We made it to Kyiv a couple of days ago after the most miserable day of  travel I've ever had in my life (and this is saying something because  I've had some pretty miserable travel days in the last few years,  including a 24 hour surprise layover in Russia where I wasn't allowed to  leave the smoke filled airport due to visa restrictions and also the  infamous Jordan/Israel "take to nearest police station" border crossing  episode, which grandma recently referred to mid shudders as "that aweful  aweful day"). It all started in SLC where a flight delay got me freaked  out that I was going to miss my connecting flight in NYC where I was  supposed to meet up with Matt to fly on to Paris and the from there, to  Kyiv. The flight made it to NYC in time, however, not that it mattered  because when I arrived I was told by Air France (aka, the WORST airline  in the history of aviation) that I was nowhere in their records but not  to worry because "we'll totally put you on standby for flights over the  next day until we find you something suitable. Totally." After lots of  panicked yelling (not the mean kind of yelling, but the productive  kind), I was passed off to Delta (I think because it was Delta who I  made the reseravations with in the first place) who was much more  responsive to my productive yelling when I told them that I didn't care  if they had to hire me as a flight attendant to put me on a flight that  went through Iraq on an airline that came into existance that morning, I  had to be in Kyiv by Saturday afternoon. This panic was because Matt  had made the flight out of NYC and the thought of him rolling into  totally unfamiliar and (let's be honest) not super friendly Kyiv airport  (which is actually a good half hour drive outside of the city) was a  little worrisome, particularly because I had no way to communicate with  him to let him know that a) I was alive, b) I was coming to Kyiv at a  later time, and c) when that later time was. Eventually the Delta people  worked something out with a Russian airline (Aeroflot) where  surprisingly nobody speaks any English at all, including the pilot who,  to his credit, desperately tried to translate all of his messages  throughout the flight until some point toward the end of it where he  finally gave up. I think this didn't matter, however, because most of  his translations ended up being an incomprehensible attempt at  interpretation of about 2% of his original message. At one point he came  on and spoke in Russian for about 4 minutes and then followed it in  English with something that sounded like, "Hello. I'm pilot. I fly  plane. Plane, he flying. Fly. All you need is love. Heppy birsday" followed by fragments of what I think was the pledge of allegiance. But it have also been lyrics to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face."  (This is actually almost no exaggeration).

Of course the flight out of NYC left about 2 hours late (because when  has a flight from JFK ever been on time). But I barely made my  connecting flight in Moscow anyway (yes, I woke up in SLC and somehow ended up  in Russia, never intending any of this). I rolled into Kyiv about 5  hours after Matt and frantically searched the airport until I found him,  totally relaxed and, according to him, prepared to just make the Kyiv  airport his permanent home until someone he knew showed up. I think Matt  has never been stressed out in his life, which is probably something I  should try to pick up from him because between the bar a few days ago  and a few days without sleep mixed in with that travel day, I aged  exactly 37 years and have started experiencing some bizzare  hallucinations (which always happen at night and strangely always have  to do with really large spiders above my head).

Anyway, we eventually got into the city a couple of days ago and met up  with our first couch surfing friends Max and Natallia who live on the  edge of Kyiv. They are probably the nicest people I have ever met in my  life and I'm considering moving in with them permanently. They have two  little boys (ages 2 and 3) and if I can figure out a way, I'm going to  try to take one of them with us when we leave. I don't really care much  which one but the older one is a little bit quieter so I think it will  take them a few minutes longer to notice that he's missing. Max is a  bishop in one of the Kyiv wards (he's a couple of years older than me  and was called to be a bishop at age 24). We've mostly hung out with  them over the last couple of days and it's been a lot of fun. Tonight  we're going to try to make them Mexican food if we can remember how to  make tortillas, which is iffy at best.

Yesterday we visited the temple site, which is really close to where we  are staying, and then wandered the city for most of the afternoon and  evening. We spent some time wandering around Big Mama, cautious of  course because I'm still conviced that that thing is within minutes of  coming to life and terrorizing the world with her giant mammoth head and  sword (when I brought Krishelle, Will, Megan, Matthew, Andrea, and  Stacee to see her 2 years ago, they had to undergo several months of  therapy just to overcome the initial shock of seeing her. Big Mama is  sort of the statue of liberty equivalent for Ukraine but she sits on top  of the highest hill in the middle of the city and she is quite a bit  bigger, plus somewhere around 600% scarier).  

We'll go check out some great churches, including the catacombs and the  Lavra today before hopping a train tonight to L'viv. We plan to stay in  L'viv for probably just one day before heading off to Krakow.

Things are going really well so far. I'll probably touch base again in a few days. Hope everyone is doing well.

~It Just Gets Stranger