I played Frisbee with Yarislav (Pastor Romanuiks son), and some other random kids from the apartment complex, today. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous here! Back on topic, we were coming inside to the 2nd floor where I am staying and Yarko (One of Yarislav's many nicknames), who speaks about as much English as I speak Ukrainian, ran over and pressed the button for the elevator. As a far warning, this story might not be as funny because you don't know Yarko, but 7 year old boys are pretty standard all around the world. Anyhow, he presses the button and looks at me all wide eyed and excited and I freeze in horror. Maybe seeing the state of the elevator is another necessity to the humor in this story but lets just say I had no desire what so ever of riding any elevators in Ukraine, much less this one, and even more less ride this elevator with Yarko. The instant he pressed the half lit button a mental image of me being stuck in a broken elevator with Yarko for 5+ hours popped into my head. A real life nightmare, no? I was shaken back to reality simultaneously from the ding of the elevator and Yarko tugging on my hand. I said a definite "NO", picked him up, and carried him up the flight of stairs. He got a kick out of this anyhow, so I don't think he was too disappointed.
Time for "Part 3" in my dreary-some observations on Ukrainian Culture:
Driving: First of all, Ukrainians as a whole do not drive. Walking and buses are the two prevalent forms of transportation. Biking to a certain extent, but surprisingly, to me at least, this is only among the older generations. I will refer back to my comment in an earlier post to sum of driving. Pastor Romaniuk summed it up nicely when I questioned him about the stressfulness of driving in Ukraine while riding in his car, after having feared for my life more then 10 times in 10 minute, he responded saying "I have driven in many other countries, and in those countries driving is a 'pleasure', if you want to really drive, come to Ukraine, this is driving". Having received the pleasure of riding in Pastor Romanuik's Lada (Lada is the affordable locally built brand, and while there are many attractive cars I wish they would sell in the States, such as Alfa Romeo's, Peugets, Opels, and Skodas, the Lada is definitely not one of them) on many occasions since arriving, I must say it is quite the experience to say the least. "Adrenaline rush" is the first phrase that comes to mind. And while it would seem Ukrainian drive, how should I say, "Recklessly", they also love their cars. It is not uncommon to see one keep a rag accessible in the car to wipe it down after arriving at a destination, or drive down to the river to give it a good bucket rinse, but more on that later.
Pets: Besides my encounter with the man eating super-canine German Shepherd, not to many people own pets. Dogs are the more common pet (but far from common) with cats in a far second. Dogs also dominate as the most common stray animals. As odd as it sounds, this has actually been one of the biggest culture shocks for me. They are often cute little timid mutt dogs, though you will see the occasional rottweiler. It's hard to say what breeds exactly are in the mutts, but I do know some of them are short and long like a wiener dog, but definitely not a wiener dog. And some dogs will have curly fur like a poodle, but definitely not a poodle. I witnessed a heartbreaking scene this morning when I was gazing out the window. Among the local pack about 7-8 dogs is one who has a lame rear leg who hops around with amazing agility. I'm talking jumping up and down from 3-4 foot walls. But this morning another dog in the pack had a pretty badly injured front leg, bad enough that you could see the open wound across the parking lot from a second story apartment. The dog with the injured rear leg was licking and soothing the injured dog, who in turn would return the favor with a nibble here and there. Also in the local pack is one of the rare rottweiler's, who has a young pup apprentice who never strays to far from his side, who seems to acts as their guardian/leader. He especially watches over the injured. He will lie nearby, never more then 10 meters away, and always facing the injured. If the injured hobble away, he will get up and find a new place in the shade nearby to lay down always with his eyes on the rest of the pack. I never knew I could write so much on dogs, but there you have it.
My time here is wrapping up extremely fast. I saw a pair of dapper young Mormon boys this afternoon, which was extremely frustrating because I know they are probably on there two year mission and it made me realize even more so how short my time here is. But my time here has been priceless in so many ways. By far the most amazing, and important, part has been seeing the Holy Spirit working in these kids lives. Bill, Faith, and I had a conversation yesterday about how fast the Holy Spirit works and it has been awesome to watch the Holy Spirit work so rapidly in my kids.
Brother in the Most Amazing Family Ever,
P.S. There is something very rewarding and soothing about washing your clothes by hand. Don't get me wrong, I don't plan on washing them by hand back home, but if you have no other choice, it is surprisingly satisfying.