the 8 days in ukraine that i wasn’t poor (aka my parents came to ukraine!)

there are many things in life that we can’t predict. one of those things being the demise of the twinkie and another that my parents would come to visit me whilst i’m living in a village somewhere in ukraine. if you told me that 10 years ago i probably would have just laughed, paused, and then asked “wait, where’s ukraine?”. while ukraine didn’t rank high on my mom and dad’s list of places to travel, they were kind enough to pencil me and my world of potatoes in for eight days.

for eight days working as my parent’s tour guide and translator i got to see ukraine from a new perspective. things that now seem completely normal to me  — people selling things outside in the snow, squat toilets and throwing t.p. in the trash can, being cold. all. the. time. — were certainly not normal to them. my extensive blogging mostly prepared them for things, but they really couldn’t get over how “hearty” and hard-working ukrainians are.

we spent a few days in lviv (western ukraine) where “clean” ukrainian flows just as freely as the delicious coffee and the architecture didn’t fail to impress. then it was off to my village in the soviet-nostalgic russian speaking side of the country. my landlords and neighbors’ celebrated my their arrival with a traditional feast that lasted 5+ hours, had endless plates of food, and of course many many toasts (the shot of homemade vodka and always-full-to-the-brim glasses of wine left my parents a bit tipsy). i was worried that experience of “EAT! EAT! EAT! DRINK! DRINK! DRINK!” might be a bit overwhelming (i mean, it sometimes still is for me) but they really enjoyed themselves! good thing midwesterners are mayo based salad lovers at heart.

the night also proved as some sort of test for myself — i was able to translate everything they said the whole night AND i wasn’t hung over the next day. integration = A+. the following day i gave my parents a tour of my village and school. i was so surprised, and humbled really, to find that despite it being their spring break, my teachers had put together a lunch and small concert for me and my parents. it was so nice for my parents to see where i work and who i work with (though they got a much less chaotic version since only 10 students were there). i took my parents to see my village post office and meet the kind post office ladies (whom i bought friendship with when i baked them all christmas cookies). i felt rather silly translating everyone’s praises regarding me and my work there but it was nice to feel appreciated and well received…. but then again…who tells someone’s parents they have a rotten kid…hmmm…. ; )

we took another overnight train (my parents quickly learned they really aren’t quite as wonderful as they dreamt them up to be) up to kyiv where we spent our last few days together. before long our time together was coming to a regretful end. not only regretful because we’re parting (but i’d see them back in america in a few months!) but regretful also because i’d soon be going back to paying for things myself and being dirt poor. i think every former poor college student can understand what i mean — having your parents come to visit and take you out to dinner is THE BEST THING EVER. it was honestly kind of overwhelming to deal with though…i’m not used to going into any cafe or restaurant and pick something off the menu i want, i usually can’t afford museum entrance fees, and i certainly don’t just toss a jar of nutella into the shopping cart without making a big deal out of it.

my parents loved the exchange rate and convert everything into dollars exclaiming with excitement of how LITTLE everything cost when i secretly had a heart attack thinking just how MUCH money things costs. throughout their visit i thought about the fact that i’m thankful for the perspective living on a very small income peace corps has taught me, but sometimes i worry that i will forever be seriously stingy and worry too much about money. my parents were kind enough to leave me their extra ukrainian money, which of course like any rags-to-riches cautionary tale i blew pretty quickly in my last visit to kyiv. adjusting to having money (or being on my parent’s tab) was hard but re-adjusting to not being on their tab was even harder.

the morning that we were to part, ukraine surprised us with even more snow so i was a bit worried when i sent my parents in a taxi headed to the airport we hugged and said “see you soon”.  but thankfully their flight was fine and after they were off to vienna and then eventually chicago i set -off for my host family’s house. i hadn’t been back to visit my training host family for over a year but i figured this was my last chance to say good-bye. it was weird to be back in some ways, not all that much had changed when i lived there 2 years ago — the house trim had a new coat of paint, my host sister had a different boyfriend, but the outhouse smelled just the same, and my host mom’s cooking and kindness were still comforting and wonderful. i said good-bye to them for probably the last time and it brought back all the anxieties of “what’s next??” i had when i first left their house after training. from my host family’s i traveled back to kyiv and then to chernihiv to meet up with 91 other volunteers from my group for our close of service conference. everything is coming full circle, everything is coming to an end.

··················  lviv, ukraine  ··················

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welcome to ukraine!

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snow snow snow

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·················· visit to my village  ··················

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on the train headed south

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morning view from the train

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my ukrainian family (neighbors and landlords) and my american family (minus my brother)

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a small concert prepared especially for my parents

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the foreign language teachers surprised us with lunch (buterbrods and homemade varenyky!)

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lunch with the school director and foreign language teachers

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posing by my map project!

·················· kyiv, ukraine ··················

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st. sophia

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one of my favorite buildings in kyiv

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st. sophia

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pecherska lavra

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painted egg display at pecherska lavra

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pecherska lavra

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putting soldiers to use

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it’s snow fun!

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snow removal

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st. andrie lookin all pretty

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last visit to my training host family’s house // my host mom and host sister display traditional ukrainian dolls that my host mom’s students made. faces on dolls are believed to bring bad luck so they have a cross to protect instead.

3 thoughts on “the 8 days in ukraine that i wasn’t poor (aka my parents came to ukraine!)

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