З новим рокем! That’s of course Happy New Year which is what I hope you’re all having 🙂
One of my favorite things about Ukraine is that they use the word ‘super’ without a trace of sarcasm. From TV news anchors to my 13-year-old sister, it’s said commonly and enthusiastically and never fails to make me laugh. Odds are I’ll be considered quite dorky when I get back to the States if I make it a part of my regular vernacular but I took the plunge with the title of this entry because it described my holiday and I have a feeling it’s likely to accurately characterize 2010 for me; very Ukrainian and a little zany but positive overall.
I made the trek back to Morozivka Wednesday night & spent 4 relaxing days with my host family before heading back Sunday night. All in all it felt a lot like coming home from college for a long weekend- sleeping in, catching up with the fam, eating too much, and swapping war stories with friends. In a word, wonderful. We spent the 31st cooking & watching a television show called ‘Ukraine Has Talent’ for hours upon hours. TV is the national pastime here during the winter months so our marathon was completely standard behavior. Yanna had big plans of meeting her boyfriend’s family for the first time & was nervously doing fashion shows for us in order to decide on the right ensemble. Just another cute example of how we’re really not that different after all. Anhriy (the bf) lives in the next town over so my ‘Mom’ & Snijanna & I walked (more accurately shuffled like penguins due to the ice) her to the train to wish her an early Happy New Year. They don’t salt the roads here so the village looked like a Winter Wonderland but felt like an ice rink so we spent the whole way back taking running starts and gliding far-from-gracefully home (obviously I fell but only once).
Everyone had to bathe (New Year’s tradition to start out the year clean; I don’t even want to think about the questionable hygienic implications of using the same bathtub in rapid succession like that but always appreciate the opportunity to wash my hair) & then we got all dressed up & had dinner at 11pm. We sat in the living room & admired the New Year’s Tree which was truly worth admiring. I was picturing our typical triangular evergreen bought from a lot but as usual I was wrong. No, in my house my ‘Mom’ went to the forest and cut down a 9 foot tall & incredibly wide Charlie Brown fir tree, brought it home on her bike…alone… & then decorated in with tinsel, pretty ornaments and (what else) chocolate candy dangling from strings. That woman never ceases to amaze.
We ate, had a glass of champagne at midnight & then everyone started putting their coats on so I followed suit and ended up walking down the street with a bag of fruit, a bottle of champagne and a little wooden sled. I was confused to say the least as we stood there in the cold looking at the stars but in a matter of minutes other people started arriving with similar accoutrements. They set up a nice spread on the sleds & the kids entertained themselves with sparklers and full out fireworks. We didn’t join hands and sing ba-ho-doray or anything like the Who’s & there was not enough champagne in all of Ukraine to make me feel comfortable with the children + explosives combo but there were definitely about 5 families eating, singing, dancing & celebrating in the cold for 2 hours. Not a bad way to start the year.
The next few days were spent having lunch & dinner parties with the extended family in order to get rid of all of the food that we cooked on NYE. At one point the grandma was snoring in the chair next to me, our neighbor, Anna, was teaching me Ukrainian hand clapping games, and everyone else (including my ‘uncle’ ) was shamelessly belting out Russian karaoke. I really wanted to videotape the shenanigans but didn’t know how that would go down. Anna was a 4th grader that I taught & one of the revelers who spent NYE dragging me by the hand all over the place & made a point of visiting us every day. After a relaxing weekend full of visiting friends and watching Shrek in Ukrainian I had to head back to Yampil, so my family & Anna walked me to the train station. I thought I was going it solo but when the train pulled up my ‘Mom’ hopped on too & we watched together as little Anna cried & waved goodbye from the platform. Apparently I’m spreading my tearful affliction.
We got to the train station with about 30 minutes to spare so I followed blindly after my ‘Mom’ through the crowded depot in crazy slushy ice. I thought we were going to get hit by at least 5 cars but we managed to make it to a jewelry store where before I knew it rings were being put on my hand. I know I’m making myself out to be a victim here, but in all honesty I couldn’t even see the display case. She’d decided that I needed a ring for a Christmas present & that was what was happening; the only consideration was which of my fingers it would fit on. So 20 minutes later, after she helped me find my train & asked the conductor if she could get on without a ticket in order to make sure that I got on OK, I sat comparing my two hands & a little symbolically my two lives. My right hand is marked by the understated silver cross ring that I spent about an hour deciding on with Mom last Christmas, strategically considering which was the most comfortable, which would match with everything, ect. My left is now adorned with a glittery number that’s pretty but practically goes to my knuckle & was literally put on my finger for me. Very different yet both laden with meaning & importance & not likely to be removed any time soon.
I made it back to my apartment at about 2am & while I always love seeing my host family it did feel kind of nice to be back at my place. The vendors at the bizarre now generally know what I want before I ask, the kids bundled up so that only their eyes are visible wave as their parents pull them down the sidewalk on those ever-present wooden sleds & Тьотя Луся leaves me walnuts every night in an attempt to boost my protein intake. I think it might be starting to feel like home 🙂