Andrew’s Unconventional Ukrainian Adventure

My son, Andrew, is in the Ukraine visiting his girlfriend. He has been there for more than two weeks and still has another week before he returns home. In all, his trip is 24 days long, though one day on each end is spent traveling.

As you might imagine, Barb and I were (and still are, to some degree) rather nervous about this whole endeavor, but I kept reminding myself (and Barb) that when you are young this is the type of thing that you do and that he will have had an adventure he will remember the rest of his life. On the other hand there is the fact that he is in the Ukraine – not the safest part of the world to visit.

Andrew’s girlfriend, Maya, lives in Dnipropetrovsk, on the Dnieper River, Ukraine’s fourth largest city with approximately one million residents [Note that the city’s name is spelled with either an “i” or and “e” at the beginning, depending on whether you use the Ukrainian or Russian spelling – but I have no idea which is which]. In order to arrive in Maya’s city, Andrew spent almost 14 hours on a plane to Kiev, with a stopover in Zurich. Maya met him at the Kiev airport, which is outside the city, so they took a bus into Kiev where they caught a train. Seven additional hours later, Andrew finally arrived.

Andrew and I primarily communicate through text messaging. He is of the generation that has grown up with cellphones but seldom uses them to make actual phone calls. Texting is the preferred means of communication whether he is halfway across the world or in his bedroom wondering when dinner will be ready.

The interesting thing about this penchant for communicating with texts is that Andrew’s messages always contain the absolute minimum amount of information. If you send him a text it can never contain more than one question. If, for example, I ask him “What have you and Maya been doing today? How is the weather?” the answer I am likely to receive is “Raining.”

Needless to say, communicating in this manner – whether he is in Door County or halfway around the world – is frustrating and incredibly drawn out.

My other frustration (which Barb shares) is Andrew’s insistence on not taking any pictures. I have no explanation for this; he simply refuses to take any pictures. If I were traveling with a smartphone that takes better pictures than many of the cameras I have owned through the years, I would be filling memory cards. Not so with Andrew. Barb and I have received a few photos: one of Maya’s university, several of him making ridiculous faces into the camera, a few of Maya and friends, and a picture of Ukrainian McDonald’s food wrappings – but no typical tourist photos have come our way.

And this leads me to the curious text exchange Andrew and I shared last week. What follows is the actual sequence of texts (slightly edited for grammar and a family newspaper) and I want to assure you that I am not making this up and this is not an April Fool’s joke.

Thursday, March 26, 6:52 am (our time)

Me: Morning buddy. What are you up to today?

Andrew: To the dentist

Me: For Maya?

Andrew: And I

Me: Why?

Andrew: It’s free anddddddddddddd Maya’s friend Nastya’s Mom is the head dentist and Nastya is going to school to be a dentist so they want X-rays of my wisdom teeth I guess LOL

Me: Ok, I guess. You certainly take an unusual European vacation

Andrew: This place is anything like Europe. Its different here, really not much to do

Me: So you go to a dentist. Interesting. Aren’t there boat tours on the river of the city or something?

Andrew: No

Me: Well let me know how things go at the dentist.

And this is where the bizarre transformed into the more bizarre, because my next communication from Andrew was the photo you see here: a panorama of the x-ray of his entire mouth.

What followed in our texting was a debate about whether he should have them remove the sideways wisdom tooth (in the lower left corner of the photo). It seems that the entire extraction could have been done for just $80 U.S. dollars (Note that the exchange rate is more than 20-to-1, so this would have cost more than 1,600 in their currency). Thankfully, Andrew decided not to risk complications ruining the rest of his trip and/or his flight home.

And Barb and I now have a wonderful souvenir photo of his trip to the Ukraine.