Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Out of Ukraine

I wanted to highlight what was going on at the moment in my life - to help explain the process and keep people up to date.

A visa to Ukraine is not easy to come by. Luckily, a 90-day tourist visa is an automatic for Americans traveling to Ukraine. On my last trip, the law allowed for people to cross back and forth without any problem. As long as I left Ukraine every 90 days I was allowed to cross back into Ukraine without problem.

Those laws have changed. Three and half months ago I sent the paperwork for a formal letter of invitation. After several attempts, the letter of invitation from our Christian organization was approved by the Ministry of Culture. Sadly, it was approved on day 89 of my tourist visa. I had to leave Ukraine before getting my letter in the mail.

It took them a few days to finally get the letter in the mail - and another few days for it to arrive in Lviv - and now we are waiting another few days for it to arrive at my hotel in Poland.

Luckily, I was able to stay with friends for a few days in Poland and spend a long weekend with a friend in Belgium. This helped reduce the costs of staying in Europe tremendously.

I have been able to explore some wonderful parts of the European Union. I rode a bicycle all over Ghent, Belgium and toured everything in Krakow. One of my favorite parts has been watching movies in English. In Ukraine, movies are always dubbed into Ukrainian. In most of Europe, movies are presented in their original language.

I've also read some good books, magazines, and fresh air. I sleep at least 8 hours a night (even when I slept in the Belgian airport, my Belgian friend explained how to slither between two parts of the wall and find a hidden room behind the vending machines. I slept a sound 9 hours in relative privacy without spending a dime and woke up at 5 AM to go through security!) and relax. It is refreshing to set aside language study for a few days - and I feel that I will come back to language study well rested and able to retain more.

The hope is that my letter will arrive on Thursday and on Friday I can take it to the consulate and be back in Ukraine by Saturday morning. If that timeline is off, I will have to spend the weekend in Krakow - which would mean spending Easter with the Krakow UMC community. That would be rather nice, really.

Ultimately, I just miss being with friends and loved ones in Lviv. While 10 days in Europe might be a dream come true for most - I'm a bit of a homebody, and honestly can't wait to return to familiar surroundings!

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