On 7 January – Ukrainian Christmas – instead of sitting at my counterpart’s dining table for the Holy Supper (Святий Вечір), I found myself at the airport in Kyiv to meet two friends from Oberlin, Emma and Michael. They’d been planning to visit me in Ukraine ever since I arrived here. Still, it was hard to believe the plans were about to be realized. But there they were, walking out of the customs area at Kyiv Boryspil International Airport, Michael in his fluffy ear-flap hat and Emma in her big green coat and fuzzy white hat.
Their visit started without delay — after a Chinese dinner in Kyiv, we hopped on the overnight train to L’viv (sorry about those train bathrooms, Emma!), where we arrived bright and early on Sunday morning. In L’viv we climbed vysokyy zamok (високий замок – high castle), wandered into and out of churches, walked a lot, saw The Nutcracker (лускунчик) at the opera house, and met up with my Ukrainian language teacher (LCF) from Training, Natalia. She took us to one of the various themed cafes in L’viv, Dim Lehend (Дім легенд – house of legends), where we enjoyed banosh (банош) and conversation in the library-themed room. As it was Ukrainian Christmas weekend, we heard lots of caroling (колядування – kolyaduvannya) and strolled through the Christmas market while munching on poppyseed-filled pampushky (пампушки – donuts).
We arrived in my beautiful town of Sniatyn early on Tuesday morning, after a cold but mercifully short train ride. In Sniatyn I introduced Emma and Michael to many of my favorite people, places, and things: Natalia and her shop; Natalia my colleague; Diana Dmetrivna; the Olympiad girls; my English club attendees; the clock tower; the river; horishky cookies… Emma and Michael were a great help and hit in English Clubs, as they taught some traditional rounds: “Row Row Row Your Boat”; “Are You Sleeping?” (in English and French); “Black Socks.” Everyone loved it and loved Emma’s beautiful singing voice. (Michael has a nice voice, too, and they, like me, enjoy turning regular statements into sung ones. We definitely sang our way through the week.)
After lunch in Chernivtsi on Friday with many of my favorite Americans-in-Ukraine — Kristin, Kate, Janira, Brandon, Andy — we were off to Kyiv for Emma and Michael’s last couple days in Ukraine. Lots more walking — this time in light snow and later slush, as winter seems to have finally arrived in Ukraine. Falafel from one of my favorite places in Kyiv. Dried fruit from another favorite place, the besarabs’kyy rynok. A great production of Bizet’s opera, Carmen, at the Kyiv National Opera Theatre — we were singing statements to Carmen tunes for the rest of the weekend. Churches, Andriy’s Descent, and souvenir-gazing. Pretty soon it was Sunday night and time for my wonderful guests to head to the airport for their 5:30am flight home.
It was a blast to play tourist and tour-guide for a week — thank you, Emma and Michael, for making the journey to see me! I gained a new perspective on my adopted country and now I know that my Ukrainian is good enough to get around with two non-speakers for a week.
(Speaking of Ukrainian, read the next post for more…)
Some pictures from the week (click to make them bigger):