A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

I’m back!

It is not an easy thing to travel to and from Dnepropetrovsk. First of all, it is an extremely expensive prospect to fly to Ukraine (on average, some $1500 for one round-trip economy ticket), simply because there are so few airlines and flights to this country. This difficulty is easily overcome, however, since AeroSvit, the Ukrainian national airline, offers a much reduced fare.

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Complications arise when traveling from Dnepropetrovsk to Kiev. This is either a six hour train ride, or a two hour plane ride on the oldest prop plane you never knew could still make it in flight (Amir claims that they hail back to the Brezhnev days). I and about 25 other people took a bus to board this plane (you never walk through one of those cool tunnels in Ukraine as you would in America; all flights, except international flights to America, board directly from the airport). We squeezed into the seats (they don’t lean forward or anything, but they kind of rock in place to allow easier entry) and listened to a staticy overhead speech about buckling our seatbelts and oxygen masks. All the while, the airport staff is plugging in the plane to a portable outlet to jump start the propellors. Even though it would be another five minutes before we would move to the runway, the propellors kept pumping. It was quite a process to get the thing started!

The Kiev Boryspil airport is a huge pain. I arrived in Terminal A, where all domestic flights are housed, and had to make my way to Terminal B, for international flights. Now, whereas in America you would either take some kind of shuttle, or walk comfortably indoors, perhaps with the assistance of a people mover, that is not how things work in Ukraine. I had to go outside and walk through a parking lot in the cold, fighting my way past millions of taxi drivers screaming, “Girl! Do you need a taxi? Girl!”

After getting through the normal check-in, security, and customs procedures, there’s additional security for flights to America. This seems rather silly to me, especially considering Israel requires no such extra haggle. It’s funny to watch people go through it, though, because I can always tell who’s American, who’s Ukrainian, and who’s Israeli (there are always Israelis on the AeroSvit flights between Kiev and NY, especially on the return trip). The Americans, wearing sneakers and sweatshirts, take their shoes off without asking any questions when putting them through the x-ray machine. Israelis are similar, just minus the sweatshirt. Ukrainians, though, are dressedto go to an evening party. When they take off their leather shoes or high heels for the x-ray machine, they put on little blue paper slippers the airport supplies for them and walk through the scanner extremely put out.

The plane ride to New York lasted 10.5 hours, every minute of which I felt eeking by unaided by the relief of a tv or radio. That’s right. There were no headphones and no tv screens. No in-flight movie, no music programs, not even that annoying screen that shows you where in the world your plane is located and what temperature it is outside. Nothing. The food wasn’t terrible, though.

All things told, it was a long trip.

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