I never thought this day would come. 2 weeks into this crazy whirlwind of a journey we finally have been able to hit up an internet cafe. I’ve been typing up my posts on my laptop in the hopes of transferring them from my zipdrive whenever I get computer access. Unfortunately the only internet access we have is in our neighboring town which is a train ride away so we can only go on weekends & the man running this sketchy little basement operation says ‘ni’ when I show him the drive so apparently I’ll not be uploading anything for the time being. Next time I’ll bring someone who speaks the language & hopefully we’ll be able to figure it out. In the meantime, here’s a brief summary of life in Ukraine: bizarre but fun.
I live on a farm, yes me, complete with a chicken coop, bucket baths and a cellar full of preserved fruits and veggies. Until December 17 I’ll be living in Morozivko a town of 3,000 an hour south of Kyiv. It’s surreal and overwhelming but my host family is incredibly generous & the other volunteers in my group are great so I think I’ll make it.
I live with Sasha (Dad) and Looba (Mom) & their daughters Yanna (16) and Snijanna (13). They’re all really sweet despite my horrendously limited Ukrainian vocabulary. I’m sure they’re convinced that I’m an idiot but they never show any indication of it & spend hours making me Ukrainian food & encouraging me to eat more, more, and more of it. Between the pressure any the delicious European chocolate I think I’ll be fat enough to handle the winter in no time.
Speaking of winter, the weather’s been really nice so far & I look a little quirky in my ankle length downcoat as it’s usually between 50 & 60 degrees. As far as quirky goes though, that’s probably the least of my problems. We didn’t have any contact with home until last Sunday so the first week here was beyond rough for me. In all honesty after day 5 of crying myself to sleep I thought it would be a miracle if I lasted a week. In said state it was nothing out of the ordinary for me to walk down our dirt roads full out sobbing. Additionally I can’t work out here bc I don’t know when my next bath will be but I hate sitting around all day, so I’ve taken to walking around the lone soccer field in town while going through my flashcards. Peculiar behavior even in America, here it’s a source of constant confusion & more often than not I end up with two or three small children following me in circles like some sort of disinterested Pied Piper. I really cringe at what they must think of us, but I must say it’s kind of freeing to know that they’ll ultimately just chalk up any abnormal behavior to our status as ‘Crazy Americans’. As an aside, cell phones are truly amazing technology & I’m feeling exponentially better now that I have daily phone calls to home.
As far as daily life goes, I wake up around 7 and have whatever Looba left out on the table (she leaves for work in Kyiv @ 5) usually instant coffee & chocolate bc I haven’t really caught on to the idea of potatoes for breakfast. I get ready (relatively speaking bc I bathe every 3 days & don’t wear any makeup) & walk about 10 minutes to my language teacher’s apartment. Despite at times questionable hygiene practices here people really go all out w/ dressing up so we have to wear business professional clothes to language class where we sit on a couch in a living room for 4 hours and try to retain some…any…information. Then we eat lunch (soup and tea) and the school & usually follow it up with a few hours of technical training. The school kids are adorable & we start teaching this week which I’m really excited about. I usually get home around 6 & am force fed soup & whatever else they try to gauge my interest in. They’ve been great about not trying to get me to eat meat & the food is really good but really abundant & it’s always a fine line between trying not to offend and trying not to explode. We definitely always have fresh vegetables and fruit juice (cherry!) though which is extremely welcome in my book. After dinner I study for a few hours & then she usually cooks another mini-dinner/dessert which we have around 9 & then again at breakfast the next morning. After 2nd dinner I study some more & then go to bed in my sparkly-wallpapered room.
It doesn’t sound like much, but each day is a bit of an adventure & involves some sort of new phenomenon ranging from walking next to little babusia’s leading cattle down the dirt road or being chased by the myriad of stray dogs that roam the streets. Dealing with culture shock and trying desperately to learn the language has been challenging, but I definitely feel safe & cared for & feel so blessed that my needs are more than met.
I’ll try to post the previous blogs w/ anectodes next week when I get internet again, but suffice it to say that we’re finding ourselves in random but amusing mishaps left and right. I miss you all dearly & hope you’re doing well. Being thousands of miles away has further reinforced that I have an amazing support group back home & I’m so grateful for your thoughts, prayers, & fond memories to reflect on during rough days. Really, thank you.
And for those of you w/calling cards & looking to make my week, my phone # is 38 063 606 2113 and I’m 8 hours ahead of Chicago time 🙂