Sunday, September 11, 2011

First post back in the US of A

It's been about a month since my summer traveling adventure came to a close. When I left Kyiv I took a flight to Helsinki, Finland where I had a 23 hour layover and an excellent chance to explore Finland's capital city.  When my flight landed early Friday afternoon I went through passport control, dropped my carry-on off at luggage storage and eagerly set off for the city center. Somehow, I wasn't nervous at all.  I simply got on a bus marked as headed towards the city center and got off at what looked like (and thankfully really was) the correct stop at the train station. Inside the train station there was a helpful tourist information kiosk(where one of the worker's spoke Russian!) and after acquiring a map I sat down to a late lunch and planning my day.  The center of Helsinki isn't anything crazy, so I was able to easily see what I wanted to on foot.  I had slim hopes of taking a boat into Estonia for a few hours, but I found out that I would have had to have gotten on the boat early Friday morning and ended up taking a boat to a small island not far from Helsinki.  There a walked a lot more(story of my summer!), took some pictures, and even found a stone beach where I could sit down and relax for a bit looking out at the evening sun over the beautiful Gulf of Finland.  I felt so calm and happy just sitting there reflecting on my summer. When I had seen a bit more of the city center and the sun had completely set, I caught a bus back to the airport and spent a restless night sleeping in the airport.  I was content to have a simple bench to lay my head down though. Waking up in the morning I got some breakfast and spent a good amount of time using my computer(and the free wifi!) before taking off on the next leg of the trip--TO CHICAGO! The flight seemed to take forever and I only got about twenty minutes of sleep, so I was extremely thankful when we finally landed in Chicago.  After going through all of the necessary security checks and baggage claims I walked into the arrivals area and was immediately greeted by hugs from mom and Elizabeth.  I was sooo happy to see them!!! It was great to be back on American soil and back with my family.  It was a bit of a shock being instantly thrown back into an English-speaking environment, especially because this summer was much more immersion than my first experience.  From lack of sleep and general reverse culture shock that first evening and even the next day Sunday had me in a bit of a haze.  I will say though, that the adjustments this summer as I threw myself from culture to culture were much easier than I remember them being in Russia, or even in Germany. With time it must get easier. 
Once I got home I filled my precious and short time with seeing friends and family before heading back to college life.  Now I'm back in the college routine, which of course means lots of Russian, but also Turkish(!!!) this year as well as all of my other international fun-ness! This past Saturday I made Russian breakfast as part of an international breakfast even in my dorm and then shared pictures of my summer as a part of an event called "I don't know what you did this summer" Included below are the ten pictures I chose to show as part of that presentation. I thought this might also be nice for those of you who haven't seen my pictures on facebook. Enjoy :D
St. Michael's Cathedral, my favorite cathedral in Kyiv.  Also only about a five-minute walk from my school.

 A park in the center of the town at the metro stop Maiden Nezalezhnosti.  It was off of the main street, Kreshstak, which was closed-off to cars on the weekends and a fun place to go walking with friends. 

This is the Motherland statue near the WWII museum, but it is in fact visible throughout much of the city. There is a law that no building in Kyiv can be built to be taller than the highest point of this statue.  

While walking to the beach one day, my friends and I found this sign that informs us(in Ukrainian) that it is forbidden to wash your car on the beach. We found this funny mostly because it would have been nearly impossible to get your car to the beach via this path. The Ukrainian family Mario was sitting by on the way home from Lvov, however, wasn't so amused and assured him that this is a very serious and important sign. 

The beach of Odessa. One of the best long weekend trips I have ever taken in my life!

Pirohovo Folk Architecture Museum. Located about 30 minutes outside of Kyiv, this outdoor museum displays traditional architecture from different regions of Ukraine.  Plus, it was great to get out of the city for an afternoon and enjoy some fresh air.

The opera and ballet theatre in Lvov.  The start of our self-guided walking tour on the Saturday of our weekend trip. 

After lots of climbing, we reached the "High Castle". Mario heard an older couple speaking German and asked them to take a picture for us.  I love this picture of the three of us and miss our times together like crazy!

A few towards the beach from a high point on the island I took the ferry to outside of Helsinki. 

Lutheran church in Helsinki. 

These next few photos aren't from my presentation, but I had to add them anyhow :)

These two amazing people made my last day in Kyiv incredibly memorable! On the left is Mario from Germany and Nastia, my incredible Ukrainian friend is in the center. Hoping to see them both someday soon! 

With my class and my certificate on my last day. From left to right: Federico from Italy, our teacher, me, Karolina from Poland, and Michael from Austria.

This photo is from the night of our Borsch party.  Friends from Urkaine, USA, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Germany, and Israel(he's not in this picture).  What an international bunch of friends! :)

While in Lvov we went to a market that had more meat laying out than I think I've ever seen in one place in my life.  This was making me quite uneasy, as you can see from my face in this rather funny photo.  

Karolina and I at the club in Odessa

I maintain that this "Star Rain" umbrella is the best umbrella I've ever purchased :)

Mario looks really funny and you can't see the beach very well, but this is a very typical representation of how we spent many afternoons...relaxing on the beach!

Drinking Kvas(wheat soda) was one of our other habitual activities this summer

The flag of Ukraine, flying over Lvov!

Obviously I have many many more photos, and countless memories associated with each and every one of those photos. My time in Ukraine was so short, but those two months are oh so precious to me. One thing that I always think about while traveling is how much I wish I could share these places and memories with my friends and family from home.  I sincerely hope to have the chance to do that someday.

Всего хорошего!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Последний день...

It's 2:30 Friday morning and I'm laying in my bed writing this. Souvenirs and gifts have been bought(thanks to a fun shopping trip with Nastia and a late night supermarket trip tonight), final school lessons are complete, goodbyes to friends have been said, and bags are packed. These past two months have gone by faster than I ever imagined. I have learned so much, not just about Russian language, but about being brave and independent, making new friends, the blessing of having a church family in a foreign country, what it really means to dance until the sun comes up, and how a city that I arrived in alone without even a single acquaintance can steal my heart and become home. Today I had a very wonderful last full day in Kyiv. In he morning before school I bought some chocolates to take to class for my last day and after lessons I recieved my certificate from school. 160 hours of Russian instruction at level B2! :) After school Karolina, Mario, and I grabbed a little something from a bakery before going to a lecture/talk on Ukrainian mass media and free speech. When that finished up I had to return my cell phone and feedback forms to the old office and then Mario and I walked(despite the rain) until meeting up with Nastia. It was still raining pretty hard so we went to Globus and drank coffee while the worst of the rain passed. Today Hastia gave me a really pretty flower headband(trditional Ukrainian type of folk art) that a friend of her mom's made. She had also given me a flag yesterday, which will undoubtedly be hanging on the wall of my dorm room))) After a bit we decided that the rain had probably stopped and ventured back out onto the street. That was probably about 18:00 and by the time we finished walking it was almost 22:00! Yeah, some intense гулять-ing!! It was a great way to spend my last evening though. Just walking around Kyiv wih friends,taking a few pictures, and enjoying just lovin life. At one point we had an interesting adventure when we got off at днiпро metro station to fin some major road construction and a place we probably shouldn't have been walking. When Nastia asked the police officer how we could get across the street to a less torn up area his only answer was "carefully". I couldnt help but laugh at that a little. Before Nastia headed home we bought Kvas one last time from the автомать(we were sooo happy that it was working). Saying goodbye to Nastia was so sad. She is such a happy, fun girl and we became really good friends even in the short time we spent together. I know that somehow, somewhere I will see her again. And for now We have skype amd Facebook and Vkontakte :) After Nastia left Mario and I said our goodbyes and neither one of us wanted to leave. Eventually it couldn't be put off anymore and I left to go home on the metro. :( It was quite late by that point, but thankfully there is a supermarket near my apartment open 24 hours a day and I was able to buy the chocolates I wanted to buy for people back home. When I finally got home I had to start packing which is why now, at almost 3am I am about to close my eyes for about four hours. Helsinki tomorrow, USA Saturday!
Всего хорошего!


I'm honestly not ready to leave Kyiv at all. Friday is going to be a very sad day. I feel very at home here. All I ned to do is replace language school with university classes and be able to visit my family and everything would be great!
Ukraine is seriously an underrated country and this past weekend I had the opporunity to see another, quite different, part of Ukraine - Lviv. Friday after school I went to the rinok and bought a small umbrella for the trip. The brand was called "Star Rain" and all weekend we made jokes about it being such a great umbrella. Mario even bought a star rain umbrella at a rinok is lviv when t became apparent that his lovely Bulgarian umbrella had finally reached the point of being essentially useless for blocking the rain. After the rinok I stopped by the store to buy some food for on the train and hurried home to quickly grab my stuff and head to the train station. When I stopped by home the electricity in our entire building was turned off, so I was thankful for the bright sunshine. At the train station we found our train listing and then had some pre-trip ice cream and got on the train. I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the train was. When we bought the "сидящое место" tickets I was afrain that it would be  bench for three people and really close together and uncomfortable.  this train, however, was new and a special express train to Lviv with really comfortable seats, lots of leg room, and supposedly air conditioning(although in reality it was quite warm on the train). The seven ours to Lviv went by quickly and I passed the time reading news, studying, chatting, relaxing, and exploring the train a bit with Mario and Federico. Around 23:30 we arrived and set out for he hostel on foot, walking on the massively torn up road and trying to navigate a city completely new to us. In the end we found the hostel, i think around oneish, after realizing that there are twov very similarly named streets and we happened to be looking for the hostel on the wrong street.  Even after the little adventure of searching for the hostel we weren't completely tired and decided to get something to drink and do a little nighttime walking in the center of the city. It was a perfect summer night for walking outside and we had a nice chance to get a first impression of the city. Saturday morning we slept a bit and then grabbed some breakfast and headed out on the walking tour outlined in my Ukrainian guidebook. The center of Lviv is quite compact, so it was nkce that the tour took us a little bit outside of the center as well. One of my very favorite parts of the walking tour was walking to the "high castle" seeing the park there and then going up to the highest point and taking pictures and enjoying a great view of the city. Except for a few minutes of rain while we were at the castle area, the weather was really great. Lviv is the kind if city where it seems better to have clouds and partly grey skies than bright sunshine. Speaking of he character of Lviv, it really is a completely different city than Kyiv from the very first sight. Alhough I have not yet been to Poland, my friends observed that it looks a lot like a Polish city, which makes sense because we were a vey few kilometers from the Polish boarder. i think Federico's favorite park of the walking tour was all o he rinoks we stopped by along the way. We took some funny pictures of the massive amounts of meat laying out on the counters of the rinok and one of the babushka's let us taste the cheese she was selling. Eventually we strayed from the path of the walking tour a bit and decided to take an excursion to a small village outside of Lviv recommended by a guidebook Federico had. After a long walk along our favorite torn up road to the bus station, we got to enjoy the wonderful Ukrainian roads for about an hour and half. Once we found the marshrutka stop and "museum" complex with the help of some locals(seriously there were absolutely no signs) we came to find out that it was about to close. :( The closing time wasnt written in the guidebook, but we wrongly assumed that in the middle of the summer an open-air complex would be opened a lot later than five. We acually got there in enough time that we would have been able to see everything, but they for some reason have the system of stopping ticket sales an hour before closing, a concept I dont completely understand the logic behind. To make things even better, the skies opened up at this point. Umbrellas im hand, we decided to make the most of our situation and walk around the village a bit. Even though things didnt go exactly as planned, I was still in a really good mood and enjoying another one of life's unexpected adventures. On the drive home the roads were even better than om the way there(sarcasm, of course) because of the heavy rain and small lakes that had formed along the road. By the time we got back to Lviv the rain had stopped, so it turns oit that ita actually better that we spent the time of the worst weather on the bus( having a nice view of Ukrainian countryside) because we would have been bored in Lviv while the storm passed. After eating some pizza and walking around the city a bit more, we went back to the hostel to relax and decide on a club to enjoy Saturday night. Shortly after we got to the hostel our new roommates arrived in the form of a big cheerful Russian family. We didnt talk to them much, but they were normal enough roommates. The club, "Metro", was super fun with three dance floors and an outside area too. The atmosphere was a bit more relaxed than the club in Odessa andthere was one dance floor in the basememt that I particularily enjoyed. Even though we got there before midnight, Mario and I somehow danced until the sun came up and left the club around 6am. Such a fun fun night! After less than three hours of sleep it was up and at 'em again for our last day in Lviv. We went to the cemetary there, which is really big and beautiful and then to the folk architecture museum. It was a bit of a chilly day, but I enjoyed it all the same. When qwe finally figured out the correct marshrutka we rushed to the train and set out for Kyiv. We were all on different parts of the train because so few tickets were left when we bought ours. We had two tickets in "second class" where four people share a private compartment and one in hird class where fifty people share an open area. I had already decided to take the third class ticket because it's he safest  situation for a girl on her own and really it was все равно мне. However, when I got to my spot, noticed someone was in my seat, and kindly explained that spot 38 was in fact mine, the man with ticket 37 somewhat less than kindly told me to go sit somewhere else because his wife would be occupying spot 38. I didnt want to get in an argument with this stubborn Ukrainian man, so I just waited until the lady came to take our tickets and explained it to her. In the end, I just ended up sitting a few rows away until they got off the train at whatever small city we were in around 23:00 by which time I just climbed up into my bunk to read anyhow. I slept on and off from about 00:30 until a little before three when the train attendant went by to wake up tye passengers getting off a Kyiv. Thr train was a bit late getting into Kyiv and it was after 3:30 when I got into the taxi headed home. The taxi driver was a super nice guy who wanted to know everythig about America and asked me questions the whole time. When he found out tht I'm from Indiana he about freaked out because he loves car racing and is dreaming of seeing the Indy 500 someday. He also was of the opinion that Obama is a dictator and said at least three times "какой диктатор Америки, ваш президент Обама" By the time I got to bed it was after five Monday morning, but such a wonderful weekend in Lvov was worth the incredible lack of sleep all weekend. Всего хорошего!

Monday, July 25, 2011

English tourists in Justin Bieber t-shirts!

Oh Ukraine! Why are you so easy to love? In case it isn't obvious, life has been great since my last update. Tuesday I took it pretty easy because I was pretty tired from  the trip to Odessa, but I did go to speaking club and ended up chatting with some Ukrainians my age who absolutely love Lviv(the city I will be traveling to next weekend) and wrote down some of their favorite places for me. Wednesday we spontaneously decided after lunch that the beach was calling us, so I ran home to get my купальник and we hit up a beach I hadn't yet been to not far from the city center. Although the bridge repair going on not far from us eventually got a bit annoying, we had a nice afternoon/early evening of swimming and laying on the beach. Since the three of us headed to Lviv next weekend were at the beach we decided to go ahead and go to the train station to buy our tickets. It's good that we went then because even at a week out we got some of the last tickets. We leave Friday evening and get to Lviv by midnight. We have chairs instead of beds, but it's not overnight so it's really not a problem. We can rest up at the hostel Friday night and then explore the city all day Saturday. Sunday evening we leave Lviv and get back to Kyiv at 3:00 Monday morning. It was our only option and we got the last three tickets available, so we were lucky to be able to make it work at all. I'm really excited to see a Western Ukrainian city!  Thursday was another day of hanging out a bit after school and then i spent tue evening relaxing/studying for Friday's test in a cafe not far from home. It was crazy hot, so it was nice to escape to some air conditioning for a little bit. Friday was fairly uneventful, but thankfully it was a chance to relax a bit before the adventures of Saturday and Sunday.
After a little sleeping in Saturday morning our little gang of friends met up to go to the Chernobyl museum. Since the Chernobyl region itself is unfortuantely closed to tourists right now, I was glad to at least see Kyiv's tribute to the catastrophe. Admittedly, I expected thr museum to be a bit bigger because of what the Ukrainians have told me about the museum, but it wasn't bad in general. After the museum we decided to head to beach in our street clothes because it wasn't terribly hot anyhow. We went to the Hydropark metro stop, but to a much quieter section of beach than I have been to in the past. We had a nice few of the родная мать and лавра, and generally just enjoyed a relaxed Saturday afternoon. Mario had read that the best шашлик to be found in Kyiv is at hydropark and although Im not so sure that we found that very best шашлик, we were all hungry and glad to have something to eat. After leaving the beach we explored the city a little bit by taking random turns down some streets we hadn't been on in the past and wondering aimlessly(the best way to see the city!) By the end we actually came full circle to the metro stop where we met in the morning. We had lots of funny adventures including stalking British tourists and photographing people without them knowing. I haven't laughed so much in one day in a while. By that point we were all a bit tired and decided to head to our respective homes. Around ten Mario and I met up again to walk around Obolon region a little, especially my favorite street along the river. What a perfect, cool summer night.
Sunday I woke up and went to church for the last time here in Kyiv. Next weekend I'll be in Lviv and then I fly out on a Friday. I was really sad that it was my last Sunday of church here because I really love having a church to go to here and thr people are absolutely wonderful as well. It's just one more connection that makes it harder and harder to think about leaving Kyiv. Perhaps I could make my home here someday ;) After church and bible study I hurried to the metro station where the gang had planned to meet and we headed out to Pirohovo village/museum. It was really nice to be out of the city enjoying some fresh air and sunshine, especially on such a nice summer evening. After a few hours there and LOTS of walking, we were all pretty sleepy. I headed to the mall by my house and bought some really cute sandles. Hopefully they wont die like the last pair I bought, but i definitely think they are better quality. After the mall I decided to have a relaxing evening of studying and reading before an earlyish bedtime. After A weekend of lots of walking, i was just overall in need of some rest. Of course, the only problem with my plan to get a good night of sleep was the sound of explosions outside my window at 4am, but I think it was probably some kind of fireworks. Who knows...there are always strange noises outside of my apartment at night. Anyhow, today it is a bit cloudy, so no beach as we had planned, but Russian speaking club tonight will be fun. Looking forward to seeing all of my friends and family in a few weeks, but of course I will still be very sad to leave Ukraine.
Всего хорошего!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Although I still have about two and a half weeks left in Kyiv, my pre-departure sadness is really starting to set in. I have a routine here that is really comfortable and I really don't feel like I'm just visiting the city, but moreso like I am truly living here. I have gained a lot of the experience necessary to actually live here in Kyiv and take care of myself, so it's very easy to imagine just staying. But enough on that subject for now because it makes me too sad to think about it.
For now I'll get back to the usual update of my most recent adventures, of which there have been many! Last week Nastia, Mario, and I went to the zoo on wednesday and saw of the lovely little critters. It was really a cute little zoo, but unfortunately the monkeys and penguins were nowhere to be found and the elephant and hippo had both recently died. We also had the chance to ride the ferris wheel at the zoo and see a really nice view of the city. It may seem silly, but I will never get pass up the chance to see a nice view of a city or countryside, even if i have seen that same place a dozen times. Perhaps I am easily fascinated :)
On Thursday, my friend from school, Karolina, and I met up with some friends for a little pre-Odessa trip hangout. We went to a bar/pub called Route 66 that was your typical American, rock music playing bar, picked up and dropped in the center of Kyiv. The band's playlist consisted of the most classic hits of classic rock, and I must say I was impressed with their lack of accent when they sang even though they were definitely Ukrainians.  We ended up staying out pretty late, but it was time well spent getting a little better acquainted and making sure we were all on the same page with the trip details.
Friday I could hardly contain my excitement as I dreamt about the sunshine, sea, and beautiful beach awaiting us in Odessa. After lunch with friends and a short bit at home getting the rest of my things together it was off to Olympeskaya metro station to meet up with the gang. A little after five we started our journey. With the windows down and music blasting, we had completed the nearly 500 kilometer drive to the beautiful city on the Black Sea by a little after 11pm(no thanks to the lovely rush hour traffic leaving Kyiv). We had an interesting run in wih some Ukrainian authorities, not even five kilometers from our hotel. There was apparently some incomprehensible street sign forbidding some type of traffic manuever and the police officers were so kind as to be waiting right there to pull over any unsuspecting tourist, unfamiliar with this strange signage. Of course, the national solution to problems in Ukraine is to pay a bribe, so after several minutes of discussion Kostya was able to pay them off for only 50 UAH. Nothing like a little "welcome to Odessa" encounter with the local police. Once we got to our hotel we went through all of the standard procedure documentaion verification and check in during which the woman working at the desk couldnt find my Ukraine entrance stamp and eventually asked (although it doesnt translate perfectly) essentially "how did you end up in ukraine? Do you even know?" I couldn't help but laugh at that a little, especially since the phrase she used literally means to "fall" into Ukraine. The hotel was nothing special, but we were only there to shower and catch a few hours of sleep and for only 70 USD total for three nights in one of the most touristy cities Ukraine has to offer, I was happy to have a comfortable bed, decent shower, no bugs, a fridge to keep some groceries, and a friendly hotel staff. Of course, no air conditioning when it's 33 degrees outside is always fun, but we survived. While most people may have gone to sleep of settled for a night of relaxing after arriving somewhere at 11pm, our lively group opted for a night a techno beats at Odessa's most popular nightclub Itaka. The first night out we of course had to dress to impress, so Karolina and I set out with the guys in our high heels and dresses. I really liked the energetic party scene at the club and even after a long day of school and traveling Karolina and I lasted until about 4:30am. The club was interesting because it was all open air with two seperate parties-one upstairs and one on a lower level near the beach. The party upstairs was definitely my preferance though because the music was more what I want to hear in a club.
Saturday morning called for a bit of sleeping in and then a quick lunch before heading to Itaka beach to soak up some sun. On the way to the beach I needed to by a towel and ended up with a big bright pink Hello Kitty towel that I was probably much more excited about than a 19 year old girl should be haha It's super cute though and good quality and Chelsea Skovran-I was definitely thinking of you when I bought it! :D All day Saturday I felt so incredibly relaxed just laying on the beach, chatting with Karolina and the guys, and swimming in the sea. Once evening started to set in the guys played some volleyball and karolina and I took a little walk around the Arcadia area. When the guys went to eat a little dinner us girls went back to the hotel to shower and ended up falling asleep for about an hour. It was a great power nap and probably the only reason I surivided the night in the club. Saturday was definitely the biggest party night. Some friends of the guys who were originally going to go on a fishing trip ended up coming to Odessa Saturday, so we had a big group at the club that night. Twice Saturday night the power went out in the club, but it was actually nice to have an excuse to rest my legs for a few minutes while they got things back in operation. Somehow I managed to have the energy to stay at the club until almost 6am and Kostya and I walked home with the Sunday morning sun shining. Surprisingly, I only slept about four hours before getting up to shower and prepare for another great day on the beach. Kostya had told me that they hoped to get to the beach around noon, so when it was nearly one and I had already been to their room and called them a couple of timea, Karolina and I were certain that they had already made their way to the beach, thinking that we were having our beauty sleep. In the end we just headed to the beach and they caught up with us after a short bit. Sunday we were at the beach an hour earlier, but time went by a lot quicker. After the beach we got ready for a third and final night in the club, which Karolina and I decided to go a little more casual(aka i skipped out on the massively talll high heels). This ended up being a good decision because after eating a little something with Kostya and Vova we took a walk through the central area of Odessa to the port and enjoyed a nice night in the city. We werw going to try to get to the club before midnight because girls get in free before midnight on Sundays, but when we got there at 11:45 a band was playing that we didnt feel like paying the cover to listen to and decided to just walk along the sea a bit more. When we eventually returned to the club it was obvious that the crowd was a bit smaller, but I was there to dance and have fun, so really I didnt mind. I have to say, I really like the way people dance in clubs here. It's so happy and energetic. Perhaps thanks to the fact that it's techno music being played, but unlike at far too many dance parties in the states, no one here is "grinding" or generally dirty dancing. Of course, many guys are still trying to find a girl to dance with, but the atmosphere felt very different to me in a good way. During the three nights there was only one incident I saw of a fight being broken up, but the security took care of it quickly. Sunday night in the club was again until about 4:30am, when Kostya and I walked back to the hotel together. Monday we had to be out of the hotel by noon, so we dropped anything we didnt need for the beach in the car and went to enjoy our final afternoon of sand, sea, and sun. The water temperature and weather was so perfect
that it was hard to say goodbye to Odessa.  The trip home took slightly less time than the trip there and in about five hours we were back in Kyiv. The roads between Kyiv and Odessa are, by comparison, some of the best in Ukraine, but there were still several parts that werw bad enough to make anyone a bit car sick.  In general though, the trip went by quickly as we blasted Kostya's CD again and enjoyed the relative cool temperature of traveling at night(because there was no air conditioner, traveling during the day just wouldnt have worked). By midnight or so I was back in the apartment. This long weekend in Odessa was such an incredicly happy, relaxing, spontaneous, fun trip that I am so thankful to the guys for inviting us to join them on. Nothing like vacationing with real Ukrainians :D
I'm so thankful for the awesome people that I have been able to meet and become friends with this summer and for the unforgettable memories that are being made. I'll definitely be finding my way back to Ukraine someday!
Всего хорошего!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Новая Подрушка!

In the end exchange programs are really about the people you meet and things about a culture you simply can't learn from a textbook. So that is exactly what I have been up to since the last time I blogged :) This past Friday evening we sadly said goodbye to our favorite classmate from Norway, but what a fun night it was! Koby invited us all to his apartment and Oksana helped us make a delicious pot of borsch. Her friend and Koby's neighbor brought a delicious dessert and we sat around eating, chatting, telling jokes. At least seven nationalities were represented in that small gathering and between all of the unique experiences we have each had, conversation was never dull.  Also, Friday night was when I met Hastia, Oksana's daughter and my new amazing friend! Koby has wanted us to meet for a while and I'm glad we finally got to meet. I feel like our personalities are really similar and she is just an awesome girl! After taking some pictures together in the apartment we decided to go walking. Our group slowly got smaller the further we walked, but the troopers among us eventually arrived at the Kyiv Fortress where average citizens fought to defend he city from the Germana during WWII. Technically, we probably shouldn't have been there that late, but no one was there to stop us. At the highest point of the complex we had a great view of the city and the new stadium that is being built for Euro 2012. I must say, they have a lonnng way to go in the less than a year before that stadium is to be use. When we finally left the fortress, the gate we entered through had been locked and we ended up finding an alternate exit by this nig hospital which was rather creepy at night. Nastia and i kept joking that we were at the beginning of a horror film. In the end we found our way to the metro and Mario and I headed home, again on one of the last trains of the night, although certainly not cutting it as close as last Friday night!
Saturday morning called for some sleeping in, helping my host dye her hair, and then an excursion with school to the Kyiv Lavra.  On the metro on the way to school I suddenly heard some very obviously American English being spoken by some students. I decided to ask them where they were from (because hey, why not?) and it turns out that they were a group from New York doing a two week mission trip in Ukraine. Saturday was one of their last days ans kind of the "sightseeing" part of their trip. The Lavra was really a beautiful, interesting place with very beautiful cathedrals. The caves were also very interesting, as we could see the bodies of the people buried there in glass coffins. It was also interesting to see those in our tour group who consider themselves orthodox christians bowing, crossing themselves, and kissing the icons and coffins. I couldn't help but wonder how many of them truly know God's love and how many were just following the traditions of their family's religion. But really I shouldnt judge the hearts' of people I dont even know. The end of our excursion narrowlu escaped the opening up of the sky, but afterwards when Olga (our guide) and I went to a little cafe together it was raining quite a bit. Olga is a really nice girl, a little older than me I think, who is studying computer engineering. After our late lunch I went home and hid from the rain a bit until it let up and I was able to go walking om Xreshtok Street in the center of the city. It's so nice there on the weekend because the street is blocked off and people can walk all around.
Sunday I visited the other Lutheran church in Kyiv because there was a guest there from Wisconsin video taping the service to increase awareness among American Lutherans of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church. Also, at that church I met Marichka, one of the girls who studied in the States for a year and added me on facebook via Tim Malchow.  She's really nice! She told me that I don't look like an American ;) maybe that means I'm actually blending in in this strange land! Church started a bit later than it was supposed to because the pastor's clothes were MIA. I'm not sure where they were found in the end, but I cant imagine where they could have run off to. After church I went to a cafe to eat a little something and use wifi. I got to talk to Charlie for a fair amount of time foe the first time in a while, which was a great mood improver after my most recent shoe incident. Basically I just give up on shoes here! Oh well...
Nasia and I ended up heading to Dream Town to rollerskate this afternoon. After skating we drank lattes (nastia's favorite) and went walking on the favorite street. We put our feel in the water a bit and it felt sooo nice.
Monday, however, we really got to enjoy the beach! We spent a little over three hours at Hydropark, the most popular beach in Kyiv, laying out and swimming in the mysteriously yellow/green water of the Dniper. We decided it was best to just ignore that little water quality detail ;) I bought some groceries to have a little lunch/picnic on the beach and was amazed at how cheap the food was, even at a big supermarket. For 7 USD I got a loaf of pre-sliced bread(not common here), cheese, sausage, a bottle of juice, three oranges, a big container of cookie/cracker things, a snickers bar, and a bottle of yogurt drink! I didn't know what anyone wanted so I just got a bunch of random stuff and ended up taking most of it back home.  After wearing ourselves out at the beach we headed to the Yoga center where Nastia's mom worka as a barrista at the little cafe there and had lattes (of course!) By the time I finally got home it was almost nine and I drank some tea with Maria, our neighbor, and another friend who was over before doing my lovely homework. Nastia and I have all sorts of plans for future hangouts and I cant wait for all of the adventures we will have in the next month!
Всего хорошего!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hot Water!

The most exciting news to me right now is that this morning I took a hot shower for the first time in two and a half weeks! I can't remember ever going that long in my life without a hot shower, but it has definitely given me a new prospective on how fortunate I am to always have access to hot water! Ironically, the weather is begining to heat up again. Nothing like only having cold water during the "cold" part of the summer.
I am happy to report that I am now the proud owner of some "Ukrainian" shoes.  Ok, so they were most likely made in China, but I bought them at the open air market one stop from where I live for 100 UAH(about 12.5 USD) and I feel very Ukrainian when I wear them))) They are the replacements for the sandles that fell victim to our Friday night adventure.
For the third year in a row, I didn't celebrate the 4th of July.  I'm starting to forget how it feels to actually celebrate the holiday with cookouts and family and fireworks.  It was even more strange here because while people had heard of Independence Day in America, no one really new it was Monday until I mentioned it.  We did have some nice weather for 4th of July though and my friends and I ate "kiosk food" in the park for lunch and enjoyed some nice weather.  I treated myself to coffee and a very yummy piece of cake at the cafe where Russian Speaking Club is held and that was the extent of my fourth of July celebration.
On Tuesday I met up with Svetlana at the metro station and went with her to visit the "Gift of Life" center that is closest to the center of the city.  The other center is closer to the metro stop where the church is and is actually a rented space within a public clinic. After they showed me around the office (which looks a bit like an apartment) and told me about their work, we drank coffee and had some treats and chatted.  I became friends with one of the ladies on facebook and they gave me some advice about places to visit in Kyiv and let me borrow a book called "Living in Kyiv".  Such wonderful, hospitable, awesome women! They also told me that this Sunday there will be some Americans visiting at the larger Ukrainian church, so I am going to visit that church this weekend! After hanging out with them for a while I went back to school to do my homework and then to "English Speaking Club" at Puzata Hata. Mondays I go to Russian Speaking Club and there are some Ukrainians there who help me practice my Russian, so I figured I would return the favor and help them with their English.  It was a bit funny being the only American there, as everyone wanted to "pick the American's brain" and ask all sorts of questions about a  country that for many of them is still very much out of their reach.  It was also a bit of an unusual experience to be surrounded by people who were all speaking English, but to still definitely not feel like my native language was being spoken because of thick accents and slightly unusual sentence constructions.  After English club I went back to the apartment and relaxed and went to sleep, having been out and about for 12 hours.
Today after school we decided to try to Uzbek resturant close to school.  It was a bit "fancy" but very good food and delicious tea.  I signed up for an excursion this Saturday to the Lavra and can't wait to explore that jewel of Ukraine.  Happy to have my homework done, I think I'll head home from school!
Всего хорошего!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

So many adventures!

So much has happened since the last time I blogged, so I am certain that I will probably just give the cliff notes version here since I am posting from my ipod :)
-Monday-our guest that was staying with us ordered pizza! Actually, when the doorbell rang and they said "Oh, the pizza!" I really thought that they were just making a joke. It was kind of funny having pizza delivered to the apt in Ukraine. It came with wine, which I also found interesting.
-Tuesday-Happy constitution day! We had a huge delicious dinner with the neighbor and sister in law of my host. I was absolutely stuffed, but it was such a fun night! I didnt go to the festivities in the center because of the weather, but my night was still fabulous!
Friday-Rented a sauna/banya with friends from school. It was a private place with a lounge, banya, and cold pool. We washed ourselves with a scrub made of coffee, sour cream, and honey. We stayed at the banya for three hours and then went over to Denis and Koby's apartment for a little goodbye party for Denis. Coming home we got lost and couldnt find the metro. I tripped and fell on some uneven sidewalk and broke my sandles. I was a bit sad because those were my favorite shoes. So not only was I cold, wet, and lost, but also barefoot. We got on one of the very last trains and I made it home a bit after midnight. It's a wonder that I didnt catch a deathly cold or slash my foot open on something.
-Saturday- slept in because I could and because friday night kept me out late. Found my way to the Bulgakov museum and joined a Russian tour group. Was really impressed at how realistically the apartment was set up based on pictures taken in the apt during Bulgakov's life there. Afterwards got some lunch was was slightly creeped out my a Lebanese man who lives in America and was inviting me to come stay at his beach house in Lebanon. Oh my! After went to the tour agency and was slightly disappointed to find out that I may not be able to go to Chernobyl because it is currently closed. I will find out the government's decision on July 15. Went on a late night walk on a super beautiful street on the bank of the river with Sasha and we chatted in Russian the whole time. There are really beautiful houses there where a lot of diplomats and businessmen live. My future home? I think yes)))
-Sunday- today. The sun was out when I woke up which always makes me happy. Maria made me tea with my breakfast this morning and put fresh raspberries in it. yummmm! Went to church and met some really nice older women who are kind of taking me under their wing. Can never have too many Ukrainian babushkas))) One woman i met works at the lutheran pro-life center here and i am going to go meet her colleuges this week. Not sure what else I will occupy myself with today, bt I have some hw and i may replace my dead sandles. My life here is quite great right now!
Всего хорошего!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

It shouldn't be this cold on June 26th

Today marks the end of my second week in Kiev! I am continuing to get more and more used to life here and this city is starting to feel like home. This week the weather has gotten quite cold with temperatures in the low 60s and a constant drizzle. I didn't do a lot during the week except lots of "гулять"ing (going for walks) but I found several really beautiful parks and places to relax around Kiev. One park I particularily liked was really green wih lots of trees and flowers and a really pretty fountain. The only problem with these places is that I usually find them as a result of random meandering amd can't seem to find them very easily a second time. Yesterday I went on an excursion organized by the school to the museum of thr Great Patriotic War (WWII). Right when we were approaching the museum a hige graduation ceremony for military cadets was finishing up in the square outside of the museum. It was really fascinating to see an event of such national pride and all of the proud young soldiers and their families. The museum itself painted an interesting picture of the war. The main idea I got from the exhibits and presentation of the history is that more than anything that war marks a period of terrible tragedy for the Ukrainian people. Those individuals who sacrificed themselves both on the front line of battle and through their actions as ordinary citizens are given the highest praise in that museum. Another interesting fact about the sovirt war effort during WWII is that women fought in the war tsking roles from medics and cooks to snipers and front line soldiers. Such equality in the conscription of men and women was unheard of in that time period in most of the rest of the world. All in all it was a great excutsion amd I cant wait to take embark on some of the other adventures i am currently scheming. After the museum I hing out with Sasha and explored the giant mall by my apartment a little. Despite the rain it was a funfilled afternoon. I hae recently wathed two russian films, given to me by my teacher. "The Barber of Siberia" and "Young Ekaterina". I hVe to say i enjoyed the former more, but they were both interesting. Not sure what i will occupy the rest of y day wih because of his weaher, but i'll find something to do. Hope all is well wherever you are in the world reading this.
Всего хорошего!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The West in the East

I thought I would give a little attention in this blog post to the interesting and sometimes humorous occurances of "western" culture, products, etc in this still very Eastern European country.  Many products that I might find back home in the states are fairly easy to locate and buy here and are usually being sold for a cheaper price.  American chocolates and sodas are sold on nearly every street corner and McDonalds(which is constantly super crazy busy) and Dominos Pizza can also be found within the city selling many of the same products as in America. Actually buying these things is where it gets interesting though.  Yes, a Sprite is still called Sprite and a Snickers would still be called a Snickers, but if I pronounce them as if I was trying to buy them in America, the cashier looks at me like I have two heads.  Yet, if I simply pronounce the names of them with some ridiculous Russian accent suddenly they know EXACTLY what I'm trying to buy. It makes me laugh a little.
Another interesting thing is the number of stores with knock-off western clothing, but I'm sure that can be found just about anywhere in the world. I am much more amused by the English phrases written on shirts.  A few I have seen include "Give me smile" "Take off your shiney tights" and  some very American looking "I <3 Kiev" shirts.
Just like in any big city abroad, an American visitor could practically live like he is back in the states, sheltering himself in "western" comforts and familiarities.  But I like to think it's more fun to try extra hard to fit in as much as possible.  And I think it's working out pretty well so far)))
Всего хорошего!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Today marks one week since this here American landed on foregn soil to begin a little ukrainian/russian adventure. So far, the time is flying by and i csnt believe that a wek has already come and gone. At the beginning of the week i was a little lonely, but found some school friends to hang out with and even went out wih them on thursday night. That was probably one of the most hilarious nights of my life. The group of us who went to the bar represented mexico, columbia, america, england, france, italy, and israel. Talk about an internationak group of friends! This week i went to two lectures in russian at school, wathed a russian film, and make vareniki(small ukrainian dumplings) with my classmates.
This weekend I got some really good sleep for the first time and i think my body is finally starting to adjust to being here in kiev. One thing i've been doing a lot of here in kiev is walking. Because of this, i ended up with several small blisters and one absolutely masive blister on the bottom of my right foot. Last night i even couldnt walk because of it and didnt know how i was going to be able to go to church this morning. Thankfully, i have a wondeful host. She helped me clean it and wrap in up im bandages so i could actually walk on that foot. Maria is the best!
Today i went to church(i found he building yesterday so i wouldnt be too lost today). It takes me about an hour to get to church just like at home. Unlike home thoUgh, where i het in the car and drive an hour, the commute here consists of walking to the metro, riding it a handful of stops, changing lines, riding another handful of stops, and then walkig about fifteen minutes to the churh. The congrehation here is very small. Today there were less than fifteen people at church, but i absolutely love that church already. Almost he whole literagy is set to music(both singing and chanting) and everyone in the church has beautiful voices. The congregation easily filled that small room with their voices. After church we had bible study and studied Isiah chapter eight. I brought my english bible so i could read the readings in english too. Everyhing at churh is taught in ukrainian, but after a little bit of getting used to it at the beginning of the service i could understand quite well. After bible class we had some fellowship time drinking tea snd coffee amd having some candies and cookies. Next week ik going to bring a few photos of my church back home to show them. Anyhow, i dont have too much other news except that it is cery very hot here and soon begins the summertime two weeks wothout hot water in the city. Honestly, it doesnt seem too terrible tO me because it is hot enoih hat. Cold showers will probably feel quite nice.
Всего хорошего!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Definitely not in Kansas anymore!

I'm getting started at writing this blog post as I sit on my bed at one thirty in the morning because apparently my body has decided that it wants to run on a series of short naps. Travel from USA to UA actually was rather uneventful. The flight from Chicago was about nine hours and I sat next to a British girl who know lives and works in Helsinki and she had only great things to say about he city. Once we got to he airport (between eight and nine sunday morning) i immediately noticed how strangely quiet the airport was and it truly just seemed a bit too quiet the whole day. I somehow ended up going through passport control into the finnish side because i was slightly confused about my gate location, but it wasnt a problem...just an extra stamp on my passport. I didnt do much of anything in thr airport besides take advantage of the free wifi and doze off. The best sleep i actually got was right before my plane took off. I started off just being able to close my eyes for a minute or two before lookng around disoriented and afraid i had overslept. Finally i slept for about fory five minutes straight, which felt amazing considering that i slept less than an hour on the flight from Chicago. The only bad thing about my day in Helsinki was that i didnt eat anything except about a handfull of jujubes the whole day and that seven am yogurt on the plane didnt hold me over too well for the ten hours until i ate again. I'm not even sure why i didnt buy any food, oh well. 
     When I woke up from my little snooze and was getting ready to board the plane for the final leg of the trip an American guy from California who was born in Ukraine started talking to me. He told me about how he was traveling to Ukraine with his little brother and after a little bit of time in kiev he would be leaving his brother wih relatives to go work with a pastor in Ukraine. He obviously has a huge heart for the Lord and just he encouragement of a fellow believer to make small talk with coming into Ukraine was a great blessing in my day and definitely something my travel-weary self needed. God is so faithful! 
The plane took off a little late (plus the bus transportation between the plane and terimals in both helsinki and kiev added some time) so i didnt meet up with my driver Sergei until almost seven. The Ukrainian passport people didnt give me any grief at all and she didnt even ask me the purpose of my trip. But i'm not complaining one bit. Sergei drives the most soviet car ever, a lada, and he got me and my luggage safely from the airport to my home for the next two months.  We chatted a bit throughout the ride. Besides just the typical small talk he told me some things about kiev and i told him some jokes which may or may not have been funny and it was a nice little car trip. I got to see a fair amount of kiev just from the car window and it's definitely much different from Kazan. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what seems so different, but many of the structures seem more run down and i feel like half of the city or more is under some sort of unattractive construction. But it also feels very alive and I cant wait to be among all of the people walking through the streets. I forgot to mention that on the trip to Kiev i was sitting next to a women who is originally from afghanistan and has been living in kiev for 15 years and she gave me her number in case i ever want someone to hang out with or just have a question or something. 
     When I finally got to my apartment Sergei helped me bring my bags in and i met me host mom and such. She hurt her foot recently tripping on a rug in her apartment, so it hurts to walk. When i told her about my Dad's work she decided he needs to be here to fix her foot hehe. Anyhow, because of this it was decided that I would take myself to school in the morning and ask people on the street if i need help. I was thinking i was expected to take myself to school anyhow, so it didnt bother me at all. I felt good about myself when he program director called later that night and i could ovehear my host mom saying that she knows i will be fine and that i speak russian really well :) the room that she gave me is really nice. I have a little couch/bed, a place to put my stuff, a desk, tv, houseplants, and access to the balcony. I got all of my stuff put away, taking up surprisingly little space, took a shower, ate some borsch, and called it a night before ten. I defitely live in that typical Soviet apartment that Mr. G would always show us photos of in first year russian. The toilet and shower/sink are in separate rooms, the same knobs control the water for the sink and the shower, the lift is big enough for about two people, and the outside if the building just screams soviet apartments. I'm getting the real experience :)
    As I mentioned earlier, I didn't get much sleep last night.  But I really didn't feel too bad when I woke up about 7 this morning.  My host mom made me breakfast and then began my first school adventure. My host mom walked me to the entrance to the metro just because she was a little concerned about me. The metro adventure was fine except finding the connection I needed, but finding my school once I actually got off the metro was a small nightmare. After a journey of about an hour and thirty minutes I finally arrived.  Let's just say I was getting a bit flustered by the time I finally got there.  I asked probably a dozen people for directions(each of whom had a slightly different version of the "correct" way to get there) during my morning adventure.  Once I finally got to school we split into our groups and had our first morning of lessons.  There are currently three people in my class-me, a guy from Israel, and a guy from America-but I might be transferring to a more advanced level of Russian. I also met another younger guy who is from America, but he is in a different class.  I haven't met any other girls here at the school yet except the staff.  It's a little strange.  I think my teacher kind of likes having me there to translate a bit, but it's more important that I am challenged more. We had a short break during our lessons and I called mom to talk a little and then called my host mom to let her know that I had gotten to school.  After lessons I got a cell phone from the school and then we went on a short excursion to see some of the main sites of the city.  It was raining, raining, raining though, so that made it a bit less fun.  After the excursion I came back to the school, which is where I am now, using the internet and preparing to do my homework.  Interesting first day! Can't wait for more to come :D
Всего хорошего!

Monday, April 25, 2011


When I tell people that I will be spending two months of my summer in Kiev, Ukraine the responses have been everything from confusing to humorous. Some of the most common reactions have been:
  • Where exactly is Ukraine?
  • Is that in Russia?
  • Which IU program is that with?
  • How many credit hours is your program?
  • You don't even speak Ukrainian!
  • Where will you live?
  • Oh, the same place you went two summers ago?
  • Are you going on summer project? (Cru friends)
Just to list a few...
So where to begin? At the end of last semester my plan was still to march another summer of Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps.  Life seemed to be pointing me in that direction, but I also had submitted an application to the Critical Language Scholarship program in Russia.  During Christmas break, I went to see a specialist about my broken pelvis(my lovely drum corps injury from summer 2010) only to see an x-ray of a still broken, inflamed, and generally unfortunate-looking pelvis situation and was faced with making a decision between risking another summer of pain and hating my life just to march or dropping out and finding another adventure for the summer. I chose the latter and when my CLS application was denied, my plan was to do SWSEEL and live it up in B-town for the summer.  I even had an adorable apartment on Kirkwood to sublet :)
Yet life had another interesting turn of events for me! I wanted a program that was full immersion, instead of the partial immersion that I would have in SWSEEL.  I feel that my Russian is at a point where I really just need constant exposure and application. I found out about a program with Russian language schools in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Riga, and yes, Kiev, Ukraine.  "So why not?" I thought.  I've never been to Ukraine and it seemed like a fun and fantastic adventure. As an added bonus, Americans don't need a visa to travel to Ukraine, making my life a bit easier. So from June 11th until August 6th I will be on a Ukrainian adventure. My class time will be 20 hours/week at the Kiev Novamova Russian language school with students from all over the world.  This is something I'm really excited about! The fact that my classmates and I may not share English as a common language will force me to speak Russian.  My goal is to speak only Russian while I am in Ukraine this summer, unless some sort of emergency situation requires me to use English.  In addition to going to school, I opted to live in a host family situation.  My host mom, Maria Ivanovna Kuznetsova, is a retired widow living on her own.  This in it self will be a new experience for me.  I've grown up with a big family (1 of 6 kids with numerous exchange student siblings throughout the years) and am now suddenly going to be an only child for 8 weeks.  This actually isn't too weird considering I've been living on my own with just one roommate since August, but still it's not quite the same.  While I was in Kazan I joined a family of four, so that definitely had a family feel to it, especially when we were all together in the flat or the dacha. I'm thinking this will give me a bit more freedom, though, to hang out with my classmates and other people I meet without feeling like I need to come home and spend time with the family. Apparently she is a retired cook and makes some delicious food, so that is rather exciting.  Hopefully not too delicious though, as I don't want to come back from the Ukraine with a few extra kilos of body mass. 
There are a couple of other factors about going to Ukraine that are crazy exciting for me.  First, my darling host sister, Ksusha, will be at summer camp in Southern Ukraine this summer.  It will be a bit of a train ride, but my hope is that I will be able to travel down to Crimea to see her while we are both in Ukraine.  This summer will be almost two years since we were last together and I miss her a bunch! Another exciting thing is that I'm going to be able to go to church while I'm in Kiev! When I was in Russia I went to visit churches and see them in a touristy kind of way, but never actually attended a service.  There is a Lutheran mission in Ukraine called Thoughts of Faith and a church I can attend in Kiev.  Also, just a few metro stops from my host mom's apartment is the main office of Украина для Христа (Ukraine for Christ), the Campus Crusade for Christ mission in Ukraine.  Not only will these be great ways for me to meet people in Ukraine, but one of my goals is to meet Ukrainian Christians this summer and just talk with them about loving Jesus :) I would also really like to be able to have a gospel conversation with an unbelieving Ukrainian in Russian and will be praying specifically for such opportunities to arise during my time in Kiev.  
Oh, so about some of those reactions to my adventure that I have left unanswered. First of all, Ukraine is located in Eastern Europe to the southwest of Russia, with the Black Sea on its southern border(Not the same place I went two summers ago, as that was in Russia). As you may have gathered from what I wrote earlier, it's not an IU program, but I'm going to be cramming my head full of Russian none the less. True, I don't speak Ukrainian, but thankfully, Ukraine is filled with Russian speakers, especially in the east, south, and big cities (like Kiev!). I'm thinking I'll pick up a little Ukrainian while I am there, which is also perfectly fine with me and a nice addition to my Slavic knowledge. 
I suppose that's pretty much it! One long blog post later we have the basics of what this summer excursion is all about.  47 days until I leave!
всего хорошего!

So what is this all about?

A few years ago I kept a blog pretty regularly and then just, well, stopped for no good reason.  With the summer quickly approaching (yay!) my friends and I have realized how sad and disconnected from each others' lives we will be. Chelsea is going to Rwanda, Ivana is going to Spain, Jasmyn is going to Russia, I'm going to Ukraine(I probably forgot someone, but everybody has their own adventure) and we decided that blogs shall be kept and stalking shall be done. So here's to a summer of fun-filled adventures, new experiences, and blogging!
всего хорошего!

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