Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Update: Locked IN

For all those who were worried about me being locked in, don't fret!! My host family finally came home late Sunday night and found the missing key for me. Side note, it's fall here and it is SO beautiful!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Locked IN

I would be that person that ends up getting locked INSIDE my own house here. In Ukraine, all of the houses have huge concrete walls surrounding them and big gates that you can only open with a remote (which my host family has failed to give me--they are usually always home when I need to be let in). Wellp, it is now 6:30pm on Sunday night. My host family left while I was in the shower on Saturday and I cannot find the spare key to open the gate which means I am locking inside my house.

They are still gone and left me with no food. The fridge looks like when you are going to leave on a trip so you try to eat all you have before it goes bad and don't go shopping even if you need something. Well, fabulously now I've been stuck inside this house since 4pm yesterday and there is like no food and I missed church and the Relief Society re-broadcast. I sure do love these reliable Ukrainians. The picture is of my house and the oh so fabulous gate that I cannot get in. I am also going crazy, if that wasn't evident from the picture.

Big Momma

October is the month of rain in Ukraine
I have been so BUSY! I am seriously surprised at how busy I am staying here in Ukraine. I LOVE love love it here, even though we skipped fall and headed right into an early winter. Yes, that's right, winter decided to come early to the frozen tundra this year! Good thing a year in Rexburg, Idaho prepared me for this. Hah!

Anyways, yesterday  I finally went to go see the biggest monument here in Kiev, Big Momma. She is seen as the protector of Ukraine basically. The whole monument is dedicated to WW2 and so there are also museums. It was pretty interesting despite the freezing temperatures and rain.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Melt Your Heart

Mom's out there--watch out, this one is a tear jerker.

I arrived home late one night from school, totally exhausted. When I came into the house, my host mom, Nadia was cleaning up the mess from dinner. The kids, Dana-6, Sasha-4, and Yegor-2 were rough housing in the next room. I started talking to Nadia in Russian, asking her how her days was and how she was feeling. She told she was having a terrible day and was completely exhausted from the kids. Of course, right then all the kids started hitting each other and crying loudly. She just had a look of 'where is my husband, I need a break' on her face. I felt awful for her. Being a mom is so exhausting. Anyways, Yegor took up all of her attention immediately because he is the youngest and Dana, the oldest is a big whiner so she got her attention as well. Poor Sasha wasn't being paid attention to and she was already upset. She ran upstairs and I tell you what, you could hear these kids from down the street and around the corner. 

Anyways, I was in the process of heating up and eating my dinner because I was so starving. But one look at Nadia's face when this all went down sent me straight upstairs after little Sasha. I found her face down on the floor sobbing. I sat down on the couch and told her in Russian to 'come here to me'. She picked herself up and basically just melted into my lap with her face pushed tightly in my chest, her hands around my neck, and the tears and sobs pouring out. I held her in my lap just patting her back for a good 5 minutes until she had calmed down. I pulled her face away from me and asked her in Russian, 'what is this?' while wiping away a tear. She wiped off her face, looked me straight in the eyes, and in perfect English said, 'Jill, I love you.' She gave me a hug and then went off to go play again. Let me just say, I speak in only Russian to the kids because they don't understand English and can only say basically good night and good morning. This blew me away, Needless to say, I was the one crying this time.

Tear jerker, right? I love these kids so much. I've always wanted younger siblings. 

Misty's Song

Tell me the reason I was born to roam,
Tell me the reason I am so far from home,
Tell me the reason only birds can fly,
Tell me the reason I was born just to die
How many mountains will I have to climb,
How many memories will I leave behind,
How many daydreams will I make come true,
How many heartbreaks until I find you?
There is a valley called Peace of Mind,
There is a river running right by it's side,
There is a moment of Glory so new,
There is Eternity to spend loving you.
I am absolutely in love with this song. Today we had General Conference with our branch and in between sessions one of my friends busted out her ukulele and showed us this song. A group of four eventually turned into 8 and we had split into parts. The harmonies of this song are beautiful and I love the words of this song right now. There is nothing better than a beautiful jam session with your friends.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Big News Back Home!

I recently have found out that I am going to be an Aunt! Finally! My first niece or nephew will be coming this summer and I cannot wait! I love kids and I want to be an aunt so very badly :) I have been so busy that I have not been able to share the news and my excitement for sorry to make you wait! :) :) :)

Ben and Kylee, I wish I could have been there to share the news when you guys found out but I am still extremely excited nonetheless!

I love my family.

Miss you all so very much.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vacation: Lviv and Poland

Around 11pm Wednesday night the group met up together at the train station to head to Lviv, Ukraine. I have never been on train before let alone a sleeper style train! It was quite an experience but I actually thought it was a whole lot of fun!! With half a car full of our girls, it was one loud, obnoxious train ride for the first hour or so. We were dancing in our isles, jamming out together, laughing uncontrollably, and just being the good friends we have become. Eventually we all retreated to our bunks because the lights turned off and at this point it was hilarious to listen to the sounds of the muffled giggling and being blinded by the intense flash of a camera.
Eventually we went to sleep but I didn’t stay asleep long. I happen to be 6 feet tall and the bunks are not. Part of my shins and my feet were hanging out into the isle all night so I kept getting hit and if you know me, I couldn’t sleep curled up because I would’ve definitely fallen off the teeny bunk once or twice.

Either way, we arrived in Lviv at 9am after a long, long night. We spent the entire day in Lviv just going our separate ways in smaller groups touring the BEAUTIFUL city. We went to a fun underground restaurant, shopping at the souvenir street, toured a chocolate factory, went on a bus tour of the city, and hiked up the highest clock tower in Lviv to see the gorgeous view.

The view of the city from the clock tower
The Lviv Train Station. 
This one is for my brothers. Even though I am holding the gun all wrong :)
We all met back at the train station around 8pm and our bus driver that was taking us to Poland eventually arrived about 9:30pm. Now, this isn’t what you’d call a bus of the normal kind…but it did its job. There were 18 of us girls and 19 if you include the driver. It was cramped and incredibly impossible to sleep straight up in our seats combined with the condition of the roads from Ukraine to Poland. Just as I had finally started to fall asleep I was awakened by the van door opening and a gruff Ukrainian lady in a military uniform asking me for my passport and to get out of the van. I was so unaware of what was going on but eventually I was able to figure myself out and stumble off the bus. When she was done checking everyone’s passports, we made it through the Ukraine border only to wait in line to cross the border into Poland. I was in and out of sleep the whole time but those who were awake said the whole process at the border took us 4 hours. Jeesh.

Eventually I made my way to the floor of the bus to sleep because my seat was so uncomfortable and I was able to sleep for a couple hours. Apparently we arrived at our destination site in Poland around 5am. About 7am we all started getting up to get ready for the day because we were in the parking lot of our first tour of the day—the famous salt mines of Poland—which were absolutely INCREDIBLE. You had to pay extra to take pictures so we just designated two of the girls to take pictures and all pitched in to pay for the camera passes…so a link to those pictures will come shortly.

Around noon we were done at the salt mines and we got back on that bus to drive to our hostel. The hostel was much better than I expected…kind of like dorm rooms with 3 bunk beds in each room. I jumped right into the showers and I have never been so happy to be clean and bathed in my life. We all unpacked a little but, ate some food, and then went off again to trek out to go to Schindler’s Factory. IT was an incredible museum and I was completely emotionally drained 2 hours later when I exited. It was one of the most moving museums I have been to.

The next morning we woke up bright and early to get back on that bus of ours to drive about another 2 hours to Auschwitz. On the way there I was blown away by the beauty of Poland. It is absolutely gorgeous and I want to live there for the rest of my life. I love Poland so very much.

The sign in front of Auschwitz that says work will set you free
Auschwitz Barracks

When we arrived in Auschwitz a somber mood came upon our group. Our tour of Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau is one I cannot express in words but photographs which do not do the emotions I felt justice. I walked where they walked, stood where many were executed, went in their cells, the gas chambers, saw the children’s clothes…it is something to never be forgotten.

When we arrived back at our hostel we had a tour planned of Poland which was even more beautiful inside the city than the rolling hills outside of the city. It was such a fun tour and after the tour we all sort of went our separate ways and a few of us went to souvenir street and checked out the best shops and haggled for the best prices on the things we wanted to buy. We had an absolute blast. I wanted to stay in that city forever!

Border crossing.

We left in the morning back on the bus which was cramped and hard to handle again for 11 hours. Border crossing took 4 hours again in a hot bus but we managed. After the border crossing all of this random energy starting emanating out of all the girls and a wave of crazy washed over us. The next two hours were full of singing, dancing-yes, tons of photos, and just one fun time. We arrived in Lviv around 9pm and out train left at 10pm so we just went straight to the platform and waited. By now we were all completely exhausted from the trip and traveling that when our train did come we all immediately went to sleep.
Our train came into Kiev about 7am and I had to take the metro for about 30 more minutes to get home. 
When I did get home my host mom had a bowl of cheerios, honey, and milk waiting on the table for me! She already knows me so well. Hahah :) When the kids eventually woke up I was mobbed, tackled, and tickled until I couldn’t breathe. I missed them too! It’s good to be home.

If you would like to see all of the pictures from the trip, including many more from Auschwitz and Schindler's Factory you can check out my album on Facebook:

My Siblings

My host siblings are crazy and insane and I love them more than anything! They are hilarious and are my best teachers. 6 year old Bogdana is always correcting my Russian pronunciations and that would be about every time I speak. Hahah :) The Slavic languages are hard to catch on to with pronunciation. Anyways, the kids were acting out one day so and my host mom looked like she couldn't take another minute so I went and found all of the ponytails in the house and let the kids have at my hair. They did my hair over and over again for 2 hours and when we were done we used the extra ponytails and had a slingshot fight. I am still finding these ponytails in random places in the house a week later!

The Lavra

Last week we all went to tour the Lavra. Some of the Lavra was an underground monastery and is still a working church today. It was really interesting to see the monastery—the tunnels were interesting and they had mummified tombs of some saints on display. Some of the saints had their hands showing and that was a sight. I had never seen mummified hands before and, well, this whole experience is just full of firsts.

Also, you are going to see in most of the pictures, our heads our covered in scarves. To enter into the Lavra, as it is still a working Monastery and there are working Catholic churches on the grounds, you must enter it and treat it as the people do—sacred. So we follow their customs and that is to wear a dress or skirt and keep your head covered.

Then we went and toured the rest of the ground of the Lavra for most of the day which is mainly a bunch of beautiful Catholic churches. We arrived in one beautiful church that was specially made for capturing sound. Under the wood floor of the church is all sand and the walls are hollow… We all stood in a circle in the middle of the church and sang ‘As Sisters in Zion’ and by then we had a little crowd so we took a request and sang ‘Silent Night’. It was a beautiful experience! Even though those in the church couldn’t understand what we were saying, many of them were in tears and recording us.

Another first would be attending a Catholic Mass. It was a neat experience to see how the Catholic Church is run and to see how devout its members are.