Archive for the ‘Autumn’ Category
Bri and I made a movie.
It had been more than seven months since I’d seen anyone from back home in Portland. And then my girlfriend arrived. I met Bri at Boryspil Airport in Kiev Oct. 29. Watching her exit terminal B, I was happier than I’d ever been during these past, often trying months abroad.
We rented an apartment in Kiev for the weekend, roamed around Ukraine’s capital city, took in the sights and snapped some photographs. She experienced Ukrainian train travel and all its 3rd-class glory when we headed east to the city of Artemovsk. She visited my village school, met my Ukrainian friends and found out what it’s like to live in this former Soviet territory. Together, we made traditional borsch, toasted with local champagne and vodka to health, love, happiness, friendship and about a dozen other things. We enjoyed two weeks together in a place neither of us had ever thought we’d be together. To tell you it was wonderful having her here with me is to merely scratch the surface of a feeling I’m not sure how to fully describe.
She and I have been together for some time now, though we’ve actually never lived in the same place at the same time. Yes, we’re both from Portland and have lived most our lives there. But when she moved into the city proper, I moved just outside of it. A few months later I took a job in southern Oregon, even further away. We worked it out, nonetheless, and it continues to work to this day. Though not easy at times, we’ve both been very patient and understanding with one another. For this, I’m proud.
It’s not easy living abroad, especially when you’re living in a small eastern Ukrainian town where not only does everyone know your name, they know what you buy at the market, where you live, when you cook, damn near your entire daily routine, and they talk about it. There is no day in which a new obstacle isn’t introduced, where you can float along feeling that typical American normalcy, watching Law & Order reruns on television while veging out on the sofa. You wake up each morning staring at the puffy floral-printed wallpaper with gold glitter inset, wondering whether or not water will come out the faucet when you turn the knob to have a shower, if the bus will show up when it’s expected, if the class that your scheduled to teach will indeed be on the daily schedule of lessons, whether or not the milk you bought yesterday will have already gone sour, if you’ll be able to communicate intellectually with someone, given your limited knowledge of Russian. So when Bri came to visit, I was overjoyed and thankful. When you’re in this situation, there is nothing greater than to have someone from home be with you. I’m beginning to believe that all things worth experiencing are better when shared. And this coming from someone that values greatly independence and solitude.
What’s more is that she’s now living in Prague. If you didn’t know, now you know. (Babe, the cat’s out of the bag!) I’ll be visiting her in December and January. Sure, we’re still not in the same city, or even the same country for that matter. But we’re getting closer.
It’s autumn in Artemovsk. Here’s how you tell. Piles of burning leaves dot what few sidewalks exist, while others smolder in yards. The selection of produce at the bazaar has dwindled significantly, which means, consequently, my dinner options have, too. Even with the central heating turned on, my school remains just a few degrees above the outside temperature, leaving me to teach while wearing a TheNorthFace down parka. When I leave my apartment building, there usually is a dog or two, sometimes a cat, curled up inside the front door, seeking shelter from the elements.
And this is all fine with me. I welcome autumn, and even winter. I enjoy a good season change. But as I write that, I fear I may soon be eating my words. This will be my first Ukrainian winter. My PCV pals and Ukrainian friends remind me that the weather will still get much colder. In fact, this is warm in comparison, they say (about 38 degrees). Come January, one PCV told me, everything turns to ice, and you’ll be better off sliding to school than walking. I can see this being a serious predicament, because my school is about 3 km up hill from my apartment. Though, if I can get there, returning home should be a cinch.
Anyway, I’m still housing a guest. My wonderful girlfriend has been visiting for the past week. Right now she’s sleeping, and so I have some time to write this. When she awakes, we’ll bundle up in our cold-weather wear, grab the cameras and head out into Artemovsk. Outside the window I see a blue sky, and sunshine reflecting off the frost that sheathes the branches of the walnut trees. Birds are chirping and pecking at what’s left of fallen, decomposing seeds. The city clock just chimed 8 times. I’m going to boil water for coffee.
Ok. I slipped. I haven’t written a new post since a couple weeks ago. So kill me. But in my defense, my girlfriend has been here visiting. I haven’t written much lately, but we have taken some photos, which you can view over at Flickr.
I’ve been doing my best to show her Ukraine and expose her to the culture. She’s visited my school, English club and journalism club. We’ve been all around Kyiv, Artemovsk and some local villages. Tomorrow we’re taking a bus to Donetsk and going to watch a Shaktar football match at Donbass Stadium. Tonight we made traditional red borsch for dinner, topped with smetana.
It’s been wonderful having her here. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be sad to see her go. Luckily, though, she’ll be staying in Europe. She’s found some work in Prague, and in December it’ll be my turn to visit her.
I’ll write again soon about recent happenings. But for now, I’m going to enjoy the company of a beautiful American woman.
It’s a gorgeous autumn day here in eastern Ukraine, with the sky as blue as ever, a few scattered unthreatening cumuli floating along and the temperature hovering around a comfortable 53 degrees. The villagers are out sweeping the newly fallen leaves into burn piles. Meanwhile, I’m working indoors, tidying my apartment, doing a bit of sprucing up.
It’s been some time since my apartment was spick and span. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly a home can become cluttered, unkempt. I took care of the laundry first, always a tedious task when you must do it by hand. after that came the dishes, stovetop and window sills. After months of letting files and work pile up on my desk, I finally organized it all. I swept my floors, scrubbed the bathroom clean and emptied the trash. During all of this I came across some maps that I’d set aside some months ago, maps of Ukraine and Crimea, Kyiv and Donetskaya Oblast, in which I live. And so I hung them on the wall above my desk, because not having anything on your walls can instill a real sense of being unsettled. If I’m going to be here for two years, I should make this place my home. Next, I beat my carpets clean, like a good Ukrainian would do, hanging out my fourth floor window. Now, as I write this, I sit at my desk sipping jasmine tea and eating a peanut butter and banana sandwich, which, let me tell you, is a real treat. Peanut butter is not easily found here. Luckily, my people in America hook me up.
This afternoon I think I’ll go for a stroll through the park and see if the leaves have turned any new colors, if Ukrainians have finally traded Adidas windbreakers for heavier, warmer dress, if the fountains have been turned on, because it’s Friday and they’re usually turned on for the weekends, if there is any new produce being sold at the market.
Back home, I’ll probably catch up on some reading and watch my clothes dry on my balcony as the sun sets behind the hills of the villages. It’s slow living today. Sometimes you need that.