TUESDAY JULY 29
We have an hour to spare before leaving for the airport, so Olya takes us on a tour of the Polytechnic Institute her daughter had been teaching at. It covers quite a large area. We wind our way to the main drag where the zoo and a monument to the Russian poet Pushkin are located. Olya gets lost in her own neighbourhood and we end up at the Shulyavska Metro Station that we have romped through twice a day since our arrival. By now the route to the apartment is familiar to us.
Victor, the cabbie is waiting for us. We collect our bags, leaving excess cloths for Olya and say our goodbyes. I am dressed in shorts as now that we are leaving the weather has improved considerably. The fifty minute ride to the airport basically concludes our tour of Ukraine. En route we notice solitary military persons standing at approximately 1-2 mile intervals. They are apparently posted at these areas in the event of an accident or other foul deed. Sunshine has been burning my arms until about thirty minutes into the trip when black ominous clouds are forming. Within ten minutes, would you believe another deluge of water is falling from the sky. This is just great as the taxi is not permitted to drop us off at the entrance to the terminal. We pay Victor the fare of US$30 and lug our suitcases from the distant parking lot. To make matters worse we have to scale a chain-link rope surrounding the lot. Soaked to the skin by the time we hit the building, we start to giggle as our eyeglasses defog for there is no doubt we have looked better when emerging from a shower. I wait at a long lineup to obtain a boarding pass. Apparently the powers that be have dictated that I screw up one last time before departing. Boarding passes are obtained after we go through customs, not before. No never mind as I would have been sent out of line from customs anyway because the chicky informs me that I need to fill out a declaration form. Our customs official has been to charm school as he is really a fun guy. Nevertheless he diligently checks my current form against the form filled out upon entering and requests to see all the items that I had listed. Hey! There are more improvements. I do not have to walk up stairs to get to the boarding gate as there is an escalator.
The bar takes US$, so I go to order us beer. A gent is seated on a barstool and banter ensues brought on by my North American accent. He is a Biologist from Oklahoma doing research in Chernobyl. My curiosity is revved up, so I invite him to join us. The conversation is most enjoyable and informative. We discuss genetics, (the US is allocating a lot of money for research, but my son should find a different discipline to practice as we are twenty years away from treating people with genetic defects), his changing attitude toward the Soviet people (he spent a lifetime fearing people who do not have indoor plumbing), medicine (in the event of illness his team has a contract to be airlifted immediately to a developed country), work ethic (needs improvement in Ukraine), and his work in Chernobyl. He has come annually for six years to examine rats and bats while other scientists have studied other plant and animal life for effects of radiation. Interestingly, they are not finding any significant abnormalities in the generations born after the disaster or any mutations in plant life that can be attributed to the melt down. The conclusion they are leaning towards is that possibly the effects of radiation particles in the air and soil are not as harmful as initially believed. He did express that there is a concern re complacency of effects of radiation. It is 1500 and time to board so we say goodbye.
Curious---I feel little emotion as we board the plane, contrasting to how sad I felt when I left in 1993. Settled into my seat, I reflect on the last three weeks. There have been many changes since I last visited. Some, as noted are extremely positive such as a greater variety of goods available. On the other hand, the lifestyle of the average Ukrainian has not improved and in most instances it has decreased due to the high cost of living. On a personal note I was made aware of some difficulties within my family that were not apparent during my first trip. This created some uneasiness during my stay in the village. Of course the lack of good weather and illness was a large factor in contributing to this being a less than enjoyable trip. Regardless, I am happy I had the opportunity to return to my mother's homeland and hopefully will be able to again visit this extraordinary country.
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