December 30th, 2008. Ukraine Day 2: Kozelets to Altynivka. Part II
Our long journey finally came to an end when we arrived at Jessâ€™s house.
Itâ€™s a small little place with three rooms. The kitchen has a small refrigerator, a table, and a small propane stove. Iâ€™d say the room is about 2 meters (6 feet) by 2 meters (6 feet). The living room is a bit bigger â€“ maybe 4 meters (12 ft) by 5 meters (15 ft). It has a bench, access to the fire, a small table, and a tiny cabinet where Jess stores her plates and mugs. The biggest room is the bedroom. Itâ€™s probably 6 or 7 meters (21 ft) by 5 meters (15 ft). It has a bed, an armoire, a futon, and a small desk. The fire heats this room most effectively and after feeding it all day you can get the room to a comfortable 65 degrees F.
The back yard is moderately sized. It has a well and a number of sheds filled with chopped wood. Most of the houses around here have fences, including this one. Thereâ€™s also a small outhouse. Jess is spoiled in that hers has a bench instead of just a hole. Using the outhouse wasnâ€™t even remotely as bad as I expected. I figured it would be so frigid outside that I would hold it â€˜till it hurts. But in actuality, it just wasnâ€™t overwhelmingly miserable to use. A little chilly when you first sat down, but thatâ€™s it. Iâ€™ll go ahead and stop talking about my use of the outhouse.
Jessâ€™s house does have electricity and, as mentioned, propane for the cooking stove. The fireâ€™s a bit tough to get going but it keeps the house warm. The well outside is extremely fun to use. We fill up two buckets at a time and use them for all our watery needs. Washing dishes and clothes is a huge pain and if we want warm water we have to heat it up on the stove.
Upon getting back to the house, Jess first wanted to open up her presents. She got a whole bunch of packages from her mom, and I brought a few presents over from the states. She gleefully opened her Oreos, peanut butter, pop culture magazines, and electronic equipment (including a sweet inside outside thermometer.) At about 5 oâ€™clock we left the house and walked to the school to see the schoolâ€™s Christmas play.
The school play was fantastic. Jess had been in Poland for 10 days prior to picking me up, so her friends at the school were that much more excited to see her. She was promptly hustled upstairs and given a huge fur coat and a little gray goat fur vest (do goats have fur? Maybe goat wool?). Clearly thereâ€™s a cultural difference between the United States and Ukraine when it comes to fur. Over there, fur is practically law. And while you might jump to chastise Ukrainian people for their use of fur, when it comes to food and such – they donâ€™t waste a thing. From a pure animal survival rate standpoint, my guess is that if you could accumulate all the animal byproducts that are disposed of in the US per person, it probably way outkill the amount of animals which are used for fur in Ukraine per person. Furthermore, it wouldnâ€™t surprise me if most of the animals that were killed in Ukraine for fur were also used for meat or otherwise. At least in Altynivka, wasting anything is rare.
Regardless of your feelings on fur, youâ€™ll have a hard time admitting that I didnâ€™t look totally and unbelievably good when I tried on Jessâ€™s coat. Prepared for hotness?
Anyway, we socialized at the school (or Jess did, as I clearly do not speak Ukrainian) for a bit over bread and meat, and then went downstairs to the cafeteria for the school show. The school teaches kids up to 11th grade and each class did a little skit. To start, one of the prominent school women gave a little speech and welcomed me to the village. It was really nice. The show lasted a few hours and even though I didnâ€™t understand much, it was a lot of fun.
Afterwards, the mayor of the town came over and introduced himself to me. Then he personally invited me to a concert on Tuesday at the townâ€™s cultural center. What a nice gesture!!
After the school event, we walked home and Jessâ€™s 2nd host mom (Larissa) came over with sausage, coleslaw, and pickles. We had some tea and then the night slowed to a stop. Jess prepared my futon as I washed my face (up yours Dwane!*) and got ready for bed.
*prior to my departure, Dwane, risking his status as best brother-in-law, regularly commented in my presence about how there was no better feeling than the act of washing ones face in warm water. During my trip it became somewhat of a ritual to say â€œup yours Dwane!â€ whenever I washed my face in warm water.