Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Ukraine Mentality

When I think back on the seven months since I came home from the Ukraine, I don't think I realized what I was getting myself into when I boarded a plane from Philadelphia Airport to Frankfurt Germany, and from Frankfurt onto Kiev, Ukraine. And even from there, to a six hour train ride to the region my little sister was in. The trip didn't just give me a new sense of the world itself, but of who I was and where my heart lies. I love the verse in scripture that reads "Amen I say to you, wherever your heart lies, there also will your treasure be." If that phrase is nearly as true as I believe it is, than I truly believe that special needs ministry, and maybe even administering more directly to the orphans in the Eastern Block, is part of my life's calling. But we'll see where that goes, or, more importantly, where God uses that to lead me.

I have often thought since about how much I'd love to travel again. To Ukraine, China, anywhere really. Travel, while it may completely throw you out of your comfort zone, honestly gives you a new spin on life, and even makes you learn new things about yourself.

I remember my days in Ukraine like a vividly colored, perfectly done photograph. I'd wake up in the queen-sized bed I had all to myself and see a shaft of light shining across me between the window and the heavy drapes. Me and Dad would have some quick breakfast and shower off military-speed before running down to the sidewalk corner to meet our driver. From there we would go for a couple hours to visit Julia, get some final papers done, etc. The rest of the day, we were usually left to our own devices, so we'd normally hang out in the apartment and watch some movies/update our blog and then at night, walk around the square a couple blocks away where Christmas festivities were in full swing. No matter what you say about Ukrainians, good or bad, one thing is certain: they now how to celebrate and make everything look beautiful for a special occasion. Some nights we even hung out with our good friends the Winkles, a fellow adoptive family. And as one friend of mine put it when describing her adoption trip (to the same region) your life essentially becomes real-life "Groundhog Day," the same routine over and over.

Some might say it was boring. The same schedule over and over again, in the dead of winter, when snow and ice covers EVERYTHING in a place like Ukraine. But there was something so different about living for 10 days in a completely foreign land with a completely foreign language and culture.

You appreciate the everyday frequencies.

Stopping in at McDonalds? A nice end to a day of hard work. Hanging out in the apartment? A quiet time of contemplation and relaxation. Strolling the city at night, albeit freezing your skin off? An experience. Getting to play with your little sister? A precious opportunity to bond and love. Things that might have seemed boring or even ticked you off if you were in your hometown with your usual schedule became an adventure.

Despite the fact I adore my peace, quiet, and predictable schedule, I am, at the same time, a person who wants to taste the unknown, blaze my own trail. Experiencing new places and people is exhilarating. But that interest can often mutate into Jealousy. That somebody else gets to go somewhere and I don't. That I'm stuck in my little neighborhood in middle-of-nowhere NY with my only real way to do anything extraordinary being the internet. But as I've thought about my time in Ukraine, I've come to realize my life wasn't any different. I was just in a different place with a different perspective. Maybe it would be useful to apply it here, even if the place itself is thousands of miles away.

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