Though it's been only a few short days since I've seen some of you, and I apologize for not being able to contact more of you while I was home, I feel I should take advantage of the Internet while I have it and send in an update. Access is limited, and I've probably got something to say.
Home was bittersweet. I was overwhelmed by seeing my family, whom I dearly miss, and by watching the woman who raised me, who loved and was loved, lowered below the earth. It's been an emotional tilt-a-whirl. After four months in Ukraine, I got to go home. After 24 years as a grandson, I am grandparentless (excluding the spiritual side of the matter). At home, I was lucky enough to have two weeks with the most important people in my life. We were able to grieve together. To laugh together. To remember together. And to share the occasional beverage together. There was a lot of closure in my trip that I never would have had if I weren't allowed, with Karen, to fly home. I am indebted to the PC Ukraine staff for the work they did to get us home. I owe them what I've already given them: two years of my life.
It was hard to leave my family again, but I knew I had to. I didn't belong in America. At least, not yet. I was embedded in Ukrainian culture just enough to experience some culture shock upon returning home. It's hard to put into words that make sense but there were so many things that I had gotten used to not having. Having them again, all again and all at once, shocked me a little. It was an important lesson to learn: having everything I wanted, doing anything I wanted was hard to get used to...after four months. I can't imagine what it'll be like after two years.
I felt in a dream, stuck between the American culture I knew and the Ukrainian culture I was getting to know. From buying a bottle of water with a $20 and not being harassed for exact change to being transported anywhere I wanted to go (a) in a timely fashion and (b) without being squished up against a hundred people, all the little things added up, giving me a glimpse of how I'd feel returning to America in December of 2007 (or Dec 2006, if I go home for Christmas).
Being back here is just as strange. Having to come up with exact change. Slipping on the ice. Being forced to speak Ukrainian again. Adding to that the jet-lag, which is befuddling my mind. [Example, last night, in the hotel, Karen's cell went off, and I began grilling her about when my grandma would be calling]. So, some of the things are the same. But there are also some things that are different. It's kinda like having a new start. Some of the negative things we've experienced, or the negative attitudes we have, we can reshape or redefine. It's like coming to Ukraine for the first time, only being very informed about what it's going to be like. We know a lot about the culture, so we can react better to those things this time around.
After 19 hours on various planes, living through delays and such, we returned to Ukraine, flying low over the same patch of land I saw back in the beginning of October, only this time fitted with layers of snow instead of naked, burning fields. Back at the office, we learned from the Director of PC Ukraine that we had missed the coldest winter he'd ever seen in Ukraine. Everyone here is talking about the black frost, the -25 to -30C weather, the snow. The coldest winter in years--and hopefully the coldest for years. I don't feel too bad that I missed that part of the winter.
Back in Kyiv, everything's the same. Snow falling in sheets. Slush and ice of the ground. Women freezing in the streets to sell their wares (mobile phone cards or jars of pickles). Men wandering, talking into their cell phones. Today, on the street, we heard a Brit talking into his cell phone. Two weeks ago, I would have died to hear him talk; after being home for two weeks, listening to all the English I could handle, it wasn't such a treat. I realized, though, in another couple of months, I'd be back, roaming the streets of Kyiv, listening for that man's voice again. Until you're in another country, living under a different language, you might not understand the joy in hearing your native tongue.
The political parties are out on the streets, gearing up for the elections. It's nice to see people out on the streets, supporting causes that are important to them. Everyone has his or her flag, scarf, or banner in support of their candidate. There are so many parties, I can't even begin to count. But they must be worthy candidates because these people are standing out in the freezing cold, waving their flags all day. Worthy or else rich.
Karen and I are in Kyiv for another 24 hours. Then we take a train up to S-town. We'll get in at 11pm, so we'll get to lug our suitcases home in the dark. Looking forward to being in our new home--as we've just switched host families. We didn't even have the chance to unpack; we were there less than 24 hours before I found out about my grandmother and had to go home.
Anyway, I should end this before I ramble on some more. Missing in all and wishing you all health, love, and life.