July 23, 2009

Greetings to all -    we didn’t know if you had noticed in the news that Joe Biden came to Ukraine this week, but we thought we would tell you our little part in Joe’s great adventure.   We got a call from Peace Corps headquarters on Saturday that Joe was coming, and Peace Corps was going to allow 30 volunteers to see him  (there are about 350 Peace Corps volunteers total in Ukraine).   We said great, put us on the list if you can, we would love to go.   Peace Corps was quite excited to get to be part of the action and said they would pick up the tab for our train fare and would put us up for one night at a cheap and un-remodeled hotel.    Then we got a call later that said yes, we could come!    So we were quite excited.   (It doesn’t take much to get us excited these days…).   Anyway, so Monday we went to Kiev, and found out that they had 130 Peace Corps volunteers that had wanted to come so someone decided that everyone who wanted to should get to come and they would forget about the original limit of 30.   That was good, and we were glad that that is what they decided.   Besides which, we got to see a lot of volunteers we hadn’t seen since training.   Then our group was to also include representatives from the US Embassy in Ukraine, and a few other odd assorted Americans.   So there ended up being probably about 300 people.   We were told to be at the Hyatt in Kiev at 8:15 in the morning.   We were there about 10 minutes until 8, we didn't want to miss anything and all that.   (Actually the only thing we missed was a decent breakfast, but that was okay.)   So by 8:15 we were going through security and it was sort of like the airports except everyone got "wanded" and there was also a dog that they said was not looking for drugs, but for bombs.  Plus lots of secret service types trying to look inconspicuous (and who failed), plus other secret service types that probably were inconspicuous that we did not notice.     And lots of Ukrainian police.   Anyway, they put us all in the Hyatt ballroom.   No chairs, just standing.  And a few bottles of water, but it ran out quickly.   So we stood around and stood around and stood around and then about 11:00 Joe Biden came in, talked for 10 minutes, took 2 questions, shook hands for 2 minutes, and left for a series of meetings.    That was it.   Sort of much ado about nothing.    Not even any great photo ops.   We were still happy we went though.   Had a good time in Kiev, reminded ourselves of why we are happy we never went in to politics, had a nice dinner at a nice Italian restaurant and a nice lunch at another restaurant, saw lots of friends, and came home.    Joe's purpose in coming was not to make nice and schmooze with the Peace Corps, so we understand.   He came to tell the Ukrainians that it is time to get their act together and do things right, so we were not exactly real big on his radar screen.   So it was okay.   But now we are back home, and our adventure with Joe Biden is over.   

Some of you asked what a samovar is -   it is an old Russian metal pot, used to keep tea or coffee warm.  It has a hollow tube down the middle where they would put hot charcoal, and the tea or coffee was poured into the space around that.  Then a spigot at the bottom on one side to pour it out.   You can see a picture in Wikipedia if you want.    We will probably never use it – but it will be a fun souvenir.   We have seen several in people’s homes here, but most of the ones that are actually used today are electric.   Ours in the old fashioned kind and was made in 1906.  

Anyway, not much else going on.   Take care.   

 Don and Karen



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