Kyiv versus Paris !?

Expat Kyiv Ukraine Fall Colours Walk in the Park

Paris for Reading Week – That was our original plan. Hannah, Ben and I would meet up there. And it made logistical sense too, being somewhat halfway between Ottawa and Kyiv Ukraine. I had the hotel picked out on the Rive Gauche and just as I was confirming flights, Hannah asked if she could come back to Kyiv instead.

I’ve never been to Paris. And I certainly want to visit. Hannah has though and she absolutely loved it and has always wanted to return. She lived in France for a three month language exchange and our meet up in Paris included plans to visit her host family.

This summer, Hannah moved with us here to Kyiv and stayed a month before having to return to Canada for her first year of university. So arguably, she has an idea of what the trade off is in choosing Kyiv over Paris.

Hannah really missed Kyiv. I suspect there is some recency bias there. Regardless, she opted for a 15 hour three segment flight over the more direct and much shorter trip to France for her brief Reading Week break.

Kyiv Ukraine really is all that.

Well, she did want to see Crisp.

Oh, and Dad who also had to stay in Kyiv.

Ah yes! That’s right – she also came back for the food. Specifically, for the Georgian and Ukrainian restaurant fare. Oh, and the bread! Seriously good bread here in Kyiv.

Yes, there is really good bread in that paper bag.

Rob makes the best borsch. Ever! She came back for our home cooking.

Eastern Europeans have an almost overwhelming reputation for giving an unfriendly first impression. You can clearly see that Ukrainians have a soft side when you see their bits of whimsy. And it’s all over the place.

Fun art hangs from tree tops and trunks. And restaurants and parks are more often funky than not.

You can find this tree creature in Golden Gate Park.

Hannah particularly likes this piece of metal art – a girl holding wire trash baskets.

We all love things that are ‘lost in translation’. There’s lots of it here in Kyiv. Hannah took this cool picture of a glass entrance door to a business. Maybe the doorway is for stuff instead of staff. Either way pretty funny.

I can’t imagine ever getting tired of the wall murals here in Kyiv.

Hannah and I strolled all over town and we ended up in the usual places. Andriyivskyy Descent was much less crowded than in the summer.

We took the funicular down into Podil for the first time. It wasn’t this busy at the top.

There was hardly anyone else at St Sophia’s Cathedral on this gorgeous fall day. We did the full tour of the property without any crowds at all.

St Sofia’s Bell Tower doesn’t seem that imposing from the outside?

View from the lower platform.

Hannah made a great go at making it to the top of the Bell Tower. She made it up to the middle platform despite her very deep respect for heights.

Upward view from the middle platform. This was actually the less intimidating set of stairs.

Hannah loves to clown around. But this is a completely candid photo of her dilemma. My heart used to ache for her quite a bit when she was a little girl at the top of a staircase.

I thought she was over her fear of heights. Remember she jumped off the highest bungee bridge in the world.

Umm, yes. I left her and continued to the top.

Can you see Hannah down there?

So we were tourists in Kyiv again. There is still a ton we have to do. Not enough hours in the day – Or days in the trip. Though we also did a road trip this visit. And lots of lunches out. Hannah brought gorgeous weather with her. It was sunny and warm the whole week.

Hannah is back in Canada now. Despite the jet lag, she’s looking forward to returning to Kyiv again. Though I’m not sure if next time she’d choose Kyiv over Paris for just a one week break.

Thanks to everyone who invited Hannah to Thanksgiving dinner. She loved all those invites even though she had to turn them down to come visit us. Please keep them coming.

J! Thanks for having an early turkey dinner. And for meeting Hannah at the airport. You’re awesome as always.

And thanks to everyone who is watching out for her back home. It means a lot to us and you’re all simply fabulous.

Hannah! Thank you for coming all this way. I am missing you like crazy already.

Oh, I almost forgot. Crisp on Hannah’s bed. Can he look any more pathetic?!

As always, thanks for reading!

Kyiv – Space Heaters, Fall Colours & Silly Logistics

Those fall colours out my window are at their peak in that image above. There was more green and much more foliage a few days ago , so I think this is as good as it gets. My view out the window that is. Perhaps the fall colours in the country-side are much more spectacular. I soon shall see.

Foliage a few days ago.

We’ve been very busy here in Kyiv. Rob especially. I’ve spent too much time on email updates so figured I better do a post. It’s funny – our day to day lives here in Kyiv seem pretty pedestrian to us since, well, here we are. I forget that maybe it’s not boring to you. And someone else’s day to day life in Kyiv certainly would not have been boring to me a few months ago before I arrived here.

It’s Cold and Sunny in Kyiv

It’s been cold here the last couple weeks. Monday’s high was 5 °C. And it’s only October. At least it is beautifully sunny. I heard a rumour that today will be a high of ten so hopefully we’re back to warmer weather for a while.

Our apartment is a bit chilly. We’ve got the space heaters on and they’re not really making a difference. In fact, I’ve got one right adjacent to me this morning. Slippers. A sweater. A little brrh.

Like most in Ukraine, our apartment is heated by hot water radiators. I’m told the city actually controls the flow and Kyiv hasn’t turned the hot water on yet. I’m curious to know if we’ll be toasty or always chilly this winter.

We’ve got five large radiators spaced throughout the living / dining room. And another long one in the kitchen. I’m hopeful that if we close up the two sets of doors we can at least heat this space comfortably. Though like every room in the apartment, the living room is huge. That’s a dining table for eight right now. We put the extensions and extra chairs away.

Our grand gallery of a hallway has no radiators at all. So it may be a chilly walk from the bedrooms to the living area. Who knows. Maybe we’ll be able to keep the doors open and heat the hall as well.

I’m not sure if you can get an idea of the scale in that photo. I think the hallway may be as long as our house in Canada. I took the photo from the centre of the end of it. There’s still a bit more.

Yes, we’re still waiting to hang the art.

Did I tell you it takes me two hours to vacuum?! Okay, it’s a crappy vacuum but…

Uber & One Stop Shops

Another expat spouse and I took an Uber to a large store – Metro Cash & Carry – kind of like a Costco. It was pretty much a one stop shop for me that day. Though we could only buy what we could both fit in an Uber ride back home. And then again, only what we could each carry from the Uber up to our apartments.

Uber is pretty cheap here. The forty minute trip to the Metro was ₴130 (less than $7 CAD). The store was less than 7 km away. We set out at ten in the morning and I got back home four and a half hours later.

Overall? – Silly logistics really.

Even when I take an Uber loaded with groceries from a central well-stocked store, it’s a good forty minute drive through traffic. A route easily walked in twenty minutes. So I try to avoid the overloading.

Our personal vehicle arrived with the sea shipment and is parked in the garage waiting for Ukrainian licence plates and registration. It’s been two weeks now and I don’t have any idea when I’ll be able to drive it.

I’m looking forward to some autonomy. I don’t think a personal vehicle is going to cut down on my shopping woes but at least I’ll be able to make multiple trips up to the apartment with groceries I can leave in the car.

Yay, I get to see the girls soon …

So that’s just a quick update on a few things. I can’t really talk about what’s upcoming, public platform and all. And I do really hope to share more of the last few weeks with you. Though, if you’ve read about it in an email … meh!

I get to see Hannah and Emma soon. Though I’ve pretty much adjusted to them being away – alarmingly fast – I’m looking forward to seeing them.

Anyway, thanks for checking in. The chilly morning air here smells just like Canada. I am missing the glorious fall colours back home though.

As always I’m thinking of you all,

Routine Schmoutine – Pitfalls of the New Expat

This has always bugged me about myself. It takes me forever to find efficiencies in a new routine. When my schedule changed at work, it took me months to fall into a good personal routine. I’m talking about big changes like from day shift to afternoon shift. Or to a new reporting location. Stuff like that.

Of course some things just happen naturally – like morning coffee. I’m not sure when that started. But long long ago, Rob brought me a coffee in bed and I’ve never looked back. Neither has Rob since it gets him a lot points.

I would love to report that I have more of a routine then coffee in bed. Oh, and I see everyone off for the day. But I’d love to have more of a routine. I’ve imagined what it will be like when I finally fit everything in.

Why Do I Even Need a Routine?

I don’t know. It seems like a good idea. I like efficiency. I’m even quite efficient.

Gah! Somehow it takes me months to make an ideal schedule. I know there’s an easy solution to it. I just need to forget the routine. But…

Okay, so I’m about to make my excuses about why I haven’t taken up running in the morning. Or haven’t done yoga in the afternoon. Or even found a gym here in Kyiv yet. It’s part of my ideal retired lifestyle you know.

In addition to my apparent procrastination (and laziness), there are simply too many things that wreck my plans. Here in Kyiv especially.

Lunch, Brunch or Breakfast

Take lunch out with new friends for instance. A lunch date is quite time consuming. Since we’re all spread about, lunch often requires a 20 minute brisk walk to get to. While I’m quite fond of the three cheek kiss here in eastern Europe, it does take some time, especially shared amongst four or five of us. Then there is chit chat. There always seems to be one more piece of valuable intel to share. Reading the menu takes a ton of time in between conversation. It takes me quite a bit longer when the menu is Ukrainian. Forget it if it’s cursive Cyrillic – I have to ask for an English menu then. Eating generally doesn’t take too much time but goodbyes take forever. Really, its lovely to have so much fun chatting and laughing and I’m not complaining at all. Inevitably, the goodbye three cheek kisses always lead to more talking.

It doesnt’ help that Kyiv has an amazing restaurant lineup. Or that lunch out at a pretty hip place doesn’t often come in over ten bucks. Canadian!

Wonderful Expat Community

I’ve only met a few locals with whom I can speak with enough to have any type of relationship. And of course it’s because they’re proficient in English. I’m working on it though.

I’ve got a circle of new friends through Rob’s job. And of course, you can guess they’re a ton of fun. They’re mostly women and overwhelmingly from eastern Europe.

I joined a local bookclub and we’re meeting next week to discuss our first book. Dinner out of course.

And I think most new expats do this at least their first year in Kyiv – I joined the International Women’s Club of Kyiv. They meet often and have an extensive event list. There’s way too much to do there.

The Grocery Store is an Event on its Own

Simple logistics take me way longer here in Kyiv. And grocery shopping is a post on its own.

Sure, they have large chain grocery stores with aisles of produce and bunkers of meat. You’ll have to trust me on this one. I’ve tried several different ways of making the task of feeding us from the grocery store an easy thing. It’s just not. Kyiv has online grocery shopping and even that takes a good hour. And there’s still the problem of picking out the fresh meat.

And there is no one stop shop here. Well, there (kind of) is but it’s far from our downtown apartment.

I go to the a grocery store every day. There are lots of little convenience stores nearby. I can only shop at the nearest big grocer if I don’t need any meat. Some days there is an outdoor market open and I buy beautiful salad greens and vegetables. I take a pass on the meat there as well though because of the flies. Well, and its not refrigerated. I recently added in a stop at the Carnivornia that I found. It’s the nicest looking meat I’ve seen here. And the store smells good.

If I need something ‘special’, then I may need to visit a few stores. Or save it for an online shop. Or just forget about it since it’s often a crazy price.

I can’t stock the fridge with a weeks worth of fruits and vegetables because they simply won’t keep. And the baked breads here are so yummy that I couldn’t possibly substitute a bagged loaf. So, you see how it is. Time consuming.

I’m Loving My Expat Life in Kyiv

Kyiv is my first expat experience. Life here is mostly easy – in a challenging kind of way.

It’s a ton of fun. And I can see the appeal of being a long term expat. My highschool bestie moved to Hong Kong for a job decades ago. She goes back to Canada pretty much every summer but the lifestyle keeps her in Hong Kong.

So, back to my time management – I’m not getting any better at it.

I mentally scheduled two hours for my most recent 10 a.m. brunch. I was finally headed to the grocery well after two. I barely made it home to unlock the door for Ben. That was six and half hours of my day.

I’m not complaining.

The header image is a picture snapped from our apartment window. It’s one of the sections of the Dnieper River that we can see from our living room.

Thanks for reading!

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,

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.