A little late... But better late than never! More of my traveling experiences.
Well, I'm actually writing this blog post a little bit late. I've been back home from Europe for about five months now, and I still have not written about all of my time in Ukraine or my last week in Sweden. And since its usually better to do things late than never, its time I started writing again!
Time to pick up where I left off.... I believe I had just ended my last blog post with Annie and I arriving in Berdyansk....
Before I go any further in my adventure, I should pause here and explain my time in Ukraine and who Annie is. The reason I decided to head to Ukraine was not to take in the sites as a tourist for a while, but rather to volunteer at a children's summer camp through AIESEC (an international student association that specializes in interships... Check out the website: http://aiesec.ca/en). I had decided earlier in the year that I didn't really want to return back home as soon as I finished backpacking with Meghan, and that I would rather take an extra couple months to see more and learn more. However, two more months of traveling would require more money - money I did not have - which meant I needed to find another way to support my desire to not return home. And voila! Volunteering. A great solution. I benefit. The organization I volunteer with benefits. Its a win-win situation. But how to find a place that would take me for such a short time? AIESEC. I joined AIESEC last fall and went through their exchange program, which is how I found my volunteer position in Ukraine. Originally, I had applied at a summer camp in Poland, but didn't get that placement; then I found the one in Berdyansk! And what an experience taking that internship proved to be! I don't think I would have ever visited Ukraine otherwise. But, as it wasn't a country I would typically visit, accepting the placement meant that I would push my personal boundaries, see a different country and gain a great experience.
Now Annie, who I have already mentioned in my last blog, is a girl from Taiwan who was also involved in AIESEC, and just so happened to accept a placement at the same summer camp as myself. She is studying Russian language in university and so she had chosen to take a placement to help sharpen her Russian language skills. As neither of us had ever been to Ukraine nor really knew how to get to Berdyansk, we decided to travel together and meet in Kyiv first...
Now back to the tale...
Annie and I arrived in Berdyansk by taxi, and got dropped off at the bus station where we called one of the girls from AIESEC to come get us. Since neither Annie nor I knew the city, how to get around, where to go, and for me how to speak the language, we had to just sit and wait until someone from AIESEC was able to come get us. We called one person, who was unable to come meet us, so that person called another person, who then called us. (Luckily, I'd had Leera help get me a cell phone number in Kyiv so Annie and I were able to call someone! Very helpful. Otherwise, I wouldn't have even known how to ask to use the phone somewhere quickly.) A while later, one of the girls from the local AIESEC chapter came to meet us - our new friend Marsha. Marsha told Annie and I that the camp director was not at the camp at the moment, so we were unable to go straight to the camp; instead Marsha told us we could go to her house until the camp director was ready for us. We called a taxi and off to Marsha's house we went!
After having traveled for a while, both Annie and I were quite hungry and Marsha was nice enough to cook us some food. So simple, but so tasty at that moment! We also took a shower (felt disgusting after that train ride... so ridiculously hot - I don't think I've ever sweat so much from just sitting) and then wandered along the sea side (Marsha's house was conveniently right by the sea!). Eventually, a few hours later, we were able to go to the camp to get settled in. Thank goodness for Marsha at this point - when we got to the camp and had to find the director, turned out he didn't speak a word of English and Marsha had to translate the entire conversation for us. At one point of the conversation, the director asked us for our medical cards. Our medical cards? Neither Annie nor I had any idea what a medical card was, or that we had needed one. Apparently, we were supposed to visit the doctor before going to Ukraine and get a medical card, which is basically a doctor saying we are healthy enough to work with kids and the report. (Although, realistically, had we brought one from our countries, the director wouldn't have been able to read it so it would have been worthless to him!) Since we didn't have the card, this was going to have to be dealt with A.S.A.P. and Annie and I would have to take a trip to the hospital to visit a Ukrainian doctor. I was not thrilled at the thought of having to visit a doctor. But that would be dealt with another day.
A few minutes later, the director introduced us to another lady who took Annie and I to our room. We were to share a room in one of the buildings that the kids stay in. It was a four-bed room, but lucky for us, it was just Annie and I in it! At that point, Marsha said goodbye for the day and the other lady found a camper who spoke some English to translate the conversation as she showed us around the camp quickly. (None of the adults at the camp could speak English - only some of the teenaged campers could speak some English.) After quickly showing us around the camp and telling us what time dinner was, Annie and I were left to ourselves to unpack and pass the time until it was time to eat. We didn't have anything else to do, or know what we could do for that matter, and we weren't to meet the lady again who showed us around until later that night when she said she would explain more to us. She said she would come to our room at 10:30 that evening to tell us more of what we would be doing.
Eventually, dinner came and went, Annie and I had unpacked, the evening passed, and we waited in our room for Oxana (the lady who had shown us around - she was also in charge of the camp activities). And we waited. And waited. And waited some more. No Oxana. Finally, around 11:45, I had waited enough, was dead tired, and decided to go to sleep. As I just laid my head on my pillow, there was a knock on the door and Oxana opened up! But since it was so late, she just said she would come back tomorrow morning. (Luckily Annie studied Russian so she could translate this as I was completely lost as to what Oxana was saying since it was all in Russian!)
Annie and I got up in the morning, had breakfast, and went in search of Oxana to find out what we were to do for the day. We found her in her room, and motioned for us to wait a moment. Quickly, she whipped out her phone, dialed, spoke and a minute later two girls rushed in, telling us to go with them. Turns out the two girls - Katya and Alina - were the leaders of the groups Annie and I were to be with for the time we were there. But they didn't have much time to explain this to us; rather, they quickly introduced themselves, said "you will be working with us" in somewhat broken English, then said "Hurry! Girls, come with us! Hurry!" and we were rushed off to a bus with a bunch of kids in it. Turns out they were on their way to a museum, and so we were to join them. Annie and I were like instant celebrities getting on that bus! Being foreigners when with a bunch of teenagers in Ukraine does that to you it seems. Only some of the kids could speak English, so some of them had to translate for others. Makes for quite the conversation! I quickly realized that for me to communicate effectively, even with some of the kids speaking English, that I was going to have to start picking up Russian fast!