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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Half way through with ten day waiting period....

           We are on day 5 of our 10 day waiting period and the monotony is kicking in.  I am not one for routine except of course for my morning coffee.   I am spontaneous and love the unexpected so this is a bit of a challenge for me.   We have been doing our best to keep expenses down and with Nadia's help, we have nearly cut our rent in half.  Instead of staying in our 2 bedroom apartment in Donesk, we downsized and moved one block away.  The apartment is  half the cost for apparent reasons.  We now enjoy a 70's looking lifestyle with 5 different floorings ( 1 linoleum floor in bedroom with rug, 3 different tiled floors and dark blue carpeting in living room) and multi wallpapered walls.  Gone is the flat screen tv, modern kitchen and comfortable beds but we still have a nice washer.   Everything is functional and relatively clean and our bathtub/shower is about a foot longer.   We are no longer visited by our friendly coach roaches.  We now have one bedroom with a pull out couch and a living room decorated with very old faded stuffed velour couches and chairs and two lovely framed puzzle pictures on the walls.  Very few lights work and our bedroom light flickers like a strobe light until it finally gathers enough strength to turn on, if it so desires. We have a flash light by the switch for light as back up till it turns on  Last night  it didn't turn on and we forgot to switch it off.   As we were drifting to sleep it decided to turn on.  The apartments not pleasant looking but functional, clean and we have made it as comfortable as possible.    I have finally gotten to use my leatherman, duck tape and superglue more here than the entire trip.  I fixed a broken electric fan (still not running) with superglue and duck tape, installed broken shower doors on tub enclosure and used duck tape on shower head so we didn't drown from spray going in all directions.  Our bed from hell now is more comfortable, as we have added padding to the top with comforters and blankets.  We have adapted and made our transitions.  It's not bad for around 40 US dollars a day. The good news is that we still have wi-fi and air conditioning. =)
         Our day consists of waking up, getting ready, prep and eating of meals, a usual walk around town, a visit to a coffee shop and market for supplies and lastly, ending the day with us huddled around a laptop watching a movie before going to bed..  I think today, we might stay in and get caught up on our reading.  We are reading two books, The connected child by Dr. Purvis and  Radical by David Platt both excellent books and highly recommended. maybe even play a game. 
          One of the challenges faced in Ukraine  for us, is the inability to recognize safe and unsafe.  Most of the environment we walk in has an appearance of poverty, lack and ghetto atmosphere and yet can be entirely safe and normal.  Areas in the states I would not intentionally enter, live or even walk through because of its outward appearance and unsafe feeling.  Jeremiah and I are on constantly alert and there is very little visually that gives you a sense of peace in this type of environment.  Even though we live in what is considered a normal safe building complex, I still find a little peace of mind at night in balancing a glass on the front door knob as an early warning device for unwanted entry.  Our old place had so many un announced people coming and going while we were gone (cleaning lady, land lady, fixit people) that we began slipping a small piece of paper in the door jam to see if anyone had walked in while we wee gone or for a warning that someone might be in apartment.  It's not that we walk around in constant fear but our mind and senses are always a little uptight because of the unfamiliar environment.  After awhile one starts getting used to 3x4 dark elevators, pitch black stairwells, dark passage ways, poorly lit streets and people who never smile at you and generally always sound cranky.  That being said, a building or area can look horrible on the outside with bad stairs and elevator but the same building can contain a beautiful expensive apartment and have Mercedes and BMWs parked outside.  I have gotten accustomed to looking at the cars parked on the sidewalks as an indicator of the quality or safety of an area, not buildings or trash or condition of anything else.  If we only knew the language, everything would be different.  It's impossible to build a relationship or get involved in community without communication. Its the number one frustration we endure!  
       Like the building exteriors many people come off harsh or suspicious but with persistence, a little ignorance and smiles, sometimes we get through the exterior to find warmth and kindness.  There are two places we have frequented that we continue to go back to, not because their the cheapest or have the biggest selections but because we somehow have connected.  Our favorite coffee house is our safe haven.  We go their because they smile and genuinely try to cross over the language issues.  We always feel welcomed and it's a nice break from a day of navigating this city of over a million people.  They know us when we enter and smile at us as we attempt to communicate our selections of coffee.    They genuinely seem to like us and that is such a wonderful feeling to relax in.   The second favorite place is our little mom and pop store about the size of our living room and dinning area combined.  We were won over on our first day in their shop.  We, Monique primarily,  was trying to figure out what to make for dinner.  FYI, food here is not the same or packaged the same as in America.  I don't know how many times we have stared at packages of sauces or cans trying to figure out there content.  Ketchup, sauces, tomato  paste and tomato products are nearly impossible to figure out their difference by their packaging.  We just opened three packages combined into a set for dinner, thinking we had boughten some type of  special sauce topping  for spaghetti, only to find we had bought ketchup and two packages of mayonnaise.  Go figure, not sure what type of meal this combination makes. Maybe if we could read the Russian it would give us directions. This answers why our exchange student loved mayonnaise on her pasta and pizza.    Anyway, back ti the store, Monique was in front of a bunch of stuffed frozen pasta like things, desperately wanting something with protein (which at this point we have very little of in our diet) and the older checkout lady was trying genuinely to understand and work with Monique.  Monique tried her Russian book, charades, morris code and hand signals all in an attempt to communicate but with no avail.  Finely, the lady found a clerk with some English comprehension.  Monique started over with her and somehow the lady understood we wanted to know what was inside.  The new lady, after trying to communicate for awhile, gave up and put two finger to her forehead representing horns and said  "moo moo".  That struck everyone as funny and all three clerks and us started laughing.  We ended up purchasing a couple pounds of the moo moo stuff even though we still did not know if "moo moo" meant cheese or  meat.  In the process though, we broke through the language barrier and moo moo gets a good laugh every time we come back and we always get good service.      Well, enough of that, all of this does help me to understand and appreciate the stress and fear that our new ones will have to endure as they learn our language, culture and environment and realize that smiling and laughter are okay!