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!