Thursday, August 27, 2009

A rushed email.

Hello family! I just wanted to let you know that I arrived safe and sound in Kiev. My luggage, however, is in Germany. Going through passport inspection was sheer madness--pushing and shoving and yelling and cutting in line. And then BOTH my bags were missing, and six other people were missing one of their bags. The lost and found lady was really grumpy, but she got us through customs and located our bags in Dusseldorf. They're supposed to be here tomorrow.

I rode with Igor, the nicest native coordinator EVER, to my host family's apartment. He is like an extra father for everybody; a seriously kind dude. He just gushed about how great this family is. Ok, so the family: my host sister is Lesya and she's 17. Incredibly cool girl. She speaks really good English. Not perfect, but really good. Her mom is Larisa. She doesn't speak a lick of English, but I really like her. The dad died a few years back, unfortunately. Granny also lives here. She's 83 and I haven't seen her yet because she's a bit sick and wants to be left alone. The apartment is on the 11th floor of an ancient-brick apartment building. I share a room with Lesia and we have a gorgeous view of Kiev. Our house is pretty much in the most central part of Kiev. Not geography-wise; I don't think it's "downtown" but it's "central." Does that make sense? I'm losing my English already.

I've been awake for thirty hours. I got here in the late afternoon, and I resisted the temptation to nap so that I would be able to sleep tonight on normal Ukrainian time. Instead, Lesya showed my around the apartment, had me practice getting in and out of the building, and showed me the neighborhood. They have 2 cats and 3 dogs in a tiny apartment, but there is zero smell and the animals are really clean. The apartment is very modest with at least half the walls covered in bookshelves (Larisa is a philosophy professor). There is a small balcony off our bedroom, and the glass in the windows is thick, old, and not like our perfectly-even glass. The furniture and carpet is way old, but everything is so clean and tidy.

I met a couple of Lesya's friends, including her boyfriend, Yora (I have no idea how to spell that). She seems to have her head screwed on straight. The boyfriend is such a nice guy and treats her really well. The three of us spent the evening going on a walk, and then we went to a playground. We sat on a bench and just talked for a couple hours. His English is ok, but he gets frustrated with himself. An interesting mix of language abilities between the three of us. They're teaching me Russian, and I help them with English. And we talk about the differences too. The boyfriend was supposedly one of the best skaters in Ukraine (as in skateboarding) and he learned a lot of his English from American skaters, so it's pretty funny. Oh, and he composes instrumentals for rap. Yeah. I know. His mom is a musician, so he seems to have a background in music. Neither of them are gangster at all though. They told me that they don't even smoke weed cause they've watched people get messed up from it. Two really solid friends in one day. And they both know that I don't do coffee, tea, alcohol, smoke, etc. and even asked me about that. They told me that they promised to have my back and not teach me swear words disguised as normal words. (Apparantly, a favorite pastime is telling us that "I'm a good person" is pronounced "I'm a piece of sh*t" so that person walks around telling everyone that they're a piece of sh*t. ha...) I feel like I walked right into Everything is Illuminated as far as language goes.

The apartment buildings rotate getting hot water, so Larisa is boiling a pot of water for my shower right now. I get to use a bowl of half cool water and half boiling, and then just pour it over my head in the tub. The airport promised that my luggage will be here tomorrow. Go ahead and mail that ISIC card to the PO box address. The name Igor Vavilov and then put "for Alena Hoggan" under that, so they know which teacher it's for. Apparently we're not allowed to give out our host family's address, just to keep their privacy. Tomorrow is a tour of the city and learning how to get around. 143.

-Alena (apparently a popular brand of cooking oil here, so I've been told...)

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