Well it’s the end of my 4th day in the Ukraine and my first night sleeping in my host house. I arrived here this evening and was so nervous I could have either peed myself or thrown up. It’s a pretty nerve wracking experience getting loaded onto a bus and driven out to some place you’ve never been to meet complete strangers who are going to pick you up and take you to their house to live with them for the next three months.
My host mom’s name is Natasha and she seems pretty cool. This evening after dinner we went running then she put me on the phone with her last Peace Corps volunteer from last year and let us talk and get to know each other. On our way back home she got a call on her cell phone and her ringtone was “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga. I had to smile to myself because it seems that no matter where I go in the World, Lady Gaga has already been there. Which means somewhere out there is a mob of Ukrainians bobbing their heads to the latest Gaga release. And that makes me smile. After dinner she invited me to “talk” for a while. This seemed pretty pointless at first seeing as how I knew a handful of phrases and had already used them all. But she had a plan. She pulled out some dictionaries and started asking me questions in Ukrainian first, then in English. I would answer her in English and then try looking up the words in Ukrainian so she could understand her. This led to a conversation about where I’d traveled which then led to us pulling out maps and finally she revealed her stash of flash cards which she proceeded to give (or loan) to me. Sometime after that she showed me her computer and logged into facebook and showed me her pictures. She showed me pictures of other Peace Corps volunteers that had stayed with her and the places they’ve visited. It was great just taking the time to get to know her and feeling that tension of sickness and worry wash away as I began to relax and realize the world is not all that big and scary. There are a lot of differences; many changes and big surprises, but when we take the time to get to know people and dig past all the cultural barriers that separate us, we begin to see how much we have in common. And common ground contains the fertile soil of hope.