“Do you want me to bring you anything from Georgia?” she asked.

“Should I bring anything from Germany?” he asked.

“Do you guys want anything from America?” I countered.

Our international meet-ups require a lot of pre-planning, but not the type you would expect.  We didn’t do any reading about Lviv.  We didn’t plan out the sites we wanted to see.  We didn’t come up with any particular activities.  But we did make sure that we would be well stocked with MacCoffee, Georgian Wine, German Christmas Smell, and Cards Against Humanity.

I met up with Shorena in Kyiv earlier this month and we had the unbelievable luck of meeting Nino there as well!  We were traveling just for fun, and Nino just happened to be there for a conference.  So, we met up, almost exactly one year after we saw each other in Atlanta!

Nino, with some of her favorite things.
Nino, with some of her favorite things.
Badass faces after causing a car accident somewhere in Atlanta...
Badass faces after causing a car accident somewhere in Atlanta in 2015…

Maybe Nino and I can start a September-reunion tradition?

Having said goodbye to Nino, we continued our Ukrainian adventure, getting ready to meet Pauli in Lviv.

Traditional Ukrainian Borscht. Pauli was still en route to Ukraine, so getting this photo in a text was torture for him.
Traditional Ukrainian Borscht. Pauli was still en route to Ukraine, so getting this photo in a text was torture for him.

Of course, Kyiv is home to many lovely sights, and we overdid it a little with the walking.  Shorena was sure enough that our hotel was within walking distance to Maidan (the center of Kyiv), and it was!  If you didn’t mind a 45 minute commute.

St. Sofia's entrance tower.
St. Sofia’s entrance tower.
A tourist poses next to Bogdan Khmelnitsky.
A tourist poses next to Bogdan Khmelnitsky.
The Soviet Union wanted to show how much it loved Ukraine using all the colors of the rainbow.
The Soviet Union wanted to show how much it loved Ukraine using all the colors of the rainbow.
Maidan at night.
Maidan at night.
At night, the whole boulevard was blocked off for some kind of street party! Maybe we were lucky, maybe it was maybelline.
At night, the whole boulevard was blocked off for some kind of street party! Maybe we were lucky, maybe it was maybelline.
We went ziplining across the Dnieper river and, as predicted, I zipped along much faster than Shorena...
We went ziplining across the Dnieper river and, as predicted, I zipped along much faster than Shorena…
Cool dudes wear their backpacks on the front.
Cool dudes wear their backpacks on the front.
Cool girls rock the Star Wars t-shirts.
Cool girls rock the Star Wars t-shirts.

We experienced an interesting fad in Kyiv.  It seemed that Georgia and Georgian culture are extremely popular in Ukraine these days.  Or at least, that was the impression we got from all the posters for Sukhishvili and the presence of a Georgian restaurant on every corner.

Real Macho Drinks Chacha.
Real Macho Drinks Chacha.
Even frickin' McDonald's has "The Season of Georgian Cuisine" on its menu, featuring the McLavash and the Dry Seasoned Cheeseburger. (Sounds better as "Cheeseburger with Khmeli Suneli")
Even frickin’ McDonald’s has “The Season of Georgian Cuisine” on its menu, featuring the McLavash and the Dry Seasoned Cheeseburger. (Sounds better as “Cheeseburger with Khmeli Suneli”)

We woke up super early one morning at our train station-adjacent hotel to catch a 6 am train to Lviv.  It was a comfy 5.5 hour ride in a very modern high speed train.  They had a cafe with fancy hot dogs.  So fancy that everyone wanted one!  On our return trip, there was a line out the wagon of people demanding hot dogs.

When we got there, Pauli met us on the platform and let us know that he had generously bought 10 tram tickets so we could get to our AirBnB apartment without any problem.  I asked how much I owed him in return.  “Raughley, 10 tickets cost me $0.60.  Ukraine is amazing.”

When we visited, the Grivna (local currency) was at about 26.5 to the US Dollar, but prices did not reflect this.  So, even fancy meals at Ukrainian restaurants only cost probably $15 for three people.

Our reunion proceeded much as it usually does:

I had been warned by multiple friends that "Ukraine is a war zone!" "Don't worry," I said, "We're not going anywhere near the conflict areas..."
I had been warned by multiple friends that “Ukraine is a war zone!” “Don’t worry,” I said, “We’re not going anywhere near the conflict areas…”
Living the underground bunker dream!
Living the underground bunker dream!
Pauli is Lieutenant Colonel Badass with his tommy gun.
Pauli is Lieutenant Colonel Badass with his tommy gun.
Don't mess with Shorena, either!
Don’t mess with Shorena, either!

We climbed all the way up to High Castle only to later discover that the high castle was gone.  The man in the high castle was also gone.  Shorena found a nut on the road, however, and ate it!

Fruitlessly searching for castles in the sky.
Fruitlessly searching for castles in the sky.

The best part, though?  We prepared a bounteous feast of awesome reunion:

Here we have churchkhela, a giant bowl full of MacCoffee, another bowl full of German Christmas Smell complete with two little houses for burning the Christmas Smell so that smoke comes out the chimney, two bottles of vodka, three liters of wine, Corny cereal bars with two tram tickets on top, and German snack sausages (because of course). Naturally, you can see where my and Shorena's priorities lie.
Here we have churchkhela, a giant bowl full of MacCoffee, another bowl full of German Christmas Smell complete with two little houses for burning the Christmas Smell so that smoke comes out the chimney, two bottles of vodka, three liters of wine, Corny cereal bars with two tram tickets on top, and German snack sausages (because of course). Naturally, you can see where my and Shorena’s priorities lie.

Unfortunately, Shorena was starting to complain of tooth pain.  I had noticed her wincing every time she took a sip of something hot (like coffee) or ate something cold (like ice cream).  We chalked it up to sensitive fillings and carried on.  Increasingly, however, she had severe pain anytime she ate anything and occasionally while talking.  We had to do something.

Sweet Ukrainian breakfast and possible cause of Shorena's tooth pain.
Sweet Ukrainian breakfast and possible cause of Shorena’s tooth pain.
"Look cute!"
“Look cute!”

Thus began our efforts to convince Shorena to get her tooth fixed or extracted in Lviv:

“Shorena, you have to go to the dentist.”

“No, it’s fine. I’ll just go when I get back to Tbilisi.”

“That’s in 8 days!  What are you going to do until then??  Suffer in constant pain?”

“Well…  But I hate dentists!  And it’s probably expensive.  And how are we going to find a dentist”

“Raughley, didn’t we see a dentist sign on the main square?”

Market Square
Market Square

“Why yes we did, Pauli!”

“No, I’m not going to the dentist, guys!”

“Who said anything about you?  I could probably use a teeth cleaning and I bet it’s cheaper than it would be in America, especially because I don’t have dental insurance!”

“Probably cheaper than Germany, too.  Plus, it will be another random adventure like we always have!”

“Who goes to Ukraine and visits a dentist???”

These guys.
These guys.

The next morning, we set out to find a dentist.  Mind you, none of us speaks Ukrainian, so this consisted of ringing the bells at storefronts labeled “Stomatologia” and hoping for the best.

Our first effort brought us into a dental clinic with no one else there.  It was totally vacant, but the radio was on.  Finally a woman entered and looked surprised to see us. Having established Russian as our only mutual language, we told her, “We want to see a dentist!  Her tooth hurts and we want to maybe clean our teeth.”

“Okay,” she told us, and then sat down and got on her cell phone.  After ten awkward minutes we asked again.

“Can we see the dentist?”

“Ohhhhh, I misunderstood you before!  No.”

We left and found a second dental clinic that buzzed us in.  The dentist himself answered the inner door inside the courtyard.  He had on gloves and a mask and ushered us into the hall.  We could see his patient sitting in the chair, mouth wide open, looking up at us while the dentist explained, “Sorry, I can’t take patients without appointments.  I am fully booked today and clearly busy.” He gestured to the man in the chair and let us know that just a few blocks away was a dental clinic that might be able to take us.

We entered and asked the receptionist if she spoke English, then Russian.  We explained about Shorena’s tooth pain and Pauli and my desire for a cleaning.  “One moment,” she picked up the phone.

It rang ten feet away and a man stepped to it, answering, “Allo?”

Mikhail Mikhailovich stepped out and informed us that he would be happy to take care of all three of us, but that he couldn’t do it all today and he couldn’t work on us simultaneously, only in parallel.  He decided to take a look at Shorena first and then we would have to come back the next day to finish her tooth and get ours cleaned.

X-rays revealed that the filling on one of Shorena’s teeth had a huge space beneath it.  Whoever had previously filled her tooth had apparently just capped it off without completely filling it, hence the pain.  He got to work on Shorena.  Pauli and I stepped out to do some errands.

First we went to the bank and got this phat stack of forty fifties! (It was about 60 euros)
First we went to the bank and got this phat stack of forty fifties! (It was about 60 euros)
Then we got beer.
Then we got beer.

Her procedure complete for now, Shorena rejoined us in the reception area and we paid for stage one of her dental work.  We turned to the receptionist and asked, “Where is a market?”

“Like a shopping mall?”

“No, like a bazaar.  We want to buy socks.”

The receptionist and Mikhail Mikhailovich were cracking up.  I guess they don’t a) get a lot of tourists at the dental clinic and b) there aren’t a lot of tourists like us.

We found a lot of success, ten pairs of socks, four ties, three shirts, new sneakers, wallets, and a flower crown at the market. It was a good day.
We found a lot of success, ten pairs of socks, four ties, three shirts, new sneakers, wallets, and a flower crown at the market. It was a good day.

I bought a souvenir, but sadly we used it all up before we left.

Ukrainian unfiltered beer didn't always sit well with me.
Ukrainian unfiltered beer didn’t always sit well with me.

The next morning, we returned to the clinic to finish Shorena’s work and to get my and Pauli’s teeth cleaned.  Shorena went first, so Pauli and I went out walking again.

This time, we visited the post office to buy like fifteen stamps and then found a hot air balloon at the university!
This time, we visited the post office to buy like fifteen stamps and then found a hot air balloon at the university!

We came back just in time.  Shorena thought we would have abandoned her, but lo and behold!  We were sitting nicely watching the aquarium.

“Raughley, you should go next because I don’t speak any Russian and if something happens, you can let me know in advance.

I went in to Mikhail Mikhailovich’s office and sat in the dentist’s chair.  It was just like any other good western dentist chair!  They buckled me in and the lights dimmed when he turned on his drill.  Just kidding!  But I bet that’s what a lot of you were imagining, isn’t it!

They gave me a little paper bib and cranked me back.  Mikhail Mikhailovich was training his dental assistant, pointing out what he was doing and how she should assist him.  All the dentists I have ever been to use little metal scraper tools to clean your teeth.  Not in Ukraine!  Mikhail Mikhailovich had a narrow-nosed high-pressure hose that he used to blast the plaque from my teeth!  It was pretty uncomfortable and once I felt like I was going to drown, but overall it went just fine.

Then he got out the welder’s mask.

He swapped tools and picked up one that had a sealed bowl on top.  He unscrewed it and poured in some dental powder, eyeballing the amount.

It was kind of like this, but it shoots cleaning foam instead of bullets.
It was kind of like this, but it shoots cleaning foam instead of bullets.

The foam got everywhere.  Mikhail Mikhailovich’s mask was coated with flecks of fluoride spray and I even felt as some sprayed out onto my cheek, rolled around the back of my head, and settled itself between my shoulder blades.

It was a crazy-messy experience, but not half bad!  My teeth felt very clean and fresh and I let Pauli know that he didn’t really have to worry about communicating during his cleaning.  We swapped places, and Shorena and I went out for a stroll.

You can't tell in this photo, but Shorena's face was half numb.
You can’t tell in this photo, but Shorena’s face was half numb.

“There’s something weird feeling in my mouth,” Shorena told me.

“Let me see,” I offered.  She opened her mouth.  “Shorena, you’re chewing on your tongue.  That’s that weird feeling!”

“Oops!”

Once Pauli finished we went on our merry way, thanking Mikhail Mikhailovich and his team.

This is how we plan on helping the Clinic develop an online following.
This is how we plan on helping the Clinic develop an online following.
We ended our day at another Thrift Shop, and couldn't help but admire our teeth in the mirror. Thanks Mikhail Mikhailovich!
We ended our day at another Thrift Shop, and couldn’t help but admire our teeth in the mirror. Thanks Mikhail Mikhailovich!
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