Sunday, January 29, 2012

Firsts, Seconds, and Thirds

This week has included lots of firsts, seconds, and thirds for me. It was my second week of teaching but first week of full work load. I held my first english and photo clubs. The english club for younger grades was attended by three excited students. We played games and learned simple songs. I wasn't quite sure if they had fun or not or if they learned anything or not. But since Monday afternoon, all three students have been answers far more questions correctly in class. Wednesday afternoon was the first english club for older students and I had to lock up rooms to find enough chairs for everyone. We went through our first session of slang. Since then, I have heard a lot of "What's up Ms. Cassie?" and "Class today was real tight." When the other English teacher looked at me with wide eyes, I just laugh and promise her it will be okay. I couldn't be more proud. Thursday afternoon, my classroom filled with eager, young photographers with point and shoots or cell phones cameras. We looked at photos from all over the world thanks to many of my talented photo friends who let me browse and grab from their blogs or websites. I was able to translate most of what I needed to saw but the visuals sealed their understanding. Just one the reasons I adore photography. It's universal. Everyone gets it. Everyone can appreciate a gorgeous frame with faces or colors or patten or astounding light. My photo club was given their first shooting assignment: Color. I eagerly await viewing what they discover to photograph. 

I saw my host sister for the second time this weekend. She came home from Odessa on a spur of the moment trip. Last time we saw each other, I was brand new in town. I invited her over for dinner and in attempt to use her English skills she came. I don't think she thought I would soon after move into her old room and become a permanent fixture in her family. Vika is just as amazing as her mother, father, and grandmother. I adore them all. They help me learn Ukrainian, give me plenty of space yet include me in most everything, and brag all around town. Vika and I talk often, almost every night when she calls home. We started planning a spring trip to Turkey during our first conversation and I can easily imagine her visiting Colt Drive. She will fit in with my family like I have in hers. Yesterday, Vika said, "Cassie, I need to tell you something. I need to tell you that you have made a dream come true. When I was smaller I wished for an older brother or sister but then when I get old I wished for someone younger to stay at home with my family when I moved away. You have done this for me. You are both things I dreamed of." I am not worthy of such praise. When she said this, we were walking to Kati's house in the dark so Vika couldn't see whatever emotions flashed across my face. I promised her that I would look after her family and be the best older sister I can. I don't have any experience being an elder sibling but, then again, I don't have a lot of experience doing most things I do in Ukraine! 

This week Ukraine reached the lowest temperatures yet. Every morning, Baba Nina reminds me just how cold it is. If that brazen woman thinks it's cold, you can imagine how it felt to me! Vika and I went sledding with our cousins and several of my students wearing three! layers of everything, socks, pants, shirts, you get the picture. Skating down the street, sledding, and climbing up the track many times underneath such weight, I felt like I might have sweated off dinner. It was a good trade off of not being able to put my arms down to my sides or pick up small items with less than four fingers. 

Here a few frames from Week 2: 

My first week's frame of the field.

After a few conversations with other photo minds, I am starting a project. During my placement interview, I told the PC I wanted to live somewhere I could watch the seasons change. Photograph the seasons. So, I am going to photograph this field, my favorite spot during my walk to school every week for the next 26 months. We'll see what comes from those frames. 

The barn after a fresh snow. 

Sunset sledding with several of my students and Ukrainian relatives.

Making snow angels with Vika. There isn't any snow in Odessa so within 20 minutes of her arrival home, she and I bundled up with three layers of everything and headed outside.
I felt like a mixture of Santa and the Michelin man in my blue snow suit and red fur coat and, yes, a large black leather belt. My host family has promised me I am fully Ukrainian now.

Vika had never made a snow angel in her 21 years before yesterday.
I was honored to give her some coaching tips! 

My host family just finished remodeling their living room. The youngest cousin in our family, Misha, decided he wanted to help to. He began 'painting' Uncle Tolrick's feet since Uncle Tolrick had painted lots of other things. 

My Ukrainian Family.
Papa Tolrick, Vika, Mama Halya, Myself, and Baba Nina.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


This past week noted several milestones in my living career. I taught a full load of classes this week. My first week at Syhnayivka Educational Complex. Every day was filled with schedule changes, teacher meetings, meetings with parents, and even more meetings. I discovered, despite the 20 minute break, I have little time to do anything between each class. Oh well. That's life. My students are eager to learn and eager to listen to anything I say. Which is terrifying and thrilling. It's a responsibility I am still coming to terms with. My new host family lives on a street with several other teachers and most of my students. I always have someone offers to walk me to or from school since the distance is quite great. But I like the alone time. I can notice how the sun rises differently each day or how a new level of snow has masked my forged path from yesterday.

This weekend, my dear Caitlin, came to visit me! My first visitor. My host family welcomed her with a full table and dozens of questions. They have been eager to meet my friends since I first stepped inside their house. She and I met up in Smila for a PC meeting with other PCVs to visit an school for disabled children. Our plan was to conduct a day long English Club but nope. The administration decided to teach us how to paint eggs, a Ukrainian Easter traditon, and fed us an amazing meal. I was shocked and humbled by it. We are planning to return to actually conduct my English Club since we are now in their circle of trust.  Today, I took her over to Kati's house and introduced her to other Ukrainian family. We were a hit. We sat and ate more candy and Dana entertained us with an art lesson (see below). 

This week of insanity passed rapidly. No matter how fast time moves, I can't forget what memories this week holds. Both of my father's parents died this week. His mother died 24 years ago. His father died 13 years ago. She missed my birth by mere weeks so he spent my entire life hovering above me with spoiling gifts. I can't forgot what I've lost because the pain is still ripe. I still wake up sad. I still dream of conversation never spoken. Reading a short note from my oldest cousin, Ben, his pain is apparent as my own. At this point, I know of nothing other to continue waking up, continue walking to work, continue learning and exploring. My granddaddy was an educator and an avid traveler. I know of none greater way to honor him.

Alona, my host cousin in the pink coat, and a few other students invited me to go sledding with them.
I didn't have water resistant anything on nor do I remember to wear double socks so I just stayed long enough to shot a few frames. 

Their faces say everything. 

Dima kept crashing or falling down the slope with a sled far too much. He didn't seem to mind. 

Three kids with two sleds. Misha decided to take the slope on her bag of hay. 

Alona liked to crash land as often as she could. 

My pretty friend was my first visitor and got to test out my bedroom sofa. 

For those at home, this is short cut I take to school. Down the field and across the swamp. 

A closer look at the bridge.  Some sections are over land, most over water. 
At Kati's house today, Dana turned the educational tables on Caitlin and I. Instead of me quizzing her about colors and numbers, she gave us both sheets of paper with instructions to draw whatever Ukrainian word she said.
Apparently, Caitlin's rabbit just wasn't pretty enough.  

Leaving Kati's to drop Caitlin at the bus stop, the sky became my favorite color.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I'm a Want-To-Be Edna

With extreme gratitude to my brother's courage, I will follow his lead. He's the poet. I'm the rambler. To prove my point, read this: Although I'm quite content in my current existence, emotions stirred this week. Content and warm within my tiny home. Contentment my grandmother would be proud of, glad of. For that I'm sure. But last weekend, yesterday, today, the past caught me. My sorrow rose up to remind me it was time to weep again. Last weekend while I rode a bus from Burty to Syhnayivka the calendar of my phone glared a reminder of how long ago I'd lost. I'm no longer allowed to have panic attacks or spend days in bed or skip class to weep. I can only cry during a walk to work or in the shower or quietly on buses. I survive most days without mourning. I never survive this anniversary week. Not this week of any year.

Today's journal entry:

Yesterday, January 13th, marked the 4th year of living, surviving, without my Memaw. Bits and pieces of Edna Lewis Whitmire shall eternally remain tucked away inside the deepest corner of my subconscious among sorrows, ambitions, and dreams of a back yard filled with birch trees and babies. Yesterday I stuffed all my worldly possessions and myself into a kind friend's car to ride across town and unpack. Tucked safely inside layers of paper, plastic, and wrapped within a warm sweater laid a photograph of my grandmother. A photograph of the woman I seek to become but never will. There's no way to recreate such grandeur. It's impossible to repeat perfection. 
It's impossible to 'sum up' Memaw. I won't even try. Her influence so encompassed my early existence that, now, I can't eat certain foods or watch movies or visit cities.  Entering North Carolina, let alone visiting remaining family there is unthinkable. Insurmountable. I visited Highlands for a single day before leaving the country for the sake of my precious family still there. I slowly crept up and down the mountain. I could hardly see out of my own eyes. Her absence has reminded vivid and harsh during splendid moments since. A few months after her death, I visited Caleb in Cambodia during which we borrowed a friend's motorcycle and rode it for days around Angkor Wat. On a hot, rusty road fleeing a rain storm, I held on to my brother and took in gasps of freedom. That day, that road was the best for each of us. No fighting. No tension. We were humbled by the creation surrounding us. Yet tears flowed into the wind because I wanted to tell my memaw this story but knew I couldn't. I wanted to call up her like I did when I was little and far away from her.
Every one in my family has decades of memories tucked away. Mine include summer pleasures of flower planting, baking by hand, living room choreography, and selling Vera Bradley beside her in Wit's End. She let me do everything myself. Standing beside me and teaching me but never doing for me. She saved my black jeweled earrings from a clogged drain then handed me the wrench to put the drain back together. As a child, I dreamed of living with her, walking around the house in my hose, watching Law and Order each evening, loudly singing hymns or Sinatra without embarrassment. A few months into my freshman year of college, Memaw moved out of her home - the home in which I grew up - into my parent's house. She was just too weak to deny what was happening. I sped home that weekend and walked to her room without a hello to my parents. As I opened the door, her arms flew up and out to me. A simple, short sentence left her mouth and landed on my life. Her outland arms and sentence altered my future ambitions, professions, and view of the world. She said, "Hey honey. I've been waiting for you." We hugged, kissed, and I leaned on my elbows over her while she told me I shouldn't wear such short skirts in autumn even if it was still 60ish outside. I have no idea what we talked about that night. I don't really care. I've been holding on to her sentence ever since. My grandmother was smart enough to sum up affection - her affection for me and affection in its entirety-  in a phrase. 
To my grandmother, I was worth waiting for. She stayed up for hours. Sitting, waiting despite her exhaustion and medicine. In my world, my GPA, weight, height, work ethic, sense of humor, relationships or lack there of, paychecks were constantly judged. The desperation I felt to succeed was never greater. In her room, stress and tension fell by the wayside. To her, I was everything I strived to be. To her, I didn't need to be anything but me. I didn't need to be anything but her baby girl. I will work the rest of my life to love others with the depth and passion and sincerity she loved me that conversation. That she loved me each moment she lived. I will spend my life waiting for people. I will spend my life with out stretched arms waiting to share the love she gave me. This doesn't me special. This doesn't make me a martyr of self. This only makes me a what-to-be Edna.  
Months and moments after our perfect conversation, not enough months or moments, I sat beside my grandmother as she laid in that same bed. Like many nights before, I stayed awake all night to hover over her, stare at her complexion of perfection and finger curled brunette hair with auburn highlights and wonder when I would look that beautiful. Four years ago, I counted while she inhaled and exhaled. When my counted reached 3, I awoke my mother sleeping beside her mother. Parallel thoughts, fears, heartaches, hairlines, laugh lines separated only by a generation. When my counting reached 8, I held my own breathe while she left. 
Present day, I am further from her than ever before in time and distance. I have her photograph, wisdom, spunk, and passion but I don't have her. Which is what I want. My sorrow remains just below my skin like I could be cut and bled tears instead of blood. I penned this poem during my first month of mourning and haven't shared it before. It's not great. My brother is the poet. I'm the rambler. But here goes: 

2:57 a.m.

The fluorescent bulb glared upon my cellar dusted book
while I forced each yawn back into my belly.
My body antsy, my eyes weary, my mind sharp.
A twinge of her eyelid and out of this chair;
but not this night.
Only peace, quiet and alone.
We were.
She and I.
The woman who corrects grammar,
feeds all, buys only in order to give, fights to win
loves unconditionally, serious.
Sings hymns of praise and nags to no end.
Cheeks of rose perfection, hair of smooth silver.
Lines of age and infinite wisdom.
Beauty at its best.
Creation at its Highest.
She slept underneath two helpless eyes of protection.
She slept her last.
As the air left her lungs,
chills filled each crevice of our home.
Her soul floated out of my grasp into the heavens;
my body became still, my eyes opened wide,
and my mind rested.
Just as she waited for my arrival,
I beheld her departure.

Birth takes, usually, many hours.
Life needs conception and, hopefully, several decades.
Death requires only a moment.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Thought Explosion

It doesn't happen very often, rarely even, but I was able to record most of the words of my thought explosion today. I am very hesitant to post this. I swore that this blog was for photos, captions, and a little blurb of a story but never more. I swore that's what my journal is for. That is what my journal is for. This particular thought explosion/journal entry, I think, is too valuable not to share. It's a Thank You note. It's the story of how I feel today. I only left my house for a short meeting today but a lot has happened. So here it is. Cut straight from my journal.

"I am peeling back the layers of mankind and stepping into the moment." This thought just hit me. The moments of my current existence, my life are glorious. Glorious moments of sincere kindness. In photojournalism searching for the 'moment' is a honed art form. The 'moment' is pursued like an alluring lady and worshipped like a sacred deity. I don't have to search anymore. I just open up my front door or sit down for dinner. Sacred moments surrounded. At at glance, the atmosphere may be slushy, muddy, and chilled but if I listen, I hear conversation and laughter and culture aka the kind people I live among. The 'moment' has become my life. The search is over, for now. Yes, I will continue to travel and explore all of my days but for now, I pause. Nesting must occur. Not packing or leaving or changing flights. I am settled here. I have settled in Syhnayivka. I am content within the realms of my life. I am blessed and humbled and amazed at the depth of each moment of my day. Whether I am walking to school or sitting at my desk or listening to my students speak English with sharp, crisp accents; I am in constant awe. I am constant awe of birch trees, the texture or color of their bark, the change of black dirt to brown dirt to gray bark to white bark as my eyes advance up the tree until overwhelms all other shades and meets a sky of similar tone. I have been given such important and pleasurable responsibility to watch trees and listen to accented speech. 
I named my blog Indigo Frames for a couple of reasons. First, indigo is my favorite color. It's a color, I think, that's mysterious. It's tough to find the bottom of indigo, it's tough to figure out the amount of blue to purple to white to black. During my favorite summer in Monterey Bay, the ocean at sunset was indigo. My favorite bedroom in my favorite house in Bowling Green was indigo. I opened up a book of crayons during my summer of nannyhood in high school and used an indigo crayons to cover a board sky. I took the indigo crayon home with me that day. I just had to spend out it color a bit more to study. I was mystified. Second, my thought pattern occurs in frames. I see in layered framing. I see people, settings, colors at how I think they would appear in a frame. The frame I see in my mind is the frame I attempt to capture. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I like to wander off during walks with friends or on my way from work just to see how the frame of a road looking from a new angle. As a photographer, I think each frame should have depth equal to the depth of indigo. A perfect frame tells a story, portrays an emotion, or the forever sought after 'moment' I desire for the edges of my frame to tell of such. I want viewers of this blog to see a frame and understand the story/moment/memory/people within it. 
But back to the point, every day is a different frame. My frame has changed so severely since arrival in Ukraine, I hardly recognize morning mirror me. I'm different. Different isn't bad. Today is a different frame than yesterday and tomorrow will change again. I'm counting frames and days and moments all the time. I strive to write it all down in order to remember each frame with greatest accuracy.  
I say all of this because today my life changed. I am moving into a new house with a new house and things will change, for the better, drastically tomorrow and the day after. Today, I was given a new chance and toilet. I don't know which I am more grateful for. The situation with my current home/host mother/landlady just wasn't working out. Thankfully, I am able to move out and on without too many hurt feelings. She and I are going to have tea next week. We'll still be friends. I am optimistic about this new place. It's a warm home with many kind family members. I've eaten at their table before. At their table, we laughed and shared and I felt like myself. Wearing my skin was a little less uncomfortable. Since moving to Ukraine, I have faced many obstacles. Comfort has been fleeting. Adversity has risen up to meet me each dawn. I have desired beyond description to be able to breathe and move and feel right within myself and within my surroundings. To take in long, calming breathes not short huffs of survival. Don't get me wrong, I love this country, it's culture, language and people. But many days I cringe in realization, this country doesn't love me as much as I love it. Lines on my faces and hands have greatly multiplied in the morning mirror due to such. I've been in one sided relationships before. They suck. Today, Ukraine loved me. I saw my counterpart, the headmaster of my school, Peace Corps staff, my current and future host families push their own needs aside, come together in order to make my life better. I do not deserve such. I have done nothing worthy of earning such attention. I'll spend the rest of my time here in attempt to pay such grace forward. 
Tomorrow could be stressful. My new home could be stressful. Teaching will be stressful, being in charge of someone's education is terrifying but I'm prepared. The obstacles Ukraine has provided for me has given marrow to my backbone. The foundation built beneath me during my previous life in America has been repeated reinforced. My gratitude for being born the treasured baby daughter in my parent's home, in all of my family, has never been truer. I loathed not having new brand cereal to eat at breakfast during elementary school but having plane tickets and a college education during adulthood faired me better. My appreciation for having my older brother poke at my nerves and test my wit during our fights is strange but quite real. I hated Caleb back then. Caleb is a brilliant and bold man in present day. He helped grow up my endurance level. Momma and Dad, take pleasure in that all your years of giving, serving, and caring for others is currently reaping in full. I am provided for. Home. Food. Friends. Profession. I would have a full security team in town if I asked for it. Any adversity or sorrow our family faced has only increased my compassion and ability to preserve. Other friends and family has as much right to reap thanks. My family and friends that have weathered years of my sickness, depression, travels and absence, victories, and joys - there are too many people to list but I see each of you in my sleep, I take each of you with me - are the ones who currently write letters or notes or emails. These people save up money for summer visits. Such affection causes my heart to sing. I don't have much a voice but my soul sings of glorious rejoice. 
Each phrase of life, I have been given perfect companions. The exact friends I needed to survive whatever situation I faced. Childhood playmates. Friends with empathy and balloons during my surgeries in high school. People to listen and hold me during my sorrow and depression of early college. Characters to watch and encourage the crazed movement and rapid growth of late college. I do not understand why - outside of grace - but I am thankful. Syhnayivka is no exception. Ukraine is covered with characters who enjoy taking my call. They will listen to venting or celebrate my minor victories like my victories were their own. I also wish my new set of friends, my new set of lifelines were closer. Luckily the distance makes our conversation and visits more vital. When I am hugged by one of these friends, it's hug I can settle into. I can get comfortable in their embrace and their words.  In the perfect world that exists in my mind I want to bring together my family, friends of home and friends of now into the same room and say, "Hey ya'll. Look at each other. You are different and the same and equally balanced and equally strange. You make me. You make me who I am."  

So this is what I thought today. Thanks for reading. For more than that, thanks being someone I can carry alongside.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Home for the Holidays: Christmas in Burty

This past Saturday morning, just a few hours after Kati's massive dinner party, I ordered a taxi (in Ukrainian) and got a bus to Burty. I went home for the holidays. Sam and Drew spent the weekend in Burty with their host families and I figured this was a good idea. When I called Mama Olea last week to ask her permission to visit, I received a screaming YES! 

I celebrated Christmas a few more times with a few more families and observed a few new traditions. This refreshing weekend of comfort food and sleeping in my old bed and knocking on familiar doors of familiar homes filled with warmth and language and laughter and stepping into Papa Valodia's embrace or Mama Olea's kisses and hearing "I've missed you!" over and over again and seeing my favorite American and Ukrainian guys (plus a few hours with Christine) was just what I needed to boost me through the rest of this winter break.  

A few of my former students getting candy and money on Christmas morning from Mama Olea.
This tradition is awesome. Kids make bank and get all kinds of fancy sweets. 

Papa V's reaction to seeing 'his girl' when he got home from work. 

Our pup didn't like the snow much. 

A White Burty Christmas! 

Icy berries at Drew's house. 

Maxim and Sam doing their techno thing. 

Dima and Drew
I missed these guys a whole lot. 

"These guys are the heart and soul of Burty." -Drew Ireland 

Burty a few hours after snowfall. Just not cold enough for it to stick. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Different isn't Bad: Christmas in Syhnayivka

This past Friday night, I was honored to attend the Christmas party and dinner at Kati's house with her entire family and assorted friends. Similar to most other families I know, they have friends who have been their friends for decades and are adopted family. Similarly, everyone brings a dish and/or helps the cooks in the kitchen. Even me! I chopped up everything in sight, in the dining room, to mix salads and arrange veggie or meat trays. I wasn't allowed to even attempt to help in the kitchen. Still working to break down that barrier. 

During dinner, food constantly moved around the table, the little ones sang some songs, parents told stories, and grandparents told more stories. We crammed about 20 people into a room about the size of a college dorm room with 3 tables and mounds of food. All the beverages were stores under the table to save space. A few dishes were different than at home, a few customs are different than at home, but the baseline is the same. The cheer, celebration, and joy is the same. A rare opportunity to overindulge in food and drink and sweets and enduringly listen to all the papas sing pub anthems while the mamas roll their eyes and giggle. Children run around or climb underfoot to work off the sugar high. Once again, I am reminded, the human condition is the same. Pull back the layers to gaze into a life and it will not look that much different than yours. Not matter if you live in city of millions or a village not listed on any maps. 

This holiday season, I missed my family in a miserable way. My immediate and extended family and family of friends across the globe. Kati missed her husband who leaves for 2 weeks each month due to his job as a tour guide at Chernobyl. We both miss relatives that has passed on and will never know or see what kind of women we have turned into. Kati and I are different: she is 25, married 8 years, has a 5 year old daughter, and never wants to leave her village; I am 23, never married, childless, and I want to arrive everywhere at least once. We are different but that's not bad. We balance each other. Within our balance, we discovered we are very similar. 

So here is Ukrainian Christmas with my very different and very similar new friends: 

Kati's bedroom shelf. I love her photographs and precious things.
Not having her husband, Maxim, home to celebrate with us was hard for everyone.
So I included his presence this way. 

Dawna and her friend, Dasha, pulled each other around Kati's bedroom in this blanket while the adults got everything ready.

This frame brings vivid memories of my friendship with Kristi Drake. We would slide down her bed on her Little Mermaid sleeping bag pretending to slide into the ocean. We would pull each other around the house wrapped up in the sleeping bag like we were swimming with the whales. Walking these two girls caused a weight to form in my stomach. Missing those days of innocence and joy are long gone but at least I am be a part of Dawna's childhood now. 

Vova (right) and his buddy waiting for the women and the rest of the food to show. Vova is Kati's brother and my Ukrainian tutor. 
Kati and I.
I adore this woman. 

Some of Kati's forever friends. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Present Progressive Tense aka Syhnayivka, Ukraine

So I've been blogging a lot about Burty and all things related. But truth is, I don't live there. I still have many postings to go (due to no internet for so long) but I will have to set them aside for now. No worries, I bring up some throwback entries soon enough. Right now, I need to move on to present day in a present progressive kind of way. Also, present progressive is my favorite grammatical tense to use and/or teach.

My current home is quite small, it doesn't show up in Google Maps (if someone finds it, let me know!) or on any Ukrainian map I have yet to find. Although, I live in the town center right now Highway 16 that runs all over the country, Syhnayivka can not be found on my map. Just the next town over which has my bus and train station. So I am constantly saying, "It's near...." or "Not far from....". One of the many new things I am learning I must do each day.

Making friends in such a small place has been a challenge. As social as I am, I enjoy staying home with a good book and sweet tunes (thank you kindly Drew, Caitlin, Hunter and others). Its just too cold or dark far too early in the evening to think about leaving home. Nonetheless, I have met many people through my school, my counterpart, Kateryn or Kati, and my landlady. So far, I have been observing classes and assisting in holiday celebrations. That's what the images below will show. Syhnayivka Educational Complex and its brand of celebration.

Kati never stops working. I keep Donna company while she blazes through her house. 

Donna and I did some window painting in preparation for 2012.

Walking home on Christmas Eve. 

Donna and her classmates with Father Frost. 

Donna attempting to make a mess of our lobby decor. 

Kati and her 8th form. She is their 'classmaster' kinda like their homeroom teacher. 

The English teacher got 'volunteered' to sing Last Christmas with Kati and Alina in 11th form. I haven't had so much make-up or hair stuff on since dance recitals in elementary school. But it was a blast. I was a nervous wreak but it was a blast. Someday, I will figure how to upload the video! 

Our 9th form having fun. 

The upper form boys singing a beautiful song. 

Vova, far left and Kati's brother, met up some of his old classmates at the program. At last, I found people my age! 

Me and Kati at the after party. 

Crazy Cat Lady

When I left Kentucky, a lot of people were betting I would find a nice Ukrainian man to bring home with me. I must confess, they were right. Actually, I found two. I found two darling young men to bring home. One man and I adore each other and never want to be apart. The other keeps his distance most days but will bring down his barriers when no one else is watching. 
Meet Pairsic and Regric. Or Peach and Royal in Ukrainian. 

All my life, my family has had animals. Mom and Dad have Mocha now, whose will is a strong as the color of her coat. But these two boys stole my heart as soon as we met. They helped me wash dishes, cook, clear fields, do laundry. My boys were always just at my heels while I struggled to understand what was being said or done or what I needed to do in response. Even when I woke up at 2 am to wander to the outhouse, I would find their blonde and orange faces waiting outside the outhouse door to escort me home. These boys became to understand Ukranglish too. They could respond to any command or question I asked no matter the language. Not everyone understood my affection for the hooligans first off, but after a good bath to scrub up their rough edges (Pairsic especially, that boy got dirty every day), some table scraps to insure their friendship, they became the favorite morning 'Hello' of most who entered our gate. 

In fact, Mama Olea and Papa Volodia continuously offered me Pairsic to take home to American. Regric is much more useful on the farm than Pairsic. My Pairsic just wants to be loved and love in return. He's not a real fan of chasing mice like Regs is.
My boy waiting at the school door his friends to come back outside. 

I slowly started to teach Parisic it was okay to climb up my shoulders. Then he figured out he could just sit up there and gaze at his world. 

Regs got a little jealous that I didn't have two hoods to put them both in. Sidenote: Pairsic stayed in the hood of my closet for well over an hour this day. 

Regs climbing his fences to check out his domain. 

Pairsic running down the street after me. This was his worst habit. I learned I had to lock him into something - the front corridor, the kitchen, the barn -  and take off running whenever  I left or he would come rocketing down the street after me. On this particular day, this is his third attempt to catch Caitlin and I going on our sunset walk around town. We were already 4 houses away when he appeared. He's a very determined guy. 

This image I borrowed from my friend Christine who captured my dearest moment with my boy.  We had conversations each morning about what we would do that day or we would go or where we had been the day before. He would swirl around my feet as I slowly attempted to walk to breakfast. I eagerly await an overnight visit to Burty to be able to do just this.