Kayla Kincade Travels to Ukraine with Academy Program
Aug. 24, 2008
Like many of her classmates, Air Force's Kayla Kincade spent part of the summer visiting a foreign country as a part of the Academy's Language Immersion Program. Kincade, a native of Lakewood, Colo., and a junior on the women's gymnastics team, traveled to Ukraine with several other cadets. She shared with GoAirForceFalcons.com a sample of her report from Ukraine.
First Day: My most memorable event took place on day one, the moment we stepped into the city and onto the small bus that took about seven cadets to their respective homes to meet their families. Everyone was so tired, in shock, quiet, nervous, and maybe a little anxious. When Gela called my name to get out of the bus and walk up to my new home for the next four weeks, my knees were shaking. I don't know why I was so scared, but I was in complete culture shock. We made our way upstairs to the seventh floor to my two-bedroom, one-bath flat, where I met my mom. She was very kind, but she spoke Russian so fast. I didn't know what to do but to just look at her with the "deer in the headlights" look. From that day on I understood why it was called language/cultural immersion and why it counted as a semester of class!
Overall Impressions: My overall impressions of the city include: dirty, busy, fast-paced, beautiful museums and monuments, interesting historical sites, interesting people, and beautiful architecture. The city kind of has two parts to it--the poor living quarters versus the main, historical part of the city. The living conditions are quite poor, and many people buy only the necessities to live and then spend money on expensive clothing or accessories.
Thing That Depressed Me or Excited Me Most About the Country: The thing that depressed me the most about this country was the people's expressions, or lack thereof. People don't smile, or if they do, it is a rare occasion. In order to blend into the crowd and not stand out as an American, you must walk with a serious face as, if you have an important destination and can't wait to get there. The hustle and bustle of the city is depressing in itself--as if there is no time for anything else but work. This recognition may be to the fact that the students ride the metro every day and see people stare off into space, but the majority of people in the city are generally not very happy.
Memorable Event: My most memorable event (besides the first day we arrived) would be the trip to Yalta. I understood how our instructor in charge of the program was kind of against the students taking such a long break in the middle of the immersion, yet I feel it was completely necessary and beneficial. In Yalta, students were much more laid back and willing to experience the culture, try new restaurants, speak in Russian to find out information, ask for directions, etc. The "vacation" allowed the students to enjoy each other's company and roam a smaller city with close friends. We went on excursions and learned about important people and the history behind Ukraine with a less forceful nature. The people in Yalta were much more welcoming and enjoyed our company. A small group of us was able to find a restaurant that we enjoyed so much we decided to eat there every night. The restaurant was called Van Goghs, and by the time we left the waitresses knew exactly who we were and what we wanted. We ate next to the water on the boardwalk and enjoyed the Ukrainian food. Our mini vacation (which included a not-so-pleasant 14 hour train ride) to Yalta will be a part of the trip I remember most!
Transportation: Many people in Ukraine travel by bus, metro, or taxi. However, the most popular mode of transportation is the metro in Kiev. Kiev is one of the only cities in Ukraine with a metro station, and the majority of the people use it. The Metro is always crowded; it is nearly impossible to find a seat. People shove and push to get on and fit as many people as possible. Sometimes it seems nearly impossible to fit another 10 people, but it is not impossible for Ukrainians. The metro station ruins my day! The most hectic times of the day are the same as rush hour traffic. The mornings are awful, lunch time is always packed, and then everyone comes home from work at the same time. Most natives use the metro system every day. It is a cheap mode of transportation and allows people to travel quickly across the city of Kiev. During rush hour it is possible to get home more quickly. It is difficult to say how many people fit in the metro. Under my knowledge it is not allowed to take pets on the metro, yet I think some people carry small animals in purses (as I saw once). The metro system is nothing like means of transportation in the United States. I am sure some major cities experience the same kind of hectic rush of people on subways, but in Denver there is really no comparison.