Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Rachel 2 (Towns & Villages)


Rachel and I returned from Odessa pretty late in the evening but my sweet landlady was awake and waiting. She showed up the new hot water heater and clean up bathroom. She gave me instructions about using everything and then asked if I would tell Rachel how to do everything. With that, she closed the bathroom door and left us to it. The bathroom is nice but tiny so Rachel and I were practically hugging each other to stand upright. By the end of my instructions and examples, Rachel was crying with laughter due to the tight space and water spray. (I didn't realize that shower head was facing us when I tested the water pressure. Oops.) 

The next couple of days, we enjoyed the typical Ukrainian Baba treatment. We ate too much, too often. We answered many questions about our families and men. We helped prepare dinner and do chores. Our first day back I had to go to my counterpart's apartment to pick up some laundry. I told Rachel I would be back in a few minutes and she should be fine. I left my cell phone so if she needed me, she could call the phone of the apartment I was in. When I returned, just 10 minutes later, Rachel was sitting in the kitchen, surrounded by people, happily eating and drinking. Best thing I had seen all week. Rachel said the ladies came in my room as soon as I left talking about something. One of them said, "Chai?" - the ukrainian word for tea - and she nodded. So dinner began! 

My counterpart, Tetyana, and her daughter, Ann, took us to find a sunflower field the next day. I spotted massive sunflower fields during my bus ride to Kyiv and I was determined to take some flower photos. We walked just a few minutes away from my apartment and bam! The road opened up to reveal endless rows of yellow. I went a little crazy. Like running head on into flower stalks crazy. Tetyana told me she had never seen me smile or giggle so much. Being surrounded by light and color and endless texture will do that to a photographer. 

When our home visit ended, everyone invited Rachel to return - soon and often - and congraulated her on learning a few Ukrainian words. She mastered how to say, thank you, tea, please, good, and interesting. 

The view crossing a bridge to the flowers 
Ann was also pumped to see sunflowers! 
The rows kept going and going and going..... 

Tetyana revealing seeds under the yellow. 
Tetyana and I 

Zvenihorodka's town entrance. A man ringing a bell holding his sword. 
The word 'Zvenihorodka' means 'Ringing Hill' since in the past our town housed a bell that was rung from a hillside when danger or emergency occurred. 

Uman: Sofievka Park 

Rachel is avid bird watcher so I had to figure out how she could see some east european birds. Uman is a city less than 2 hours away from me and it has a famous park filled with waterfalls, flowers, and all kinds of birds. We spent a Saturday being real tourists. Bird watching, shopping, taking photos. I have been to Sofievka Park before but that was over winter break and, of course, that experience was completely different than our summer visit. 


Rachel and I got to visit my old village for an afternoon. Sadly, my host family were out of town but we had lunch with my next door neighbors. An retired couple that I spent many Saturday mornings drinking coffee with. We also visited one of my smallest students, Nazar, and his family. When I left Syhnayivka, Nazar's family invited me to visit as much as I could. So when I showed up another American and gifts from America, they were thrilled. Nazar showed off his jumping and counting skills while his mom and grandma gathered up a quick meal. They also gave me as much fresh fruit as I could carry home from their garden. Rachel and little Nazar were instant friends. Usually, Nazar doesn't leave my lap but he hugged Rachel and hardly let go for an hour or so. 

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