Sunday & Monday in Ukraine

Sunday was a more relaxed day as we wound down our visit. We went to church next to the temple. It was Russian speaking (Kiev and east of there is pretty much all Russian speaking, west of Kiev is Ukrainian speaking) they had little headphones so that the senior missionaries and visitors could listen to an interpreter. (Who was Ukrainian speaking and couldn’t quite get all of the Russian translated, every once in awhile he’d go silent and we would look over to see a very confused looking missionary).

Jonah of course loved the fountain on the temple grounds. In this picture you see the church that we attended on the right and on the left is a hostel for members coming from Russia, Romania and other surrounding countries to be able to afford to stay there, very cool.
After church we headed back to Maydan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) for a leisurely stroll. On weekends they close down the main road and people are walking, break dancing, playing soccer, doing yoga, performing music and enjoying themselves in the middle of the road.
Independence square, the curved glass thing in the distance is a mostly underground mall.
I happened to snap this photo while we were strolling. Apparently Ukrainians are very superstitious people. They believe that a cross breeze will make you sick, so even in the hottest summer months they prefer not to open more than one window and they bundle their babies up like you wouldn’t believe. (One old lady yelled at us for having Jonah outside in pants and a t-shirt!) Anyways, awhile back this guy invented these plastic things that hang off your car in order to ground it so that when the static electricity builds up your car doesn’t suddenly explode. Well, people still use them and believe that their car just might explode. Pretty funny.

We wandered our way down to friendship arch (a memorial commemorating the union of Russia and Ukraine, it lights up in rainbow colors at night). The view from there was gorgeous. (Jonah had just lost his balloon, it came untied from the string so he was very upset in this photo…)
We retired early to put all our pictures onto my computer and just sit and talk for a bit at the hotel. The elders left that night (sleeper train) but my flight did not leave until Monday evening. So they arranged a taxi for me and gave me some money to buy food and I was on my own!

Right after the Elders left I realized that Jonah was not feeling too good. He was starting to get a fever. I really wanted him to be able to get some sleep but we had some very noisy neighbors in the hotel that had just moved in (gypsies I think, their kids ran wild until 1 am the previous night) so I requested to move rooms. We got settled into our new room and slept peacefully all night. When morning came, Jonah continued to sleep. I put him in the backpack and walked to the grocery store where I went up and down the aisles about ten times trying to figure out what to buy based pretty much on the pictures since I can’t read Cyrillic. At 12 I checked out of the hotel and went down to my waiting taxi. Jonah was still asleep and his fever was getting worse.

We got to the airport and I decided to try to find a pharmacy (they have them everywhere in Europe). I pulled my luggage behind me and pushed the stroller in front of me. No one spoke English so I kept walking. Finally I found someone who spoke English and she told me there was no pharmacy near by. So I did the only thing I could think to do, I bought the kid some ice cream, walked back to the airport and put cold wet wipes all over him. I asked several airport employees if they had a first aid kit or medical help of some kind, they all said no. So I held my breath and my tears and waited for my flight. People had started to notice that Jonah was really sick and were talking to me in Ukrainian, Russian and Italian. I have no idea what they were saying, only that they were concerned. I was worried that he would start having seizures because his fever was so high, and he never really woke up. We made it through the flight and when I got off the plane everyone wanted to help me. The passport line was long and everyone from my flight kept telling me to cut (in all different languages of course) but I felt bad. Finally the woman who had been sitting by me on the flight started yelling, the only word I understood was “mama” I assume she said something like “let the mama through!”. And the sea parted. I was allowed to the front of the line and rushed Jonah out to Nick. My luggage was the first one to come out and we were off. We got Jonah some tylenol and a cold bath. He is doing much better now. I am so grateful to all those people for being so kind to me, even though they knew I couldn’t understand a word they were saying, they still tried to comfort and help me.

Saturday in Ukraine

On Saturday we headed to Center Kiev. First stop was the Kievo-Pecherska Lavra, which means monastery of the caves. It was founded in 1051 after orthodoxy became the official religion. The Lavra includes almost 70 acres and many beautiful buildings which over the years have been burned and destroyed many times but they always rebuilt them. Beneath the beautiful golden domed buildings of the church are a series of caves which were built by the original monks, they studied, worshiped and lived there. When they died their bodies were naturally preserved by the cool temperature and dry air of the caves. These mummies are still there today in the caves in glass cases, mostly covered but a few of their hands come through the covering. We went down into the caves and by candlelight viewed these mummy holy men and watched as those who still worship them kissed the glass of their cases repeatedly while saying what I assume were prayers of some sort. Women must be modest and cover their heads, legs and shoulders to enter the caves. (Because it is considered holy you can’t take pictures of the creepy mummy hands poking through otherwise I would have! But check out the awesome church…) The first picture is the gate to the church, when originally built it was used as a watch tower to protect the church.

A giant egg made of wooden eggs or pysanka (which means “to write” because they are not painted but rather written on with beeswax, at one time they represented the sun and the rebirth of nature, but now that Ukraine is officially Christian it represents Christ’s tomb and the rebirth of man.) It was about five feet tall and was on the church grounds.
The view from the upper Lavra. You can see all the gold domed buildings, they are all part of the Lavra, it’s huge. On the right you can see what the missionaries call “Big mama” which is where we headed next…
A WWII monument as you approach Big Mama.
Rodina Mat, translation: ‘Nation’s mother’ (the missionaries call her Big Mama) was built in 1981 to honor Kiev’s defenders during the ‘great patriotic war’ or WWII. She measures 203 ft from sword to foot. (The Statue of Liberty stands at 151 ft from torch to toes.)
Her sword was cut shorter once. The Elders thought it was because of airplanes but the truth is that it was higher then the cross on the Lavra, so they made them cut it to be shorter.
Beneath Big Mama is a WWII museum. It was very dark inside and difficult to get good pictures. But the one picture that turned out was of possibly the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen in a museum. Gloves made of human skin.
Dome above the museum, below big mama.
The view from Big Mama’s feet. Kiev is HUGE by the way. (almost 3 million!)
Another interesting tid bit, you used to be able to go up on her shield but they no longer allow it due to the number of people who jumped off.
Next we got on the Metro to head to center Kiev and explore there. A word on the metro. There are lot’s of cute Bob’s selling flowers and shops where you can buy all kinds of things for very cheap. I got Nick a tie for $2 and a plug converter for $1.

Our first stop when we got off the metro at center Kiev was food…Ukranian food! Puzata Khata is a chain in Ukraine that serves traditional foods. I couldn’t tell you what all of it is called, but it was pretty good, sort of bland and lot’s of vegetables thrown together. Those potsticker looking things are filled with different things, we got some with potato and some with cherry. We drank berry juice that is made by boiling dried berries, it tasted just like dried berries. Jonah liked the borscht (a beet root based soup).

Graffiti from the Orange Revolution found at Independence square.

St. Sophia’s Catherdral is Kiev’s oldest standing church. It has a very pretty blue watch tower.

Walking down Andriyivsky uzviz in the shadow of the awesome St. Andrew’s church, there are TONS of little stands with every souvenir you could ever desire. It is on a cobblestone hill which winds its way down to the Dnipro river.

And a word on my stroller/backpack kelty child carrier. Awesome. That’s the word. They no longer make these babies…I purchased the only one I could find for sale anywhere on ebay.

Whew! I think I covered everything….tomorrow I will tell you about Sunday!


This is a long one (btw Cody I did some research on some stuff, check it out)…
Guess where Jonah and I had the opportunity to travel this past week? Kiev, Ukraine! We weren’t sure when was the next time we’d see Cody so we met him in Ukraine (Nick was unable to get leave so soon). We were able to hang out with Cody and his companion Elder Hovorka (who was in the MTC with him and will be going home with him in June)in Kiev for three days. Those two were the best personal interpreters, tour guides and baby assistants I’ve ever had!

We arrived Thursday at the Zhulyhany airport (reeeeally small airport). When we first landed I thought we had hit something because there was a clicking noise, then I realized everyone was clapping. I am told it is customary in Europe to clap when a plane lands. As soon as the plane landed a young woman volunteered to help me and took Jonah by the hand into the bus that takes you from the plane to the airport. There were a lot of people between me and Jonah by the time I got onto the bus but when I looked over to him an elderly woman was getting up from her seat to let him sit down. I could not believe it. Of course he didn’t sit too long once he realized he couldn’t see me he came to find me. Then he shoe fell off and all the little old ladies around me were trying to get it back on. I have never felt so helped in my life! Elder Woodbury & Elder Hovorka were waiting for me. We headed off for my hotel which had an insanely small elevator (see photo below) It was near a Billa grocery store (we have Billa in Italy too!). So we got groceries and made plans for the next few days.

Friday we began our adventure and I had my first of many rides on a Ukranian bus. They pack into those buses like nobody’s business. And when there is no standing room left, they grab the door and swing into the bus when it closes. Regardless of how full the buses were though, as soon as people saw Jonah in my arms someone gave up their seat. Ukranians do not smile at each other so they can tend to look very intimidating, but despite their hard looks and blunt ways they are sooo helpful!
Photo of us waiting on the bus while our driver took a 1/2 hour break:

So Friday we headed to the Pyrohovo Museum of Folk Architecture. It is an outdoor museum of 17th-20th century wooden cottages and churches divided up into seven “villages” representing the areas of Ukraine. There are “bob’s” (Cody’s word for old ladies…) wandering around reenacting what the village people might have done. One Bob in particular was very excited that the Elders spoke Ukranian (and not Russian, most people in Kiev and west of Kiev actually speak Russian). She took us into a grass hut and told us a little bit about it, she was adorable.

She told us that about 16 people would have slept in this little house. Several on the floor and the kids up on top of the oven to keep warm.

This little Bob was so funny. She was selling stuff and was a good saleswoman!

Afterwards we went to the mission office which is right next to the brand new temple. I met the mission president and lot’s of missionaries. Jonah took a nap in the hostel next to the temple that is for people coming form Russia and the surrounding areas to go to the temple (it’s super cheap for them). Afterwards we met up with another Elder (Parker?) to go to Domino’s. That’s right, the American pizza place. LOL. Here’s Jonah loving his time with Uncle Coocoo at Dominos:

After stuffing our faces we went to a big mall to look around. The thing that surprised me the most about Ukraine was the way the apartment building look. They are definitely reminders of the soviet union, the Elders laughed when I said they looked like they should be condemned buildings. They came in all shapes and sizes but pretty much all looked the same (see below). They even looked crappy from the airplane when we were landing. Cody says some of them can be pretty nice inside, you just never know. But they like to put styrofoam on the outside in the winter which looks pretty bad, and they all build their own sort of “covering” for their deck which can look pretty bad as well.

I’ll tell you about Saturday in my next post!

Conversions hurt my head

Let’s talk about what it’s like living in a foreign country. The biggest thing that both Nick and I have noticed is how many conversions we have to make (and remember how to make!). Such as euros to dollars, dollars to euros. Pounds to kilos, gallons to liters, and miles to kilometers. It gets really tricky when you are at an Italian grocery store and the price of produce is in euros per kilo. Umm, yikes. Oh yeah and Celcius to Farenheit…even my oven is in Celcius! AUGH!

Then there are the road signs, we had to learn them all to get a license here but it’s still hard to remember sometimes. And they have some doozies. Thank goodness our speedometer has kilometers per hour on it!

Then there is the language. We are attempting to learn it, but we have both realized that it is going to take time and perseverance. Just one more thing to make our brains work work work.

It takes a lot of brain power to live here! I’m hoping all of this will come more naturally with time but right now, we are mentally exhausted!

Grossa di Gazzo di Padova

We are officially out of the hotel and into a house! We took the bigger house that was further out. So far we like it. It’s a complete mess right now with the unpacking so I will leave you with photos of the views off of two of our four decks (we don’t have a yard so they compensate with decks). We have traded in our loudspeaker military trumpet and parking lot for church bells and Italian countryside.

He speaks!

Jonah has FINALLY started talking to us! This past week he has said a new sentence every day.

On Saturday I asked him “do you love mom?” he said “yeah, I love mom”
Then I asked “do you love daddy?” he said “no, I love mommy”
Later he confessed that he did love daddy, and also pizza.

Just now he asked me “Please may I have another bite?” and earlier today “I want up!”

He is so silly, has a beautiful little singing voice, a tender little heart and is learning and growing at a VERY rapid rate!

All about APO’s

So a lot of you have had questions about our address and how it works. Basically an APO is a military overseas PO box. So all of your mail gets sent to New York, where it is processed by the military postal service and sent on a military bird overseas. Sooo…when you pay for “overnight shipping” that just means it will get to New York overnight, the military will take as long as they like getting it over the ocean and to our post office. So far we’ve found that things come in about a week. We have heard sometimes it takes two weeks, but everything we have gotten has taken 7-9 days.

If you are sending anything heavy, I recommend using flat rate boxes. If it is light, use your own box or envelope. From what I understand you get U.S. shipping rates up to a certain size, then you have to pay extra (it’s pretty big though, so no worries). Don’t pay extra to have it go faster. But if it is valuable, do pay for insurance because it does cover it even when handled by the military postal service.

Some online companies do ship to APO’s you just have to check their policies. Amazon ships MOST things to APO’s. There are a few larger or more expensive things that they won’t. Their “2 day shipping” does not come in two days, but it is nice to get the free shipping from them. So if you need to send us something that can be bought on Amazon, take advantage of the free shipping on over $25.

You will have to fill out a customs forms when sending anything besides a letter to us. For envelopes and small packages you need the smaller customs form and for boxes you need the bigger one. You will have to make an itemized list of what is in the package, how many of each item, and how much it’s worth. They will tell you it has to be exact, but if you don’t know, just write something.

Ummm…I think that’s it. If you have other questions let me know.
And when I said you could only address things to Nick I was wrong so our address is:
CMR 427 Box 3949
APO, AE 09630

(APO is the city, AE is the state)

Cut the shagginess….

Here are some photos of Jonah’s first whole head hair cut. He was thoroughly upset about the loss of his hair, but I think he looks much better now.


Happy birthday to my official toddler!!! Thank you so much to our friends Heather, Colby, Ethan and Ryan for hosting a birthday party for Jonah yesterday. Ethan and Jonah both love trains so it was a fun party!

Venizia (aka Venice)

If you ever want to spend a day completely lost, Venice is the place to be. We spent pretty much all day Saturday wandering the streets, taking in the beautiful sights and not knowing at any point where the heck we were. The streets were narrow and every once in awhile they’d open up to some big square and we could figure out where we were. We did make it all the way to the opposite side of town where San Marco square is (the big fancy Byzantine church), and then considered taking a water taxi back up the Grand Canal but decided that since we walked there we could walk back. Definitely wish we would have just taken the taxi. We made several circles before finding our way, completely exhausted, back to the train station. Train tickets are still a little bit confusing for us, but we’re figuring things out. (there was a 60% chance of rain that day so we didn’t bring the “nice” camera, that’s why the pictures aren’t as amazing this time…even though there never was a single drop of rain!)