At 11:43 AM, June 6, 2207 Bob Myklebust and I (Bob Boehme) receive an email from our boss Shaun O’L Higgins, Director, Marketing and Sales, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane WA. The email read “Pack your bags, get your passports and visas in order – You’re off to the Ukraine. Have fun, guys! SOH”
This email came several days after I caught some discussion at the newspaper I work for about sending some staff members from the marketing side of the paper for another visit to Grivn, a newspaper in Kherson, Ukraine. Steve Smith and Ryan Pitt from our editorial department made the first visit to Grivna in April. Then in May three Grivna staff members returned the visit to our newspaper in Spokane.
By email and in person I left no doubt in Shaun’s mind that I wanted my name in the hat for the next visit. I’ve had the good fortune to being somewhat of a traveler but the opportunity to go to Eastern Europe really hit my interest. Most people I know are hard pressed to describe where the Ukraine is located so it must be off the beaten travel path for most Spokane travelers.
The program the two Bobs are participating in was created by the Ukrainian Media Partnership Program (UMPP) and is operated by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), a nonprofit organization whose mission includes promoting independent media in developing democracies.
Kherson is a city of about 300,000 people in southern Ukraine. The Npert River passes through Kherson just before it empties into the Black Sea. Most people that do go to Ukraine inter through Kiev which is in the northern part of the country. The population of Kherson is comparable to the city of Spokane but they still do not have a major airport. Visitors usually arrive in Kherson via an overnight train ride from Kiev.
I think it’s interesting that even though Kherson is in the very southern portion of what used to be the USSR, their latitude is about 88° north. This is about the same latitude as Spokane and we consider ourselves northerners. It’s no wonder those big fur hats are so popular in that part of the world, they must see a lot of winter.
Through email I have been in contact with Iryna Wells, our Ukraine escort. Iryna has given us tips on clothing to pack and our itinerary. She will meet us at the airport in Kiev and be with us the entire nine days of our trip. I will be back on August 19 but the other Bob has added an extra leg to his trip and will be visiting a farm in Norway that has been in his family for many generations. The farm is still owned by Bob’s relatives.
August 9 Tomorrow is day one of our trip. We will fly from Spokane to Seattle, Seattle to Amsterdam and Amsterdam to Kiev or Kyiv (same place just another spelling).