Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Whole Year

During this past week, a few important anniversaries have pasted. 

September 19, 2011 - After an hysterical week of packing and final good-byes, I left my parents at security check. We were the only ones weeping at 4 am. 
September 20, 2011 - Boarded a DC flight to Ukraine via Germany. 
September 21, 2011 - I sat on a bus wondering where is the heck I was going as a tiny church and school appeared at the end of the tree line. Five strangers sat around me asking each other questions and figuring out how we would adjust to living, speaking, thriving literally 'in the middle of nowhere'. 

I have lived in Ukraine for one year. Three months of training in Burty. Nine months of service split between Syhnayivka and Zvenyhorodka. My parents and I no longer weep during our conversations. Those strangers have become my dearest friends. We created a family of ourselves through common necessities, inside jokes, constant torment, and ceaseless empathy. People who love me, understand me, and endure all aspects of my personality.

Ukraine has raised me, changed me, and taught me, and given to me far and above what I contributed to it. The Ukrainian people that have been placed on purpose or crashed into my life have shown me great hospitality, home health remedies, clothing styles, how to squat properly, antidotes and slang, dancing, bucket bathing, baking, music, wall rugs, packed buses, meat jelly, pig fat, fresh-still-warm-milk, the tradition of toasting, and lots of tough love. Each holiday celebrated (and there are a lot) brings new traditions to memorize. Each people gives more wisdom or teaching new jokes. Every PCV has different stories to share or complain about. Excitement is unceasing. Perfection is unobtainable but I think I have gotten pretty darn close. In Ukraine, people have an 'inner circle' of friends. You must meet with someone at least 4 times to be in this inner circle. It is a scared place. I am blessed enough to say my inner circle stretches across cities and regions. PC gives us an instant network of friendship but we must grown our own just like we go our potatoes. I have planted on five farms in three towns. I may want for things of America - gummy worms, chinese food, peach cobbler - but I will never have a need that my Ukraine won't be able to fulfill. For that, I am grateful. 

I was talking to a college friend who has traveled for many year as an ESL teacher and document photographer overseas. She is talented, kind, and someone I greatly admire. I would like to think we have lots of things in common but that may be speaking too highly of myself. She is currently spending time at home which, obviously, is precious to her. We talked about how some people may not appreciate  or even understand how to appreciate such moments are, even if they are rare and quick, until 'they live on the road or how someone out there'. After we said good-bye, I kept thinking about my wide flung family (extended relatives included!) I came to this conclusion: Time is Distance. Distance is Time. They are always intertwined. They are the same. Time is not just how many hours a trip lasts but how many days or years we allow between each trip. Growing up my family did not have beach vacations because we had grandparents to visit. The car trips were 8 to 12 hours, several hundred miles away but the real Time, the real Distance was spring and fall separating summer and holiday visits. Distance is not just miles or kilometers but the amount of weeks between each destination. I am not just 6,500 miles separated from my parents, I am 12 months separated. My journey home is not just 20 hours on planes but 15 more months of waiting. My brother is not 4,000 miles away. He is 16 months away. The next time we are together we will have almost 2 years between us. My PCVs friend live 30 mins down the road but it will take me 3 more weeks to get there. I can not get up and go to my loved ones whenever I want. I do not have that luxury in this stage of my life. Those of you who do have this luxury, soak it up. Savor each daily greeting and 'oh I'll see you tomorrow'. I go to work. I can visit my neighbors and sweet students. I make new friends and eat dinner with different families constantly. Excitement is unceasing. I can call, write, skype, and email every day but I am still separated by long seasons.Time and Distance have an equal influence on my existence as the DNA inside of my body. Each day we all must plan our schedules in hours and miles (or kilometers over here) but our souls don't measure kilometers. My soul measures moments, experiences, and memories. My soul waiting through months and miles to squeeze my momma until my arms grow tired, to appear at my best friend's front door with surprises for her babies, to - once again - get on the road and make a summer out of visiting my flung family. I cringe at how long I must wait to see the Bluegrass once again but rejoice at how spectacular the wait will be. What stories and laughter and bus rides will take place during that Time and Distance.

Within my PC life, I have endured Time and Distance between my loved ones. My numerous moves separates me from many people but have brought new, grand characters into my path. Just last night, my new counterpart and friend, Natalia, hosted me at her house for dinner. She, like my old CP Kati, lives in a three generation household. She, like Kati,  prepared a grand feast of everything we could think to cook. Last night was cold and rainy just like my first dinner with Kati. Arriving with wet hair and cold feet, it was instantly determined that I would spend the night. I could not go back out into the weather especially after battling a cough this week. Kati kept me at her house for almost three days after our first dinner. Natalia and her mom soaked my feet in hot water with a mustard mixture, stripped my clothes off, covered my chest and back in herbal oils, dressed me in winter socks and pajamas, and then tired me inside a massive, wool cover. When my face turned beet red, the procedure was declared successful. The granny was slightly disappointed I didn't sweat enough. She wanted me to come back today to repeat the process to see if I would sweat more and stop coughing. Kati gave me her finest nightgown and master bedroom to sleep in after knowing me for 48 hours. Natalia did exactly the same yesterday. Both of these women and families have blessed me so much. They both notice my life, remember what I say, and understand when or why things are important to me. These two families have added me to their ranks. 

I love my life. I love it currently. I love it formerly. I love waiting for the rest of it to occur. 
The next 15 months are going to wild and wonderful. 

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