We came, we saw, we…well, OK we didn’t conquer but we also didn’t get last place so I’m counting it as a win. I’m happy to report that I’ve officially completed a running event & not only am I still breathing, but it was also a ton of fun. Who knew? The weekend in Beregovo was wonderful & chock full of good times with great people. Even the train ride there was just plain delightful since western Ukraine really is as beautiful as everyone says, I woke up to Coolio blaring over the radio, & I spent my only awake time feeling like I was at a slumber party complete with lots of girl talk & hair braiding.
We had a pretty big group of Americans in attendance & took over the town’s beautiful courtyard when we got in & started all of the pre-race registering. The run started early the next morning, so Friday was pretty low key with big dinner of pasta & watching a brave babusia dance all by herself for hours. The next morning we donned our ‘team uniforms’ (I was lucky enough to score the leggings) & headed out to the starting line. I was part of a relay team & had the coveted second leg of the course, so we piled into a car & were driven 5 kilometers in to the starting point. A few short minutes later I saw someone in tie-dye run up & before I knew it, it was time to go. Luckily Katelin decided to run with me making it my first time running not in a circle on a track & with someone to talk to. Apparently that makes all the difference as between the conversation & cows to look at the 30 some minutes flew right by. Once everyone else had finished we celebrated with some fairly legit pizza & then headed back to shower up before the rest of the night’s festivities.
Starting out so early made it seem like three days worth of fun was packed into Saturday & one of the highlights for me would definitely have to be our game of Circle of Death (Mom, a card game where each card represents a task that everyone has to do i.e.9- bust a rhyme, 10- make a rule, ect,). About five minutes into the game two rule cards were already chosen which left us forced to talk in Bristish accents & use our knuckles instead of fingers for the duration of the game. It may not sound like much, but the results were so hilarious that by the end of it my stomach was hurting from laughing more than it ever does from P90X. We followed that up with a trip to a bar & provided a truly embarrassing display of girls trying to play pool, & then finally rounded up the troops & spent the rest of the night flailing around at the disco. Also quite hysterical even if we probably gave a very unfortunate impression of how ‘normal’ Americans dance.
Sunday morning rolled around & since it was our last day in town I had to check out the thermal spas that I had heard so much about. Based on what the students & teachers at school had described when I told them of my plans I pictured an underground cave sort of deal with warm water bubbling up like a hot springs. I guess I was mostly envisioning something straight out of Yellowstone Park. Reality was a tad different & included what looked like the Cary pool equally crowded but with slightly different clientele & swamp green water. I was more than a little hesitant, but time was of the essence so I dropped down the stairs & found myself treading in very deep but surprisingly warm salt water. I had to really launch myself down to reach the bottom, which says something, but there were big metal poles running lengthwise to perch on & a ledge on the perimeter that made for some perfect lounging before I had to trek it back to the center soaking wet & start my long journey home. Thankfully it too was accompanied by friends & I made it back to Yampil with relative ease.
Despite what seemed like a week of adventure, I still had half of Monday & all of Tuesday to kill, & the gray skies provided the perfect excuse to fill the time with tackling my lingering domestic duties before the school week started. It stormed most of Monday so I hung out inside cleaning up the apartment & catching up on my very eventful days away (raids & royal weddings, oh my!) & then left the outside chores to yesterday.
As previously mentioned/ranted about, laundry-doing (laundering?) is a fairly finicky process here that required an early wake up call & lots of soaking, scrubbing, wringing & repeating before bringing out my clothes to hang on the line & witnessing the very muddy state of our streets that the rain had brought about. This wouldn’t have been an issue, except that the next item on the agenda involved a trip to the well on dirt roads that I’ve been known to get stuck quicksand style in under the best of conditions due to the stream that runs alongside & sometimes through the path. After you factor in the fact that laundry day meant all of my jeans were already occupied & blowing in the wind, the end result had me trudging through town with my 6 liter water bottles looking like the dictionary definition of a hot mess. Except “hot” seems like a cruel choice of wording in that phrase as I was anything but decked out in a baggy over-sized shirt chosen to cover the long underwear masquerading as leggings, plus heinous, black, plastic winter boots caked to the top with mud, & hair that Dianna Ross would call “too big” thanks to the 2 hours I’d spent crouched over my clothes in the bathtub. I looked good, real good.
Imagine my surprise then, when I saw my favorite Roma (sometimes known as gypsy) babusia friend Anastasia there & she immediately asked if the reason that she hadn’t seen me in a few days was because I had gotten married. Keep in mind that during our last conversation, which was maybe a whole 8 days prior, we had re-affirmed the fact that I still shockingly did not have &/or want a boyfriend. Our talk went on for a few minutes & was good natured but comprised mostly of literal finger wagging & other very expressive displays of worry over the life I might have if I decide to continue waiting to wed. I like her a lot & really appreciate her concern, so I just smiled on through & assured her that eventually I do want to settle down, but her comments made me realize yet again just how glad I am to be from somewhere where hope for my future is based on more than my ability to bear offspring. I pretty regularly find myself biting my tongue & suppressing the urge to go all Beyonce “Independent Women” on them. The crazy thing is that I want kids, four in fact, & do find family worth prioritizing, but have proof via countless Friday nights spent grounded at home for back-talking that I do not respond very well to being told what to do. This prevalent thought process particularly held by the older generations & voiced by acquaintances & strangers alike often has me on the defense, but hopefully I can try to use my spinster status for good & give my younger students a glimmer of the idea that it is in fact OK to wait. That being said, I do also completely intend to buy a plane ticket for whoever is tall & crazy enough to marry me, solely for the purpose of parading him around Ukraine to put my well-intending friends’ fears to rest. Sheesh.
I guess that’s all of the recapping & cultural commentary for now. I have a whopping three days of teaching this week followed by another long weekend that I’m thinking I’ll spend in Odessa with some friends. Then yet another short week followed by four days at an all inclusive resort in Turkey & my birthday 🙂 The thought of turning 24 makes me throw up in my mouth a little, but I couldn’t ask for a better way to celebrate, unless of course it involved all of you. Miss you & hope you’re having a marvelous May!