To celebrate New Years, I went back to my old village, Syhnayivka, to visit friends and my host families there. After a busy and stressful end to the semester a few days among ponds and farms and snowfall was refreshing.
I spent a few hours with Nazar (below) and his furry companions. He was a kindergardener I taught last year. I still keep in touch with his family and spent a few hours there each visit. His mom and grandma always prepare massive meals in order to send me home with leftovers.
New Years Eve dinner, Baba Katya (from host family #2) invited me to her place where her entire family was coming together. My portion of the family - Luda and Peter - joined us along with Luda's sister and family. I got to hang out with Vladic while the adults prepared the food. He showed me all sorts of toys and trucks. He doesn't do much talking but he can follow instructions, dance like crazy, and is quite ticklish.
Peter and Vladic checking out what the dinner table has to offer.
A portrait with the whole family before I went back to Kati and Maxim's house.
A few minutes before midnight, I walked across the village to join Kati, Maxim, Dana, and their large family for another dinner. Dinner and a show. Dana and I had decorated her tree earlier in the day along with tested out her New Years presents. Kati and Halya worked on food - I did as much as I was allowed - while the guys set up fireworks and got the farm taken care of. They did a weeks worth of work in one day so we could all relax the weekend away. I celebrated Ukrainian Christmas with Kati's family last year so it was great to sit at their table again. Maxim got 6 weeks off work so his presence at work was a great enhancement. As midnight arrived, everyone began toasting, wishing, and dreaming of next year. Even Dana added what only a 1st grader could, "I wish that everyone is happy. Everyone gets a present and everyone has a friend."
Dana the Magenta Warrior
Maxim being a very good dad and a master of fireworks.
Kati, Maxim and Dana. I love this photo of them.
After the fireworks show, we ate another course and sent more wishes into the future. Vova joined us for his third meal of the day. He asked me a question I lacked the ability to answer. He said, "Last year you were in Ukraine. This year you will be in Ukraine. Where you will be next year?" This particular question has been asked with increasing frequency since my months of service left is under 12. Picturing my life somewhere else is possible yet painful. I have fallen in love with this country, its history, culture, food, music, and its people. Set apart from the others are people like Kati and her family. They took me into their home for dinner my 2nd day in Syhnayivka. (that was December 19th, 2011) We had a terrible thunderstorm so I spent the night in hopes of walking home after breakfast but the storm continued. I spent 3 days with them. I've spent countless more with them since. When Vova saw the stress in my face after his question he grabbed my hand and said, "Don't worry about it now. You have time. You will plan. If you don't plan you can just live here with us." To which Kati added, "Yeah if you weren't aware you are one of ours now. You're my best friend. Our sister. You're Dana's aunt. My parents call you their American daughter. You can live here with us for as long as you want. I really want you to live here because I have idea what I will do without you. I don't know what I'll do when you go back to Kentucky."
To which I said, "You and I will save all our money for your plane ticket that's what!"
A couple of songs with the boys to finish the night!