This month, I had the honor of hosting one of my dear friends, Rachel Shouse, during her visit to Ukraine. She and I worked together in Bowling Green after we graduated. She's a Biology lady so I never met her while I lived in Photo Land but we became fast friends running around the same copy room for 8 months. When I left Bowling Green to join Peace Corps, Rachel kept in touch with me almost everyday. She decided to make a trip over before starting graduate school in Georgia. Like a 'congratulations' gift to herself. She was in Ukraine for 10 days and we toured 6 places.
I picked her up in Kyiv, after an 8 hour flight delay, and we got on a train to Odessa the next morning. Arrived in Odessa late in the evening. We were welcomed to the city by my close friends, Drew and Caitlin, and Grace as well as two volunteers who live in Odessa. We ended up staying up all night eating and talking at a street cafe. It was exciting and strange to have Rachel meet my PC friends. Like both parts of my world sitting at the same table. Many PCVs were in Odessa due to summer camps so they scattered after our first day there. Drew stayed with us. He had friends from his town in Odessa so we got to meet even more people who knew all the good spots.
During our time in Odessa, we did lots of wandering - in the center, in the bazaar, on the street, finding the beach. We wanted to spend an afternoon at the Black Sea. Rachel and I started at the bazaar with fruit shopping. I had no idea how to get across Odessa to a nice, quiet beach. So I just started asking questions. I asked women in shops for a bus. I asked the bus driver for a good stop. I asked a sweet granny at the stop which direction the beach was in. This lady smiled and said, 'What language do you speak? Russian or Ukrainian?' When I said Ukrainian, she began to give me simple directions that I understood perfectly. (Russian is the leading language in Odessa so conversations weren't always that easy.) She gestured out at the air, "The sea is everywhere. Here, there, in front of you." Rachel and I followed her directions and ended up finding a cove scattered with people - no tourists - nestled beneath a forest. The kind of scene that makes a person stop and stare as to soak up all that is.
Beach day was perfect. We quickly got a bus that drove us through sunflower farms and rolling corn stalks back to my town.
Odessa Opera House
We waited out a thunderstorm at a cafe with great coffee. In Ukraine, you are given blankets in the cold or rainy weather. Amazing!
The beach the Babas told me about.
Drew in his 'happy place'
Dasha and I enjoying the sunshine.
Making use of Drew's fancy new, reflective sunglasses
Rachel guarded the fort of stuff and tried not to get too much sunburn!
The city is rich in history, culture, and people. Just walking down one street took an hour due to looking up each building and through each park.
This view was in the stairwell to our hostel. It doesn't look like we were actually in Ukraine.