As soon as we stepped through the doorway, we were accosted by a woman who began talking to us loudly about tickets. I couldn't tell what she was saying, other than that she was talking about tickets. At first, I mistook her for someone who had come with Ivan Yurischko, and I couldn't figure out why he was so annoyed with her. Victor stepped in momentarily and clarified things: the woman was a stranger to all of us. What she wanted was to buy the remaining half of our round-trip train tickets. I think that eventually Victor just gave her the tickets; we couldn't use them, after all. At any rate, she eventually left, and we walked out of the horrid building and into the last gleams of the setting sun over 'Chop.'

It was immediately clear that Ivan and Victor are very close. I believe that, during the first part of the trip, I heard each of them refer to the other as 'brat,' or brother. Once they began talking, they barely seemed to pause for breath, and any question that any of us gals had had to be wedged into a breathing space, or go unheard.

We were ushered into a very nice SUV that Ivan had borrowed from his brother-in-law(?). Beverly, Kassie, and I sat in the back, while Victor sat in the front passenger's seat. Our seat belts were available but fairly unreachable, so we didn't wear them. I felt guilty about this every time we rounded a corner.

Ivan had bought strawberries--a huge box of them--at a roadside stand, and these he told us to eat, as well as pastries from a huge box that he had bought. Between talking to Victor and weaving his way in and out of traffic, he insisted that we should eat. We complied as well as we could, still being somewhat full from lunch. He also insisted that Kassie and I use his cell phone to call our respective families and let them know that we had arrived safely. I hated to do it, thinking of the expense, but he did insist. Naturally, I reached Chris's voicemail. Oh, well.

Beverly asked after Nina, Ivan's wife, and we learned that she is expecting. Their youngest child is thirteen, so this is an exciting time! We offered our congratulations and warm wishes.

Hungary is not the only country where driving recklessly is taken as a basic right. The drive to the resort where we would be staying was punctuated by slight squeaks of fright from me or Bev, and cries of "Sorry!" from Ivan. Every once in a while, Bev and I would get a bad case of giggles, prompted (no doubt) by fatigue, nerves, and awkwardness.

Several times, we had to stop the car and let it sit for a few minutes. For some reason, the low-oil indicator light would come on, and Ivan couldn't get it to stop unless we stopped the car and let it sit. He explained that his sister had taken it in for servicing, and that he thought they had messed something up with the dipstick level indicator. At any rate, we stopped, waited, and then drove on.

There were many icons along the road, most of Mary, but some of Jesus. This part of Ukraine is still very orthodox, and I thought immediately of my friend from LJ, Mairesue, and the prayer that she had written out for me in the journal she'd sent. I felt a little homesick then, and felt a few tears welling up. Fortunately, our current driving speed banished such gloomy thoughts from me as I concentrated on not looking at the speedometer.
Golubaya Shayan

It was very late when we arrived--11 p.m, perhaps? We had originally been supposed to stay at Ivan's sister's house, but somehow or other that hadn't worked out. Instead, we were staying at a health resort known as the Golubaya Shayan--'the light blue Shayan.' Kassie and I would share a room on the second floor, with Victor and Beverly immediately beneath us on the first floor. Ivan helped us get our bags to our rooms, and then escorted us to dinner at the resort's dining room. It was, I think, opened especially for us, and I felt sorry for the cook and the waitress for having to be at work so late when we could quite comfortably have done without dinner. Ukrainian hospitality, though, rolls on like the most formidable portions of the Mississippi river, and is not to be gainsaid, so eat we did.

Dinner was a cornmeal-based sort of moist cake, layered with sheep's-milk cheese. I wasn't fond of the texture, but the taste was good--and it was, we were told, authentically Ukrainian. It put me in mind of polenta, and would have fit well, I think, in any Italian kitchen.

Interior of our room

We said good night to Ivan and wandered up to our room. The whole building was done in natural wood, making me think of a sauna, or of one of the houses down in Morningstar Estates, where hopefully things would be progressing towards our purchase of a piece of land. Kassie and I would be sharing the huge bed--king or queen-sized, I think. It was covered with the same gold-colored, shiny fabric with which the drapes were made and matching the upholstery of the settee and the armchairs. It was a lovely room, but I scarcely had time to appreciate it before we both fell to sleep, too exhausted to even exchange murmured "good nights."