Difficult but Wonderful

I did it. I survived my first week in Ukraine. To sum it up it has been difficult but wonderful.



Let me start by surviving this week was not done alone. Julia, Valentyna, and my other 'hosts' have made sure that I am beyond comfortable in Kropyvnytskyi. Julia scheduled our four hour minibus ride from Kyiv to Kropyvnystki in supped up 12 passenger van. The whole drive I was a bundle of nerves. I barely said a word to Julia because I was so wrapped up in my own anxiety. Where am I going? What is my apartment going to look like? 

I was calmed during the ride by familiar scenery- corn and sunflower fields that reminded me of home. 


The mini bus dropped us off at my front door. A red metal door facing into a courtyard with a little play ground and more apartments. Together, we lugged my very heavy suitcases up two flights of stairs to my apartment door. When we got inside, my anxiety literally melted in a combination of happiness to be 'home', excitement about my new space, and relief that the apartment was normal

While old, and definitely showing it's age in some respects, my new home is absolutely perfect. I have a balcony that allows me to sit in the sun and work on projects, a tiny kitchen which can be difficult to navigate but perfect for quick cooking, and some interesting features such as a manual start water heater, a closet filled with treasures left behind by other tenants, and a refrigerator in my entryway. Long story short. I love it. 


My hosts made sure that when I walked in to the apartment I felt like it was already home. Sheets on the bed, cleaning supplies in the bathroom, and food on the table. It was such a gift.


The rest of this past week has flown by. I observed the classes that I will be co-teaching, met my students, and became quick friends with a few of them who offered to show me around and be patient with my constant questions about day to day life in Ukraine (Where should I buy meat? What is your favorite brand of varenyky? How do I use the school's elevator?) 


I could write a novel about all of the things that happened this week but for now, I am going to leave you with a "Highlights Reel". 


1) I learned how to use my manual start water heater. But more importantly I am working on my technique and a combination of different levers to make the water temperature perfect for a comfortable shower. As of right now I have two options: scalding or freezing. 


2) I am slowly building a relationship with my old, temperamental stove top. We are working on it but somehow my food keeps getting burnt...


3) My favorite hangout spot so far is the grocery store or to be more precise the grocery stores. I have been to the grocery store more than I have been to the university this past week. But, at some point I will write a whole blog about the perils of grocery shopping when you have limited language ability...maybe when I have emotionally healed from the experiences of my first few days (just kidding it isn't that difficult but it is an adventure).


4) I thank God that my mother and camp taught me how to clean. And not just pick up after myself (I still can't do that) but like clean clean. This week, when not at the grocery store or the university, I was cleaning my apartment. Partially because it has been awhile since someone lived here and partially because it is a way for me to make it mine. 


5) I taught my first lesson last week...a semi successful discussion on my higher education experience, Luther, Decorah, and Midwestern stereotypes. Tomorrow, the real challenge begins-teaching about the CONSTITUTION! Seriously, life couldn't be much better. 


6) I only cried once this week and it was because I really wanted a taco but they don't really have them here and I realized I will not have a taco for four months. 


Long blog post short: All is good. The transition has been difficult, as any transition into a new place will be, but I couldn't ask for better friends and mentors (both here and at home) to help me through. If you have any questions about life here shoot me a comment or check out my FAQ section where you can submit questions for me to answer! 


Write a comment

Comments: 5
  • #1

    Kim (Sunday, 24 September 2017 14:39)

    I like be reading your blogs you make it feel like I am going through this experience with you. You are a great writer and I love hearing about your adventure

  • #2

    Diane Benson (Sunday, 24 September 2017 16:06)

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. It makes you seem not so far away.

  • #3

    Katie Black (Sunday, 24 September 2017 19:44)

    Besty, I love you so much, not in the least because of the sentence "I only cried once this week and it was because I really wanted a taco but they don't really have them here and I realized I will not have a taco for four months." Very happy to hear things are off to a great start!

  • #4

    Kris Newman (Monday, 25 September 2017 06:16)

    Yes. I understand. All of it. Especially the kitchen and stove and groceries. If you want to get connected to Americans while you're there let me know and I'll reach out to friends in the expat community. Sometimes it's just nice to see a face who understands tacos.

  • #5

    Anne Risen (Wednesday, 27 September 2017 20:54)

    Betsy, it sounds like you are doing great! I hope you will soon have more than 2 choices in your shower temperature (that one made me laugh!). It will be fun to hear about your grocery store adventures.