Archive | December, 2010

“you and I are on the other side of almost everything”

2 Dec

*Please note that temperature discrepancies throughout this entry are due to the fact that it took me several weeks to find enough time to sit down and complete an entire blog entry.

I’ve torn myself, for a few evanescent moments, from the pages of my current reads to devote some attention to my ever increasingly neglected blog.  Though the temperatures are mercifully holding steady around a balmy 50oF, the before 5 pm sunsets have me wrapping myself in the comfort and warmth of my annual winter hibernation mode.  My daily totals of sleeping hours and tea consumption are simultaneously increasing.  This weekend I prematurely indulged in my favorite way to pass a winter weekend – I alternated watching episodes of an entire season of Grey’s Anatomy with reading what amounted to almost three entire books while continually wrapped in my fleece blanket, sipping scorching hot coffee or chai tea lattes.  A fireplace would have made the picture complete; that, however, is a luxury waiting for me at the end of my Peace Corps service.

The soothing combination of modern Motown and cinnamon laden hot drinks has driven away any mercurial moods lingering from my mid-semester slump and I eagerly await my favorite season of the year.  What I love about winter is simple – everything is wrapped in a fleecy haziness that lulls me into passive good cheer.  The crystalline frost outside only underscores the simple comforts of gliding over the wood floor with sock or slipper-clad feet, pulling on a sweatshirt immediately upon waking in the silvery mornings, or sliding my icy fingers through the handle of a steaming mug of tea.  Despite my pining for the delicious solitary moments dawning, I should fill you in on all that has happened.

I put my foot down about a fall break, giving myself a week to cross the border into Poland with Kari to meet her gregarious friend Ama.  Kari and I crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border on foot, quite the interesting experience.  Ukrainians apparently don’t take well to cutting in line, which Kari and I found out through the faux pas of a man who seemed undisturbed by the string of rather harsh curses that followed him.

Krakow main square

 Wordpress is hating me right now as it has not allowed me to post any more than the one picture of Krakow no matter how many times I try to update the entry, thus they will be posted at a later date.  The first snow has officially fallen and stuck in Drohobych, winter has announced the end of fall.  My book goal is going strong and I’m working on catching up on an array of emails, messages, and cards that have been pushed off because of Thanksgiving celebration preparation.

Ten volunteers came into town to partake in an American Thanksgiving that was as American as we could make it.  The night before Thanksgiving, Kelly helped me bake apple pies at her apartment, allowing me to video Skype with my mom – the first time I’ve seen her since my trip to Denmark and Sweden in June.  Lows hit me harder than some volunteers here who have constant access to video Skype because I don’t have that direct line to a support system be it friends or family.  I feel the distance more strongly than many other volunteers because the distance shows through our connection, or lack thereof.  We can only talk through Skype with audio interrupted by amounts of static, delays, and cut offs proportionate to the number of miles between us.  Steadier connections tend to leave me maudlin for a couple days because of their scarcity – an hour phone call from a friend in the states left me a shaky, sobbing mess from happiness hearing from her and sadness at having to give up the miraculous connection after the shortest hour I’ve ever experienced.

Thanksgiving was memorable this year, for lack of a more concise word.  Not only was there massive Thanksgiving dinner preparations going on in my kitchen, I also had to get myself ready and hurry to my best Ukrainian friend’s wedding.  I was flattered to be Olesya’s Maid of Honor in the small document-signing ceremony.  She and her husband, Ivan, will have their official wedding ceremony this spring (or so our mutual hair dresser was telling me in Ukrainian) but I’m glad I got to be a part of this smaller, more intimate rite.  As Maid of Honor, I was allowed to take an active role in some of the traditional rituals, such as laying down the embroidered cloth onto which the bride and groom take their first steps as a married couple.  I feel absurdly lucky for having fortuitously met Olesya in the post office one day last winter; her family has become my family.  I now have two Ukrainian families of which I feel myself a part.  What more can a girl abroad ask for?

Not to brag or anything, but my wedding toast at the reception dinner made her mom cry and dad tear up a bit.  In case you’re interested, here’s (approximately) how my extemporaneous toast went (*I don’t remember exactly because it was impromptu and I was shaky and crying all my makeup off);

In Ukrainian; “Although I can speak Ukrainian, I am going to say this in English because I want to be concise.  Pavlo (Olesya’s brother) will be my translator.”

In English; “Olesya, I am so happy and honored to be here today because, though it’s only been around a year since I met you, you have become my sister.  Your family has become like my family, and I hope that when they come to Ukraine, my family will become like yours.  The first time you brought Ivan to a cafe to meet me, I could see in your eyes how happy you were; I knew you had found the person you were meant to find.  I cannot tell you how happy I am that you have found the one person who can complete you.  Ivan, thank you for making my friend the happiest I have ever seen her.  I wish, for both of you, that no matter where you live, what job you have, how much money you make, or how many children you eventually have, that you never forget the feeling you have now of pure happiness of just being with one another.”

As you’ve likely divined, Thanksgiving will never again be the same for me.  Despite its ups and downs and my distance from family, this just might have been the best Thanksgiving ever.  I hope everyone had a special Thanksgiving, filled with loved ones and warmth.

*Music: “You and I Are a Gang of Losers” -The Dears