This week marks my four month anniversary of living in Украинa! Time has flown by and life is good. The initial depression and loneliness we were warned about so dramatically in training seems like an idle threat at this point – Lets hope it stays that way. I love teaching more and more each day and I am incredibly thankful to have gotten such an amazing site, wonderful counterpart and smart students!
Over the past four months, I believe I have adapted to Ukrainian culture very well. There are more similarities than differences between my US culture and Romny, but the small changes in everyday habits and encounters can be challenging. Below is a list of the most stark cultural differences and struggles of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine and my thoughts on if I have become accustomed to them or not…
- Not knowing what is going on 70% of the time
- Not knowing what language is being spoken to me
- Boiling water before I can drink it
- Always dressing and acting professional
- Wearing the same clothes multiple days in a row
- Shopping at Bazaars – Babushka open air markets
- Borscht! I love Borscht and could survive on it for the rest of my life
- Taking ten minute showers and turning off the water in between suds to conserve hot water
- A daily, constant, and loud chorus of ‘hellos’ following me around school
- Not showering every day
- Drinking самого́н with a straight face – Ukrainian Moonshine/homemade vodka
- Wedding rings worn on the third finger of the right hand
- Obsession with tea – I think Ukrainians drink more tea than the British and Chinese!
- Obsession with eating sweets with tea – No tea break is complete without some sort of candy, cookie or cake to wash down the flavor
- Always bringing my own bags to the market, because nothing is given for free. A great yet unintentional way of promoting recycling.
- Eating dinner food for breakfast
- During training: eating the bunny I had fed and pet the day before
- Living by myself
- Students standing when I enter the room
- Hand washing my clothes
- Every other day being a Ukrainian holiday
- Home canned vegetables…Mmmm
Not Accustomed to:
- Not shaking hands when greeting people
- Drinking vodka at every meal with guests
- Walking the dirt and snow covered roads in my high heels
- Keeping my shoes clean at all times!
- Ladies paying extreme attention to their shoes, clothes and accessories but carrying everything in plastic bags
- Love for mayonaise and sour cream on every type of food, i.e. Mayonaise as a salad dressing
- Older Ukrainians expressing sadness that they are no longer a part of the USSR
- Not smiling at people I pass by unless I know them personally