The Parents Visit Ukraine

After hearing about and learning about my first 20 months in Ukraine via Skype, photos, and blog posts, my parents finally got the real-life experience when they visited me in Ukraine for two weeks at the end of May. Here’s a blow-by-blow of Dianne and Terry’s visit:

Days 1-2: Kyiv. D&T arrived on Saturday afternoon. After picking them up at the airport, we settled into Hotel Ibis and then I walked them down to Khreshchatyk for a tasty Indian dinner and stroll along the closed-for-pedestrians-on-weekends street. The next morning we ventured out to Kyiv’s big Botanical Garden. We spent a lovely couple of hours strolling among the just-past-peak lilacs and getting slightly lost in the forest and meadows.

Day 3: Visit to the Host Family in Kolychivka. My parents got the full taste of Ukrainian village life and hospitality when we visited my host family in the village where I trained almost two years ago. Anya, Serhiy, Dianne, & Terry all seemed to get along well and we were lucky enough to arrive just three days after Anya & Serhiy’s pig had been killed. Fresh pork and sausage for all!

Day 4: Kyiv. Back in the city for one more day, we hit up all the churches (St. Sophia’s, St. Michael’s, St. Volodymyr’s, glimpsed St. Andrew’s) and checked out the Pinchuk Art Center, which had a great Anish Kapoor exhibition. An easy overnight train ride — except for the fact that I was sick with a fever and chills — with a whole kupe to ourselves, got us to Sniatyn before 9am on Wednesday morning.

Days 5-12: Sniatyn, Kosiv, Chernivtsi, & the Carpathians. As soon as we arrived in Sniatyn, I thrust my parents into school life. The first day, they accompanied me to school and chatted with my 5th, 8th, and 7th formers as well as my adult English club. D&T were great sports about it (thanks again, guys!) and everyone really seemed to enjoy talking to them. They covered such topics as hobbies, favorite animals, traveling, wearing seat-belts, and even recycling and the environment.

On Friday, my parents accompanied me to the Last Bell ceremony at school — where many words were said about my late school director — and then to lunch with my English-teacher colleagues Diana Dmytrivna, Natalia Mykhailivna, and Yulia Vasylivna. Michelle and Janira arrived on Friday afternoon to meet my parents and hang out for a little while. Michelle stayed overnight because early on Saturday morning we went to the Kosiv Bazaar, which has the best selection (and prices) of traditional Ukrainian crafts: woodworking, embroidered towels & blouses, dolls, whistles, ceramics, maces…

On Sunday we met my friends in Chernivtsi for lunch and a bit of a stroll around the beautiful center of the city. Upon arriving back in Sniatyn, we immediately met up with Natalia, Petro, and Vika to ascend the clock tower (ratusha). The evening was pretty clear so I got some great pictures of Sniatyn from above. On our way down, the man who let us up — who also happens to be the man who is responsible for the clock’s functioning — opened up the clock box and explained how all the mechanics work. We even got to see it strike 7pm.

The next couple of days were quiet and relaxed, with walks around Sniatyn, another English club, and a wonderful shashlik dinner with Halya and her family (my wonderful counterpart/neighbors). D&T even got to experience the unpredictability of Ukrainian life when the entire town’s gas went out for a day!

Wednesday was a full day, as we’d arranged to go on an excursion to the Carpathian Mountains, guided by Mykola from Kolomiya. He was fantastic, and led us on the “Graffiti Stone” hike — complete with a thunderstorm that caused us to walk/run down a shortcut and hide out in a partially-built house until the rain slackened. After the hike, we stopped to see three master crafts(wo)men on the way home. The master weaver in Yavoriv does everything from start to finish: shearing the sheep, washing and brushing the wool, winding it into yarn, weaving the blankets, washing and brushing them. We saw a 5th-generation master ceramicist in Kosiv, who makes and paints all her ceramics in Hutsul style and colors (green, yellow, brown). Lastly, still in Kosiv, we stopped at the house of a master woodcarver; he doesn’t sell his best work because he says they’re like his children. So they hang on one wall of his living room like a small museum — really amazing work. He also collects pysanky (painted eggs).

Day 13: 18-hour train ride to Odesa.

Days 14-15: Odesa. D&T’s last day and a half in Ukraine were spent in Odesa, a city I’d not yet visited. The center is beautiful, especially the architecture. We walked around a lot, hitting the Potemkin Stairs, an art museum, the pedestrian street (Deribasivs’ka), and even catching part of an outdoor performance of Aida in front of the gorgeous Opera & Ballet Theatre after a delicious Georgian food dinner. Part of Saturday was spent sitting outside under an umbrella at a cafe while rain poured down.

Saturday morning we went for a walk before I dropped Dianne and Terry off at the airport. I spent Saturday evening wandering around a bit and enjoying some quiet time before I flew to Germany for a wonderful week with my wonderful boyfriend in Muenster (see those pictures here).

Some photos from the parents’ visit:

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For even more pictures, click here.

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