21 July 2008

The World's Largest Petting Zoo


I'm back! I really missed e-mailing everyone over the weekend, and I have so much to tell that I'm afraid I'll forget something... So we left at 9:30 in the morning from the Piast for Lviv, and I think we made it there at around 9:30 at night. It's actually only a four hour driving trip, but the condition of the roads, Friday traffic, and being stuck at the border really put us behind schedule. Plus we had to make quite a few stops so that everyone could use the bathroom... haha Once we finally got to the border we made it through the Polish half in about 45 minutes. They had to come onto the bus and take everyone's passports. A bunch of us were sitting in the back joking and laughing, and I said that I wished we could take pictures of the guy who was on the bus inspecting us. One of the guys took his camera out and snapped a picture of the border patrol guy, and the guy looked really angry and said "No Picture!" So we were afraid that we were going to get in trouble. The guy came back and took Austin's camera, and he looked at the picture and told us that it was an ugly picture and we should have taken one of his partner who was a female. Well, as you can imagine, we died laughing.... After he got off the bus our teachers told us that is was fine to act that way with the Polish, but they told us not to even speak when the Ukrainians got on the bus. They said that they probably wouldn't understand English and would think that we were making fun of them....

We got to the Polish border and spent a little over two hours there. And once we made it into the Ukraine we had to endure roads that were even worse than the roads in the Polish countryside. But, what can you expect from a former communist country? It took us quite a while to make it to the little town we were staying in, Bibrka. And even longer to maneuver the bus to the place where we were staying. The Catholic church in Bibrka has a place where children from the town can come and stay, sort of like the Ukrainian version of the YMCA. The priest in charge was a very nice man who was fluent in Polish and he was very excited to have our group staying in their small village.

That night we had a late dinner, cooked by our very own Babushka, and since it was Friday we had fish. The food was pretty good, but we were all so tired from the long bus ride that it was really hard to enjoy. The next day we got up early and drove into Lviv, or Lwow as the Ukranians still call it. The city is only about 29 KM away, but the way the roads are lain out I think it took about an hour to get there.

Our tour guides name was Natalia, and she spoke English very well. I don't think Dr. Powell or the two Polish women who were with us appreciated her very much. She had a tendency to change facts about Ukranian history so that the Polish part was never mentioned. Poland actually played a big part in the history of the Ukraine-- Lviv was even part of Poland at one time. Anyways... Natalia took us around the entire city, and she was rather boring. Our professors were making fun of her and we all couldn't wait to take a lunch break and get away from her. We ate McDonalds, and it was amazing. Sometimes it's nice to get something and know exactly what you're eating. When I ordered my food the girl couldn't understand a word I was saying, but yet when the guy behind me ordered in English she understood exactly what he wanted. I don't think the Ukranians liked us...

In Lviv there is a really cool market that sells everything from traditional Ukranian embroidery to "antique" Communist artifacts. It was pretty awesome. Paul bought an ex-military hat with the Communist sickle on it; it's rather entertaining. I wish I had taken a picture. The guy he bought the hat from kept trying to tell us it was real and sell us some of the other communist leftovers that he had. I think he liked us. haha I did buy an old German childrens book from him, which is cool. I also finally found a set of nesting dolls that weren't super-expensive. Can't wait to show them to everyone!

When we got back to the place we were staying we had the best meal I've had since arriving in Europe. Mashed potatoes and some kind of fried meat (you don't ask what it is here; you just eat it... haha) and fried pumpkin and cucumber salad. YUMMMM. Is everyone hungry now? If you're not, then you should be.

We packed and left the next morning to head into Lviv for a day of touring before heading back to Krakow. We went to a museum of old peasant houses and churches from each region of the Ukraine. It's an outside museum that is set up to resemble the regions where the dwellings are originally from. Each homestead was actually physically moved from hundreds of miles away and many are over a hundred years old. It was neat, but we were all so fed up with our tour guide that we didn't really enjoy the multitude of thatched roofs.

Lviv has a very large cemetery with thousands of graves, so it was our last stop before heading back. Y'all know how much I love cemeteries, so I took tons of pictures.

The ride back didn't take quite as long as it did to get to Ukraine, but we still had to spend quite some time at the Ukranian border so they could inspect the bus and thoroughly check our passports. And I speak for the entire group when I say that going to class today was not an easy thing to accomplish. We didn't get much sleep this weekend, and the bus ride was exhausting; I think it'll be a while before I catch up on all this missed sleep. But, it was so worth it. Going to the Ukraine was an experience I won't soon forget.

Now, I'm off to bed. I think my lack of sleep has affected my motor skills. I just fell on Liz and almost took my laptop screen off in the process-- not good. haha So, go check out all the new pictures, and give me some feedback... As always, much love.


P.S.- In reference to the title of this email I would just like to say that Ukraine is, indeed, the world's largest petting zoo. Complete with cows, goats, horses, and pigs on leashes. The only thing they were missing was the chickens, on leashes that is. I do not jest.

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