Archive | October, 2009

“We put our feet just where they had to go”

20 Oct

*Written a while ago as a draft and forgot to post*

If my feet could tell you about the last two days, they would not speak kindly of me.  They would be on the war path, if they still had the strength to follow it.

After discovering there were problems with our visas, six of us waited expectantly to hear if we would be boarding the plane to Ukraine despite the errors.  Surrounded by our ungodly amounts of bulging luggage, we sat on the cold airport floor, each absorbed in our own internal monologues.  If we had actually made it to Ukraine and done this, an old lady probably would have scolded us for “freezing our ovaries.”  (Apparently a common Ukrainian concern.)  Megan, Meaghan, Sara, Andrea, and Kari sat with me as we waited to hear whether I would be traveling with them to the country we’ve been yearning to see, or saying goodbye just a day after being reunited.  Tension ran high and conversation ran low.

The verdict came in, and six of us were flying to D.C. rather than Ukraine.

It was another 30-45 minutes before we found out our flight was in another five hours, and that we had to move ourselves and our packed up lives from terminal eight to terminal one.  We hauled 13 rolling suitcases, pulling five of them.  We pushed two luggage carts, our patience, and roughly 30 elevator buttons.  We carried two purses, two canvas bags, one messenger bag, and our government passports.  Each of us pushed, pulled, slid, kicked, tugged, shoved, tossed, lifted, and dragged our body weight in luggage from one end of the airport to another.

We held the responsibility of getting from one big city to another, following plans relayed to us moment by moment.

Finally checking the two bags that held my material life for the coming two years, I thought to myself, How much does a life weigh? My shoulders ached in response.


I wish I could bottle Nosivka for you.

14 Oct

Swaddled in bubble wrap, postmarked from the Chernihiv Oblast, Nosivka rayon, town of Nosivka, late but miraculously in tact it would arrive at your doorstep.

It would smell of burning leaves, the sour sweet smell of beets cooking in my host family’s kitchen, slightly sweaty socks nervously rubbed against the carpet of the room in which we drill Ukrainian grammar hour after painstaking hour, and sticky sweet pechivo (cookies).

You would see my mama’s embracing and worried smile, a multitude of zip-up camouflage sweatshirts, and the wilting fields of spent sunflowers still full of promise for a beautiful spring I won’t see, having been shipped off to my final site months before they bloom, tall and powerful.

That sound you hear? It’s tato (dad) cracking walnuts with his teeth, water frothing as it boils for another round of chai, a chorus of melancholy orphan street dogs, my host sister counting out hrivny and kopecks before running to the store to pick up another dessert I don’t have room for. Perhaps it’s the local baboosyas (grandmothers) pulling fresh vegetables from the ground with sudden and surprising strength, each and every head covered in a colorful scarf. A rainbow of baboosyas.

Nosivka is already an amorphous and elusive part of me.

My tato is an intimidating man full of health with a hearty, room-shaking laugh to match. Impassioned even in discussions over chai, his voice resounds off the kitchen walls and fills the house with Ukrainian that sprints, trills, and twirls around the entire house. See him carefully measure oil to add to the meal he is cooking for his newly acquired piglets. There he is again, discreetly watching me from across the kitchen, measuring by spoonful the amount I ate against the amount he believes I need. It astounds me how often tenderness makes its way to peak through his muscular voice when he urges, “їж, їж!” (“eat, eat!”) When he firmly told baboosya that I would eat however much I wanted, so she should stop scolding me about eating too little, I knew I was no longer a guest. This is my second family. Open that bottle, and you’ll see this weathered man’s beautiful heart.