Every few weeks my boss says to me, "Go on monitoring trips." Part of my job requires me to visit grantees in person to assure they spend grant money on equipment and workshops and not on fast cars and cocaine. After one year in my job, I finally took the leap, flight east and train west and saw Ukraine beyond Kyiv.
Of course, it's awesome.
Stefan was field tripping along the Berlin wall during my visit east. So Peter came with me for the first stop: Odessa, all the way to the right edge of Ukraine on the Black Sea.
My grants-team colleague and I roped Peter into speaking at one of the conferences. And then we drank presecco at the ballet. After grantee presentations, warm evenings encouraged us to eat dinner on the white sand beach, eat shrimp at a restaurant where for the first time in my life I sent the wine back (was it aged in a gas tank?) and take dips in the pool. Humid weather also forced us to leave the windows open during a full-blown chandeliers-in-a-white-tent wedding. The acoustic techno music that met us in the cab at the airport serenaded us until we climbed the stairs into the plane for the one-hour flight back to Kyiv.
The following week in Lviv I visited the journalism department at the National University to see how they were using the new equipment you bought them; and at another university we attended a State Department-funded journalism seminar.
All you hear from people in Kyiv is "Lviv, Lviv, Lviv." I mean, how charming can a world heritage site town be, right?
Gingerbread stores on every corner, delicious soups in every restaurant, the best coffee I've ever had, shops full of embroidery, second hand clothing stores, cobblestoned streets, Levitan and Shishkin paintings in the local art museum and church bells-- all wrapped around chapels built in the 1600s. As they say/spell it there, "Before you die, Lvov, Lvov, Lvov."
On the five hour train ride back to Kyiv, I sipped tea sold from a cart for 40 cents. Five hundred miles edge to edge -- Ukraine, man.