One of the words I often see from my journal writings from 1994 is the word, “blessed.” I was truly blessed to be chosen by God to move to Ukraine. While those feelings of being blessed where challenged at times due to culture shock or by other influences, I still grew through each of those experiences.
My flight from Chicago O’hare took me to Copenhagen and then onto Vienna. On the flight from Chicago there were people headed to Norway for the Olympics. Then on the flight to Vienna, I met a student named Carl, doing an exchange program for 4 months.
I ate my first “foreign” meat (turned out to be Hungarian sausage) on the plane from Vienna to Kyiv. In 1994, airlines still allowed smoking on the planes, and I remember sitting in the “non-smoking” section one aisle removed from the “smoking” section. Boy, am I glad that has changed!
Often I tell the story of stepping off the plane in Kyiv. In 1994, one would disembark the plane and just walk a little way across the tarmac to the entrance to the terminal. I remember exiting the plane and seeing a young soldier (?) with an automatic rifle at the bottom of the steps. I wondered what kind of wild country I had arrived in to be greeted in such a manner!
The passport control area was fairly large and it was poorly lit. I stood in the longest line as I had no idea where to go. Then, the baggage area consisted of a room where they literally dumped the luggage and you had to dig to find your bags. I had 3 large bags and there were no carts.
It was a chore for me to move those 3 heavy bags (each weighing 70 pounds!) from spot to spot. Finally, I rounded a corner to leave and there in front of me were a sea of faces! Lots and lots of faces! I wondered how I was ever going to find my contact!
Gary Hillyard and an interpreter greeted me and we went outside to take the bus into Kyiv. The bus ride for the 3 of us cost 150,000 kupons (around $3.50)! We got off the bus somewhere in town and then Steve Haines, an IMB missionary, met us and took us to an apartment on the far west side of the city.
As we waited for Steve, I remember the coldness I felt: physically and spiritually. I remember looking at all of the apartment buildings around us and how many of the balconies had fallen onto each other. I remember no one making eye contact: heads down. I did learn that this was necessary to watch for holes, etc!
Tomorrow the journey to Lugansk begins with my first ever train ride!