The Peace Corps calls, “Would you be available to come to Kiev and meet with Vice President Bidden? The Vice President wants to meet with Embassy staff and Peace Corps Volunteers during his visit.”
I jump at the chance, although in the back of my mind I know there are hurdles. Up until now, I traveled with the Peace Corps arranging details. All I had to do was show up on time. Now I am on my own.
Outside, I see a train across the way. Action seems better than waiting so I hike to end of the platform and around to the cross-over. “Is this the train to Kiev,” I ask a man? He does not know. A glance at my watch shows only 6 more minutes to departure time. I feel the churning of anxiety inside. What to do?
Just then the man yells in Russian, “Platform one. Platform one!!” I don't have time to celebrate understanding what he said. Across the way, a train has just pulled in. I am not so good at running with my artificial hip, but let's say I am walking very quickly all the way around to get back to track one. The heart is pumping real good. Yikes, I just make it. I did not know it then, but this incident was a sign of things to come.
Arrival in Kiev was on a platform away from the Main Terminal. I memorized the location so that I could get there on my return. I'm thinking this is a very smart thing to do – right?
I walk up a long flight of stairs to the Kiev Vakzal area. It's a crazy mass of vendors, cars, trucks, buses, carts, and so many people scattering in all directions at once, like a disturbed ant hill. Is there really order in what seems to be chaos? The contrast to laid back tranquil Konotop gives me culture shock. I feel engulfed.
The rest of the day I spend with a group of younger volunteers. “Let' just hang out,” they say. None of us has eaten breakfast and it is nearly 12:30 pm so we set out to find an Indian restaurant. Ukrainian food is not spicy and we all are thinking cumin and curry!
Unfortunately we do not find it. Later we discover that if we had walked one block more, we would have stumbled right into it. Mmmmm – lesson learned?
Instead we discover a delightful Ukrainian outdoor cafe tucked away from the busy street. The food is fresh and the atmosphere is ever so pleasant. We “hang out” over lunch for a long time. All of us have stories to share and everyone seems happy with their site placement.
I pick up a few things at the Peace Corps office and scurry up to the Kiev Vakzal. I have about 30 minutes before the Electrechka leaves for Konotop. Remembering where the remote tracks are, I climb down the stairs to the platform. “No people. Am I too early again?” I think.
I notice people far away on the opposite track. I am thinking, savvy traveler that I am, “I came up on this side and maybe I must go back on the other. So I trudge up the stairs in search of a way to the other platform. There is no obvious way. I ask several people in my best (though not very good) Russian. I get sent here and there, but still cannot find stairs down.
Panic churns inside again. Time is running out. I ask another man. He points down the way and fortunately mentions “Green” umbrellas. I understand the word green and see green patio umbrellas surrounding a building. Immediately I rush in that direction. I find the stairs. Hooray!
But as you may already suspect, while I found the platform, I missed my Electrechka. Suddenly I feel sad like a kid who is lost in a crowd. Now what?
As I rumble along, I am thinking, “Well I will always know where and how to get the Electrechka. I know where the Indian restaurant is located. And I have a greater confidence, that even when I don't know what to do next, I am resourceful enough to figure something out. Mistakes will be made, but then again lessons learned” Fran says, “That's the silver lining.” I have to agree, but why must there be a break down before there is a break through. No pain - No gain! Ugh!