Necessary precursor: I am fine & typing this sitting in a warm chair in my apartment. Reason for the precursor: I walked home from school today to see a crowd of people watching my apartment building & a fire truck that looked straight out of the 1930s. Everyone was of course gaping in the direction of my balcony but I couldn’t tell exactly which window the smoke was billowing out of. I’m not proud of this, but my first conscious thought was ‘If my apartment is on fire, I’m going home’ which was immediately followed by ‘If I caused a fire in someone else’s apartment, I’m going home’. If there was ever any speculation on which side of the fight/flight spectrum I sit, I think this response might settle it. Luckily neither situation was realized, but there was a small fire in my neighbor’s apartment. Everyone was fine & no permanent damage was done, but the kitchen stove was a casualty resulting in some sort of mishap with the propane tank. Luckily they handled everything really quickly & a lot of people were home at the time. Standing outside watching all of the commotion helplessly with my other neighbors & wondering if my pictures from home were going up in flames definitely qualified as an ‘If only I spoke Ukrainian’ moment though.
Speaking of my neighbors, this unfortunate event really illustrated further what great people they are. The three hours following the fire were filled with everyone carrying buckets of ashes to the curb and scrubbing down the floor, rugs and everything else that had been soaked with fire extinguisher foam. I’m really looking forward to warmer weather when it’s more common to visit outside as they’ve been very friendly already & I’m eager to know more of their stories. As some sort of cosmic prank in response to my last post they seem to have decided that it’s time for me to find a man. I saw four of them outside waiting for the garbage truck & the conversation went a little something like this:
-Alei! (or something pronounced close enough that I knew it was intended towards me) Hello! (In the casual/familiar case reserved for friends).
~Good day. How are you?
-Good, good. Where are you going? To a boy? (Note: I’m wearing my floor length sleeping bag of a coat, and have approximately four inches of pajama pants visible that are tucked in to my snow boots. Not really a date outfit, especially here.)
~No, no. To the store. I need bananas.
-Don’t you want a boyfriend. We will get you one.
~No, thank you. I don’t need.
-Yes, yes, you are pretty. We will find a Ukrainian boyfriend.
~He must be tall. (Insert height gesture)
-Of course, of course. *Something jovial that I don’t understand* (Insert gesture that looked to me like Santa rubbing his belly. Was that intended to be me or him I wonder?).
-Do you have tall boys in ….where is she from….Chicago (pronounced she-kah-ho)?
~Some but two years is a lot of time.
-OK. No problem. Have a nice night. We will find you one.
And then I said goodbye & headed to the store while the think tank started literally listing off potential candidates for me to date/marry/who knows. As I walked off it went something like “My nephew, the one that works in Vinnitsia”, “Yes, but what about…”, and on and on. So there we have it. Next stop, my Big Fat Ukrainian wedding (really, really, really just kidding). I still can’t & am not particularly interested in competing with Ukrainian women and their ability to accomplish all sorts of domestic feats while rocking stiletto heels and manicured nails. Between that and my refusal to buy salo (the white, fatty part of raw bacon that’s a delicacy here) I fear I’d be a bit of a disappointment to whoever they eventually decide on for my suitor. Still though, I’m glad that they were comfortable enough to meddle a bit. Maybe I’ll follow Milford Street’s example & pitch the idea of a book club, assuming that everyone’s OK with reading books intended for 3 year olds so I could contribute. I’ve decided that as far as communicating goes my life here is kind of like one giant game of Taboo. Only instead of 5 words that are forbidden, it’s the majority of an entire language. Luckily, I love Taboo & every little conversation or connection feels like a Hellen Keller-size breakthrough (approp?).
I spent a fair deal of time pondering what to do about Lent this year. My friend Emily gave up chocolate which I must say initially blew my mind. Now upon much thought & reflection I still can’t seem to wrap my head around the feasibility of that one. Nixing it would cut my caloric intake literally in half which means I would have to resort to carb loading with the ever-abundant potato. My landlady would probably be thrilled by that addition but I know myself well enough to understand that a diet of cabbage, bananas, bread, and potatoes would not bode well on the old psyche. Daily communication with good old America is the other thing I’m sort of into but I think its removal would be a step in the wrong direction as I’d inevitably crack (probably by day 3) & take it out on some unsuspecting, adorable student. I don’t really have any other vices as of late which I guess is a good thing, but a little irritating when it comes to this. No soda, no excessive spending on Thai takeout or new clothes, and certainly no beer pong. The best I’ve come up with is limiting it to just one piece of candy after a meal but that sounds like more of a New Year’s resolution than a sacrifice. I’m hesitant to risk slighting God especially after all He’s done for me these past few months, but I’m wondering if I can pull the bucket bath card & give up feeling clean for 40 days? Just a thought.
That’s about all of the deep thoughts happening here. Ukraine did finally find a way to make me wear my slippers at all times in my own apartment (as is custom here) – the discovery of not one, but two disgusting black spiders. These weren’t daddy long legs, they meant business, so I was able to get close enough to smash them with one of my boots. I didn’t even have my contacts in & could tell they were thick which is enough to make me want to gag & at the very least protect my feet from any contact. Now if only I could find an Ace Hardware or knew the word for ‘spider trap’…