Sunday, September 20, 2009


My host sister has half of Kiev's male population wrapped around her finger. This graffiti showed up at our apartment building the morning of the one-month mark with her current boyfriend. I think I enjoyed it more than she did, though, because she broke up with him this weekend. Sorry, dude!

This afternoon, we got to watch the Angel Moroni statue get placed on the spire of the Kiev temple. This temple is a pretty big deal--it will serve all of Ukraine, as well as the surrounding countries. Brother Luschin is in charge of this temple, and was also in charge of eight other European temples in the past. He and his wife are such nice people; we were at their house last Sunday for lunch and some mothering. She cooks like we are all starving African children, and her brownies might just be heaven on earth. He and I talked photography for a while, too. Before they put up the statue, I sat through an hour-long meeting with about 600 other people. Everybody was speaking Ukrainian, but it was nice to just sit and listen to the language. During the hymns, I got such a kick out of singing along in English to the familiar tunes. Even though it clashed terribly, the solidarity felt amazing. I didn't understand a word of the speakers, but it was easy to understand that the church is the same in Ukraine as it is in California or Hawaii. Kind of like an international Band-Aid. A great feeling, all afternoon.

This is Camille, another teacher in my group. She's one of my favorite people.

Sasha and Elder I-Can't-Spell-His-Name-In-English-But-It-Sounds-Like-Tuler.

Some Ukrainian friends, and some amazing clouds.

After the temple:
I don't get embarrassed about falling flat on my face and stuff like that, but I do get "American-embarrassed." American-embarrassed is when my group talks way too loud in English, making everybody within 50 yards stare and whisper. That's when I blush for them, for us, and pretend like I don't know them. No matter how hard I try, no matter how quietly I whisper, no matter how inconspicuous I try to be, we get laughed at or stared at pretty much every day. It's very frustrating. I've stopped doing the activities that our whole group participates in, because it just makes me cringe every time we get on the metro or on the bus and these girls are so darn loud and obnoxious. Instead, I make my own plans with just two or three other girls whose voices are quieter. In all seriousness, I choose my friends based on their vocal volume.

Even so, I had the most awkward bus ride of my entire existence on the way home. There were four of us, and we shoved our bodies onto an already-too-full bus. I got stuck riding in the stairwell, in charge of opening and closing the door at each stop. We were crowded painfully close together, holding onto anything and each other for support. Every time the buses stop and go, un-anchored bodies go flying. As soon as we got on, a babushka started yell-talking to nobody in particular, but obviously talking about the four brats who crammed themselves onto the bus. The first stop came, and I dutifully opened the door to let people off the bus. The second stop came, and I did the same. Unfortunately, we were in stop-and-go traffic, and the bus stops aren't marked very well, so I ended up opening the door in the middle of traffic. A guy on the bus that we kind of knew leaned over to me and informed me to close the door, because this wasn't a stop. An easy mistake to make, but the entire bus chuckled anyway. The babushka was still chattering away, and she seemed to get funnier and funnier because soon the whole bus was in hysterics. A man by me was near tears of laughter, and an old man by my friend kindly patted her on the hand as if to say, "We're all laughing at your expense, but don't take it too personally." I opened the door again (fortunately at a real bus stop) to let more people on, and the crowd pushed my body to the back of the bus, away from the stairwell. At first I was grateful to be relieved of my duty as door-opener, but the situation did not improve much. I stood in the aisle holding a rail, back to back with a fat old woman. Suddenly, she bent over and her large buttocks pinned me flat against a stranger sitting down. I was caught like a bug in her cheeks, unable to move. The babushka was still making everybody laugh, which is very unsettling in a society where public laughter is so rare. We finally got off the bus, gasping for breath and for relief. I was sweaty, red, and near tears from embarrassment.

On a less awkward note, we went to the cinema and saw Tim Burton's new movie, "9." It was all in Russian, and I really enjoyed trying to figure out what everybody was saying. We made it through the ticket-counter and the movie without incident. Thank God/Buddha/Deity-of-your-choice. 

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