Written on April 11:
Today is a holiday in Ukraine – apparently the first Sunday after Easter is “grave day”, where people go visit their relatives’ grades and something about celebrating Easter with them. That’s about the extent of my knowledge of the holiday, other than that they buy silk/plastic flowers to put on the grave, and a basket of food (and drink) to have there. Luba and Dima left about two hours ago to go to Chernihiv. I asked if I was going too and got a no, along with other stuff I still don’t understand. Something related to this day though, is apparently people clean off the graves today, and in preparation, most of last week people have been cleaning up their yards, which has entailed a lot of burning of garbage. This has not been terribly pleasant to walk through.
I’ve been doing a lot of walking, which is serving a number of purposes. One, it is exercise. If I get a good pace going, I get my heart rate up. Two, which is related to one, it helps burn off all the carbs and fat I have been eating. And third, I am exploring the village this way. Today I took a shorter walk than I would have liked because yesterday I twisted my ankle four times and it is a bit sore. But today I went the opposite direction from “town,” and walked to the road that goes to Chernihiv. Of course the camera went with me. I stopped in the small store located on the main road, where I accidentally got off early from the matrushka the other day. So there are more than three “mahazins” here – so far we have found six, and there may be more still to be found. The one at the “school” bus stop is the largest.
Yesterday after our cross cultural session, Emily, Theodora and I went to the sauna, which Emily’s family owns and runs. It was interesting, and really nice. We were the only ones there, and it was different than I expected. It must be by appointment only, as there are not two sides to it (women and men), as I would have expected. Instead, it was smaller than I thought it would be, but very nice. There is a dressing room, a shower room with a plunge pool, the sauna, and a room with a table, bench, chair, and fireplace. So we went from the sauna to the plunge pool, then hung out in the room with the fireplace, then back to the sauna. We did this cycle four times, which was about all I could handle. It was wonderful and relaxing, and I slept pretty well last night.
This morning I helped with the greenhouse. They have one that they have already been using, but I guess she is going to put her tomato and cucumber sprouts into another one. I helped with putting the plastic on the frame, which I believe they keep up all the time. It was not a big thing, but they were surprised I was out there to help. I am also helping a bit with meals, though not as much as I would like, and am doing the dishes more and more often. I also helped Luba feed the chickens and gather eggs yesterday. They were surrounding me when I walked into their area and I could barely pour the food before they were pecking at it.
I am not really missing the U.S. yet, except for a couple of things (one of which is an ironing board. One does not appreciate them until one irons one’s clothing on the floor). My sweet tooth, which tends toward chocolate, has kicked in as I have not had any since our first day here, at the arrival retreat. They have chocolate here, which is fabulous. I just had not bought any until today, when I bought a little one. I don’t especially miss American television, and unfortunately the worst of it seems to have been imported here (the concepts anyway – Big Brother, Ukraine Has Talent, “Ukrainian Idol”, “Reality” dating shows, and Peoples’ Court. Unsolved Mysteries is not so bad but I could really do without most of the other things, as I did not watch them in the States). They often show American-made films, which are dubbed, and Russian films, which have subtitles. Maybe someday I will be able to read them quickly enough to understand the dialogue. Most of the time I can understand the plot, language barrier or no.
I am starting to wonder/worry about where I will be assigned. While Kyinka is nice, it is mainly because I am living with a family and do not have to do a great deal of “work” myself in many ways. I wonder if I would really be able to do things as organically as they do here. This is not referring to cooking and cleaning, though obtaining food may be a bit of a challenge in a remote locale such as this. Luba preserves A LOT of food from their garden every year, and uses it during the colder months when fresh produce is harder to come by and not as good quality. I guess I should have paid more attention when I helped my mom preserve food all those years ago!