Tag Archives: lessons learned

Україна | Reach out.

Continuing on with my recent Ukrainian observations – Relationships 101, a very brief look at Ukrainian encounters .

5. I had read in Lonely Planet that many people throughout Ukraine are more generous than they can afford to be. There is so much truth to this! The Ukrainian economy is not strong; most live on less than $200 CDN per month. Yet the hospitality and kindness of people I have met continues to amaze me. Slava feeds me all day long, from breakfast til bedtime. Literally. Ira went out of her way to invite Jessica and I on her class trip to the Carpathian Mountains (a three day adventure complete with several 16 year old companions). Katia arranged for her friends – complete strangers to us – to take us out one night when she had to cancel. Our tutors, all of them, bent over backwards to make this entire experience less overwhelming. I appreciated everything.

7. Grandmothers (also known as babas, or babusias) are highly respected in Ukrainian society. They work hard to maintain close familial connections, and their children as well as grandchildren seem to honour this. (Side note: women also outlive men. Women are expected to live well past 70+ years, while the odds of men living past the age of 60 are low – alcoholism is a national concern.)

8. There is always more room on the bus. “Personal space” means getting to know your neighbour far better than you would like to. Think of the bus as a cage packed with animals, pressed up against one another, sweating onto each other, and that is just the way it goes. Shut up and move on back, to make a bit more room for a few more.

25. I look forward to my regular nightly tea dates with Slava. I am grateful for the unique friendship that we have built over endless charades, drawings, and reliance on our trusty Ukrainian-English dictionaries.

50. We all need a little more lovin’. Hugs, smiles, quality time, a listening ear: a few minutes of your time can actually make a serious difference in someone else’s day. Phone calls from home or a picture from one of my girls at the Internat can carry me through til tomorrow. The little things matter; they really, really do.




What kind of encounters have you had with others while travelling?

How have they impacted you (then and now)?


Україна | Some food for thought.

If you have been brave enough to venture over to my original blog, you may have caught a glimpse of my Ukrainian explorations and experiences. In order to keep you coming back for more, I thought I’d continue to spread the joy of Eastern European life here at my new home – in small (but regular) doses, of course.

With that, I invite you to reflect with me on some blatant cultural differences, quirks and common sights that I grew to appreciate and love in a way that can only be associated with (mmm) wanderlust.

Foodies, rejoice – todays lessons focus on the culinary world of Ternopil, Ukraine.

15. Most foods have been either deep fried, doused with vegetable oil, or heavily salted. However, I am positive that I have lost, rather than gained, weight since arriving in May due to all the walking we do around Ternopil. Nothing is worth eating without a large lump of sour cream on the side, it would be plain unthinkable. Mmmhmmm. No complaints here.

36. Bread is significant. Included with every single meal, kissed when dropped on the ground, never thrown out, a crumb must never be wasted. The yellow bottom of the Ukrainian flag, in fact, symbolizes the importance of agriculture in this nation. Miles upon miles of golden wheat fields stretch throughout the countryside of many oblasts. Not to mention that ‘breaking bread’ and the time spent together over dinner tables is also a valuable aspect of building (and maintaining) relationships and a sense of community.

18. Potato chips have the power to be an entire edible experience on their own. My cravings for the familiarity of salt and vinegar chips will not be satisfied for a few more weeks – I misjudged the oceanic packaging of the calamari chips, and they’re not quite the same. However, my favourite Ukrainian flavour thus far are definitely sour cream and cheese (you read that right – cheese, not onion) as well as the ultra-unique roast beef and mushroom (for real).

19. More than once, I have questioned the very possible correlation between the mystery meat cutlets (a dinner time staple) and the amount of stray dogs running free in this town. Schnitzel?!

46. A few aspects of my days here in Ternopil are fairly routine: my omelette and кава (coffee) for breakfast, my nap once I get home from the Інтернат (Internat, or orphanage). But for the most part, I have come to expect the unexpected each and every day. Random adventures and chance encounters with local strangers are part of the daily routine – and factor into this overall international experience.

Have you traveled or lived abroad?

How were your taste buds affected?

What did you crave most from home?