Thursday, February 28, 2013

Miss Virginia Returns ...

It's been four years and three months since I wrote in this blog, but on the occasion of my first visit back to Ukraine, I thought I'd fire it up again!  Virginia Robertivna will once again walk the streets of Bratslav, scouring the store shelves for Coca Cola Lite and butchering the native language.

I promised myself I would visit within five years - I made the deadline!  I didn't tell any of my Ukrainians about the deadline, because I didn't want to get anyone's hopes up in case something went wrong.  But last August, I finally bought a ticket and was able to tell them for sure!

The first monkey wrench was that AeroSvit - the Ukrainian airline I was patronizing - went out of business.  Luckily, I have a crack travel agent who set me up with Delta flights that aren't direct, but were a good price.

The latest crisis was that Amtrak - which I am taking up north to catch my flight over - doesn't allow luggage over 28-inches, among other things.  (Despite the fact that the train will literally drop me off at an international airport, they prefer to think of the entire East Coast as a "commuter-only" region, apparently.)  It's not really a problem, but it's kept me from giving in to the temptation to bring the amazingly-huge bag I took to Peace Corps:

It's the one on the left ... seriously, it was bottomless

I'm bringing two suitcases (in addition to my purse and the requisite airplane shoulder bag full of reading material), and right now they both have a lot of gifts in them.  Actually, even my shoulder bag has a few.  I'm bringing a lot of stuff!  I guess it's a good thing that no one at the craft store knew what I was talking about when I requested a "box of stickers" for the School #2 students - instead, I bought them in sheet form, which is easier to pack.  (I used to have a box of stickers!  What happened to boxes of stickers?)  I have a lot of people to bring gifts to - and they deserve it, because not only did they take care of me for two years and two months, but they're feeding and housing me for the next week and a half.  I had fun picking up Virginia- and D.C.-themed items at various stores, and luckily two of the places I shopped had adorable salt and pepper shakers!  Ukrainians love salt and pepper shakers!  I think they sent me home with three sets of them.  The dogs that are sponsored by the Letter E are on my kitchen counter right now:

Next to the cow dish I got from my star pupil, Diana

When I did a dry run of packing, the gifts filled my smaller suitcase easily.  My other suitcase is bigger - but it doesn't have wheels - a quandary.  So most of the gifts got replaced with heavier items I don't feel like hefting on my back the whole journey, and now they're split between the bags.  Here's the scene from last night:

Can you guess what holiday the stores were promoting when I bought the tissue paper and ribbons?

Once I check the bags in Newark, I should be fine (if I don't overheat in the snow boots that are too big/heavy to to pack, and the new coat that goes past my knees).  Lyudmila will meet me at the airport in Kyiv, so I won't be alone for long.  To refresh your memory, Lyudmila is the wonderful English teacher who I worked with at School #2.  I'll be staying at her house for most of the trip, and will spend one night outside of Kyiv with my old LCF (Language and Cross-Cultural Facilitator - aka The Person Who Taught Me Ukrainian in Training) Yulia, before I catch the plane home.

Lyudmila and me, right before I left

Me and Yulia - who now has a little daughter!

And of course I will see Nina, who I lived with for a year, and who now has a new volunteer named Elyse - soon to be on her way home, so I'll just catch her!

Me and my uncle Jack and Nina (when my uncle and aunt came to visit)

I'm even bringing bones for Sharik, or whatever dog lives there now:

And I'll see my neighbors, and the students who are still there (the class of 5th graders who I only taught for two months that last fall are now in ... 9th grade :( ).  I'll hopefully visit the Window on America English club in Vinnytsia, and see some people there.  I also want to see the new musical fountain!

Seriously.  What??

And I'd like to go up to the historic Jewish cemetery overlooking the Bug River and catch this view again:

I'll be there for my 29th birthday and the best holiday ever: International Women's Day.  All in all, it looks like a good time.  Aside from this situation ...

But it's supposed to get better around my birthday ...

Wish me luck!  I will write a post when I get home, with lots of pictures!

Love, Virginia Robertivna


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