The Finer Things

In my first post in Ukraine, “The Simple Things,” I listed some things I was grateful for.  At the time, I was more worried about my possessions not getting lost and being able to take a hot shower.  Funny what one month in Ukraine can do to change the narrative of my expectations for the next two years.

Before leaving the States, I knew that PC Ukraine was often referred to as Posh PC because some volunteers here have practically all the amenities of home.  Despite what I had heard, I was still expecting a watered-down variant of a ‘typical’ PC experience.   Granted, images of bamboo huts, mosquito nets, and washing laundry down by the river-bank didn’t immediately pop into my head when thinking of what I might experience. 

At least in the rural parts of Ukraine, volunteers experience traditional Ukrainian culture.  Here, the chicken you pass by in the morning could end up on the dinner table that evening, and your host mom will know that you gave away your unwanted left-over breakfast—that you were “saving for lunch”—to the neighbor’s dog.  (Never underestimate the gossiping power of the Babushkas!)  In the ‘W’illage, you ‘get’ to use an outhouse; and dodge chickens/cows while navigating the land mines (piles of manure) along the pot-hole-ridden dirt path of the two-block village.   As a CD volunteer living in the city, I get to dodge cars/people and try to decide what café/restaurant I’ll eat my over-priced, under-portioned lunch at. 

Last week in cultural class, I was given a list and asked to pick one thing I was struggling with the most while living in Ukraine as a Peace Corps trainee.  Some of the choices: homesickness, diet/food, culture shock, missing something I really liked back home, doubts about my decision to be here, feeling like I’m in a fishbowl.  My pick: Not Suffering Enough!   I welcome adversity and hardship–that’s why I joined the Peace Corps.  “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.”- Neitzsche   

Maybe one day I’ll get to see if the grass really is greener in a Ukrainian village.  Or, perhaps I should be careful of what I wish for.  Since I can’t always control what life has to offer, I’ll take from it what I can, for now, and continue to appreciate the simple things.

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~ by Blakely Neff on May 5, 2011.

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