Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ukraine 1: Days 1-3 (September 29 to October 1)

Everyone: breathe easy. Mike and Helen’s voices are finally crackling in the air shortly after re-entry into the blogosphere.

We’ve reached Ukraine, and we’re settling down well here. Our flights out were largely uneventful (which is always a good thing), but long (ca. 27 hour duration, including wait times). Helen managed to catch a couple hours sleep somewhere over the Atlantic, but woke up to the sleep-deprived, bloodshot eyes of her husband.

The only drama we experienced in our travels was almost taking off without Malcolm. We had landed in Vienna (from Toronto) a good three hours before the final leg to L’Viv. Malcolm was to catch the same flight with us, but was coming from London England instead. We waited in the boarding area as long as possible (Brainwave: begin new acronym, ALAP), but still no sight of Malcolm. Reluctantly, we went though the gate, and boarded the bus, which whisked us off to the tarmac. We boarded the plane, where we resumed watching for Malcolm. We were sure all was OK when we saw another bus pull up, but of the handful of people that filed out, no Malcolm. Our hopes were dashed, and we grimaced over the prospect of facing Ukrainian customs on our own. Our prayers were answered, though, when out of nowhere a familiar face appeared in business class. Another bus had apparently come. We were relieved.

Malcolm’s catching the flight meant his luggage missing theirs. He still doesn’t have all his clothes back, but so far, thankfully, our noses know no different!

Won’t go into too much more detail in this post. That night we had a wonderful supper of cabbage rolls, potatoes, and pork, and a long overdue sleep.

Day two was Sunday. We took it easy, but had a meeting in Flo’s apartment at 7:00 PM. I spoke (through a 15-year-old translator) first, telling my testimony, emphasizing that “my story” is more Jesus’ story, because he’s the one who is the hero of it. Malcolm then spoke on 1 Timothy 4:12 on the things that should accompany Christian profession. It was a nice time with the twenty or so present. A young married couple came out. They were our age, and they understood and spoke some English. Always a treat.

Today, day three, was our first real day doing what we’re supposed to be doing out here. We (the group) bought two fridges and gave one to an orphanage and the other to a poor family. Believe it or not, the father (Misha) is a doctor who has traded in the medical practice for woodcarving because the former doesn’t put enough food on the table for his family of six kids and one wife (Tkash). Yes, salary scales are a little different here; he’d likely be better off working in McDonald’s. One of these days, I’ll introduce you to a wonderful young woman here who is a nurse. She puts in 24-hour shifts (no, that’s not a typo) and for her labours takes home $100 CAD a month.

Anyways, back to this family. Very sad story. House is a mess, and all of them are confined to sleeping in its two small rooms. One boy is handicapped (similar to Down’s Syndrome). One young boy (10 – 12 I’m guessing) particularly sticks out. Every time I glanced at him, I caught him watching me with adoring eyes. I just wanted to talk to him and tell him to live his life with Jesus as his hero. He gave me a woodcarving of a rabbit he had done. He’s learning the art from his dad. Misha gave us a beautiful clock he had carved. Later, the boy came out with a leaf plate Misha had carved as well. We are learning that it is hard to out-give the Ukrainians, no matter how little they have.

The orphanage was in Yassapowich (sp?), where we were overcome by the cuteness of the kids, and the sadness of their situation. Couple of times felt some lumps in the throat today; this was one of them. They already had a fridge, but it didn’t work. They didn’t dare throw the thing out, though, because it’s illegal for an orphanage to not have fridge somewhere on its premises. Of course, it doesn’t matter if it works—it just has to be there!

The kids were so cute, a welcome relief from their surroundings and circumstances. They were so excited to see us, and it wasn’t long before we had switched roles; their little fingers shooting pictures with our camera of us hugging their little friends. The workers get little salary; they obviously love the children. This place needs a lot of work. Windows that can’t be cleaned or they’d fall apart, no bathtubs or washing machines, and the toilets leave a lot to be desired. The government provides food, heat, staff salaries (small), and an inconsequential amount for R&M.

In the evening we had a delicious supper of perogies (veronica). It wasn’t hard to be thankful.

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