This Thanksgiving, I realize that I have a lot to be thankful for. Although this has been a very hard year, it has been filled with life and love. This is a tremendous blessing. This year for Thanksgiving, I wanted to invited over some of the people who helped me get through these last four months. In the wake of the tragedy, I needed a tremendous support system. I needed strength and encouragement so that I could share strength and encouragement. I needed some level of normalcy. I found comfort, friendship, and a constant listening ear in these people. I love them dearly, and it was a great joy to have them over for a Thanksgiving celebration.
Olia Kryvytska is one of my closest friends in Ukraine. She is a constant. On the day of the accident, she was at work - and several times during the day I ducked into an alleyway and called her and asked her to pray for me. She would take a "cigarette break" and step outside and pray for me over the phone. I can't imagine the horror of that day without her prayers on the other end of the phone.
Erica Oliveira (on the left) is our new intern. It was helpful to have someone new come from our organization so that there would be someone for new students to interact with. Olia Reiter (on the right) leads an international film festival here in Lviv. She is brave and strong, and being around her can cause you to catch the infection of courage. I needed a lot of courage these last few months.
The entire meal was a lot of fun to cook. Everything except the corn was from scratch. The turkey came from the village of Nova Skvaryava, and I picked it out last week when I was there. The mushrooms came from my flatmates village. I'm glad I learned how to cook while growing up! And my friends are glad, too.
After the Thanksgiving meal, we set up Christmas decorations. In this picture, the Americans grab a picture as we oversea the workers. Haha. On my right is Emily, who works in the country of Georgia, but has many friends here and flew here for the holiday.
Valya (left) is someone I met back in 2008 in San Diego. She was on the leadership team the first year I was here. She has been a constant in my life for the entire time I have been in Ukraine. She knows how to get things done, and often when I encounter a roadblock, one phone call to Valya will turn up someone she knows who can help. She knows everyone in the city, and is a major trendsetter. Den (middle) is a relatively new friend, but honestly one of my closest friends in Ukraine. He can always improve my mood and help me through a difficult day. Valya and Den both work for the international film festival Wiz-Art.
Olya cleaning up a spilled drink. Every picture of Olia is just a treasure!
The whole group together around the Christmas tree. These are wonderful people to have in my life and I am so thankful for them. It is nice to have the tree up and to enjoy it each day.
And last, but certainly not least, Mefodyi greeted me at the door after every single challenging day these last four months. He stole a turkey leg and ate the entire thing and went into a Tryptophan induced semi-coma. Everyone played with him because he was so sleepy and droopy that he couldn't even respond to people.