This will be my last formal "Observations on Ukrainian Culture" post. Sad you say? Trust me, I know. I would love to have at the very least, oh, a few more months. And as a quick disclaimer, which I probably should of put before I started all these posts, I wouldn't exactly go running to any Ukrainian friends you may have telling them everything you learned about Ukrainian Culture from me. This is hardly an experts view, merely my simple, humble observations in the short time I have been given.
So with no more delay, I present Part 5 in my "Observations on Ukrainian Culture":
Shopping: In the markets, all prices are fair game. I have gotten a little bit of experience bartering, but you can't put up to much of a fight when you don't know the language. Anywhere else the prices are set, set pretty darn low at that! A Rhivna is less then 1/3 of a dollar, but to give you an idea of pricing, I would say everything was pretty fairly priced even if the prices were listed in dollars. (Does that even make sense? For example, if something is 5 Rhivna, it is just over 1 dollar, but in America that item would probably cost about 5 dollars.) Clothing stores and shoe stores are as common as Starbucks, and as I stated in a previous post, it's all in very good fashion. The clothes you would find at a stand in the market I would buy any day over something from Target, or even American Eagle or Hollister. When going in to grocery stores you lock up your backpacks and handbags in lockers at the entrance to stores. Funny story: just the other day I forgot to lock up my backpack, and I realized this fact at the exact same moment that I realized the armed security officer (whom are in every store, and these aren't no rent-a-cop's either!) was stalking me around the store. Very awkward, but I tried to look harmless, more like, I looked like an idiot, so he never did anything about it.
Food: GOOD Breads, AMAZING cheeses, meats, juices, tea, and borshch. Pretty straight forward. Borshch is basically just a soup with a beet base. I can understand how it wouldn't be for everyone, being that Americans aren't too fond of beets, but I love it. There is no fast food in Ivano-Frankivks, but there were a few McDonalds in Kiev, of course.
Religion: Ukrainians are extremely "religious" but not "spiritual", if that makes sense. Teenagers will walk by an Eastern Orthodox cathedral, not miss a step, and bow their head while crossing themselves. This makes it so hard to reach people spiritual because, in a sense, they are lying to themselves, convinced they are living religiously but not living it in their lives. It has become such a routine for them. Their religion has become a set of traditions; repetitious prayers and actions at best, and at worst nothing more then owning icons (pictures and trinkets) and building grand cathedrals (and holy guacamole are their cathedrals grand!). It is the ultimate proverbial rut to get stuck in that we all speak of in America. Being when we just get in the routine of going to church every Sunday morning, but those couple hours at church are an entirely different life then the one we live the rest of the week.
Maybe there was some interesting insight tucked in there throughout all my observations, maybe not, but to wrap it all up, one of my most interesting observations was attending church in Ukraine. I could pick up maybe 1 out of every 500 words spoken, but just the thought of the love of Christ transcending all barriers and that there are people worshipping the same God in a completely different language, in a completely different culture, in a completely different part of the world was incredible. Please Pray a good portion of the children will attend the church service tomorrow; the kids will also be putting on a concert at the end. That is after all the point of VBS, using it as an evangelism tool. And I wouldn't mind seeing a few of them one last time either. :) But even if they aren't convicted to attend this church, pray that they will remember the spiritual truths and that they will continue to know Jesus as their Savior and as their friend.
I'll try and post my closing thoughts on VBS tomorrow; there is still too much running through my head to clearly compose any of it right now.
Brother in Christ,
P.S. My aunt got in a pretty serious car accident on the 4th of July, if you are looking for prayer requests, it would be much appreciated. She has 2 fractured vertebrae and is looking at a 2-3 month recovery. Pray that God will provide her with comfort in this time of extreme discomfort and that He will provide her with satisfaction in the things she is able to do, being that she is severly limited from so much that she would like to, or would normally be doing.