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August 31, 2006

If kids would form a rock band

Then this would make an awesome album cover!

Orphanage

More photos in the Ukraine gallery

Photo courtesy Andrew Craig.


Final Report

Follow-up to Progress Report [3] – or The Great Escape from [TBA]

We got back last night from an awesome 3 weeks in the Ukraine, and though so much has happened since the last report, the travelling day sums it all up nicely. We had a great day in Kiev the day before (Monday), finishing on the Independence Square, where some people are still camping in their tents in protest, mimicing the Orange Revolution of 2004. It left us all well tired in a slightly shabby communist appartment with odd mismatching 1970s furniture and decorations. Oddly enough, I don’t think any of us were enthralled to capture the place on photo. But well. I’ll resort to Holly’s clever scheduling format for the Tuesday.

too early phone rings in the living girls room. Never found out what happened, but since none of us can actually finish a sentence in Ukrainian, it couldn’t have been too important.
still early, but it’s got a time: 8.00 alarm rings. Ian goes for a shower.
8.30 Druski’s time for a shower. I decide to get up.
8.39 I actually get up and start packing.
9.00 Scheduled breakfast/bible reading/prayer time. As in the past 21 days, no one actually seems organized enough for this, so I start eating a non-refrigerated yoghurt.
9.15 I’m presented a nice jam sandwich and discard the cheese-like peach yoghurt. Organized breakfast and bible reading times are cancelled; prayer time is moved to 9.50 (10 minutes before taxi and key lady are supposed to arrive).
9.50 Key lady arrives and rushes us out of the appartment. Ian hides in the toilet. We form the most densely populated space on earth as it rains outside and smells inside.
10.15 Taxi finally arrives. Steph ends up in the front seat and gets to show off her Ukrainian skills. Bread. Thank you. Cheese. Give me your hand. Watch out. Still water. Come here. Tomato. Please.
10.53 We get to Kiev Borispol – the airport – and find that we’re well on time as here too, check in only opens about 2hrs in advance of the flight (flight departure time 13.50). So we sing and eat chocolate and squat strategically near the coffee machine.
11.54 Check in desks for our flight are announced. First passport/ticket check survived by mumbling something about e-tickets.
12.28 First group are checked in. Ian and Beth are abducted by airport staff for special instructions concerning wheel chair.
12.45 All are checked in and survived the actual customs desk. I manage to find a toilet without cigarette buds and resilient wee.
13.10 I discover souvenirs that aren’t incredibly overpriced and spend my last 80 grivna (8 quid).
12.28 TODAY I realize this isn’t as interesting as the account of a pop concert, but decide to be bold and strong and hold on till the end. Just so you can feel some of the frustration of this day.
13.22 Isn’t it time to board by now? We get through the hand baggage check and wait for a minute as the queue for the gate forms.
13.38 The queue is almost gone so we join. And then the staff decide we have to wait for 10 minutes before the next few can board.
13.50 Board the bus, that is. Our flight is officially delayed.
14.13 And we’ve taken off. Baka Kiev!
15.00 ish On board meal is good. I love Lufthansa. I reset my watch to German time.

14.39 (15.39) As I’m about to doze off, my neighbouring passenger decides to talk to me. He turns out to be Dutch. We discuss my course.
14.45 (15.45) Dutch politics. Dutch universities. English universities.
15.02 (16.02) His job. Holland is not as great as it used to be.
15.14 (16.14) Our time in the Ukraine. Rev. Orphans.
15.27 (16.27) He decides to buy cigarettes. I really need to doze off.
15.48 (16.38) Thunderstorm over Frankfurt. More delays. Our connecting flight will leave in 27 minutes. Or will it?
16.20 (17.20) On German soil. Drew and I run to airport staff member to get ticket changed.
16.21 (17.21) Drew and I run to information desk to ask about transfer desk. Lady tells us we need a different desk which is fortunately right behind us.
16.28 (17.28) We get all of us booked onto the next flight but check in has closed. Lufthansa lady tells us to run.
16.32 (17.32) I have to use my high school German Entschuldigung to find out what on earth is going on as we find that downstairs other Lufthansa staff are playing with our tickets too. All is well, though, and Ian and Beth are taken care off whilst Steph, Roses, Dru, and I have to rush to the gate as our new flight supposedly leaves at 17.15.
16.42 (17.42) Security dude asks if there’s anything left in my pockets as I unfold my sweet wrappings in the basket with my wallet.
16.54 (17.54) We arrive at the gate and have ourselves checked in. Yes, there are 6 of us but 2 are elsewhere. Yes, one in a wheelchair. Good to find out you know who we are. Yes, 7 pieces of luggage for 6 people. Great, thank you!
17.20 (18.20) Penultimate ticket checking dude shares with us his history as he’s American and failed German in high school yet he’s been stuck on Frankfurt Airport for 20 years now. Poor sod. Our new flight should have left 5 minutes ago.
17.24 (18.24) Another airport bus!
17.30 (18.30) We get on board of the plane as the rain starts pouring down. Druski assures me planes our designed to protect us from lightning. Except for the one that crashed the week before as a result of a thunderstorm.
17.38 (18.38) Ian and Beth are left in the pouring rain. Lufthansa staff are happy Ian’s a christian as he merely yells at them.
17.45 (18.45) Chair dance as Ian and Beth take das Mittelmeer with them into the plane. Taxiing begins.
18.15 (19.15) Traffic resolves as we see the last plane before us take off leaving a nice turbulent wake of rain and vapour behind it. We take off 1,5hrs behind schedule (we, as in us 6, the plane is only an hour late). I reset my watch to UK time.

17.32 (19.32) Druski wins his DS Mario Kart tournament. Pretty clouds outside.
17.50 (19.50) Nice cheese sandwich.
18.40 (20.40) We’re back! The plane arrives at the wrong gate, however, and we have to trek through Heathrow to find the right baggage terminal.
19.00 (21.00) We find the right belt as I run forward to fetch my backpack. How come I’m always lucky with this?
19.15 (21.15) We start to worry that Ian and Beths soaking wet clothes aren’t the only thing that went wrong as we changed in Frankfurt.
19.25 (21.25) Ian, Drew, and Steph go to the luggage lady to find out where their stuff is. Roses is all set and says goodbye. Baka!
19.55 (21.55) All is sorted. Somehow their luggage got stuck in Frankfurt and will get on the next plane to be delivered tomorrow (i.e. today).
20.00 (22.00) Finally we arrive. Hello to Ian’s dad and sister and to Druski’s dad. Steph and I rush off as I’m never sure there’s a train to Birmingham after 10pm, and I don’t trust the London Underground.
20.15 (22.15) My lack of faith is being rewarded as the only station not serviced that day is indeed Heathrow Airport. We get a ticket but find out that in my exhaustion and hurry I got one only to zone 2 (Euston is in zone 1). Nice man says it’ll all be fine, hurrah!
15.18 TODAY I resume this entry after lunch with Ali and Rich. And a shower (just me).
20.20 (22.20) Bus man jokes about the next bus being a double decker. We don’t like him. Manage to get spot near the doors, but nearly knock out two Indian ladies with my backpack. Steph gets public transportly assaulted by man hanging over her.
20.31 (22.31) Hatton Cross. Succeed in getting best spot for carrying backpack (front of carriage – you can just lean) next to friendly young Asian couple.
20.30-something (22.30-something) Northfields. Loads of people board the train (why here?). We don’t like the society rules of public transport. Nice lady boards train reading a book but stuck near door as 3 lads just won’t move into the carriage.
20.40 (22.40) Friendly young Asian girl finds two seats but one of 3 lads sneaks in before her boyfriend can sit down. We just laugh out of desperation.
21.05 (23.05) Man attending some adult London uni enters carriage and even though he holds on nearly falls on top of me whilst I save him by holding his back. You’re welcome.
21.31 (23.31) Leicester Square. Apart from me explaining Steph the difference between mice and rats running around in the Underground nothing exciting happens.
21.39 (23.39) Euston! Steph’s charm works on the Underground staff and we can move up no problem. Hurrah! We’re only 1,5hrs away from home! Or not. Next train at 22.40. Arrives in Cov 0.35. Be joyful always.
21.50 (23.50) Thanks for the nice sausage roll Steph!
22.10 (00.10) We can board the train, so we do. I experience Virgin train toilet for the first time. Quite exciting, I dare say, pushing buttons and all.
22.53 (00.53) We start watching photos on my laptop, reminiscing.
22.55 (00.55) Really scary ringtone behind us as it sounds like the world’s largest mosquito. Not fun as we’ve both had some limb-large bites in the Ukraine. We still laugh.
00.15 (02.15) Coventry! Baka Steph! Quick taxi ride and I’m home.

Now I see it was only 18 hours in total, yet it felt like 3 completely different days. Moving on now, hopefully I’ll get the best pics online in a bit!


August 22, 2006

Progress Report [3] – or The Great Escape

Follow-up to Progress Report [2] from [TBA]

Yesterday was fantastic. We arrived at the orphanage on time, but had to wait quite a while before the kids came out. The nicest nurse came with them and made sure we understood they're really not allowed to eat the berries that are all around (quite a tough task as the kids are fast!). Then she started to guide us around the orphanage ground and even let the kids go on the streets.

I was looking after the naughtiest child who wanted to go even further and started crying when I tried to guide it back, but the nurse showed us a completely new route, even across a main road and to another playground! Steph was quite amused how we just followed her with a smile even though she might have been planning to steal the kids and take them to a better place. It was great fun having the kids see something else but the orphanage and its surroundings – despite noticing some needles near the playground (don't worry, we managed to lure the kids back safely!).

In other news: we've got only a week left, and possibly only 4 more days at the orphanage. Today even that seemed to become a problem as suddenly the director decided we needed a medical check and had to leave right away. Unfortunately for him, there was no way we could leave as the kids would have followed us to the other end of Lutsk and the nurses had their hands full already. Probably gonna have to have this check tomorrow though (after having played with the children for two weeks…).

Playing football seems to go better. One of the tough kids even said molodjets (good job) yesterday after I saved a goal. I'll assume it wasn't meant sarcastically. The main problem at the moment seems to be our diet. Although we eat lots of fruit, for some reason we end up having pizza almost every night. To be fair, we can't always use the base (which has a kitchen, something our hotel room lacks) and the only reasonable restaurants here seem to be Italian. As a good example, I decided to pick the pasta dish yesterday but even I can make better than what I was presented with. Ah well.

The weather is still great – especially after a so–called thunderstorm (mainly lightning and no thunder) it cooled a bit down. And we've got some good touristy things planned for the last week (visiting Kiev, watching Lutsk play football, possibly going to the zoo – and taking lots of anti–bacterial solution!). Hope all is still ok in the west.


August 15, 2006

Progress Report [2]

Follow-up to Progress Report from [TBA]

Just hearing that Lufthansa has cancelled its flights to the UK for the time being, so possibly we'll have a holiday in Frankfurt soon!

Here, everything's ok. The weather is going up and down but it doesn't really matter – there's enough to do either way! We've had some good football games with the Lutsk gangs and made friends with the shop assistants near the hotel, both named Tanya and Tanya! We can also get on the bus and off the bus on our own – you need to shout something like zubronidza pidzaste and then hope you're not swearing and hope you didn't just start a conversation – and we've learned some good other phrases as well.

Now, we can say disuda to a child so that it will come here rather than run away. Divairushka means give me your hand and most likely the kid won't let go either! The orphans are under a rather strict regime, so despite the fact they want to run away as soon as they let go or when they see something exciting, they come back when we use those phrases. Another great tool of control are bubbles! It's hard to keep an eye on a child, but blowing bubbles will attract all of them and there's no worry of them running away!

Plans remain the same for the coming week. We might need to teach the Lutsk kids some discipline – one kid just tackles whoever holds the football, no matter if he/she is on his team! Hopefully we can also teach them some English, though simple (not official) sign language has been some sort of a help so far.

Hope all is well in the west and see you soon!


August 12, 2006

Progress Report

Couldn't find a better title so please accept my apologies.

I can write Ukrainian! OK maybe not – can't tell how to use the cyrillic alphabet on this keyboard. Doesn't make it any less cool. To me. Anyway.

Had a great and easy flight – leather seats and wonderful food on the planes – Lufthansa is my new favorite airline! Our busride from Kiev to Lutsk ended up taking much longer than the two plane rides. And very bumpy too! But we survived and had a very easy day after. Some sight seeing in Lutsk: a pretty castle, lots of appartment blocks, wide avenues and so much green! I thought the Soviets would have ruined the fertile lands here but no, I've never seen so much green in Europe!

We've managed to visit the orphanage three times now, but it's hard to find out to what extent we can help. The first time was great – the kids came out and started running around like crazy and play airplanes and kick balls – well, to a certain extent: three year olds can't really stay standing when kicking a ball. The second time was great too, but completely different and actually much harder. Because of the rain the kids stayed inside, but the nurses allowed us in and split us up between a few age groups. I was with 2–3 year olds but mainly spent time with one kid who just wouldn't let go of my hand! It was very hard to leave – mainly because the kid got used to my hand – but hopefully we'll see them again soon. Today it was sunny and we went on our own accord, but the kids stayed inside. Hopefully more luck next week!

Apart from spending time with the kids we mainly spend our time travelling (walking, or on a cramped minibus) to and fro. We've also had some good time with the YWAM team and hopefully we get to play some football with the local kids once the weather gets a bit more stable and sunny.

I hope all is well in the UK despite all the madness and I'll hopefully report again next week! Possibly with some pictures…


August 03, 2006

Itinerary

I'm going to the Ukraine! Not yet, but in a few days. To stop confusing myself and my friends and family who keep on asking when exactly I'm travelling, here are the flight details:

Tuesday 8th August:
LH 4751 from London Heathrow (9.35am) to Munich FJ Strauss (12.20pm)
LH 3230 from Munich FJ Strauss (13.05pm) to Kiev (16.20pm)
some random coach from Kiev to Lutsk (several hours journey)

Wednesday 30th August:
LH 3237 from Kiev (13.50pm) to Frankfurt (15.35pm)
LH 4736 from Frankfurt (16.20pm) to London Heathrow (16.55pm)
some random coach or train to either a London address or to Cov

I've found a nice cropped map of the Ukraine showing you where Lutsk is:

And in case you can't really picture where the Ukraine is (adapted from here)

Europe Ukraine

Note (follow the black line: 50 N parallel) that apart from the stopovers in Munich and Kiev (red dot, not London) I won't be any further south than London (red dot). Anyway, Lutsk (red square) is about as big as Eindhoven or Southampton and I've been told they've got internet cafés, so I recommend checking this blog once a week or so in case there are picture updates!


July 18, 2006

Who needs a holiday

When the holiday comes to you?

covweather

36 degrees!?!

Why even bother putting on clothes?


June 28, 2006

A little notice

My sister was here. We took a few photos

Birgit in England 8

We had lots of fun and she met lots of my friends which was fun too. Now my arm hurts with fake Hep A.


May 27, 2006

The next craze

Writing about web page /cooperl/entry/prepare/

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

"But what will you do all day?!"
Behold the amazement of my dear housemate Alison.

Turns out that UNO, Mastermind, and the Guardian crossword and chess problem can give you hours worth of entertainment!

Our route went through Cheshire from Northwich (Anderton) to Middlewich, then onto Tiverton to arrive in Chester. Despite the humble amount of 20–odd locks over 20–odd miles it took us a whole week to get there and back. For some divine reason it seemed two completely different holidays, however. 14 Lock

Our way to Chester was blurred by an abnormal amount of rain the southeast would be jealous of, and an excessive amount of traffic in the canals as it was weekend. At Cholmondston lock we even had to wait more than an hour for our turn! At least we learned to be patient and got to drink tea in the rain whilst chatting to other barge folk.

Despite the rain we saw lots of cows and ducklings and ducks and white ducks with yellow ducklings and nosey but not agressive swans and little cygnets. And I saw a bird called kievit in Dutch but no one knew what it could be in English so let me look it up... it's a lapwing! Moo

Getting to Chester turned out to be a race against time, where the final staircase lock beat Pete hands down. The dude wanted to be there on time for the Watford match and I even got up at 8 to take the necessary early shifts but alas, a desperate search for water and some heavy locks slowed us down. Lucky for him, the Hornets played well throughout the match, and even those of us coming late could enjoy the unlucky second half goal. A delicious steak and speckled hen ale pie followed at the Watergate plus some quick pre–darkness shots of medieval Chester.

The last day of the first half of the week involved no barging, but still lots of water and animals, all encountered at Chester Zoo! Bats flying around our faces, giraffes swallowing their food only to cough it up again and chew it a bit more, lemurs jumping out of nowhere, chimpansees biting each other's head off, lil monkeys being smacked against big rocks, and meerkats with scary nightmares. I like zoos.

I also like lemurs. And a bit of alcohol. And bubbles. All eight of us were finally on the boat (one had arrived late, and one had been back home for a night) and together we celebrated life on water.

Freddy Lemur Me

For some unknown reason Pete had the urge to buy a Kinder Egg. Through a knot in string theory, the same surprise was found at Warwick. An accurate drawing of the monster inside can be found here


September 22, 2005

The amazingly short yet surprisingly action–packed trip to the continent

I wasn't planning to go home at all until Christmas, what with a big maths conference the other week and my massive plans to do loads of work the coming term and getting ready for it, but then Ian was craving for a short cheap trip somewhere out of Britain, and I thought why not? September is the big birthday month in the family so a surprise attendance would be more than appreciated! Especially when gifts are presented as well, which I stupidly forgot this time.

Got a great deal with Thomsonfly for only 40 quid pp from Cov to Amsterdam. Only problem was that we were flying 6am on Monday and coming back Wednesday 11pm, leaving us with a taxi ride to and fro, but it was worth it! Meant that we were landed at Schiphol [Amsterdam Airport] 8am and after a quick cuppa and a train ride we were in The Hague by 10am. Times I didn't even know existed! Having lived in England for 2 years now, I also forgot that Dutch stores often don't open till 11am or even later on Mondays, and that some attractions might be closed that day. So no Vermeer or Rembrandt masterpieces for us in the Mauritshuis, but a nice walk around the Binnenhof (Dutch parliament buildings) and Resident (new government quarter) - thank goodness the weather was great! Luckily there was some art publicly available on Monday, as we experienced in the Panorama Mesdag. The main attraction here is a massive panorama painting [that is seriously a panorama, 360deg, about 14 meters high and over 100m in circumference] by the Dutch 19th century painter Mesdag. It depicts the beach and the town of Scheveningen, now part of The Hague. In the background speakers whisper the sound of breaking waves and squeeling seagulls. And yes, afterwards we were desperate to see the beach!

A short stop at the Vredespaleis followed first. This is where the International Court of Justice is located [Ian even thought he saw Robert Mugabe in a car on its way there! Let's hope it was a vision of the near future...] and is surrounded by a lovely garden and a great park. Not too tempted by a guided tour [with the thought of visiting the beach still in our heads, and a bit confused by the lack of an information desk] we went on proceeding our quest to Scheveningen. I shall let the photos speak for this bit [and yes, I had a lot of trouble keeping my camera steady this trip. Remember that I hardly had any sleep having to wake up at 3am...]

After a nice stroll we went on to Rotterdam to meet up with my sister and have some good food. Stopped on our way on the Schouwburgplein [some square] to see a bunch of fountains go up and down and then stop. And then start all over again. Finally managed to reach my sister and we got some Chinese food. That is, a spaghetti version of the South Asian (Indonesian) kind of Chinese food. It looked awful, but tasted alright. [For the culinary interested, it was a large portion of Bami - probably Goreng - a Loempia - sort of spring roll - and a portion of Fu Yung Hai - eggs in sweet and sour red sauce.]

Rushed out of Rotterdam to make it to Eindhoven and stay over at my old house [parents' house] and make sure I didn't spend enough time there. They picked us up from the station in a brand new car that actually made me wanna have a car [seriously, you won't find a guy any less interested in cars. What type it was? The dark blue one...]. Slightly less impressive than the car was the tiny TV my parents had installed in the living room as an emergency replacement for what's usually there. Had my first continental breakfast in ages [at least, Ian said it must be continental for it wasn't British, and it included croissants - thanks mom!] and managed to completely mismanage time so that we ended up in Utrecht 2 hours after planned. Still had enough time to see basically all there is in the old town, including the Oudegracht [Old Canal], the Nieuwegracht [New Canal], the Dom Tower and Church [never knew the courtyard was open to public - gratefully made use of it enjoying great views of the tower and church], and… the Post Office! Hehe, not really a tourist attraction, but I usually made a detour to this place to get my stamps just to enjoy the massive hall and its art-deco interior.

Met up later with some good friends from Uni [the undergrad years] and had a nice pancake [big enough to count as a full meal] at the Oudegracht. Bit chilly and a bit worrying as a lapse of concentration could make you and your meal end up in the canal, but we survived to advance to the Neude where we enjoyed some proper beer and some additional company. Got introduced to some great new Dutch commercials [seriously, in Holland they actually put an effort in trying to keep you from changing channels!] and had a nice walk to my friend's place seeing Utrecht at night.

Despite specific orders, my friend failed to get us Weetabix and banana and milk, yet we did have another good brea brunch with chocolate flake sandwiches! Ended up in Amsterdam just after 1pm and headed towards the Anne Frank Huis - not missing the great Dam square on our way, with the Palace [old town hall] and National Monument [to commemorate those who died in WWII, now also a sign to stand still and think about human suffering and violations against human rights that happen at this moment]. I'd never been to the Anne Frank Huis, and despite my friend's negative words about long queues and crazy Americans, we decided to take our chances and were lucky - no long queues and only normal Americans. The house was indeed no more than a house, left mainly unfurnished with hardly anything on the walls [except for the occasional postcard and magazine cover Anne got from her dad to make it look a bit more homely]. I'd never read the book and it has been quite a while since we discussed this in high school, but some critical passages were printed on the walls, and some fragments were displayed in certain rooms and helped those like me understand what life in hiding was like. [What life?] The tour was concluded with a room asking us for our opinions on current issues regarding freedom. It is interesting to see how Western countries - supposedly all the same in their godless capitalism - disagree so strongly on these issues. For instance, in the Netherlands all police wear the same uniform, the same signs of authority, without any personal touch. That is, those who feel they need to wear extra garments because of their faith will not be able to enter the squad. Quite different from the freedom of expression of religion people enjoy here! It also proved hard to find your own balance between freedom of religion and freedom of opinion.

We did manage to get out of the quiz [which probably features on BBC every year anyway] and headed for our next shot of culture in the Van Gogh Museum. This museum might lack some of the master's greatest works [such as Starry Night], but it gives a perfect history of the artist's life, his ideas, and his influences. It also provides you with enough space to see the paintings from a distance [quite rare in Dutch museums] though some benches or chairs would have been nice [doesn't feel right to use the museum floor to rest]. As usual, we managed to visit this museum right between two major exhibitions, though time and energy didn't allow us for any more cultural absorption, and the works seen were magnificent enough to leave us satisfied!

With another short rest in the Vondelpark we took our final tram ride on the way to my sister's place for some hospitality. She did a fine job taking the final baton to finish the great display that all Dutch people have a firm control of the English language. [That sentence actually had a different flow, but I liked the repetition of "fi".] Eventually, she took us to the airport which was just a minute away and after some final speed shopping [hagelslag! stroopwafels!] we were on our way.

And now I'm here, still wasting my time, but ready for a new term! It was good to be home and see everyone - even if only for 2 hours or so. Work is calling now, Rev and maths tomorrow and this weekend - bring it on!


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