Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Monday, February 21, 2005

6-7 February, 2005

Alene and I met at the airport ticket counter and headed down to our gate. DIA is deserted, perhaps because it is Super Bowl Sunday, or just because it is an off time to fly. Our flight to Minneapolis is full. The people who prayed for our flight achieved much by the grace of God; we had tailwinds both to Minneapolis, where we arrived 20 minutes early, and Amsterdam, where we arrived an hour early. This gave us plenty of time in the airports to find our gates. The flight over the Atlantic was super smooth, and at about 11 PM Denver time I looked down and saw lights – Ireland! After flying over England, we crossed a glass-smooth North Sea and landed at Schipol Airport. As we descended I looked down on busy Holland – traffic, and a new work week starting, and I thought it looks like the rest of Satan’s buzzing world. We exited the aircraft and an employee told us which gate for Kiev, and we headed out. Amsterdam airport was buzzing as well, and my first experience with a real Babel of languages is interesting. There are many Americans, and we stick out not too obviously but we do stick out. Especially the Texans. Schipol Airport is pretty big, and we hoof it a long way only to find out that the gate we were sent to is for a different flight to Kiev. Back down one hall and up another, a good 20 minutes extra and we are at the right place and thankful for the tailwinds.

Here there are Ukrainians, among others, waiting for the flight. A businessman in one of those big bearskin hats, an older woman who is staring at us like we’re from Mars, etc. We hear Russian/Ukrainian for the first time, and know we’re getting close. Our jet is subtly decrepit, and the flight attendants are young men who look kind of shabby. They go through the pre-flight safety briefing with very exaggerated hand and arm motions, with precision timing, and I think an old military guy or Olympics guy must be running the show. They very brusquely wake up sleeping people to give meals and offer services, as though it is mandatory. The meal is significantly worse than US airplane food, vaguely foreign and unpalatable, like school cafeteria or prison cafeteria food. I eat just in case it is mandatory.

Boryspil Airport is interesting. It is old-fashioned; we deplane right on the tarmac, and walk down stairs from the plane to the ground; I feel like I am in the 1950s. We board a bus and get in line for Passport Control, baggage claim, and customs. Ukrainian Army or Policemen are milling about and running the show, but there are no guns or anything anywhere. As we enter the main lobby of the airport, it is very small. This is not a prime destination in Europe. A taxi driver with rheumy eyes will not let us alone. “Are you sure?” “It will be no trouble.” For ten minutes while we’re waiting for Jim to show up, it is the same, and no amount of polite “No’s” Will shoo him away. Jim gets to us after he has had monumental car trouble, but all is well, and we cram ourselves and our luggage into a very compact pre-iron curtain Russian model and head to Kiev, a half-hour drive.

The city is interesting. I have no frame of reference for Europe, but outwardly it is bleak and dingy much like US inner cities. There are bright billboards showing an enchanting lifestyle of cellphones, jewelry, and alcohol. Hmm. Pretty similar to us. We stop and drop off Alene at Jim and Phyllis’ three room flat. A dungeon-like metal security door creaks open to reveal a typical Ukrainian apartment. It’s not much by our standards, but we’re ready for that. We meet Nina and Oksana, and leave Alene with them. On to Jim Dumas’ apartment, where I get set up on his second floor place. This seems slightly nicer, but drafty and cold. I nod off for an hour, and then get to sleep in earnest, but wake up at 2 AM to write this. The time adjustment hasn’t quite occurred yet, but I feel okay.

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