Sunday, October 2, 2011

Little Did We Know

Logan and I arrived safely in Ukraine last Thursday, 22 September. After landing in Kiev, the entire group of volunteers (all 97 of us) were bussed to a retreat for language, cultural, and technical preparation. A few of my favorite pieces of information or advice upon arriving at the retreat:

1.) "If it's too cold, wear two pants."
2.) "No" usually means "yes." Saying "no" while smiling means "yes." Saying "no" while maintaining eye contact means "definitely yes!"
3.) Never (ever) throw away bread--no matter what.

As I write, it's already October. We have officially made it through our first week in what seems like a parallel universe. Logan and I are very lucky to be staying with a wonderful host family in Chernigov, in the Northern part of Ukraine. It's a pretty big city and the family is very nice. They have two kids, 13 and 1.5 and we learned how to can peppers for the winter on our first night!
When our host family arrived to pick us up, they helped us get everything into the car and then we drove through the city to their house. The ride was very quiet since we didn't really know how to say anything in Russian. Michael Jackson was playing on the radio. I managed to ask my host sister her name, but immediately forgot it. We finally arrived and silently loaded our bags into the house. Little did we know that the family spoke English very well! That shaved some of the awkwardness away. Only some. Even though we were in Ukraine and in a Ukrainian household, everything still felt surreal.

Little did I know that we arrived during the celebration of the founding of Chernigov! On Saturday night, Logan and I took a stroll to the center of town to see the sites and that's when it happened. A wave of culture shock came over me. A team of little children dressed in traditional costume came out onto a stage and started dancing in the traditional Ukrainian style. It was so cute, but when I looked around, I realized that I was so far from home.

At that point I knew nothing, but now, I can introduce myself in Russian, talk about food and hobbies, ask for help (without really understanding the response). But, I can conjugate the verb to love. It's a start.

Kak V Skázke (как в скáзке)!

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