It’s been about a week that we’ve been officially in Ukraine, and we can’t believe how fast the time passed! Throughout this time, we have just been trying to process our emotions about all of this, since it happened so quickly, and have started to explore around our neighborhood, which has been fun. The Venice Hotel is in an area that has the grocery store Novus right across the street, which is very convenient, and that is where we entered our first Ukrainian grocery store. We would say the equivalent of it is like the local Star/Kroger, but the produce leaves much to be desired. The liquor/wine/beer section is the first thing on your left when you enter, and there was SUCH a huge variety of libations and spirits. I had read before from other blogs that vodka is very popular here, like most former USSR countries, and they weren’t kidding; K had me take a picture of the “water” aisle, as we liked to joke around, and look how tiny he is in the picture and all of that vodka! You can purchase a liter for around $1.50ish, although I can’t attest to the quality or flavor since I haven’t tried any. Try at your own risk! Can’t be worse than the Popov’s I used to drink back in college, which although it claims it was filtered in charcoal, it tasted pretty much like rubbing alcohol, haha.
If you weren’t aware, the US dollar is equal to about 26 Ukrainian Hryvnia, which means that everything is SUPER cheap compared to the US. You can live like a king and buy so much stuff, and it’ll come out to about 5 bucks. Since we have food from our stay at Venice, we just try little things here and there. I bought some berries that I used to LOVE eating when I was growing up in Germany, and they were about a dollar for two pounds. Crazy!
K has been having a blast trying all of the various Ukrainian beers, which tend to be mostly of the Bavarian sort. But they also had foreign brands like Coronas and Sam Adams and the like. One of the strangest beers that he bought was hilarious, as it was Trump beer! But not like Trump Winery, but a beer that specifically mocks Trump, which includes for some bizarre reason a shot of Macaulay Culkin from Home Alone, “Free Melania” protester, a Trump Tower, and Putin wearing a Make America Great Again hat. We were cracking up! It describes its flavor as a Mexican Imperial Lager, but at this point, we think everything about this beer is just a joke. So far, at our hotel, we’ve been the token Americans, and many have asked about Trump, stating that they couldn’t keep their eyes off the TV during our last election, it was so close. I’ve been overseas many times before, and no one has ever asked me about my feelings about the current President, so this was an interesting experience. Behind the Trump beer, you can see all of the different kinds that K has been trying, and his best deal yet – a 2.5ltr beer that is the equivalent of Natty Ice in the US. All for 22UAH, or 84 cents!
Anywho, the pricing is, for the most part, incredibly cheap, as you can see below. However, some things, such as an Apple iPhone, is still the same price as back home. I asked how that worked since the average income of a person in Ukraine is $200 a month – how would anyone be able to afford that? Someone explained that they usually make a monthly payment plan to pay off the phone in increments. We’ve noticed that most people have Samsung products, which seems really popular.
If you hop across the street again (cross at your own risk!), the brand new Lavina Mall has opened, and although a lot of the mall is still in progress, they have some cute places to eat, many of the stuff that you would expect in an American mall. You’ll recognize some of the name brands like Benetton, Lacoste, and Zara (not open yet).
They also have a movie theater that plays a lot of the same movies out in the US, but they have Ukrainian dubbing, so we probably won’t be going there anytime soon. It was funny because they had Cars 3 posters, which for some reason, is called Wheelbarrow 3 here?!
We were most surprised to see that they even have a Pizza King, just like the one in Indiana, which totally threw us off guard! The stall at the mall had a long line around it compared to the others, so we’re guessing it’s pretty popular. One time as we were leaving the mall, we saw a Pizza King delivery dude, who was wearing what looked similar to a racing uniform that was branded with the Pizza King logo, with a matching red moped to boot! We will be ordering delivery at some point, just to satisfy our curiosity, so stay tuned. It is available 24/7, and they have combos that include that 2.5ltr of beer that K had. I was looking at the menu, and they have two options of sauces – creamy and specialty sauce, but the picture of both pizzas look exactly the same, so we’re not quite sure what’s happening there. There were a couple of bizarre topping choices, such as mustard or mini gherkins!
What’s even more nuts is that there is also a mini-amusement park for kids inside the mall, called Galaxy. It is pretty much like a carnival indoors! There are rollercoasters, play gyms, trampolines, the like. Very convenient for those parents who brought a child with them along the surrogacy trip, of which there are a few.
Inside the mall, there is another huge grocery store called Silpo, which is a very fancypants and has lots of cafes and sit down places for you to enjoy your coffee and sweets, or eat a meal. We think it’s pretty much the equivalent of Whole Foods, but the prices seem pretty similar, and everything is very fresh and of high quality. I’ve been wondering whether some of the produce and meat in Ukraine is organic, just because all of it looks a lot smaller than what I see in the grocery store, but GMO has taken over the world, so most likely not. Some shots below of Silpo – and great free Wifi, if you need a change of scenery from your Ukrainian abode.
Lastly, next to the Lavina Mall, is a huge warehouse shopping center that reminds me of a Costco – we just did a drive-by, but it seems like it will take ages just to go through the whole store! They also have a bunch of little stores next to the cash registers, one of which was a gun store that just had semi-automatics hanging on the shelf like lollipops. I’m guessing they have a lot less stricter gun rules here, if you can get your groceries for the week and pick up a shotgun in the same place.
Alrighty then, that’s it for the update about the neighborhood! I am gearing up for my IVF cycle which starts this Saturday, so going to make the most of the last couple days before I start with the injectibles. I’m curious to see what kind of protocol that they will put me on, and will be sure to update you shortly thereafter 🙂
We’ve been here about two whole days, but we are already loving Ukraine! This is the lobby of the Venice hotel, which is a hotel that the clinic bought just to house their clients during their stay. From what I hear, none of the other clinics in Ukraine offer this, so this alone is a huge money and stress saver. K (my husband) and I have definitely had our fair share of traveling, some of it being a bit haphazard, so it wouldn’t have been something new to plan for a stay in another country, but it’s just another thing you have to take care of on what seems like a crazy endeavor to begin with, so we’re very happy that everything is coordinated so well, so we can focus on what matters. Now, I do want to be upfront and let you know that we purchased the VIP package (50kish), which I believe is why we landed in this particular location, but I have been told by others with the standard (40kish) and economy packages (32kish) that their accommodations are fine, and depending on how busy the clinic is, you might end up being placed here at some point anyway. In another post, I will go over why we chose this package, but also, why it is still a great deal even with the economy package, so please do not let this stand in the way for you to explore your options. The reason I am saying “ish” after every cost is because the price is in Euros, and depending on the day, the conversion rate might be in your favor.
Anyhow, back to the hotel! In the lobby, there is a huge room next door that is stacked with water, soda, and some snacks available 24/7, which is pretty handy with the weather being hot and humid, along with some big huge couches to lay around on. Although the decor is not my style, it is a very nice hotel that is clean and comfortable. Our room is like a standard room that you might get at a hotel in the States, including a TV, fridge, safe, and a closet. The Wifi is super fast, so we have been using Netflix to entertain ourselves through our laptop, which is usually what we do at home anyway! Hulu, however, is not available in Ukraine, apparently, unless you’re a nifty techie like my husband, and can change your IP address to reflect being in the US. However, here are the perks that are not common – with all of them being complimentary – which is laundry service, maid service every day (if you wish), bikes to ride around the town (you put down a 100 euro deposit, but get it back when you bring the bikes back), and transportation around the city, although you have to reserve this a day in advance, just so they can schedule their drivers everywhere. We’ve also already Uber’d a bit, and for a pretty long way, the fares came out to be around $10. We like using this because the taxi cabs will try to take advantage of you if they see you are foreigners. Also, they give you better prices over the phone up front, rather than on the street. You can always have the hotel call a cab for you and negotiate the price upfront, if you haven’t gotten around to scheduling a ride. My favorite freebie of all time, though, are the MASSAGES!!! You could have a massage every day if you wanted to, which blows my mind a little bit. I am going to try it soon when we have some downtime, so will report back, but hey – it’s on the house! They definitely know how to make someone’s stay relaxed and enjoyable, and this is key for anyone who has been through any sort of infertility.
PLUS, there is also a pool that they are currently working on, which should open in a few days! This excites me so, as I love to go swimming and soak in the sun. I’m basically planning on using the pool everyday as a workout, and so those of you that know me personally – don’t be surprised if I come back 20 shades darker (but you already knew that :)!
Of course, I can’t leave without describing the food, which is served buffet style for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What they’ve done is also purchase the building next door, where the dining hall is, and the food has been so delicious! K has been raving about the food the entire time, and you can tell that what they serve is healthy and quality. We’ve had seared tuna salad, lots of veal and duck, homemade noodles, and they also have a dessert table and coolers that have yummy treats in them as well. They also have an awesome ice cream freezer with lots of Russian ice cream treats that we can’t read, but we haven’t been disappointed as of yet!
I would have to say that the best part about the dining experience is that you see babies EVERYWHERE, twins and singletons all surrounded by family from China, Germany, UK, Canada, and France! Those are the nationalities we’ve encountered so far, but anytime you’re in the dining hall or common rooms, you can hear all sorts of different languages from all over the world. The folks are also very friendly and willing to share about their experience, which is really encouraging for this infertile couple to hear, after all the years of hardships. Every time we talk to new parents, they are more than overjoyed, and telling us we made the best choice we could, which is such a relief to hear. We thought we went through a difficult time, but there were so many stories of couples trying for many years beyond us, and one we spoke with went through – hope you’re sitting down – 14 miscarriages! I wanted to grant her an Olympic gold medal for effort, and she was still so nice and friendly. It made me realize that there is alway someone else who has gone through much more, and I admire this couple and their persevering spirit.
What is also great about being here is that you will meet a lot of new people, and some of them will be on the same timeline as us, so we will be seeing them again when we come for the birth! So these relationships are a wonderful way to bring healing and restoration to yourself, because they have all been there with you. We usually stay in touch through What’sApp, and through this experience, we can support and share information with each other. We have learned so much the past two days just by talking and meeting folks randomly, and I’ll be sharing all of the info on my next post, which will focus on the real stuff, meaning the clinic itself 🙂