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!