350 hours on public transport. 11 disco adventures. 258 Skype calls. 200 hours learning Ukrainian. 1.25 times through the Bible. 37 trips to the well to fetch water. 9 host family celebrations. 700 bananas eaten. 338 nights spent sleeping on a couch. 4 countries visited. 344 lessons taught. 15 pounds gained & lost. How do I even begin to measure this year in the life?
Radical discoveries & personal growth? Probably not. Try as I might I’m still prone to judging everything from fashion choices to post office etiquette. I prickle whenever told what to do by well-intending helpers. I spend hours online reading job descriptions & fanstasizing about the day when I’ll feel competent at something again. I even whine (often to you patient listeners) about having too much free time. Cultural awareness? There’s been a baby step or two, but the fact that I had to leave the stadium today after laughing so hard I was crying when a grown man broke out into the splits during a football match celebration suggests otherwise. Physical deprivation? Not so much as I sit in my warm apartment, online, with my fully stocked fridge & water heating up in the boiler affording me a hot shower soon.
No, much like the song (a favorite of ours in training all those months ago) this year would most accurately be measured in love. As happy as I am to finally be able to wear my pre-Ukraine skinny jeans, the statistics mentioned above pale in comparison to the 200+ smiling faces that greet me with an excited hel-LO every time I walk by, or the 8 shopkeepers who now know my name & empathetically ask me if I’m sad/missing home on a weekly basis, or the German teacher who without fail grabs my shoulders and whips out the only English phrase she knows ‘Hello my dear, I’m glad to see you’ every time she bumps into me. As much as I hated standing in that line in O’Hare sobbing my eyes out 365 days ago, I think it was a price worth paying for the Ukrainian family that calls me their own & the friends that saw me at my weakest/weirdest & put up with me nonetheless. In just a year & often in the most bizarre of conditions paths have crossed & relationships have blossomed where I never thought possible. Over the course of countless phone calls sharing little victories & lots of venting we’ve made bonds that have drastically improved my experience & connections that I intend to keep for the rest of my life.
And through it all, I’ve had you all supporting & encouraging me from afar. I’m a sucker for anniversaries so you’ll have to bear with me on this one, but really I could never express how much I appreciate all you’ve done. Even more than battling spiders solo I feared losing touch with the amazing people in my life but I actually feel like the opposite has happened. While I miss out on the daily details (& I must confess I do really hate that) I cherish each email & call all the more & am constantly reminded of my blessings through your kind words. While less frequent, the conversations I get to have not only make it seem like no time has passed, but are also richer and full of the sentimental reassurances that are usually saved for special occasions. People go their whole lives without getting the chance to tell loved ones what they mean to them & I get the privilege of sending & receiving those affirmations all the time. It’s an unexpected benefit but probably the most meaningful to me so thank you, thank you, thank you. I can say with complete certainty that I could not have done this without you. After now living & traveling abroad for a year I feel qualified & confident in saying that I have the best friends & family in the world 🙂
OK, I suppose that’s enough sap until next year (or at least the next post) but here are a view parting pictures from the past few weeks…