Today’s edition of the ‘Good News Weekly’ includes a wonderful discovery I made in the freezer of a small store this afternoon. Nestled in next to the carb explosions (dumplings stuffed with rice) and raw sausages, I found a drumstick type ice cream cone but instead of ice cream it has chocolate-cherry yogurt. I think I may finally be over Coco Mero. Big news, huh? This week has been chock-full of equally pleasant little occurrences & while they don’t necessarily provide the most riveting blog fodder I sure have appreciated them all.
We started the week of all things good with a wonderful trip to Lviv. Last Monday was Labor Day here which in my book translated to 2 days off of school & a perfect opportunity to see a city described with dreamy, far-off stares to me by most people familiar with Ukraine. I didn’t really need much convincing & jumped at the opportunity to be a tourist. I took an overnight train, arrived a tad disoriented & made my way to the trolleybus that said ‘Center’ on its sign. After what seemed like 5 minutes I asked someone how many stops away we were from the center & they ushered me off the tram & towards the square. They passed me off to an acquaintance who was headed that way & after 10 minutes of walking & talking, we ended up at the City Hall equivalent where I was told I could go fill out the forms to get my Visa. Super. Luckily I was able to backtrack, find the same trolley & come to the slightly embarrassing realization that the ‘other’ center was just two stops later. And that’s how I learned to be more specific. I had about an hour to kill waiting for my friend Emily(one of the PCVs I trained with in Morozivka) & spent it sipping coffee with cherry syrup & saying my prayers outside on a bench amongst the beautiful old buildings. Not a bad way to start the morning.
I was so lucky to be accompanied by Emily because along with being hysterical she’s also a seasoned traveler & scouted out all sorts of fun for us. We rented an apartment right in the main scenic square in town (actually a pretty normal practice) but couldn’t check in until after noon so I made a winning first impression by rolling my suitcase down the cobblestone roads loudly emphasizing each & every brick as we visited gorgeous churches & monuments. The city really was as beautiful as everyone had said & we got to see it under the guidance of a temporary Lviv native as our friend Scott was placed there for his 2 years of service & acted as our tour guide all day. We met up with more volunteers in town for the holiday & spent the afternoon people watching on patios, climbing a giant bell tower for an aerial view & reveling in the opportunity to speak English at a rapid pace.
The next day the rest of them went to a neighboring town which left Emily & I to embark on our weekend-long eating escape. Yes, amongst culture & history Lviv also has ethnic food which was a feature we made a point of experiencing to the utmost. We kicked off the journey at the famous chocolate factory where we split a breakfast of champions- coffee, ice cream with chocolate sauce, and a cup of something that tasted like Dove chocolate melted into thick, liquid form.
Against our better judgment this feast was directly followed by a hike through a park to the highest point in Lviv. It was a beautiful way to see the city but probably slightly more enjoyable for healthy tourists who didn’t just partake in a chocolate extravaganza. We sauntered through the park & then decided to embrace our inner hippies by making dandelion headbands. The one good thing about the constant & unsolicited attention we get here is its freeing potential. If people are going to stare anyways we might as well lose the filter do what we want. I employed this same logic today by purchasing hot pink sunglasses that I would never be bold enough to wear at home. How’s that for a silver lining? So anyways, we wore our princess headbands while shopping & seeing the many cultural sights until my allergy to pollen kicked in & forced me to abdicate my throne. The weekend was perfectly paced with enough time to see a ton of stuff (5 churches, a theatre, a beautiful Gothic cemetery, ect.) without being tired. We also successfully found a sushi restaurant and a Mexican restaurant. Granted our standards are beyond low but to our little Ukrainianized palates each meal was pure bliss. Between the Thai salad, Tequila sunrise & something that really closely resembled guacamole I can officially not complain about food for awhile.
And actually that’s a good transition to today as I really don’t need to complain anymore due to yet another fabulous care package (thanks again Mrs. Klein!). As much as I loved my vacation we were gone long enough that I started to miss my kiddos & was happy to get back to teaching on Wednesday. My 5th graders haven’t yet learned to start compliments with ‘You look…’ & I’ll probably never teach it to them as it feels pretty darn good to walk into class & hear ‘Miss Alei, you are wonderful/beautiful/great’ every day. Another highlight was when grading greeting cards that my 10th formers wrote, I found that one of them was signed ‘Friends with benefits’. It was completely out of context & from one of the shier girls in class so I knew it was unintentionally suggestive but that didn’t make it any less funny. Once I managed to stop laughing I had to explain it to my teacher friend Olha (take a second & try to explain that concept in simple English without slang) who then had me explain it to the kids. Needless to say, hilarity ensued. Finally, on the way back from the bazaar today I came to the odd conclusion that I’m essentially living the life of an 8 year old. While walking down the street eating aforementioned ice cream cone, wearing aforementioned pink sunglasses I ran into my neighbor who greeted me with a ‘Hi little girl’ & then gave me a cookie. I am a child.
We’re officially down to 13 days of school and just 33 days until Mom, Maw Maw, & Aunt Jane fly in to start our highly anticipated Eurotrip 🙂 I can’t help being a little nostalgic remembering all of the fun that happened this time last year celebrating graduation & summer, but if I can’t be home with all of you I’m very grateful that things are consistently getting easier here. Thanks for sticking with me through this (the whole experience as well as this excessively long post) & I hope you’re doing well!
PS: I have more pictures but will post them later when I can steal some of Emily’s as well.