Peace Corps Ukraine: Travel
Y'all let me tell you about how group 51 did not have a March 15th.
We started March 14th staging in DC and went to bed roughly 36 hours later in Ukraine.
Getting to the airport
Travel started loading onto the buses in the snow. (See this post). We were all hoping that it wouldn't be enough to stop us from taking off as no one had enough clothes in their carry on for an extra day. We loaded the buses with not only ourselves but with all the suitcases that couldn't fit below the bus. 77 people traveling for 2 years amass A LOT of things.
Peace Corps Ukraine Staff in DC left us on the bus. You travel to the airport alone. I couldn't tell you why that caused a little panic. We were all adults. We know that. But regardless you could hear some chatter on the bus from everyone worried about how everything at the airport would go. We were basically on our own to get ourselves to Kiev.
Group 51 pretty definitely took over anywhere we happened to go. When we got to the airport the Lufthansa desk agents had not yet arrived. Our airport team leaders promptly told information desk the 77 of us were about to show up and try to check in all at the same time.
I will say I am incredibly impressed with how quickly they got us all checked in. I would say the process took less than 20 minutes. I said goodbye to my parents at security and lugged all of my things toward the gates.
Since I had stayed behind to hang out with my parents for a bit I wasn't sure where the rest of the group was. I ended up running into everyone at the first restaurant we go to. For a lot of us, we hadn't eaten yet that day so the destination made sense. If only you could have seen the look on the poor girl's face that was tasked to serve all of us. Bless her heart!
Once everyone was fed we hung out at the gate. We had about 4 hours until boarding so most everyone changed into sweats and most girls removed any trace of make up. One of the volunteers is a yoga instructor so she led a lot of people in a pre-flight yoga session. Some random passengers ended up joining in. It was pretty awesome.
I have flown international maybe twice in my life. Once to Haiti and once in conjuncture with our cruise in Alaska. We flew at one point through Canada I think (but that probably doesn't count as international really).
I have definitely never flown across an Ocean to Europe, so when are plane pulled up my first thought was how in the Sam Hill does this thing stay in the sky. Our plane was HUGE.
I felt bad for the regular business travelers on the flight because we were pretty fired up in the beginning. We all sat pretty close to each other with no real rhyme or reason to why we were placed there. It was kind of last name based but also totally not.
I got luck on both flights I had a aisle seat. Although I definitely didn't sleep on the flight to Frankfurt. Oddly enough the women sitting across the aisle from me was a Peace Corps Ukraine volunteer from 2009! How insane is that!
Time really does fly when you are having fun. The first three hours totally flew by. The few hours were spent chatting with seat mates and friends, then waiting on food, and then eating the food. The rest of the flight crept by. It was really hot and really cramped. I tried to go to sleep a few times but it just wasn't going to happen. I ended up watching the movie Trolls (I swear I really am an adult).
I stopped one of the flight attendants while he was serving the breakfast and he told me he spoke 9 different languages! I never feel more American than when I meet Europeans who speak so many languages.
Towards the end of the fight we discovered that the TVs are equipped with an option to watch the footage of a camera attached to the bottom of the plane! That was really interesting to watch as we landed.
We had an hour or so layover in Frankfurt. I don't know if we did something wrong or if it really just was that bad but I feel like I completed the iditarod without the dogs getting from one gate to the other. By the time we all got to our gate everyone was sweating so much!
We were required to arrive in Ukraine wearing business casual so most people took the opportunity to change when we got to the gate in Frankfurt.
Once it was time for our flight we were loaded onto a bus and taken ( I kid you not) all the way back across the airport to the tarmac right next to where we got off the first flight.
The Flight to Kiev and Arriving
The flight to Kiev was fine. When we boarded the flight they had the doors open on both ends which lead to a giant tangled mess in the middle.
We landed and went straight through customs. I didn't have any issues getting through. A few people said that they had people ask them some questions in Ukrainian (which we obviously didn't understand) but nothing to major.
Peace Corps staff met us at the baggage claim. Once we had out things loaded onto the luggage cards they took us out in groups of 5 or so. Once we exited the baggage claim area there were a lot of people with signs welcoming us. They all led us to the buses where we were given a little snack bag.
We broke up into two buses and put our luggage in an old milk truck. I managed to snag my carry on bag a seat on the bus so it wouldn't get destroyed on the ground. ( Don't worry there were plenty of seats for everyone. )
It is a two hour drive from the airport to Chernihiv. I managed to snag about 45 minutes of sleep on the bus which was awesome.
Night one in Ukraine.
We arrived at the hotel after the first bus. They had already brought their things inside. How luggage works and PST orientation is they store your checked bags and you take your carry on bags to your room. Thankfully a lot of guys helped some of us girls drag our rolling bags across the uneven pavement.
We were given room assignments on the bus. In our rooms was a welcome packet with a schedule, a map of the town, and some medical documents. It also had a name tag that told us which language group we were in. We had a short meeting and then dinner.
After that most people got to go to bed. My group had our medical exams at 9pm that night. By the time dinner rolled around I felt so sick that I went and laid down to try and rest before my meeting 2 hours later.
The medical meetings are just to get you acquainted with the PCMOs (Peace Corps Medical Officers) and to make sure you are up to date on all your medication.
When I got back from the PCMO meeting I was asleep within maybe 5 min. I got back to my hotel at 10 pm Ukraine time which was 4 pm Ukraine time. I had been awake 34 hours.
Y'all I kid you not it felt like a life time had passed since I said goodbye to people in America.
This experience has been so crazy and so full of activities. I can't wait to keep updating everyone.
Hopefully my posts will get more regular. There is so much going on and I am trying to keep my posts as short as possible.
Stay tuned for into about Pre-Service Orientation!