Ukraine 2013

Love through Laughter

Here in Berdyansk there are many many little “convenient” stores. They are super small scale compared to ones in the states, but similar. They are everywhere. From our apartment here at the church there are at least 3 within a 90 second walk and many more just past those. It’s awesome. One reason they are so readily available is that the kids here do not have a “lunch” period at school. They only have 5-10 minute breaks periodically where they can eat something they brought or run to one of these stores to get a drink or snack before going back to class. The church we stay in is directly across the street from school #10. Also bottled drinks are essential here because most people do not drink the water.

These stores are usually only big enough for 5ish people (tops) to stand inside together comfortably (according to me..Ukrainians would stuff many more than 5 in that space), while some of them are an outdoor stand that you just walk up to. They all carry the same basic things – varying slightly from store to store: drinks (water, sodas, juices), some candy bars and whatnot, cookies, ice cream, and alcohol..always alcohol.



The stand across from the church


Although there is a stand that is directly across the street from our church – I can see it from our apartment window, typically I choose to walk around the corner to what has officially become my favorite little corner store. One of the first days I was in Ukraine, Shushan took Josh and I there and bought us a coke while introducing us to this adorable older lady that works there. She told her that we were visiting for the summer and were from America and she would probably see us around. I didn’t think anything of this introduction as were introduced to what seemed like a couple million people that first week.
I have shopped alone at a few different stores – without the help of a translator. It’s always a struggle. The process isn’t the struggle: pick out what you want, take it to the cashier, pay for it, leave.. It’s the interaction. Most times the cashier isn’t overly thrilled that I do not know the price when they tell me and that I need to see the numbers (language barrier). Or that I cannot give her exact amount of change needed (they aren’t big on giving change here).
My favorite!


It is not a struggle at my favorite corner store. This is the start of my 5th week and I have shopped there once or twice every week. The adorable lady (I really wish I knew her name) always smiles knowingly as I walk in. We have acquired our own language of communication through awkward smiles and pointing and laughing and hand motions (that we typically don’t understand which leads to more smiling and laughing). I love it! Last Thursday I wanted to get out and go for a walk, so I walked over and bought a coke from her. As she typed up the price on her calculator to show me so that I could pay her, she motioned to let me know that she didn’t have any coins as change at all (showing me her empty register). So, again, through our awesome communication skills I was able to give her all the change I had (I never use it because I don’t really understand it..haha) and she gave me paper money to replace it. I felt like it was a communication accomplishment. 
She’s on the right 🙂 


I have been trying to get into running and like it (now THAT’s the real struggle) since I have been here. The route I run takes me right by her store as I head out and also as I return. This morning I really wasn’t feeling my run, but as I got started and passed her store I got a new burst of energy. She was outside her store smoking a cigarette in the shade of small tree and when she saw me my favorite smile spread across her face and she waved at me.. I’m just saying, I shaved 30 seconds off my run time this morning..and that’s after shaving 20 seconds off yesterday! 

There’s something about showing love through a smile and a wave.. through laughter and awkward communication. I don’t ever want to become so busy and so into my job or task or life that I forget these simplicities of life.

It has also been brought to my attention that many would like more pictures of where I am.. Well, I don’t have many, but here’s what I have:


The church and also my place of residence


The guard stand out front/fence and apartment building next door.. also those upstairs windows are in the apartment I am staying in..
Apartment building next door (opposite side of previous picture)


yet another apartment building..


and another across the path (seeing a pattern?) 


small play area between apartment buildings


walkway area that families walk and hang out.. but also the occasional vehicle drives down..


a play area in the middle of that same walkway



This is where our post office is (along with other small stores), and also just where people set up stands to sell fruits and vegetables




This is what their swings look like! 




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