Attempting to Become Ukrainian…

As two Canadians in Ukraine, Analu and I share interesting experiences on a daily basis. Outside of work, we have enjoyed many good laughs together which has added to the overall positivity of this experience…

For example: Analu, as a former gluten-free vegan, and myself as a former vegetarian, have changed our diets drastically in hopes of getting the true Ukrainian experience. For the most part, we are both really embracing all aspects of eating like the locals do and are enjoying it to its fullest. Except for a few incidents; for example the other day in L’viv, we went to a little shop to buy snacks for our train ride back to Kiev. As two Canadians who never buy meat for themselves in Canada let alone Ukraine, we aren’t exactly experts in the deli section. To our dismay, our lack of expertise led us to purchasing and eating in part, a package of raw bacon. We somehow survived without getting ill, but needless to say we will be keeping our meat purchases to a minimum from now on. Luckily, we both find humor more than anything in these funny little mishaps that prove to be an inevitable part of being foreigners in a new country. And despite the odd hour or two alone, we seem to have pretty incredible Ukrainian tour guides in almost every place we go, which keeps these sticky situations to a minimum.

L’viv was our final stop in Western Ukraine, and all of the good things I had heard about it proved to be true. It is a really beautiful and historic European style city, and we enjoyed spending time with YMCA leaders there. It was great to get to know leaders outside of the camp context, and I truly appreciated their hospitality as well as enthusiasm to show us around. From what I saw, the YMCA in L’viv has strong programs running due to a motivated group of volunteers.

Once back in Kiev on Friday, we immediately packed our bags and headed to the countryside with the Pustavoits and their friends. We learned that there were large festivals happening around Kiev for Ivana Kupala, a traditional Ukrainian celebration that takes place during Summer Solstice. We dressed up in traditional Ukrainian clothing, ate a massive feast of traditional Ukrainian food, and most likely embarrassed ourselves attempting to dance in traditional Ukrainian style. As a Ukrainian-Canadian, experiencing this festival was extremely special to me and it is something that I will not forget.

Last night we arrived back to Kiev after nearly 3 weeks of being on the road. We are happy to be “home”, but are already missing our amazing friends back in the West. We are really excited, however, to host two wonderful volunteers from Lutsk who will be passing through Kiev this weekend. Marta and Roma will be coming home from a YMCA Youth Conference in Denmark and will stay with us at Analu’s flat. We plan to cook some not-so-traditional Canadian cuisine for them (Thai Curry, coconut rice, and vermicelli rolls) to try and repay a bit of the hospitality that they showed us during our time in the West. Until then, I will spend the week doing some work that I began while in Lutsk and also assisting Analu with her work here in Kiev. I am looking forward to spending the week gaining a better understanding of how the YMCA works in Kiev on both a local and national level, as I believe it is a much different context than what we experienced in the Volyn Region.

Here are a few pictures from our time spent out West, enjoy!