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 🙂
We finally arrived! Our flight over was uneventful except that I couldn’t sleep very well on the plane, so I was majorly jet lagged. Kiev is 7 hours ahead of Boston time, so I basically tried my best to stay awake until 10pm so I could get into a normal sleeping routine.
Some tips about navigating the airport – after we got off the plane, and were led to line up according to your passport. We stood in the “All Passports” line and waited until it was our turn. The unsmiling lady working the booth did not say one word to us as we gave our passports to her to stamp. Good news is that there is no paperwork to fill out for a visa – and apparently, no interview either, as we just got our passports back silently and were motioned to move on. We walked to baggage claim and picked up our bags, and then went to customs. In the customs line, there are two clearly marked paths that are green or red – with green meaning nothing to declare, and red meaning you have nothing to declare. So we went ahead and walked through the green path, and was surprised to find that we had walked straight out to the pickup line! Best customs process ever!
We searched to see if anyone was holding the BioTexCom sign to indicate that they were there to pick us up, but no one was there! We realized then that we had arrived a bit early, so the driver might not be there yet. During that time while waiting, we had to continuously decline offers from aggressive taxi drivers multiple times, so expect to be saying no quite a bit. There is a purple taxi stand at the exit, and it is there where the BioTexCom driver gets the sign to hold up, so stick around that area, and someone will be there soon. Our driver showed up shortly thereafter, holding the sign, so soon we were off to be driven to the Venice Hotel, where we will be staying for the next 5 weeks. The drive to the hotel was about 35 minutes, but it went quickly because we were busy looking at the sights through the drive. Note that we had absolutely no conversation with the driver, probably because he couldn’t speak English. It is important to realize that our American super friendly culture should not be expected in Ukraine, where you regularly say hi to strangers and make small talk. This doesn’t mean that they do not like you, they just don’t know you, but once you approach someone, they will be extremely helpful.
So far, the best way to describe Kiev for me is that is reminds me of Beijing and Mexico City, with its many tall apartment buildings and crazy traffic. You might recognize some brands like Domino’s and KFC, which we plan to try at some point! Since we will be here for 5 weeks, we will be doing quite a bit of exploring on our days off from the clinic, so we look forward to sharing those bits with you.