Hi guys, this is John.  The following is my perspective on the first few hours upon landing in Ukraine. Trace gave you all of the really important stuff now I will fill you in on the non-essentials. Hey, it’s what I do best. 
Flying into Kiev was one of the most surreal & scary experiences I have ever been through.  First of all the stewardesses that flew us from Germany into Kiev were way less friendly and approachable than any of the previous stewardesses we had had during the day. I went to ask one if it was ok for me to get out of my seat and use the restroom. When I saw the look on her face, I sat back down and said to myself,  “Ya know John, it’s just gonna be way easier and more pleasant for you to just pee your pants. It’s warm and hey, you’re in Europe, so it’s not like your gonna smell a whole lot worse than some of the people that are sitting around you.”
The control tower at the Kiev airport was a little scary. It looked like a torn up apartment building from Harlem with an early 80’s satellite strapped to the top of it.  It looked like they rented most of it out as apartments as I noticed clothing draped over the sides of some of the balconies. I was hoping that the air-traffic controller dude was helping us land and not slamming down a significant amount of Russian Vodka. Looking back, in reality, I’m sure he was helping our plane land, as well as slamming a significant amount of Russian Vodka. 
The passport officers had uniforms that resembled the “Stalin years”.  Maybe “retro” is in. The officer we had was a pretty little 18 year old girl.  Working passport control appeared to be an after school job for her.  She passed both of us on without any questions.  After getting our bags, we passed through the 2nd phase, customs, which now looking back I realize was not a phase at all. As a matter of fact, most people just walked on by the officers sitting by the big X-Ray machine. They only pulled you over to “ray” your bags if you looked suspicious. Of course, I very rarely break the rules so without hesitation I made a “b line” for “Officer Igor” and his side kick “Stiny.” I quickly put my bags up on the conveyer belt and looked up at the officer who was looking at me like, “Hey, thanks for making my day just a little harder there pal”.  Afterwards Trace said to me ” I don’t think we had to do that, in the future honey, just keep walking, you have that ‘special needs’ look about you, go with that, it could help us on this trip.”
Leaving customs and walking into the lobby was interesting.  Suddenly their was a mob of people standing near the doors. It was like they were waiting for a rock star or something. I thought,  “Hey maybe they have seen me on God TV!”,  NOT.  Most of them were taxi drivers trying to drum up some business.  Thankfully, our driver was standing right in front with a sign that said “Tracie Loux” on it.  Not sure why my name was not on there, but I guess for those of you who know me, this would make total sense.  I mean if it had my name on it I would walk on by for sure and Trace would have to say, “Hey genius, your name is John Loux,  so I’m guessing the guy holding the sign would be our driver.”  Speaking of our driver, his name was Andre. 
Andre was a very big big boy. He took ALL of our luggage and said “follow me”. We followed him outside of the airport which looked like a scene from “The Shawshank Redemption.”  Way Huge Ukrainian dudes in ski caps, smoking cigar’s and looking at me like ” You are American, I kill American”.  Almost peed my pants again, so I  stayed close to Andre. 
When your safety is entrusted to a guy who you are “hoping” is on your side because he has the  capacity to kill you at any moment, you suddenly start negotiating with God.  I have seen this guy before in Russian movies, I swear I have.  Unfortunately he was the guy who at the beginning of the movie would kill people, but then towards the middle of the movie  would be killed by his boss because he made too much of a mess when he murdered the people at the beginning of the movie, and now he is a liability. Andre drove as if we were in a chase scene, which concerned me a bit.  If he is not part of the Russian mob, or part of some mob, then I’m not a skinny white boy. 
Driving from the airport  on our way through the city, we drove past a Ukrainian Mattress factory which had 3 very different pictures on the outside, advertising what the factory produced.  The first picture was of a child laying on a bed, the next  was a picture of an older couple lying in a bed enjoying their twilight years, and finally, there was a picture of a “hooker lady”, dressed very Fredricks of Hollywood-ish and ready for what I assumed was well …. work.  Anyway I guessed they got it all covered, I mean gee whiz, like the public could not figure it out on their own!  I mean I’m guessing that if you were a hooker lady in the Ukraine  you would see that sign and not go ” Well crap dang, I gotta get me one of those new fangled things!”.  I guess Ukrainian marketing people are just overachievers. 
Well, we made it to our apartment alive. Andre carried our luggage up to our room and with a boyish grin and a high-pitched Russian voice (after we paid him $50 american dollars) he said, “Okey dokey, bye bye now!”  Guess he was just a big ‘ole  teddy bear after all.   
More from the coldest place on earth later.  
Peace,
John