I could not have asked for a better way to wrap up my time in Ukraine. Marta and Roma, two all-star YMCA volunteers from Lutsk, arrived in Kiev late Saturday night. Although I haven’t known them for long, it felt as though I was seeing old friends when they arrived. Analu and I were also very happy to finally get to play the hostess role in Ukraine, and give back hospitality like we have received over the past month.
Marta and Roma were very open to trying some of our Canadian cooking, so I made pancakes for breakfast and Analu taught us how to make Vietnamese salad rolls and coconut rice for lunch. We had a picnic in a new park that we discovered in the centre of Kiev and explored some of the city. Our new common language, Ukrai-English, improved minute by minute and I enjoyed spending time getting to know the volunteers better. It was also very valuable to have a few final discussions, hear their input on YMCA in Ukraine, and brainstorm a few ideas for the future. Being in their country has really deepened my understanding of the differences between our YMCA’s, as well as the social, cultural, and political reasons why those differences exist. It is also interesting to understand the similarities, and share ideas that would fit in both Calgarian and Ukrainian contexts.
I was especially impressed by the time and energy that individuals like Marta and Roma dedicate to their YMCA, and I look forward to seeing how they continue to develop as an association. Like many goodbyes in Ukraine, I was sad to see them go; however I would not be surprised if our paths crossed again in the future.
I left Kyiv yesterday, which also meant parting ways with my Canadian counterpart, Analu. Selfishly, I wanted to pack her in my suitcase to go back to Canada, but I also look forward to hearing about the amazing work she will continue to do in establishing a local association in Kyiv. I am now in London for a brief visit with friends before heading back to work in Calgary! It feels quite cushy to walk around and be able to ask somebody for directions in my native language, sit down at a cafe and understand the entire menu, and drink an unlimited amount of water from the t
ap. As enjoyable as all of that is, I won’t be surprised if these novelties wear off quickly and I begin to miss the excitement of life in Ukraine. It has been an unforgettable experience that meant a lot to me both personally and professionally. So until next time, dopo bachnia!