Ukraine. Today is exactly one week that we have been here- and it has been an interesting week. We’ve built drawers, cooked food, cleaned, carried beds across camp to another house, along with a million other things- basically, our lives have been an eclectic mix of tasks since we arrived in Kiev last Saturday.
Once we got to the airport, a man named Alex met us and we were all thankful that he spoke English. We got into his van, packed in with each of our luggage, and I began to realize how sketchy we must have seemed to any onlookers: six obviously American girls under the age of 22 with tons of luggage, in an overly large blue van with a Ukrainian male driver. Everyone else had small cars- slightly larger than a Smart Car because they had four seats. I realized then and there, I would always stick out in this country, no matter how much I bonded with the people. But then, at the same time I made this realization, I noticed a half-naked man on a public transportation bus, and decided that if that was the norm, I was alright with sticking out.
As we drove to meet Andrew, I realized that even in the city, people were impoverished. I sat and wondered: in a city where people were patching their roofs with scraps of tin and tarps, children were going hungry, and a family without a horse was a family with no livelihood- how much money was being used to power their simple road signs- just so they could display the changing weather and traffic conditions, as if people couldn’t look out their car window and see these things for themselves. It boggled my mind- every single road sign was electronic, we don’t even have that at home in the States.
Alex dropped us off at the Grocery store in town where Andrew was- so that he didn’t have to drive all the way to the village, since he lives in Kiev- that would be a long and unnecessary drive. We helped Andrew get groceries- three carts full, and that wasn’t even for campers. About ten minutes into our trip to the grocery store, I realized I had made up my own language in my head for everything. I don’t speak Russian or Ukrainian, obviously- it’s not like it’s a course they offer in high school. Everything in the grocery store was labeled in Ukrainian- except for a select few brands like Coca-Cola, Lipton, MilkyWay, and every time I looked at a name of an item, I made up a word for it in my head- and I hadn’t even realized I was doing it, till I said one of the words out loud. When you’re in a different country, your brain struggles to make sense of everything that it can- so letting my head make up its own language was perfectly fine with me- it kept me sane, and it’s still keeping me sane.
The grocery store is probably about the most cultural experience we’ve had- and even then, it’s more like a Sam’s Club than a true market that’s more common around here. This camp is like a bubble- yes it’s in the village, and yes it’s surrounded by villagers and the villagers help us work here and their children attend camp here- but other than that it’s a bubble. We have hotdogs and pies. We have pork chops and ranch dressing. Most people here speak English, and all the signs have English on them. I’d love to be more immersed in the culture- but maybe this is God’s blessing- for us to have familiarities around us, instead of being overwhelmingly thrown into a culture where we can’t communicate, navigate, or even eat familiar foods.
Campers will be here on Thursday, and we are all looking forward to meeting the children and being able to pour into their lives, and them pouring into ours. Campers can range in age between six and eighteen, so we will have kids that are almost our same age- which is a strange concept to me. I’ll be in charge of the craft cabin- and I am greatly looking forward to being in charge of a full portion of camp.
That’s where we are at this point- planning for our Poland trip in the first week of July is almost complete and we’ve begun planning for our four days in Vienna, Austria (and maybe some surrounding countries, depending on cost). We are all looking forward to the remainder of our time here, and we can’t wait to dive into camp.