If you are thinking of a post in Kyiv, here are a few questions to ask yourself as you consider bidding on the nicest war-torn country you'd ever want to visit.
Do you like wearing suede and then fur, seeing more lilacs in the world in the botanical garden and then swimming in the sea? Kyiv has four seasons, but is a zone 2, so no matter where you are coming from you won't get the State Department clothing allowance. White Christmas, lily-of-the valley sold on the corners, barbeque chicken shishlik and the smell of apples in the air--you can celebrate all the seasons here.
Do you like breathing? Unless you're sitting in slow traffic behind a diesel bus, the air is clean. Kyiv is a green city with lots of parks and trees, and the city is surrounded by forests.
Do you like to save money without even trying? Fancy dinner at a French restaurant will run you $20 or less. You can see world-class ballet from the second row in an jewel-box of an opera house for $15. World-heritage-site museums cost 80 cents to visit.
Ancient monastery complex, worth seeing for less than a dollar.
Do you like being able to easily afford massages, a housekeeper, someone to walk the dog and cabernet sauvingon? And still have money to fly non-stop to Greece or Prague for a little get-away? Duh.
Do you like to be noticed? If you work at the Embassy, be prepared to be busy. Washington is watching this high-profile post. Vishvankas were featured in Vogue; Ukraine is trending.
Will you cry when you are all dressed up to go somewhere and can't get a taxi? Do you hate driving in aggressive traffic? Then get use to staying home.
Kyiv at its worst: winter gloom and potholes.
Cozy up in a cafe, all this for about four bucks.
Do you want a house with a yard in the suburbs by the Embassy or a city-chic apartment downtown? If you want to walk to get a coffee, visit a museum or shop, choose downtown. The suburbs consist of pockets of homes with yards hidden behind boulevards of storage units and tire stores. We chose an apartment, so of course we were assigned a house. Regardless of where you choose, a woodsy park will be nearby for strolling or running, and the furniture will be familiar.
I do like our apricot tree though.
Have you read Bloodlands? If you are thinking of coming to this part of the world, Time Magazine's 2011 Book of the Year, will put the current war and Ukraine's history in perspective.
Do you want a choice of three good schools, two with the IB? Here, everyone seems happy with their choice. We are the only people I know of whose kid changed schools, but it was probably him not you.
Do you love fast downloads? The internet speeds right along for Skype or streaming and will run you about $5 a month. This is the only post (hopefully the first of many?) where we walked into the house and the internet was up and running.
It's a country full of nice people still learning about customer service, but aren't we all? Movies are not always released in the original language, but if you hunt, you can find a theater where the latest releases are shown in English. No H&M, but there is a Zara. Long winters, but beautiful springs. Signage reminding you that you can take an exit to visit the site of a Jewish massacre, or towns in a war zone, but a beautiful, historically-rich city and country with lots to do that seem very far away from those realities.