Musings of an Amused Girl

My first round of teaching is over and next week we will have a whole new batch of students. I honestly can’t believe that November is here. Boy, has time flown. It is amazing how this place is slowly becoming a second home to me. In light of the new “semester” this blog post is dedicated to all the great, well actually funny things that have happened thus far in my new home of the one and only Kiev.

-Some pictures of this beautiful city that I live in.ImageImageImageImage

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There is a reason my parents didn’t name me Grace. I won’t be winning awards in ballet anytime soon. You mix me with a moving bus and people packed in like a can of sardines, and well the picture isn’t pretty. It’s like the game Twister on wheels. I was never good at the game Twister on solid, hard, non-moving ground.  So here I am, backpack on, purse in one hand, other hand grasped on tightly to a sorry excuse of a railing in the bus, when the driver ferociously steps on his breaks. I lunge forward and grab hold of the first thing in sight, which happens to be some poor guy’s leg. Let me tell you a little bit about Ukrainian culture. They are not really a “touchy-feely” kind of people, so this little grab of the leg was a big “No No”. He just looked at me and didn’t say a word, but he didn’t’ need to. I could tell by the look in eyes he was not pleased. I racked my brain for ‘sorry’ in Russian but it just would not come, however I think the look of embarrassment and the red that was creeping all over my face was enough for him and he went on his “merry” way. I think what I need to do is wear a sign on the bus or metro that says: “If you value the safety of your toes or don’t want to be bumped into, stand at least 2 ft away at all times”… maybe then I can go through a week without an “incidence”.

-Waiting for the infamous “Twister on wheels”

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If you know me at all then you know I LOVE ICE CREAM!! One day Amanda and I were walking down the street and we stopped at one of the many little ice cream stands because we decided to give in and feed our tiny ice cream monsters that live in our bellies. I was decided to practice my Russian and read off the flavor I wanted to the lady, which was the vanilla and chocolate swirl (or so I thought). So there I was, quite pleased that I still remembered the sounds of the alphabet, when I took a nice big bite of the ice cream. Let me tell you folks, that was the WORST vanilla ice cream I have ever tasted in my life! Maybe perhaps, because it wasn’t vanilla ice cream, but rather lemon ice cream. I made Amanda try some because I was so confused by the flavor. “Kayla,” she calmly said, “that is not vanilla ice cream.” “Yeah, well I can see that,” I retorted. “You know, I think it is lemon,” she replied. I then took another bite and that’s when my taste buds recognized the lemon. It’s quite shocking for your poor little mouth when it is expecting vanilla and it gets lemon instead. I decided to look at the Russian word for what I ordered and that’s when I my cheeks turned two shades redder and I began to chuckle. The Russian word for lemon has an uncanny resemblance in sound to the English word lemon. In fact, they sound pretty much exactly the same, except with one you say it with a Russian accent and the other an American. I felt pretty silly at that point, but now I will never forget what the Russian word for lemon is.

 

When I was packing my father told me I would not need duct tape. Oh how those words could not be more untrue. When we first moved into our apartment the pipes leading from our hot water heater had a slight leak and would drip occasionally. We didn’t think anything of it because it was so minute. One evening, as Amanda and I were preparing finals for our students, we heard this sound of gushing water. Immediately we knew what it was and ran to the bathroom. There was the infamous pipe waving around like a dragon and spewing out boiling water in lieu of fire. This entire scene struck a chord with our funny bone and we got the giggles, almost to the point of immobilizing us. To make matters worse I needed the bathroom in the worst kind of way, but since it was being flooded I was fresh out of luck. After brainstorming for what seemed like an eternity, between roars of laughter, I realized I had duct tape and we fashioned the pipe onto the water heater so the water wouldn’t deluge the entire apartment. The pictures below explain what we did much better than I can. ImageImageImage

 

 

However, this last story I am going to share takes the cake: it is, in my opinion, definitely the most funny and embarrassing. When we were still living in the church the light bulb in the little bathroom that we used went out. Thankfully, someone in my Student Missionary Orientation class told me to bring a headlamp so Amanda and I still had light when we went to the bathroom. However, one “fateful” day when I went to the bathroom I did not lock the door properly and yes, you guessed it, someone walked in one me. However, if this was not embarrassing enough I was in the dark decked with my headlamp on. The lady was so confused by the sight before her that when she closed the door quickly she decided that she needed to see if what she saw was true and yes, did a double take AND OPENED THE DOOR AGAIN! I was so shocked by the whole thing that my only reaction was an explosion of laughter. What else was I to do? Honestly, I think the lady was more embarrassed and confused by the strange girl with the light on her head than I was by being walked in on in while going to the bathroom. When I told Amanda there were more spurts of laughter. After that incident the church ladies never looked at me at the same way. Oh, how I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall and heard what they said, but for now I can only imagine.

 

I hope you enjoyed these short little anecdotes and that they brought a smile to your face or a little chuckle. One of my favorite things in life is laughter. I think Solomon was onto something when he said, “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). 

Wind Sweepin’ Down the Plain

It’s hard to believe that this Monday will be my one-month anniversary of living in Kiev!  Boy, has time flown. These past weeks have been some of the busiest in my life, with lack of blog posts to prove it hehe. When we first arrived here we had a week of orientation where they basically taught us how to teach. Let me tell you, that was an interesting experiencing. Never in a million years did I think that I was “teacher material”. But after a week soaking up information like a sponge you are looking at a tried and true teacher, all of three whole weeks! Okay, so maybe I’m still not “teacher material” but by God’s grace I hope to be the best English teacher I can be.

 

I teach two different adult classes and love them both. I absolutely love getting to know all my students and becoming friends with them. I also teach classes on Sunday to any students who wish to show up. On Friday nights we have something very special that happens; we give a sort of free English class that is actually more like an undercover Bible study. We talk about controversial topics and then end it with a Bible verse. For some people it can be their first introduction to the Bible. From these Friday Talks we can open doors and invite them to church and other spiritual activities! I also help with the international church here in Kiev in the Sabbath School. As you can see they keep us missionaries very busy, but it keeps life interesting!

 

On a more funny/cultural note Ukrainians have a very fascinating relationship with wind. Yes, that’s right good ole wind… you know, the gusts that mess your hair when you have fixed it perfectly. I have learned from other missionaries and Ukrainians that most people living in Ukraine almost have a fear of wind and believe that ANY kind of draft or breeze will bring on all sorts of illnesses. So to counteract this terrible wind they bundle up like you have never seen. I kid you not it will be 70 degrees Fahrenheit outside, but if it is at all windy, expect jackets and fleece hats, yes that’s right, nice warm hats. Now that your cultural lesson is over it’s time for the funny part: I am from a state where my state song specifically says, “Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain.” Needless to say, I KNOW WIND. I have grown up with it my whole life and I go to school in Nebraska, which has to be the flattest state in the U.S. If I thought Oklahoma was windy, Nebraska could give it a run for its money. So obviously, the breeze here doesn’t faze me at all, in fact it reminds me of home. Because I’m not afraid of the wind, I don’t dress accordingly and thus I stand out like a sore thumb. Today, for example was in the 70’s and beautiful, except of course for the wind. So I decided to wear a short sleeved shirt, skirt, and opened toed sandals. Oh my goodness, if looks could kill. On my walk to the bus stop I received so many open mouthed stares that I started to get the giggles. One lady not only did a double take but a TRIPLE TAKE. If I could have taken a picture of the look on her face I would have. By this point I couldn’t help my self and I was laughing pretty hard. Not at them and their culture but at the looks on their faces and the thoughts going through head. I’m sure they were thinking “this crazy girl in her skirt and sandals, she’s going to get all kinds of sick.” Some people even pointed at my feet and whispered to each other in Russian. Now I know that if I want to be talk of the town just wear really warm weathered clothes on windy day.

 

All this got me thinking though, isn’t it beautiful how we all have different cultures? Even though they don’t appreciate the wind and it’s in my state song we still can learn from each other. We always have something to offer to someone else. I wonder how Jesus felt when he came to this earth… talk about a different culture! He didn’t let the “wind” or lack thereof deter Him and that amazes me. But rather, He embraced us with love and compassion and I am forever grateful.

Lost Luggage

The day has finally come and terror and excitement flood my heart. I can’t believe that I am sitting on the plane about ready to take off to my new home in Kiev, Ukraine. These last few months have been a whirlwind of packing and visa haggling, but God’s hand has been present through it all.

The plane begins to move and the airport starts to pale in the distance, soon this will all just be a memory. I turn to my traveling companion, partner in crime, and friend Amanda, “You ready?” I say. She just smiles sheepishly. I think both of us are realizing the magnitude of the decision we made. We decided to take a year off of school, leave our families, teach when we have never taught a day in our lives, and go live in one of the coldest places on earth, or as I like to call it… Siberia’s cousin. I think it’s safe to say that we may have a small case of cold feet, no pun intended ;).   Lucky for us though, God is on our side and He promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us. I’m so glad that I’m not doing this alone, and not just this, but this whole life thing too… I couldn’t imagine going through life not knowing God and having Him as a best friend, and honestly that’s what I want the people in Ukraine to see. I want them to meet Jesus as their best friend.

The plane starts to move faster and faster and a smile begins to spread across my face. This is my absolute favorite part of flying. On the exterior you may see a poised young lady sitting calmly in her chair, like my amazing mama raised me, but believe me there is a little girl on the inside, standing up, jumping up and down in her seat. If I could make plane rides consist of nothing more than take-offs I would, but alas, what must go up must also come down (see mom and dad, I did learning something in my Physics class!).

Minutes begin to pass and a sense of insignificance washes over me. How am I supposed to do this? I am not at all qualified to go to a group of people, teach them English, and then win them over into God’s kingdom. I soon begin to panic. And when I begin to panic I talk to God. “God, I am not perfect. On the contrary, I am far from it. How am supposed to do this? I feel so unqualified.” Then, almost as God was speaking to me He brought back a saying that I have on a t-shirt. It reads: “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” Wow. Silly Kayla, if I would just take the time to calm down and stop freaking out I would realize that God’s got this handled. I mean, if he’s taken the time to count the number of hairs on my head I’m pretty sure He cares a lot more about the people in His kingdom.  And here I am saying “how am I to this, and I to that, and I.. I.. I.. I..” I can’t do anything, and you know what? THANK GOODNESS! But by HIS grace, He can do everything and use me to His glory. Praise God. I’m so glad that He has everything figured out and all I have to do is trust in Him and know that everything will work out. If only I can just remember that!

-Amanda and I at the airport before we embarked on this great adventure!

Finally we arrived in Kiev and my nerves picked up again. This is my home for the next nine months… let me tell you, that is quite a surreal feeling looking at your new home and not knowing the language or barely anyone in it. I was feeling quite gypsy-esque at this point. We went over to the baggage carousel expectantly waiting for our prized possessions. Ten minutes soon turned into fifteen, then twenty, and then so on until even my optimism was waning. When the carousel stopped turning I knew we were in trouble. “Oh great, we are in another country where no on speaks a lick of English and now we lost our entire luggage… this is just great,” were the thoughts that raced through my head. The line that the uniformed man directed us towards to retrieve our “lost and found” luggage was already enormously long. It looked like our whole plane had lost their luggage as well. After a “super” exciting TWO hours (I’ll spare you the details) we left our addresses with the helpful ladies and went on our merry way in hopes that our precious suitcases would be reunited with us in joyful reunion.

One thing is for certain, this next year is going to be the most exciting and faith building time of my life!