We've been here a few days and I thought I would start a running list of things we learned to help those who come after us. My inner girl scout yearns to be prepared for anything. So we tried to pack smart.
We are thankful to those who came before us and gave us great advice too.
#1 You can eat ice cream in Ukraine every day and not get fat. Why? Because you walk everywhere. And if you are here in the summer it's really hot. So you will really want ice cream. Once you have it you will want it every day. Trust me, it's really good.
#2 Bring really comfortable walking shoes. See above.
#3 Ladies - hand wash your upper body unmentionables (you know what I'm talking about). The washing machines here have the potential to destroy them. Thank God I packed 3. Now I have only 2. Only use detergent you purchase here in the machines. American detergent is not compatible.
#4 While in Kiev avoid the Pigeon People and the Giant Cartoon Characters like the plague. The Pigeon People will just put their birds on you, want you to take a photo and then demand money. The cartoon characters will chase you down, hug you, want you to take a photo with them and pay them money. Unless of course you don't mind pigeon poop and sweaty college students in worn out Winnie the Pooh costumes. Then by all means smile for the camera. But don't say we didn't warn you. From Chris: Men stick up for your wife. They will go after the ladies more often then the men so get in between them and your wife please.
#5 Be adventurous and try new food. There are some American places to eat around Kiev. There are several McDonalds and a TGIFridays. There are also some other places to get some great Amerikansky food. But don't be afraid to try some Ukrainian food. It's delicious. Everything we have eaten so far has been great. I love Shashlick (all meat shish kabob), cucumber & tomato salad and if it wasn't so darn hot I would have some borsch. Find places off the main drag to eat at. They are just as good and won't cost as much. When you do eat out you will have to ask for the check. They will assume you just want to hang out and visit with your friends and probably will not bring it until you ask.
#6 Speaking of saving money on food: eat breakfasts and lunches at your apartment if possible. Find a Billa Market and you can get fruit, veggies, lunch meat, bread, cheese, coffee, juice and just about anything else you need for the first 2 meals of the day. BTW - It all tastes better here. No really it does. I think stuff is not as processed here and has less chemicals and preservatives. My very picky eater husband has been very happy with the food.
#7 Packing lists. If your facilitator puts something on the packing list there is a reason for it. We have needed almost everything she listed so far except for the medicine (thankfully we have been healthy) and our umbrella and raincoat. (Thank you Tonya for the extensive list)
#8 Bring snacks. These are especially helpful while in route (duh - mine ended up in the checked suitcase so I am speaking from my mistake here) and they are helpful for the first couple of days until you get to know your neighborhood and where to shop. Also if you have a special diet take that into consideration while packing.
#9 Bring something to entertain yourself that does not require an internet connection once loaded. While in Kiev we have had the luxury of a steady internet connection. But when we get to our sons region we may not. So make sure your mp3 players and ebook readers are loaded. You will have down time but will also be pretty pooped out. If you can't get online at least you can read or listen to music during your down time or travel time. Again I am speaking from my mistake here. I had nothing to read on the plane. Again duh!
#10 Things to do in Kiev while you wait to travel to your child's region: Visit the Monastery of Caves. It's very interesting. If you can arrange for a local to give you a tour that's even better. Ladies bring a head scarf and wear pants or a skirt (or rent one for 50 grivna) before you go into the caves. Your head and legs must be covered. While at the Monastery also visit the museum of miniatures. I won't spoil it for you but just know you have to go. You will be blown away. There is also a World War II museum under the giant statue of the lady with a sword overlooking the river. We hope to go there. Ukraine has a fascinating history and has been through alot. No wonder these folks are so tough.
#11 Power converters. Do not use old ones for newer electronics. That old one you used 15 or 20 years ago for your honeymoon in Paris may not be safe to charge your laptop or other expensive electronics with. We didn't have laptops and iPads back then. Those old ones are probably ok for your hair dryer or electric razor. Get a new convertor for your trip PLEASE. We got the kind that's an all in one converter. I found it at Walmart for cheap. You can flip out the different plugs you need in different countries. Works great for keeping our gadgets charged up. The old one I brought as a back up will not be used again. I plugged my iPhone into it and the phone started blinking like crazy. NOT GOOD!!!
I will keep adding to the list as I learn new things.
Happy travels and God bless!