Saturday, April 14, 2012

The blessing of the baskets

Easter is a wonderful time to be in Ukraine. The holiday falls on a different date in the Eastern and Western Christian worlds - and this year we are celebrating one week behind the west. One of our traditions is having the ingredients of the Easter breakfast blessed at your local parish. The priest also gave a short sermon on the need to keep Christ's resurrection as the central focus of Easter.

When I was in Poland last week working on getting my visa - I just kept thinking about how badly I wanted to be home in time for the blessing of the baskets. It's such an important part of the holiday - and the tradition is really beautiful. I thankfully made it home with plenty of time to spare. The rain kept me from going to the outdoor blessing service (at a large church in the suburbs, it is attended by hundreds and really spectacular)so I went to the church closest to my apartment.

I don't usually take photographs inside churches because, as a general rule, I find it disrespectful. But, I wasn't the only one with a camera, today, and I justified that as long as my basket was in the photo it was still just a photo of my basket. This is also a church where I routinely go to pray or worship. It's really beautiful, is a music focused congregation, and is tucked away from all the tourists. There is always a choir or soloist practicing and it's the perfect place to come and pray.

No one looked at my basket funny - so I guess I gathered the right things together. (You are supposed to bring hard-boiled eggs - but I don't eat them and no one will be the wiser that mine were raw!) This is just the beginning of celebrating Easter. I look forward to the 3 hour long midnight service tonight as well as the celebration to be held tomorrow at the United Methodist congregation.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Back in Ukraine!

Visa in hand, I joyfully crossed the border back into Ukraine on Friday evening.

It was a long process and I am happy to be moving on with my life. I have 45 days to legally register at which point my visa will be good for one year.

I return to language classes and am excited to get back in high gear. Thank you for continuing to keep me in your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Out of Ukraine

I wanted to highlight what was going on at the moment in my life - to help explain the process and keep people up to date.

A visa to Ukraine is not easy to come by. Luckily, a 90-day tourist visa is an automatic for Americans traveling to Ukraine. On my last trip, the law allowed for people to cross back and forth without any problem. As long as I left Ukraine every 90 days I was allowed to cross back into Ukraine without problem.

Those laws have changed. Three and half months ago I sent the paperwork for a formal letter of invitation. After several attempts, the letter of invitation from our Christian organization was approved by the Ministry of Culture. Sadly, it was approved on day 89 of my tourist visa. I had to leave Ukraine before getting my letter in the mail.

It took them a few days to finally get the letter in the mail - and another few days for it to arrive in Lviv - and now we are waiting another few days for it to arrive at my hotel in Poland.

Luckily, I was able to stay with friends for a few days in Poland and spend a long weekend with a friend in Belgium. This helped reduce the costs of staying in Europe tremendously.

I have been able to explore some wonderful parts of the European Union. I rode a bicycle all over Ghent, Belgium and toured everything in Krakow. One of my favorite parts has been watching movies in English. In Ukraine, movies are always dubbed into Ukrainian. In most of Europe, movies are presented in their original language.

I've also read some good books, magazines, and fresh air. I sleep at least 8 hours a night (even when I slept in the Belgian airport, my Belgian friend explained how to slither between two parts of the wall and find a hidden room behind the vending machines. I slept a sound 9 hours in relative privacy without spending a dime and woke up at 5 AM to go through security!) and relax. It is refreshing to set aside language study for a few days - and I feel that I will come back to language study well rested and able to retain more.

The hope is that my letter will arrive on Thursday and on Friday I can take it to the consulate and be back in Ukraine by Saturday morning. If that timeline is off, I will have to spend the weekend in Krakow - which would mean spending Easter with the Krakow UMC community. That would be rather nice, really.

Ultimately, I just miss being with friends and loved ones in Lviv. While 10 days in Europe might be a dream come true for most - I'm a bit of a homebody, and honestly can't wait to return to familiar surroundings!