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How to put into words…

July 15, 2010

The beauty I saw this past weekend, as well as the power of Mother Nature we survived on Saturday? Though I feel ill qualified to do so in mere words, I will try anyway.

On Friday I was ready at the ridiculous hour of 4 a.m. Luckily we met downstairs from where I live, as I live at the University. Unfortunately, we did not leave until 5 a.m., so for a whole hour all I could think of was that I could have slept an extra hour before coming down…but that is how things go, and I am getting used to just “going with it”, largely because I don’t understand what is going on most of the time and just have to go along with things. This is an interesting situation to be in and could be the subject of a post all its own. I was most curious to see two van/buses for us but all of the students coming into the bus in which I was riding. Turns out, the other vehicle was packed full of supplies for the camping. I did not understand why we needed all these supplies until I learned that the students were to be at the camp for two weeks, whereas I was only there for two nights (and am grateful for that).

On the way to Olviya, we passed what has to be some of the most beautiful sights I have seen since I have been in Ukraine, and the reason for which Ukraine’s flag is how it is. Fields and fields of sunflowers, as far as the eye can see, against a blue sky. It was breathtaking, and I could not stop looking at them. I was not able to get any photos, which I fear would not be enough to represent the beauty of the moments I was able to experience. I pictured myself getting lost in the fields of such beauty, and wonder how people can drive by without being at all affected. How can I describe how it looked? From the distance, fields of yellow, which, upon approach, become the most beautiful flowers that follow the sun throughout the day. These flowers always have their face to the sun, taking in the beauty of the light. Seeing them against the blue of the sky, one can easily understand why Ukraine has been so desirable a “territory” for centuries.

After four plus hours, we arrived at camp, and some of us had a meal while others disappeared. I quickly found out where they had been when the rest of us crowded into the van with the remaining “stuff” and were taken to the camp site. We were remote. We were on the water’s edge, in the middle of nowhere, on the “territory” of a historic, archaelogical site. The young men stripped down to their shorts/underwear/swimsuit and set to clearing the site while the young women sat on the beach and waited. I am not kidding – I have a photo of it that I will upload when I get to Wifi access. I was slightly worried when I realized that although I had brought a sleeping bag (which I had purchased on advice from other PCVs from REI before I left the USA), but I had no tent or mattress, and the tents that others were setting up were pretty comfortable. They eventually set up the tent in which I slept, which was most interesting – it had a “common area” and three separate sleeping areas. Unfortunately, although Lena had an air mattress, I did not. Nor did I have bedding to make my sleeping area more comfortable. Ah, camping…But I had to laugh out loud when one of the students brought out a box and started to assemble something, and I saw what it was – a hooka pipe! In the US, hookas are thought to be used for marijuana, but here they are used with flavored tobacco. At camp there was not only one, but three hookas, which I thought so interesting – we did not have a ready fresh water source (we had to walk and retrieve it), but we had three hooka pipes.

On Saturday morning I wondered why I brought makeup, as it did not seem that I would need it, at least in this part of my “vacation.” I woke up early and went with a group of students who were beginning to do some excavating, though one of the luxuries of my position is that I did not have to participate in pulling weeds. Instead I took some photos and nosed around, and saw some beautiful wildflowers, of which I also took photos but also fear I was not able to adequately represent. Fields of purple flowers, with the occasional yellow intruder. The beauty was simply breathtaking, and as I walked along I once again realized how surreal my life has become.

On Saturday morning I also met Ira, who is from Kyiv and volunteers there (at Olviya) during the summer. She speaks excellent English, having lived in Norway during her studies, and she also later joined me at camp.  Saturday was also the day when I was reminded of the reason why I never go camping. What started out as mere rain turned into a gale force thunderstorm – indeed, at times we were holding the tent down – the tent, which they had not really staked into the ground prior to the storm. I have a photo of myself during the worst of it, looking like I am having so much fun…it was crazy, this storm, and the slowest-moving storm I can remember – the thunder and lightning sat directly over us for over an hour. After the storm I explored some of the smaller tents, many of which were washed out – completely. As in they had puddles of water in them. Not mere puddles, in fact – mini-lakes. The people whose tents they were had no chance of sleeping there on Saturday night. In addition, the borscht, which had been cooking, was not a possibility for dinner and the people from our tent and those taking shelter in our tent ate canned fish…except me…I had some bread and cucumbers. The vodka helped make things seem not quite as painful on Saturday night, and we had a lot of guests in our large tent, which was the only one to weather the storm really well. As I had previously told the group why I never go camping, I endured some teasing as to how it was my fault that we had the storm, and to think positive thoughts…I thought sunshine, but Mother Nature did not listen. Somewhere around 12:30 a.m. one of the students decided it was a great idea to go “skinny dipping” – I passed, as I was chilled wearing clothes, and could not imagine how I would feel swimming at that time…

On Sunday Lena and I left the students to go to Ochakiv, which is on the Black Sea. We went to a “resort” there. I had mixed feelings in this as although I really do not enjoy camping (and like having running water, shower, bed, etc.), I was enjoying the time with the students. When we got to the “resort” and I looked around I realized how different it is for people here than it is for Americans. We were brought there by a man from Georgia who has been in Ukraine for 20 years, and runs a “BBQ” restaurant on the grounds of the resort. He treated us to lunch, which lasted a couple of hours. I wondered how I was going to fill three days there, as I am not one to just lay on the beach all day. We as Americans are so used to being entertained or having the means of entertainment at our disposal that I wonder whether we can just relax and enjoy the beauty and stillness around us. I quickly finished the book I had brought and had to figure out how to just relax and let my mind not think about what I was going to do to occupy myself, as there was not a great deal there to occupy a person. I listened to a lot of music and spent a lot of time just thinking, or not thinking, letting my mind wander, trying to simply relax. This is a very difficult thing for me to do but I am trying to get used to it, this living in the moment and enjoying the experience.

On Tuesday we took an “excursion”, which turned out to be paying 50 UAH to go on a boat to an island (which was completely mosquito-infested), where there was yet another beach. Ah well. Lena and I sat and chatted. We did a lot of chatting during the three days we were at the Black Sea, and had a lot of time together where we did not chat. I think she is growing used to being around an American who is not especially outgoing and talkative. Nonetheless, we had a good time, and I am “tan” right now (which may not last long). I will soon post the photos on Picasa, along with those from Ivan Kupala Day. I need to get to a place with WiFi so I do not use up my prepaid Internet access here at home…

And…I now have a Wish List started, under the tab called Wish List (how’s that for logic). In case anyone is interested…

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