Holidays 2012 Pt. 1

Honestly, I’m struggling right now. I have no idea where to even begin. There is an internal battle on how I want to present what I want to say and how I want to say it. Decisions…

To say that I like to tell stories is an understatement. Trust me…I have plenty. However, I am not a writer – clearly a talker (laugh all you want, I’m not ashamed). Therefore, I am going to approach this journal-entry style…you know, what a blog is designed to be (at times).

Still, before I begin, I fear two things: 1) this will be too long and 2) chronologically askew. Boom! Solution: multiple parts. Though rather than space them out as I seem to usually do (weeks/months), I’m going to try to pump them out over the span of a few days weeks.

I’ve never really been good at New Years resolutions – they tend to bore me and I never share them – little to no accountability. This year, while I am hesitant to call it a “resolution”, I do want to write more. Yes, I’ve been saying that, but I really do. I am seriously living the dream right now and I don’t want to forget it. If I go more than two weeks without posting something, feel free to remind me.

So here we go…

Pt. 1: Christmas in Lviv

Lviv is a city located in western Ukraine. The city screams Ukrainian pride, some consider it to be the most “Ukrainian” city in the country – though I’m not going to bring that up in a debate here in the east. There is actually a Ukrainian nationalist restaurant, Kryivka, that requires the password “слава украине” or “Glory to Ukraine” before entering (followed by a series of questions in Ukrainian). Sadly, I haven’t been…yet…it’s on the list. The city itself was long part of the Polish empire and just walking around the city, viewing the architecture, reminded me of western Europe.

Shevchenko Monument
Shevchenko Monument
Main Square
Main Square
Outdoor Markets
Outdoor Markets…not the biggest fans of shovels

Whenever I ask Ukrainians where I should visit in this country, the first two places are Crimea and Lviv. Naturally, when friends started talking about celebrating Christmas in Lviv, I couldn’t commit faster. Volunteers came from all over the country – literally – and we managed to fit/cram/create new yoga moves in order to allow about 16 bodies (maybe more) into one apartment. Needless to say, it was “cozy.”

Volunteer celebrations typically lead to days of no sleep, random conversations (some deep, some comical…mostly comical), potentially karaoke, dancing, maybe the occasional lap dance/strip tease/cross dressing incident, and the occasional redesigned piece of furniture. This is all part of the fun and spontaneity of our gatherings. Honestly, these are where some of the best unwritten stories come from. Hilarity ensues and everyone has a good time. Combining that with the Christmas holiday, mulled wine, and eggnog meant that all of the previously mentioned was bound to happen, and we did not disappoint.

Eddie and I getting started...Somewhere, the ladies in this picture are thanking me for cropping
Eddie and I getting started…Somewhere, the ladies in this picture are thanking me for cropping
Whose is better...clearly I'm talking about the long johns.
Whose is better…clearly I’m talking about the long johns.

Not to miss out on culturally festive opportunities, there was a visit to the opera house to watch The Nutcracker. Not going to lie, this was my first ballet and I was ready to leave after the first act. Seriously. I read the story a long time ago and was pretty lost, it’s not like there are words in a ballet. However, I was kindly informed that the second act was the best part. Not only was the second act worth staying, but this was also when I learned that about 90% of all classical music I recognize belongs to The Nutcracker – Tchaikovsky, you genius.

There was legitimate Tex-Mex, “karaoke”, ice-skating, Greek food, honey vodka, warm beer (that was disgusting and not finished), caroling, Christmas songs, and random camp games played at dinner (which inevitably brings out the competitive streak all of us posses). Ukraine is a country that accumulates a grossly inappropriate amount of ice…either that or the United States uses a grossly inappropriate amount of salt on its roads and sidewalks. Either way, my year plus streak of not falling was ended in Lviv…three times. The last of which my ankle is still feeling the side effects from. Graceful is a term that apparently left me somewhere in the past year…great timing.

Opera House
Opera House
Post Nutcracker
Post Nutcracker
Eggnog with Morgan and Eddie…and Eddie’s standard indoor attire
Ice Skating
Ice Skating…nope, didn’t fall

One thing that happens in Peace Corps is we develop our own sense of family. Everyone has their “crew” that they celebrate holidays and special events with, that they travel with, that they send random text messages and emails to. For some, that group is forever expanding, for some it is very intimate and particular…whatever floats your boat. The most important part about this holiday was that we got to spend it with “extended family”. Some of the hardest times of the year are those we have become accustomed to spending with family. I definitely miss my immediate family, but I sure am lucky to have also found one here.


Up next: Poland 



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