Tuesday, September 20, 2005

When they first brought me here, almost two weeks ago now, to my new work place and home, I felt like a small child. I sat for a long time in a small office while Ionka, Larisa and Ivan discussed my future here in Ukraine. I listened while Lyuda did her best to translate for me and the others made arrangements on my behalf. When they brought me to my new home, I cried, even though I tried so hard to wait until I was alone to let the tears come. That made me feel even more like a small child. I could not understand what was going on around me because of the language barrier. I felt totally dependent on those around me, especially Larisa. the thought of doing something as simple as taking the bus alone, or buying something for myself, terrified me. It will be nice when I can go out and do things on my own without someone there to talk for me. I need to learn everything over agian, start from the bottom, like a small child.

The children at the Internat make me both happy and sad. They take me by the hand and show me around, babbling on in Russian, asking me questions I don't know how to answer. So Ijust laugh and smile into their sweet faces. They whisper about me to each other, which is funny because I don't understand their language. It seems you can tell the age of the child by the colour of their hands. The smaller the child, the blacker the fingers. They like to play outside in the dirt. Cracking open walnuts and eating the insides with their grimy hands, offering some to me as a gift. Or playing with a piece of plastic bag, wearing it as a cape. Clothes never fit quite right. Shoes too small, pants too big. Sandals where the toes of the wearer go well beyond the ends of the shoes. Boys trying to run while holding their pants up. The bedrooms are bright and sunny, and each bed is covered with an MCC comforter - the kind I was folding at the Material Resource Center in Akron one day a few weeks ago. There is little else in each room.

Early Monday morning, I was wakened while it was still dark by a mosquito's incessant buzzing in my ears. Or was it the rain and the thunder that woke me? It's hard to tell, as I noticed both things immediately.

The pillows I sleep on are big heavy square things. I think they are filled with feathers, and I like that.

When I sleep, I often have dreams where I am at home, and then I wake and find myself in Ukraine.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Waiting for our flight out of Philadelphia, I sat for a long time and watched people walk past endless panes of pale greenish glass. Behind the glass hung tiny birds that made up the formation of larger birds and airplane.
One of my first clues that I am now in Europe was on the airplane from Frankfurt to Vienna. I happened to glance at the newspaper that the man across the aisle from me was reading. There in the pages of the newspaper were pictures of women wearing nothing but tiny blue underwear. I had to do a double take, as seeing topless women in the daily paper is not something I am accustomed to seeing in Canada.
After literally running through the airport in Vienna (we had only a few minutes to catch our connecting flight and very nearly missed it), I felt peaceful inside as I stood at the back of a crowded shuttle bus that would take us to the plane that would fly us to Ukraine. Holding on to the bar on the glass door of the bus, I felt the sun warm me as the crowd around me spoke in Russian, a language that sounded strangely beautiful to my ears. Boarding the plane the Austrian wind blew crazily through my hair. Seeing from the tiny window the giant windmills scattered throughout the fields, their three narrow blades spinning slowly, made me feel happy, and I liked the way the fields were divided into neat rows of golds, green, and browns.
Here in Zaporozhye in the evening, people walk. People walking everywhere, also sitting on benches in the park drinking. Public drinking at any time of the day is normal here.
Looking forward, with some anxiousness, to going to my home in Melitopol tomorrow and meeting my host family. It will be so nice to have a place to unpack and settle into finally, after living out of a suitcase for almost three weeks now.

Friday, September 02, 2005

I have thought a while about starting a blog for my year in Ukraine, and this is where my thinking has landed me. As I wrote in my journal last night (I still prefer the good old pen and paper in a book method by far), "I've always thought blogs were mostly cheese and never considered having one, but over the past couple weeks I've been reconsidering. I've been inspired as I read other people's weblogs and have been thinking of what sorts of things I would say if I had my own. What would I call it? What would I write? So now I find myself reconsidering... Maybe it's not such a bad idea. Maybe I'll give it a try. Maybe I won't." And, as you can see, I have chose the former, not the latter.
So to start off, and because this next year of my life will not be a typical one for me, I am going to let you into the pages of my journal over the last number of months with excerpts that pertain to my year in Ukraine, as a participant in MCC's SALT program.

January 16, 2005
Sometimes when I get thinking about it, I wonder why on earth I've planned on doing this. It's not at all what I want to do. Those are the times when I think of being away from home - all my friends and family - for an entire year; of going to a foreign country all alone, where I don't even know the language; of how hard it may be. Those are the times I do not think about how much all the positive aspects of this thing outweigh the hard things. I still often get hung up on how scary it will all be, and then I wonder why I am doing this.
March 29, 2005
What if I don't get an invitation? What if I don't get a placement? Those thoughts keep running through my mind, especially now that so many placements are filled. It's hard for me to remember that I have given this to God and it's in His hands. I have asked Him to give me the placement He wants me to have. Why am I so afraid then? I've been counting now on going away come August. What will I do if that doesn't happen? Can I learn to accept and even be content with the fact that maybe God's will is for me to stay here for another year? 'For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you' Isaiah 41:13
May 30, 2005
Three months from now I will be there. Three months from now, the comfortable life I am now enjoying will be no more. Life as I know it now will cease to exist. All will be new, all will be different. It's hard for me to get my mind around that. How my entire life is going to change so completely.
June 16, 2005
After I awoke from my nap, I just sat for a long while and had a good cry. I started thinking about being away. I was sitting on my cedar chest, looking out the window, watching the trees and the clouds and the sky, and thinking of how it will be so long a time that I will not be able to look out that window and see that tiny part of my world.
July 11, 2005
I sometimes have trouble deciding on my purpose in all this. Is it for me to grow and learn? Or is it for me to give of myself and serve and help others? I know both will occur, but it almost seems arrogant of me to think that I have something to offer these people. However, it seems selfish of me to think this whole year will be just for my benefit and growth. I guess I need to go willing to give and serve, and expecting to learn and grow in the process. Is there balance in that?
July 20, 2005
I said goodbye to Riki tonight. See you in a year. I cried. She told me she loves me. I told her thanks for being such a great friend. Also that I will miss her so much. I cried all the way home. I miss her already.
August 11 2005
It seems that when you go away for a year, everyone feels the need to tell you before you leave things you never expected to hear.
August 14 2005
Part of me wants to keep these last few days from slipping away. I get feeling a bit panicky when I think of how little time I have left at home. I don't know if it's possible, but I feel as though I am already homesick and I haven't even left yet!
August 18 2005
Tonight I went out with my friends and had a lovely evening at the Symposium cafe in Uptown Waterloo. I got a little teary saying goodbye, but I didn't cry much. I wasn't thinking about it all too much, and so I didn't get too emotional. I think I kind of distanced from myself thoughts of the implications. It was easier then, but I feel a little bad that I din't show more emotion for my friends, as though they were expecting a large display of tears. Silly, I know.
August 19, 2005
Before leaving, Mom, Dad, Colin and I had our traditional beforegoingaway prayer. I started crying as soon as we joined hands and started to pray, and I didn't stop until we were pretty much there. I remember Mom's voice breaking in her prayer on the word SEPARATION, which made me cry all the harder. Thankfully the goodbyes are over now, and I am actually feeling a fair degree of excitment now.

There you have a few snapshots of some of my feelings leading up to this adventure I am now beginning. Sorry this entry was so long, but I guess if you are still reading you have been able to deal with the length, and are at least somewhat interested in what I'm saying. Once I arrive in Ukraine after flying out on Sunday, I don't know how regularly I will be able to post. I guess we'll just see how it goes though...