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Grave Day

April 15, 2010

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!

Photos at:

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Joanna permalink
    April 15, 2010 8:35 am

    Love reading the blog, enjoy learning more about Ukraine and the people there. Take care of that ankle!

  2. lara rush permalink
    April 15, 2010 8:40 am

    thanks for the updates, I really like hearing about where you are, gives me a better feel for the country. take care of your ankle, write often…….have a piece of chocolate for me!!

  3. lia-pol permalink
    April 15, 2010 10:08 am

    Hallo, Karin!
    Nice to see you here!))
    I’m so glad you’re allright – more or less – in here, your posts are quite optimistic, I was afraid you won’t like our little villages. It seems PC cares of all of you quite well.
    Some tips:
    “grave day” is really a part of Easter but I wonder how it differs from place to place. I went to my little town in Sumska oblast now, and “graves” are here not only on last week-end, but on Monday too. It calls also “coffins”.

    and cleaning and garbage burning isn’t because of Easter, it’s an authority order to clean everything everywhere at 8th, 10th and 17th of April. We do this in Bilopillya too; we burn leaves because it’s only way to get rid of them.

    and it is “marshrutka” 😉
    Take care!
    Sincerely yours, Olga =)

  4. Eve permalink
    April 15, 2010 12:12 pm

    I just went back and read all of your posts. I had read the first few (January and February) before, but I don’t think I had read any since then, and definitely none since you arrived in Kyinka. It is so exciting to live vicariously through you!

    Once you have your assignment, I’m sure many of your anxieties will disappear. Sometimes it is just the “knowing” that makes one feel more secure. And I know you would never be one to rely on this, but chances are the “locals” will help you out – a lot – especially with food! 🙂

  5. Mom permalink
    April 15, 2010 1:12 pm

    Canning is only common sense and the right equipment. I’ll help you along any time. Glad you’re enjoying your experience–it’s really not so unlike the way some people live in rural U.S. You’re a hard worker and a fast learner and will do just fine. Love you.

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