Here are some photos and stories from our 24-hour journey from one side of the globe to the other.
Super smooth flights, super smooth connections, but unfortunately not super smooth getting through immigration! Well super-smooth for the adults and AUS3 but not so smooth for AUS1, AUS2, and AUS4, who were held back by immigration authorities for a couple of hours to have their “passports checked”. We were all a bit exhausted and parched and hungry, but all we could do was wait, and wait some more, using the free wifi to communicate from one side of immigration to the other, and to Dana and the EGMO crew waiting outside. Thanom distributed Damla sweets to those of us who had made it across the immigration barrier, and while we did contemplate Vicky’s suggestion of throwing sweets over the glass wall to boost the glucose levels of the remaining three team members, we decided not to follow through so as to minimise the already too real risk of deportation.
Three hours later the Australian contingent finally emerged at arrivals, happy to be met by Dana and the bottles of water she had procured for each of us. Thank you so much to Kamila (our guide), Angelina (who we are terming our super-guide) and the EGMO media crew for coming all the way to the airport to greet us and for being so patient, waiting so long to welcome us to Kyiv and make sure we got to our final destination safely.
There were no particular hiccups with our bus trip from the airport to the hotel, though we have to admit we were all slightly confused upon the realisation that after a good 15 minutes of being on the road, we were back at the airport right where we started (apparently our bus had left one of the photographers behind). With all passengers on board, we enjoyed a smooth enough trip through Kyiv’s Friday evening peak-hour from left of the river to right of the river (which we learnt, since the river flows north to south, translates to east of the river to west of the river). When the trucks weren’t blocking the view, we enjoyed glimpses of Kyiv and its surrounds – buildings old and new as well as some of the famous golden-domed churches shining in the distance.
We finally got to our hotel around 6pm (2am AEDT) – perfect timing for dinner before hitting the sack and getting some much needed rest.
Wandering the nearby shopping mall, we did our best following the universal knife/fork symbol for food while taking full advantage of Eugeniya’s ability to converse in almost Ukrainian. In the end though, we decided that we weren’t quite ready to decipher the Ukrainian menu at the bowling alley, and in any case, we didn’t think that popcorn, whatever the size, was ideal dinner food.
Back at the hotel we found that the vacant-looking restaurant on the ground floor was indeed open and offered some of Ukraine’s specialty dishes. We definitely enjoyed the borsch, potato dumplings, and chicken kyiv, however, with the seemingly infinite supply of delicious bread, none of us had quite enough room for the tempting desserts.
It’s certainly a luxury to have cosy beds so close by and no reason to set any alarms for the next morning. A local time of 8pm, but 4am back in Oz meant it was definitely time to hit the sack and start getting our body clocks adjusted to the local Ukranian time zone.