it out, it was obvious that the closer one was going to meet our needs.

The kitchen is very nice, and even has a dishwasher!
The living room is spacious and bright
This apartment is on the 20th floor of a newer building (built in the last 10 years). It has 2 bedrooms as well as two bathrooms (one is a full bath with a separate shower and tub, and the other a half bath). We can see a busy intersection from our windows, most of which face west (but our bedroom windows face south). The view is fantastic.

Our view in the daytime
Our view after dark
We can even see when precipitation is moving in
We signed the documents on Friday morning, December 19, and started moving our things that afternoon. Moving, even without furniture, is a lot of work. The house we were renting is about 20 minutes from our apartment, so that gave us a chance to rest in between hauling things. Our apartment building has three elevators - a small 2-4 person elevator (the typical size of the only elevator in the older buildings), a medium-sized elevator that will easily fit 8+ people, and a freight elevator. That third elevator is a huge blessing in this part of the world.

We would load up our Speed the Light car (thanks to Minnesota Assemblies of God Youth)  at the house and drive to the apartment building, where we would park close to the door. We would unload the car and stand things by the door, then haul the things inside, then move them to the freight elevator, next get them into the freight elevator, go up to our floor, move things out of the elevator, and then get them into our apartment. After 7 or 8 trips, we were getting pretty tired, but that was about all it took.

We started sleeping in our apartment on Sunday the 21st, after most of our stuff was moved and we had the Internet hooked up. It is so nice to have reliable and fast Internet once again!

On Monday, the 22nd, we were supposed to host a get-together with our colleagues, but between our move and the power outages every afternoon, we decided that was a bad idea. Instead we went to an ornament factory, where they actually blow the glass for the ornaments and paint them by hand. They are fragile, but beautiful.  Afterwards, we went to a restaurant that made some of the best shashlik (shish-kabobs) we have had in Ukraine.

This is one of the glass blowers.  They get the glass tube hot in the middle and then blow it to a particular size.
In their museum, they had some examples of "fancy" eggs made by their partners in Europe
These are examples of their hand-painted ornaments
Sometimes they reproduce another work of art
We finished moving the last remaining load on Tuesday afternoon, the 23rd. That morning we went shopping for some things we needed, which included a desk for Denise, a dining table and four chairs, a step stool/ladder, drying racks (no dryer in the apartment, which is common here), a Christmas tree, and other things. We had enough things that we had to have the table and chairs delivered. They arrived Christmas afternoon (they do not celebrate Christmas her until January 7th), just in time for Christmas dinner that evening.

Denise got our tree up and decorated - with home-made decorations
On Christmas Eve, Hope opened her presents and we watched some Christmas movies.  It felt good to relax after the hard work of the previous week.  On Christmas Day we watched some more movies and prepared for dinner with friends.  We fixed turkey and the fixings, while our friends brought other things to share (bread and dessert).  We had a great time together and we were glad we made the effort to get the apartment ready for company.

Our friends with us around our new table as our meal was coming to an end
On Sunday the 28th, after church was over at the International Church, we went with friends and colleagues to the national Christmas tree celebration.  It was really cold that day and there were many people out and about.  After we took some pictures, we found a small restaurant and enjoyed supper together.

The National Christmas tree near one of the famous, old churches in Kiev
They even had a carousel, as well as someone in a polar bear costume
Here are some things near our building and our building itself:

This is one view of the little ships near the street corner
These are some other shops on the way to our apartment from the above picture
This is looking back towards the corner, and the port-a-potties that you can pay 2 grivna (less than 10 cents at today's rate)
Our building is on the right and, yes, they park on the sidewalks here
Here's the guard shack by the driveway for our apartment complex.  Someone is always there to open the gate.

This is our building.  The entrance is in the middle of the side.
There is a small grocery store on the ground floor of our building, and another one (a bit bigger) in the other tall building
The hallways in our building are bright and clean
This is the door to our apartment.  There is a third lock that you cannot unlock from the outside.
New Year's Eve we watched some movies and worked on puzzles as we saw the New Year in.  There were fewer fireworks than normal this year because of the war that is going on in the east.  But the few that did go off, we were able to see!

The grivna (Ukrainian currency) has gone from about 12 to the dollar when we arrived the end of July to 16 to the dollar.  The economy continues to spiral downward and we are concerned for the people here.  Yes, it increases our buying power, but it really hurts the local people.

January means getting completely settled and continuing our Russian studies.  We look forward to 2015 and what God has in store for us!  Please keep Ukraine in your prayers!

Thanks for taking the time to read about our adventures in Ukraine!

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