Friday, February 01, 2008

Hello from Mariupol, Ukraine

Hello Friends,
Happy February 1st and greetings from Mariupol, Ukraine. I'm here on a quick trip that's part of the now semi-annual "visa waltz" for us foreigners who have one-year visas into Russia. It's re-registering the visa not to be confused with renewing the visa. But enough of those boring details when this is such an interesting city.

I do have some photos for you of the Black Sea, actually the Sea of Azov just out the window out there. Friend Nadya and I hiked down the steep stairway to see it and to stand, yes to stand on the sea. It's all ice now and looks not unlike frozen tundra. (Not that I've ever seen frozen tundra - unless out a plane window counts.) White, frozen sea most of the way, it seemed, out to the horizon.

Why Ukraine? Well, I needed to step out of Russia on or before Feb 1st and the nearest border is Ukraine, all part of the aforementioned visa waltz. It's just 100 km northwest from Rostov and US citizens no longer need visas to enter the Ukraine. Why Mariupol? There's a very special program for orphanage graduates here, a transitional program to help them adjust to life in the big world, versus turning to vice which is more typical for such vulnerable young folks, sad to say. This great program is called Jeremiah's Hope, it's church-sponsored and is located in an available wing of the large church building.

I'm at an internet cafe at the moment, and posting photos from a public place versus my own computer, well, there's a bit of a learning curve there. Besides my flash drive is safely back in Rostov (unavailable). So is my laptop and photo editing program for that matter. (Wouldn't dream of sharing un-edited photos with you. That would be like appearing in public without my earrings. Simply not done.) Not to worry. The good Lord willing, I'll be back in Rostov Sunday pm and can post photos then.

But in the meantime, got some great photos of the statue here to...LENIN! Yes, another Lenin statue here. Photos of the steel mills churning out billows of ghastly smoke. And a wonderful conversation with a taxi driver who spent years in a submarine. Innocently asked "to where did you travel?" and he said nonchalantly "to you." His subs hung around US ships and collected information. He can talk about it now he said, but signed an agreement to wait 20 years before talking about it. His subs were around Cuba from 1966-68. Oh boy oy boy, I'd better scribble that conversation before it evaporates from the gray matter!

Okay, more later. In the meantime, have YOU been on a submarine? Tell us all about it - or must YOU wait 20 years? Ever walked on a frozen sea? Been to the Ukraine? Posted from an internet cafe? Later alligators! EE

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