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10. Street dogs in Ukraine are SCARY. I’m used to dogs in Nepal who are generally comatose or at the very least, extremely uninterested. But here, they are vigilant and do not appreciate being run towards at any kind of potentially threatening speed. I’ve learned to give them a wide berth.
9. The food in Ukraine is AWESOME. I feel a bit like a glutton, as I get up every morning, mosey downstairs, and see the feast waiting for me, complete with fruit, vegetables, some sort of fried potato, meat crepe, and massive french press of coffee.
8. Ukrainians are very patriotic, especially in recent months. It’s normal to see flags flying, fences painted in blue and gold, and clothing accessories that promote the country.
7. Ukrainians in the east speak Russian. Ukrainians in the west speak Ukrainian. Ukrainians in the middle speak a mix of Russian AND Ukrainian. I speak none of these. So I throw in a little German and Spanish occasionally to make myself feel better (Güten morgen! Hasta mañana! I have no idea what’s going on).
6. Old lady babushkas do not appreciate being snuck up on. I learned this yesterday when I was on a peaceful run through the woods (don’t worry, mom and dad, totally safe…) and came up behind a woman on her way home, hands full with groceries. I’m pretty sure I scared her – she was speaking to me quickly in Russian/Ukrainian, and was she holding her heart? Surely not. I smiled and waved and pressed on.
5. Ukrainians keep asking me if I’ve experienced public transportation here yet. They have the trolley and the marshrutka (local bus) that are, yes, crowded. Truth be told, however, living in Asia (as I did for nearly three years) changes a person and “crowded” takes on a completely new meaning. Mostly the local transportation here is pleasant and efficient.
4. Lviv, a city I recently visited in the far west, feels very European. There are lots of old buildings, cobblestone streets, and it is bustling with tourists. Zhytomyr, on the other hand, here in central Ukraine, has a more Soviet feel, square buildings, more space, and fewer people. I saw more people in my first ten minutes in Lviv than I did in my first two weeks in Zhytomyr (hyperbole)!
3. Borscht (beet soup) is incredible, and if you don’t believe me, invite me over, and I will make it for you. Although it could never compare to the borscht made by Olga, world-class cook here at Mission to Ukraine.
2. Sushi can be found in Ukraine! It’s unclear which body of water it comes from (is there salmon in the Black Sea?) but it’s delicious all the same. We just won’t think about it too hard. Side note: I’m noticing a theme – everything that is coming to my mind has to do with food…
1. Ukrainians are some of the most friendly, hospitable, joyful, kind, loving, generous, selfless people I have ever met. One MTU staff member told me today that making sure I was fed was everyone’s top priority. I have been welcomed in as family from the moment I stepped off the plane. I’ve been trying to think of a way to adequately thank them and nothing is coming to mind. Suggestions are most welcomed.
I love Ukraine and am so thankful to be here and share my experiences of these beautiful people with you.
Until next time,
About the Author: Sarah is a journalism fellow with World Next Door. She has her undergraduate degree in Business Communication from Azusa Pacific University in Southern California and is currently working on her Masters degree in Organizational Leadership. Sarah recently finished a two and a half year assignment working for an anti-trafficking NGO in Kathmandu, Nepal, where she had the opportunity to mentor and lead college students in ministry abroad. She is mildly obsessed with Jeopardy, coffee, running, and the Atlanta Falcons.