Peace Corps Ukraine: Registration in Kiev
This week Group 51 took turns going to Kiev to register for our посвідка (posvidka) which is our form of identification while we are here in Ukraine for two years.
The purpose of our trip was not only to sign the paper work for this but also to learn about the transportation to and from where we are now and Kiev, as well as how to navigate while we are in Kiev.
Next week we have PST university where we find out our sights. From there we will go directly to our sights. We will be escorted there by our counterparts, but are responsible for getting back on our own. Hence the trip to Kiev to teach us about the metro, the train station, and where to get the bus back to Chernihiv.
Getting to Kiev:
We left early Wednesday morning and took a marshrutka into the city. Marshrutkas as well as trollybusses are the main form of transportation around Chernihiv. There are a few that leave from Chernihiv going to Kiev but we left from the one closest to everyone else's apartment. It cost 80 Hrv each way and they guy collected it right before we left.
We left at 8am, drove about 10 min and then the bus pulled over. We were all pretty confused as everyone started to get off. We ended up switching marshrutkas and then continued our journey. Along the way, people would stand up and tell the driver something. He would pull over on the side of the road and these people would just get off.
Language training stops for no man or trip, so I had my one on one during the first hour of our trip to Kiev. My language trainer will not go on roller coasters, I told her that the suspension on our bus was so much worse than a roller coaster that it would feel tame in comparison. We were bouncing all over the place. I felt so unwell during my training session because we are bouncing around and the thing is shaking, all while I'm trying to read these words in an alphabet I'm still getting used to. My head was like STOP IT .
Getting to the Peace Corps office.
If you are a FPCV get used to being taken to a new place and then having your LCF and TCF suddenly lost their ability to function. They then rely on your to speak to others to figure out where you need to go or how to do something. To be totally honest this can get really annoying especially weeks into PST when you are tired and just want to know where to go or what to do and don't want to have to use more brain power. But all in all it is 100% worth it as there is no better way to learn a language than immersion and practice.
Our marshrutka dropped us off outside of the city at the very end of the metro. We had to figure out where it was and then how to use it. I don't like to ask people on the street for help in American, much less a foreign country but I was tasked with locating the metro station. I ended up asking the bathroom attendant because by asking her I wasn't interrupting her day. She pointed us in the right direction. Another man heard my question and ended up taking us straight to the doors.
The metro works like other metros except, like all transportation here in Ukraine, there is a flat fee for a trip, you can go one stop or 10 stops and you will deposit one Metro coin into the turnstile when you enter the station.
You can buy individual tokens at a ticket window or use the machine to get 5 at a time. The machines require exact change so whatever bill is displayed in the panel near the top is what you must put in.
Kiev has some of the deepest subway stations in the world. The deepest station is 346 feet down. You take two sets of escalators that are both on their own the longest I have ever seen. I have video which I will try and upload at a later date of us exiting the Арсенальна station which is the deepest one. Their escalators move a lot faster than any i have seen in America so it doesn't take eons to get out.
Our second choose your own adventure task was to figure out how to get off at the right station. Thankfully, if you have been on a metro before in a large city they function the same. The Kiev metro has everything written in Cyrillic letters as well as Latin letters. Each station also has the following on the wall of each track which helps you know you are going in the right direction.
We got off at the metro station that connects to the train station and were now successful Ukraine metro riders.
All of the metro stations are marked with the green M like that on top so you know where to look on the signs and on buildings. A word to the wise, pick pocketing is very real. A group that came on the same day we did were targeted and one of the volunteers had their whole wallet stolen.
The Train Station
The train station is right next to the bokzalna metro station. I don't know if there are other train stations in Kiev or if this is the only one but this is the one we will use in less than two weeks time to get to our permanent sites for a visit.
The train station was beautiful. They have amazing ornate details. We were tasked with walking through and figuring out how everything worked and what services we could find inside the station. In the main station they have 4 track sections two ticket halls and two waiting rooms. I could see the waiting room ceilings and light figures through the windows in the main room and I really want to go into them. You must pay to use them but they have nice plush seats and other things to accommodate long waits.
We also learned that for some of the trains you must exit the station to board. I intend to allow plenty of time on my first solo train trip to figure out more of the specifics. They did walk us down to the tracks and try and show us as much as possible.
Finding the Peace Corps Office.
This was probably my least favorite learning experience of the day. Our LCF told us the street that the office was on and then told us to figure out how to get there. This made me uncomfortable because I would be relying on the word of a stranger in a city that I didn't know without cell service. They could have given us the wrong directions, it could have been a lot of turns that I don't know how to say yet. It would have been better if we would have had a map but we didn't.
We asked and were told that it was just straight up the street from the train station. I assume they have us do that exercise because the answer is really easy. I would hope they wouldn't play that game with a 6 turn trip or something.
We walked into our first real glimpse of the city of Kiev and it is super cool. We found the street we were supposed to turn to and were given the street address... This is were that took us.
I'm sure this is another joke among the LCFs as this is not actually where the office is, I think they just enjoy seeing our confused faces. We were then given the correct address and proceeded from there.
The Peace Corps Office.
We didn't spend two much time at the office. We were given a tour, introduced to everyone and signed paperwork to receive our bank cards. The Peace Corps office has some pretty stellar security and I definitely wouldn't want to try and mess with their office.
After we did our business at the PC office, we had two hours until we had to meet for our registration. Our group decided to go to the Майдан for lunch and some quick sight seeing. For those familiar with recent events in Ukraine this is where the "Euromaidan" took place starting in 2013.
Not only is this the part of town where all of that unfolded but Kreshchatek is the major street in Kiev. Saint Sophia's Cathedral ( which we didn't get to go to) Hotel Tourist and a lot of other things are located here.
We ended up running into some other Peace Corps volunteers who were also having lunch downtown. They have a monument remembering the holodomor and things remembering those who lost their lives durign the revolution. Being there, in the square, it really felt like being in Europe.
While trying to take pictures with the sites, we were approached by men offering to let us hold doves for our pictures. They didn't indicate that it would cost anything... but everyone knows it always does. I promptly told them I had no cash of any kind to give him. He said not even American money and I said no. He eventually went away but it was a good 5 minutes of pestering.
We had lunch at this buffet style place. Buffets can be overwhelming, but when a buffet is in another language with food you've never had it can be quite the challenge. Thankfully basically the whole staff spoke English and was really helpful.
Ira (our LCF) left us at the restaurant with another task to come and find her. From there we caught the metro to registration.
Registration was in another part of town the required a metro ride and then a marshrutka ride. There was a lot of construction outside of the metro station but literally no one cared and just walked through it to get around things.
We took the marshutka to a section of Kiev that looks very remnant of Chernihiv. A very residential area. It felt more like we were picking up fordged documents than going to the main administration/ immigration office for the city. When we got there they told us it was a converted elementary school which explained its apperance. I couldn't tell you why they put it all the way out there but I'm not in charge of their government so my opinion on the matter doesn't much matter lol
Registration was really easy. I feel bad when we travel any where as a group because we roll pretty deep. Other people kept coming in for their own needs and there were about 30 of us sitting there waiting already. We signed some forms and then handed all of the information back over to the safety and security officer.
Our group was given the option to either head home right after registration or to go and see the largest church in the city. Obviously we elected to go back across the river.
We had to get off at Арсенальна which is the deepest subways station in existence as mentioned before. From there we had to navigate our way to this church. Pechersk Lavra was AMAZING. The complex originated in like 1050 or something crazy like that. We were lucky enough when we got there to be able to witness an actual service. We walked into the building and there was a full choir of men singing way up in the spires and the people were standing and bowing ( there are no pews). The alters in these churches are genuinely the most breath taking things. The only way to describe it as looking how I can only imagine the throne room of God would look.
Kiev is Amazing and I can't wait to go back and explore more! I never really felt unsafe and it was really easy to navigate.
Getting back to Chernihiv we took another marshutka ( this time with much better suspension) and got home around 10 O'clock. It is safe to say we were all exhausted, but I wouldn't trade it. Our trip to Kiev has been one of my favorite days so far.