Let me begin this story by saying that I am safely in L'viv, Ukraine. I have enjoyed a relaxing night's sleep in David and Shannon Goran's spare room and am so excited to go explore the city this afternoon.
It was -25 degrees Celsius when I woke up on my final morning in Mongolia. Helen Sheperd took me to the airport at 6AM and dropped me off at the ticketed passengers only area and returned home.
I put my luggage up on the weigh in area and breathed a sigh of relief that they only weighed 41 kilos collectively and I would only need to do a little rearranging. Until the Aeroflot staff explained that the weight allotment was 20 kilos per PERSON and not per bag. And that I would need to pay $26 for EACH KILO I was over. $26 a kilo? What am I buying? Crack?
Quick math showed that I would owe well over $500 to get my luggage on the plane. So I began to rearrange my luggage. Through a process of throwing out non-essentials (goodbye $10 shaving cream bottle) moving all heavy items to my carry on case (hello back pain for the next 2 weeks) and a good amount of prayer I managed to make 14 kilos disappear. That still left a lot of weight I had to pay for, though. So, I sadly forked over more than $300 for the privilege of bringing my luggage to Ukraine.
My flights were enjoyable. On the first flight, from Mongolia to Moscow, I had an empty seat next to me and a woman who was afraid of flying next to it. At the end of the flight a man in the back hooped and hollered in glee as the plane descended and then demanded that everyone cheer for the pilot after he had safely landed the plane.
I had a few hours in the airport, all of which reminded me just how much I love Russia. Big fur coats, lap dogs on leashes inside public buildings, smoking areas inside large public buildings. I also noticed a significant lack of mullets this season - which is progress. I met a Chinese student studying medicine in Ukraine and we talked for a bit and decided to try to sit together on the plane. He speaks English and Russian very well, and made me embarrassed that I didn't know any Chinese.
On my trip from Moscow to Kiev I had an empty seat next to me (soon to be filled by my new friend Xia Wei Ren [said quickly it sounds like Sefren]) and an older Mongolian man next to it. The man and I talked a bit - he spoke some English and also Russian quite well. He told me that he was a pilot and that he REALLY liked it when the plane was descending. Wei Ren came back and joined us and we all had a lively hour of banter in Russian, Mongolian, and English. I love conversations most that can't pick a primary language.
When the plane began to descend I quickly realized that I had been talking to the man who hooted and hollered on the first flight this whole time. He immediately began shouting and making all kinds of noise. It was really funny. When the plane landed he again demanded that everyone clap. I was only embarrassed a little bit.
In Kiev I stood in line for over an hour before getting to the baggage carousel. By then there were only three bags left. One of them was mine. The other one (yes, the one I had paid over $300 to have sent!) didn't make it! So I went and filled out the forms (in triplicate, of course) and got a phone number to call with the address (because, of course I didn't know the address where I would be living!) before going through customs and meeting David.
Then David took me to McDonald's (Big Mac, I have missed you.) and we went to the train station to wait for a few hours for our train. The sleeper train would take about 10 hours and would get into L'viv at around 5AM.
After talking with David for a few hours last night and Shannon for a bit this morning, I'm really excited about the ministry here. I met a few of the students in San Diego last year at the Mission Iniative meeting and I'm excited to see them again.