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2 September 2013

When we got back from breakfast this morning, I found "Harvey" sitting on my bed.  The woman who makes up the room had fashioned him out of a towel, my sunglasses, and a grape off the fruit plate we found in our room when we arrived.  Such a cute idea!  What else could I name a big white visible rabbit but Harvey?

Unfortunately, this was a "stay on the ship" day, as we sailed down the Dnieper River and I must have really needed to catch up on sleep because I seem to have slept most of the day.  After one of my hour-long naps (I think I took 3 of them), I discovered Harvey had been dis-membered by my foot movements during my nap and was a mere shadow of his former self.  Thank goodness I took pictures of him before I killed him.

When I looked out the window this morning, we seemed to be surrounded by water.  No shore in sight, so it was quite a surprise to see how many little fishing boats there were.  They all looked identical and as they would appear at what seemed like regular intervals, I had the feeling that I was sailing around in one big loop.

What I am noticing about this trip,  which is different from our other cruises, is that, for example, on the first cruise, there were two ship computers which people would line up to use.  In China, there were about 8 computers, but you could never get in, unless it was the middle of the night, because everyone wanted to send e-mail home (which is why I always bring my own computer). This cruise I am noticing that every other person, it seems, has an iPad or cell phone (or Kindle) that they are engrossed in and while there might be a person or two waiting to use the ship computers, more often than not there is no line, and often nobody is in the library wanting to use the computer. 

Today, after breakfast, the ship itself turned into a library, with all of the little alcoves filled with people reading on some sort of electronic gadget...

...well, except for Mike, of course.  Even in the library, except for the guy reading the ship's daily newspaper, everyone was using an e-reader of some sort.

In the middle of the morning we had the required emergency drill, which was a lecture in the Sky Bar (I'm coming to loathe the climb up to the top deck!...even Walt's knees are feeling creaky), followed by a life vest demonstration and explanation of how things would go in an emergency.

Unfortunately, the way things worked was that you met at your station (which happens to be right outside our room door) and then the staff person would lead you to where your life boat would be, in a real emergency, and explain what would happen next  But there were so many of us in the group that by the time the group got downstairs, only 1/3 heard her explanation and the rest of us were still coming down the stairs when she sent everyone back to their rooms with a thank you for participation, and people were already lining up for lunch.  I'm assuming that there will be no emergencies...and if there is an emergency, the "trained staff" will be able to help me figure it all out.

Another difference in this cruise is mealtime.  When we went to Russia, we always sat at a table for four and so didn't really meet a lot of people.  That we have stayed friends with Suellyn is due to the fact that we corresponded with each other on Facebook before the cruise.

When we went to China, we decided to choose a bigger table in the hopes of meeting more people, even tho the ship part of the vacation was very short.  And we did.  We met the football player from Texas (whose name I have forgotten) and his wife, who were friendly throughout the cruise, and Sharon and her husband, from England.  We never stayed connected to the Texas folks, but I still communicate with Sharon, who is on FaceBook, now and then.  I'm still going to get to England to see her some day!

On last year's Rhine/Danube cruise, we met Kitch and Joyce from Canada on the first day and agreed to share a table for the rest of the cruise.  Delightful people and Kitch and I still exchange photos or updates occasionally.

This time it's a mixture of big table/small table and we know more people because everyone is so much more friendly, for some reason, but we don't have "regulars" that we are eating with.  It seems that we eat with different couples every night, but everyone has been delightful.  Tonight we compared notes on 9/11 with folks who are from New York.  At lunch we sat with two women who were traveling to Russia and Ukraine to fulfill the lifelong dream of one of them, who has wanted to visit Russia since she was a history major in college and was so thrilled she was able to find a friend who was willing to travel with her.  We enjoyed getting to know each other as we watched the lock we were passing through.

Each meal it's a new introduction and sharing stories with new people, which is different, but very nice.

The rest of the afternoon, after lunch, is a real blur for me, as I went into sleep mode.  I decided to nap during the lecture about Ukrainian souvenirs.  I went to the one in Russia and found it really more for high-end shoppers, not junky souvenir shoppers like me, and figured this would be more of the same.  Apparently it was a little more complicated than that, but not much.  We are learning more about the economy of Ukraine.  This has only been an independent country, you know, since 1991, so they don't have a lot of the same kinds of attitudes that we are accustomed to.  Paying by credit card, for example, is really not the desired way to pay.  Vendors prefer cash, and, ideally, exact change.  It may be why Walt read somewhere that to list the number of ATM machines in Kiev would be as difficult as listing the number of fire hydrants.

And after China where our tour guide was willing to answer any question about her government, but only in the bus, where she could not be overheard, it's surprising how many people we have encountered who have been openly and blatantly critical of what they see is a corrupt government but take it for granted.  It's also been made abundantly clear by one of our guides that this is very definitely a country founded on religion.  In fact there is even a statue in Kiev to St. Olga whose baptism in the 9th century was the first and turned this into an Christian nation.

From Wikipedia:  The Drevlians wanted Olga to marry their Prince Mal, making him the ruler of Kievan Rus, but Olga was determined to remain in power and preserve it for her son.

The Drevlians sent twenty of their best men to persuade Olga to marry their Prince Mal and give up her rule of Kievan Rus. She had them buried alive. Then she sent word to Prince Mal that she accepted the proposal, but required their most distinguished men to accompany her on the journey in order for her people to accept the offer of marriage. The Drevlians sent their best men who governed their land. Upon their arrival, she offered them a warm welcome and an invitation to clean up after their long journey in a bathhouse. After they entered, she locked the doors and set fire to the building, burning them alive.

(We didn't get that much of the story on our tour!  This murderous gal was so bad you have to wonder how she got the title "saint," though they say it is for her efforts to convert so many to Christianity.  Apparently if they didn't she just killed them in horrific ways...but let it pass!)

Walt came back to say that he was going to the lecture on Ukrainian history, and I said that I was going to join him, but wanted just a little more sleep and missed the whole thing.  I did make it to Alyona's talk about how tomorrow was going to go, and that was good. 

I also got to sit by the window and watch the sun going down into the Dnieper.

Tonight's menu was not one that I was excited about.  Nothing looked particularly good, but I learned that this is when you can be very surprised.  The "Russian stuffed egg with salmon caviar" was incredible and the perch I ordered just because I've never had perch before was one of the best things yet.  It came with ratatouille, which I also don't think I'd had before.  That was a 4 star entree.  And in all honesty, I ordered the "yogurt citrus mousse" strictly because I thought it would make a nice picture for the Dinner of the Day and it was fabulous...much better than ice cream would have been!

Char and Walt ordered the cheese plate for dessert, which came with crackers in alphabet shapes (not cyrillic!).  Between them, Char and Mike managed to put together an appropriate word.

So tomorrow is the day I've been looking forward to most of all, when we visit the Cossack museum and see a horse show.  After that it's all downhill for me, but judging by how thing have gone so far, I'm much more excited about all the things to come than I ever thought I would be before we left home.

I heard from Ned today and he has been to visit my mother several times already, including taking his dog the other day.  He reports she's fine.  Having him there has made such a HUGE difference in my ability to just let go and trust that she will be just fine until we get back.  And thanks to my friend and Atria resident, Peggy, I was able to send her pictures today to go along with the letters I've been sending via the Atria manager.  It will be interesting to see how she is when I return!


Starter: some sort of juice with wine.  Tasted mostly like peaches
Ukrainian stuffed egg with salmon caviar on some potato salad
perch with ratatouille -- my favorite so far
Yogurt citrus mousse with a crumble topping

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