So, I’ve been meaning to tell you all about this for some time, but I didn’t know how… I still don’t know if I can communicate such physical interactions into this virtual forum, but by golly, I will try…
A few weeks ago I was walking home from school – I passed my Mom, Natasha, who was on her way to work. As she approached me, I yelled, “Natasha! Dobre Denh!” Natasha! Good Day! And she smiled and continued to walk towards me, and then I realized – Oh My God. This is it. She is going in for our first hug – in public – in broad daylight. Elated, I spread my arms to fully embrace her. As she approached ever closer, I realized that she was not removing her hands from her coat pocket – that she was merely doing as all Ukrainians do when greeting each other in the street. Standing within centimeters of me, but not touching me – as if there was some type of invisible barrier, a fortress separating our two bodies.
In short, she was definitely NOT trying to hug. I realized this with arms open, fully exposed, and against my better judgment, I decided it was too late to turn back. I tried to hug Natasha’s brick body, to loosen those stiff bones of hers up, to soften the turtle shell of her strong back, but alas, it was no use. Embarrassed, defeated, I turned this failed attempt of a hug into that of a hefty pat on Natasha’s aforementioned muscular back. I don’t think she appreciated this, as she continued to stand there stiff, bricklike.
Then she reminded me to feed the animals, and we said our goodbyes.
But then… Later that week, I went for a run, wearing my spandex and a CLIF Bar t-shirt. My regular sport apparel, nothing special. I returned home – sweaty and thirsty. I stood at the sink, leaning over to grab a cup that hung to my upper right, and stretching to reach the filtered water that was down and to my left. Natasha passed by the narrow walkway between where I stood and the kitchen table. And as she passed me, she totally butt-cupped me.
I wasn’t sure how to react, so I just poured myself a cup of water and gulped it down as if nothing had happened. A few days later I helped Natasha fix a picture that was hanging on her wall. This time – with firm intentions – Natasha butt-cupped me and said “Maladetz!” Good job!
Then I realized, the barrier had been broken. Though my hug originally seemed like a failed attempt, once I gave Natasha some space and a few days to process, she just started butt-cupping me! It’s like a pat on the butt, but with a little extra oomph – with chutzpah, if you will.
Needless to say, it’s the only love your truly is getting over her, so I am NOT complaining. I’ll take what I can get.
It doesn’t end there. A few weeks of this goes by, where the butt-cupping becomes a more regular thing. I even dare say expected. If I didn’t get a butt-cupping a la Natasha, I felt like my day was missing that little something special.
And then, things took a turn for the worse. Natasha saw me doing my laundry by hand. I guess my technique wasn’t up to par, and as I was bent over, scrubbing my clothes together, Natasha spanked me. It wasn’t that hard, I’ll admit. Maybe I’m even being a baby about it, but it was just so unexpected after all of those sweet butt-cuppings. Hurt, deflated, I profusely apologized.
A few days later I did something else wrong, and again – WAK! A spank on my precious tuchus. My patootie has never been abused this way.
And THEN, just last week, I came home later than expected. When I got home Natasha was in the garden. And she pantomimed and yelled very loudly that if I didn’t call and tell her when I was going to be late, that she would take the wooden pole in the ground that holds up the fence that guards the tomatoes, and she would beat me with it.
I think she was kidding – as a disclaimer. But still, message heard loud and clear. Natasha is a pretty passionate woman, so I do not wish to provoke her in any way.
Thus, when I came home yesterday later than I originally said I would, I called her and let her know. When I came home, I got a little butt-cuppin – and all was normal in the world again.
The past week, in pics:
Last week we celebrated Victory Day on May 9th here in Ukraine. Victory Day commemorates the Soviet Victory over Germany in May of 1945 after the Great Patriotic War (aka WWII). This holiday is actually very polarizing among Ukrainians – there are people who feel like there was not a victory on May 9th to be celebrated as Ukraine did not gain independence until 1991 (a political view held by many who live in the Western states of Ukraine). On the other hand, those who do celebrate this day do so by giving Veterans of the War flowers, and it is a day of festivities with parades, music, food, and traditional dances. One major difference between Veterans Day in America and Victory Day in Ukraine is that it is encouraged and celebrated to talk about stories of the War. I appreciated how open people were in talking about their experiences with us.
And below is Olena! Olena is our TCF (Technical/Cultural Facilitator). And even though I haven’t mentioned much about her, she is wonderful. She has helped us every step of the way in preparing for our Youth Development aspect of life. Lesson Planning, Running Clubs, Planning Community Projects, Applying for Grants - she knows it all!
In other news, this is Roman who has been our LCF (language teacher) for the past 3 weeks. Liuda will return to us next week. Both have been just fantastic, and their teaching styles compliment each other well.
This, my friends, is my first taste of Mexican Food here in Ukraine. I made some Chili and even bought an avocado (very rare here)! #You know you’re in Ukraine when… you haven’t eaten Mexican Food in 50 days (but who’s counting).
Did you forget what I look like? This is it.
Part 1 of a potential series…
As much as I love writing, there is so much more that can come through in a video. Enjoy.