One Big Disadvantage of being an Expat with Teens

Expat Life - a stroll along the water in Zurich at night

We’re a family of five. Now we’re down to just three of us in Kyiv. And the kids are only 18, just turned 17 today (Happy Birthday Emma!) and 12 years old. We’re scattered all over the world now.

It’s something we knew going into this. Several months ago these new and separate adventures were only just an exciting aspect of this expat thing. A bonus even!

This morning I left Emma at the Zurich airport with her classmates.

Last week, I put Hannah in a taxi to the Kyiv airport for her trip back to Canada for school.

All my initial excitement for their new experiences is gone. Completely.

Okay, it’s still there but it’s buried under a bit of a heavy heart. I’m trying not to be dramatic, honest. Or weepy.

We’ve been travelling as a family for years now. And during our round the world trip, we spent every single day together. Usually in just two hotel rooms. Sometimes we’d break off into groups for separate things. But pretty much we were 24 and 7 for a whole year.

It was some kind of wonderful!

For the most part.

Now, here I am in Zurich! – By myself. I’ve always had a bit of envy for solo travellers. Not so much anymore.

Don’t worry, I’m in good spirits. I even have a catchy song stuck in my head.

♫ One is the loneliest number ♪

Okay, enough of that.

This is a bit of what my last 24 hours have looked like:

I feel a bit bad for Hannah who never got to try this when she was in Kyiv. I’ve added it to a list of she-must-dos for her return. Emma and I had it for the first time at the Borispyl Airport in Kyiv Ukraine .

Cheese-filled pancakes served with sour cream and tart berry sauce.

Super yummy delicious. I could only finish three.

Kyiv, Ukraine Food - Cheese pancakes with sour cream and berry sauce

We flew Borispyl to Zurich Airport on Swiss Air. Lots of leg room. I already dislike European flights. The boarding chaos is absurd. We stayed back until everyone boarded and then took our seats.

Once we checked into the hotel, Emma and I took the tram to the centre of Zurich. The old quarter is gorgeous and the tram system is pretty cool. Emma was in charge of pictures. Of course, she’s got them all with her. So mine will have to do. Well, I took a photo of our tram stop for reference later. I’m sure you’re not interested in that. Aside from that I don’t have much to show of Zurich except at night – at least until Emma sends them off to me.

Emma, here she is eating again.

We enjoyed a delicious dinner at one of the endless restaurants in the historic area. The one we chose was in a courtyard between the main street along the water and the main shopping street. Both streets were lovely and had many tempting terraces. Though most people were only having drinks.

The restaurants in the peaceful courtyard were much less expensive than the ones just around the corner. And people were actually eating. So after exploring we settled into the garden area. Entrees ranged from 22 to 27 CHF (Swiss francs) and surprisingly a glass of wine was only 7 to 9 CHF.

We strolled around some more through the narrow cobbled streets and enjoyed the view along the water. It’s a really nice city.

The next morning Emma rearranged her bags yet again. Hopefully she’s satisfied. But still, not everything fits. No matter what she does.

It’s not too bad I guess.

We met up with her fellow students at the airport. I didn’t really talk to Emma much after this. But she was kind enough to come and give me a couple more hugs. That’s her on the far right.

There she goes.

Okay, I followed her.

Now, there she goes.

I did a similar thing with Hannah. Though it never occurred to me to take photos at 4 a.m. I had a bit of practice with Hannah so I wasn’t quite such a bag of sighs with Emma.

From her updates, Hannah sounds like she’s settling into residence and having a good time. She’s made new friends and seen her old ones.

I’m pretty sure Emma and Hannah are both going to enjoy their school year. I’m looking forward to hearing about their adventures when I see them both in October.

I’m missing them like crazy!

I’m heading out for some solo travel now. Sniff. I know!

As always, thanks for reading. And I loved all the comments. I don’t suppose you could do that again?!

With love and best wishes from Zurich,
Colleen

Expats in Kyiv, Ukraine

Expat in Kyiv sunrise from apartment

We’re officially expats! The five of us arrived in Kyiv (Kiev) Ukraine almost a month ago now – on the second day of August.

Hannah, Emma, Ben and I have been entertaining ourselves exploring and dining Kyiv. All this while Rob kind of, mostly but not always, enjoyed the challenges of this new contract he’s committed to.

Our housing is assigned. I can’t say I would have picked this place myself – it’s a huge apartment and a little gaudy in a Greek Revival kind of way. I admit I kind of like the architecture and we have an absolutely gorgeous view.

Early this morning Hannah left for the airport. She’s off to university. I can’t even begin to describe how I feel right now. I’ve been excited for her for months but now I’ve realized what has happened here. Nothing is going to be quite the same.

It’s early morning as I write this. Emma is still sleeping. Ben is getting ready for school. Rob is travelling with Hannah. I am lonely already. Sniff.

Emma leaves for her school soon – in just a few days. And then aside from the hopefully not infrequent holiday I’ll be down to just Ben. And Rob of course. Growing up just sneaks up on you. I thought I was looking forward to endless days on my own. Hopefully I am not just kidding myself.

Living in Kyiv

We are enjoying Kyiv.

We haven’t explored any other parts of Ukraine or Eastern Europe – yet. But we do have a very long list.

The last four weeks we’ve been tromping around Kyiv – getting a little lost. I’m learning where to shop (and where to not). A lot of Kyiv is beautiful. A lot is crumbling. Being an expat here is challenging at times. But it is doable and wonderfully fun.

A ton of things are as inexpensive here as you hear about. A crazy amount of things are very dear indeed. A small bottle of Tobasco at my local grocery store is 300₴ (300 Hryvnia or about $15 CDN). Yes, it’s imported but holy cow! International wines are $4-5 and those are imported.

Dining out is super cheap. Well, it can be. It can easily exceed dining out at home. There are some crazy priced restaurants we’ve stumbled into. $150 entrees!

Kyiv Sunrise

That image of the sunrise at the top of this post is just part of the view from our apartment window. Aside from adjusting the size, the photo is not edited. And my crappy photo doesn’t do the real view any justice at all. It is a glorious Kyiv sunrise. It’s a little bleary because I’ve been crying.

What Things Cost – Kyiv, Ukraine

vodafone is one of many super cheap cell phone options in Ukraine

Cell phone service for a family of five – 823₴

That’s $42 Canadian. $31.50 USD (ouch!, converting to USD always hurts these days).

That’s for FIVE! local SIM cards – no contract – with service for one month. Two with unlimited data and three with 10 GB of data each. All of them have 500 minutes of calling within Ukraine. And 500 texts. Unlimited calls and texts within the network. We opted for Vodafone but there is lots to choose from. Theres other stuff but … ?!

Cell phone service is one of the crazy cheap things in Ukraine.