No city in the former Soviet, taken as a whole, can be described as beautiful. There are too many hideously ugly block apartments that were dilapidated they day they were built, let alone 40 years later. But at the core of the old cities there are batches of genuine architectural splendor – all of it, of course, dating back to the tsarist days.
Kiev, unlike Moscow or St. Petersburg, has not only man-made splendor, but natural splendor as well. The heart of the city is situated on bluffs rising above the Dnieper River, and there are hills throughout the city creating grand vistas. The Ukraine, the traditional "breadbasket" of eastern Europe/western Asia, is an extremely green place. In summer, those grand vistas usually afford a view of a huge blanket of green.
The group found themselves in the Hotel Kiev, a Soviet-era high rise hotel located across the street from a beautiful park and an old imperial palace which now serves as the parliament building. The hotel was serviceable, but not exactly "nice." The views from the upper floors were amazing, though. Carter and Amy didn't really seem to care; they were basking in the glory of their newfound affection.
Fortunately, the first couple of days "in country" on a trip like this are devoted to recovering from jet lag and getting to know the lay of the land. Carter and Amy took full advantage. They acted like tourists, taking in all the magnificent sites, the Monastery of the Caves, St. Sophia, palaces and churches galore...
But it didn't last long. Carter was left in town, as a liaison, while Amy and the team moved to a military base a few kilometers out of town. Fortunately, being a liaison did not take a lot of time. Carter visited the headquarters of "the charities" that seemed to be pushing all the others out from around Sophiaskia. The first thing he noted was that computers were everywhere. Given that he had been unable to hack into the place, he was amazed that so many computers were in the office.
Carter left quickly and went back to his hotel room. He broke out his laptop. This was, apparently, the only piece of computer technology he has brought with him. But soon, he set his suitcase down next to the computer and pulled a cable from inside the lining and plugged it into the laptop. Amazing things started happening.
First, the suitcase sprouted an antenna, parabolic in shape, to connect Carter to the Internet via satellite without going through the Ukrainian systems. He started hacking into systems at American environmental groups, and established an identity for himself as a member of the Board for something called “NuclearPollutionSucks.com.” Soon, business cards were printing out of the suitcase along with a passport, and assorted other identity papers.
Carter broke out his best navy-blue suit and returned to the charity offices. The business card identified him as Adrian Stevens, general counsel and Board Secretary for NuclearPollutionSucks.com. He presented the card and asked to see the general director.
As he was being escorted to the conference room, fortunately well back in the building, he noted that there was a server room, and the computers in the place were networked together. He also noted the receptionist giving his card to a clerk who disappeared into a room that was RF shielded. "Gotcha," he thought.
The rest of the meeting was pure lie. He represented himself as a conduit through which much money could be made available for the work the charity did, requesting only that his group get sufficient credit for its efforts. He started to pull out his laptop and show his Powerpoint presentation, but the general director, who looked more like a prison guard than anything else, cut him off.
"We have sufficient funding," was all the GD said.
"But, we are talking millions here, surely…," responded Carter-cum-Stevens.
"We have sufficient funding," repeated the GD as he signaled two men who were standing just outside the door.
Carter was not exactly physically removed from the building, but it was obvious he had no choice.