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!