This weekend’s entertainment consisted of going to something we both haven’t been to in a while – the circus! In Kiev, they have a building that houses the National Circus of Ukraine, and we decided to give it a shot, since Ukraine is well known for having great gymnasts, and we both love animals. This particular show was called Sun Magic (or Solar Spell, depending on which translator you are using), and it seemed to have some sort of Alice in Wonderland theme going. I was really pumped because we were able to get front row seats for $20 each, so we got to see the animals really up close! When we got to the actual arena, though, we realized it’s actually not that big, so we could’ve been fine to buy some middle row seats, which would’ve been around $8 bucks a seat – so if anyone decides to go, make sure to keep that in mind! We really didn’t know what to expect, and since a lot of it was in Ukrainian, except some famous American songs like YMCA or Up in here by DMX (go figure?!), so we were cracking up.
Overall, we were very enthralled by the whole show – it was a good 2 and a half hours of a huge variety of animals that we didn’t expect, like lemurs, raccoons, porcupines, and even a cat with its own company of mice?! I don’t think what I can say will do it any justice, so I’ll just post some videos for you to enjoy. Something to note is that we didn’t know you weren’t allowed to take photos or videos, even though everyone and their mom was doing it – but as usual, the photo narc came by to me and told me to stop, so unfortunately, we didn’t get shots of everything, but enough for you to get a good idea. We highly recommend it as a fun way to spend a weekend!
On Sunday, we went on another adventure into the city to see the Pechersk-Lavra, which included going into the monastery caves! I had read about this on TripAdvisor, and thought it sounded like a fun thing to check out. I had read that you needed to buy a shawl of some sort to cover your head, so had already planned on doing so, since there are a lot of stands around conveniently selling them. But what I didn’t realize was that you should ALSO wear a long skirt, and just cover up in general. Since I knew it was going to be a hot day, I wore a tank top and shorts, and have never felt so judged in my life! Whether it was grandmas or the priest inside the caves, they rebuked me several times and asked me to wear a skirt to cover up. In hindsight, it was kind of funny, but I felt so bad because it seemed like I was genuinely disturbing their worship. Totally something that would happen to me, of course :)! I was amazed to see how many people came and kissed EVERY SINGLE tomb and prayed. Some of them, you could even see their shriveled hands and toes! They wouldn’t let us take pictures inside, so I’ve dug up a photo from the internets so you can see what I’m talking about. The caves are long and winding, and you never really know which way is up or out, and so after a while, I started freaking out a bit, especially because we ended up seeing the priest that had shamed me earlier, again, and I needed to get out of there! Definitely a fun thing to do, I would highly recommend it. The gardens and buildings all around are also incredibly ornate and beautiful, as you can see in the pictures below.
After our first excursion, we went to grab a bite to eat at a restaurant that was pretty much right next to the church, and it was pretty tasty! The building was really interesting, with a winding staircase that would go all the way up to the top. We had a beer, soda, coffee, a lasagna, burger and fries, and a slice of a raspberry tart of some kind, and it all came out to less than $20. Score!
After lunch, we went to check out the Miniatures Museum, which is where the famous Ukrainian artist Mykola Syadristy presents his collection of miniature art. It was so amazing! Each piece was encased with a microscope, where you could check out the pieces and read a short description. I have no idea how he made all of these tiny, delicate items, and it was definitely worth the $4 entry fee. We also took some pictures with sculptures that were around the area. If you ever come to Kiev, I would definitely recommend seeing this area. We spent a total of around 4 hours walking and having fun, which is quite necessary when you’re about to start an IVF cycle.
So for better or worse, the time has come where I start my IVF stimming meds. Every time I think of doing injectibles, I think of salmon roe as pictured above, because my ovaries always feel like this! Today, we went to the clinic and sat down with the doctor and our manager Yaryna. I told them of my egg retrievals and that due to my PCOS, I develop a LOT of eggs, and it can be easy for me to get hyper-stimulated, which has happened twice in the past. The last time I did an egg retrieval was about a year ago, and in hindsight, I realize I probably should have gone to the hospital a day earlier since I was in a lot of pain just walking. The obvious solution to this problem would be to do low dosages of the hormone medications, but the tricky part with me (also due to the PCOS) is that I don’t respond at all to low dosages. So it’s a constant rollercoaster because I have to high dosages to start, but me monitored a lot to avoid hyperstimulation. Back in Boston, this meant going to the hospital every two days before work, and the process just wore me out, so I’m thankful that everything is convenient here.
My doctor, Yulia Kotlik, decided that I should start off with 200 Gonal-F and 75 Merional, and that I should start my stims the following Wednesday. Merional is something that I had never encountered before, but it’s pretty much the same thing as Menopur, except that it is an intramuscular shot for some reason. This was new to me, because all of the IM shots that I’ve had in the past were the progesterone-in-oil shots, but I was relieved to find out that unlike the PIO shots, it is relatively painless, and it doesn’t feel like the hard lumps that I’ve had in the past with the PIO shots. I’ve been directed to go down to the nurse’s office inside our hotel at 10am everyday so she can give me the shots. I’m used to doing them myself, so I’m not sure if this is part of them making sure that I’m following the protocol and not doing anything funky, or if it’s just a nice plus for us because of we’re staying at Venice. Either way, I’m going to follow directions (for now, haha) and see how things go.
After the clinic, we met up with a friend named Valentina, who was introduced to us through Shabana. We asked her to take us out for some authentic Ukranian food, and she said we should meet near St. Andrew’s Church, one of the many beautiful churches in Kiev. One thing that Kiev and Boston have in common is the turbulent weather, where it can be sunny one second, and pouring another. On this particular evening, it decided to pour, and I was fascinated by how the roads just filled up with water, rushing towards some storm drain that I couldn’t see anywhere. It literally covered the sidewalk, and for a second, I thought we would get stuck in the water, but it died down quite quickly.
We arrived at Andriyivskyy Descent, and went to Kapana, which is known for authentic Ukranian cuisine. We had so much fun with Valentina, learning about Ukraine and its history, relations with Russia and Genghis Khan, and the beautiful buildings that surround the street. Because it rained, there were no vendor in the streets, but usually, this is the place to get some awesome souvenirs, which we made a mental note of for the way back. We ordered some potato croquettes, a bowl of borscht, a fish dish, and chicken kiev, and it was all very tasty! They are famous for a particular dish, but the waiter was honest with us and told us that there is no cabbage right now, so it would not be as good as it would be in September, when they have fresh cabbage in season. I thought it was so nice for him not to try to rip us off, especially since he could totally tell that we were foreigners.
Tomorrow, we plan to go to check out the Pechersk-Lavra, which is the famous bell tower in the city and includes the monastery caves (eek), along with the Miniatures Museum. More to come soon!
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 🙂