I’m so thrilled we’ve finally shaken off the extra layers and welcomed spring in Kyiv. At the very least, we have warm rain rather than bone-biting snow even if we’re lacking on the sun. I’d much rather wander to the grocery store in a hoodie and sunglasses than a puffy coat and hat.
April was a month of head-scratching curiosity and thoughtful conversations, long walks and stress-induced tears, delicious meals and rediscovering loved places, not nearly enough time devoted to self-care and a digital detox. A month of contradictions in some ways, I suppose.
Certainly a month of zigs and zags.
Election observation, part two.
So, you may have heard that Ukrainians elected a comedian who plays a president on television as their real life president. I watched it happen in the final round of elections. And Zelenskiy didn’t just win by a margin. He won by the proverbial landslide.
In March, I was an international observer in Mykolaiv for the first round of elections that narrowed the number of candidates from 39 to two. This time I stayed a lot closer to home, observing at nearly 20 sites in a neighborhood on the left bank. My partner (this time a Brit) and I only went to polling stations housed in schools and community buildings, so we were able to hit anywhere from two to five efficiently.
Voter turnout was nearly 63%, but the vibe was subdued and mellow compared to last month. The energy and electricity that almost felt palpable in the first round definitely felt muted this time around.
Being an international election observer has been an interesting and eye-opening experience, and I have a new appreciation for the electoral process. I hope to write a post strictly about this experience soon, but in the meantime, suffice to say this was definitely a zig.
Fun new neighborhood exploration in Kyiv.
Early in our arrival in Kyiv, I told myself I was going to get off at every subway stop and walk around for a bit, just to check out my surroundings.
Well. That didn’t happen. And, in fact, I’ve been surprised how quickly I fell into routines and comforts. Shopping at the same stores. Going to the same restaurants. Even ordering the same food.
Routines aside, we had a wonderfully warm and sunny weekend in early April, so Cory and I took advantage to explore a new neighborhood. Our intention was to visit Decathlon (a European sporting goods store that just opened in town), but ended up spending the better part of the day in the area.
When I have a reason to go somewhere new, I’m always reminded of how vibrant and interesting (and gritty and convoluted) Kyiv really is. Here’s to more new neighborhood exploration in the months to come!
Officially planting our roots for two more years.
We know for sure we’ll be living in Kyiv through at least spring 2021.
In April, we gave serious thought to moving from our suburban apartment to the city center. There were lots of reasons to move including the incentive to take better advantage of all the city has to offer (see zig above).
But we’ve decided to stay put. Giving up easy access to the school and our wonderful park isn’t worth the move. Plus, we have an especially good landlord compared to others and we don’t want to trade down.
So, I bought some new plants. We did a bit of spring cleaning. And we’re all in for the last two years.
Cory celebrates a birthday — and I got younger!
According to Cory, he never ages. What this means, apparently, is that once I celebrate my birthday in January, I start getting younger until we reach his birthday in late April. Then we’re both young again. Or, so the story goes.
Since Cory’s birthday was just a few days shy of our April holiday, he opted for low-key festivities: dinner at our favorite Asian haunt in Kyiv. Ukraine is a very meat-heavy country, so our dining out options are limited. But, oh, that lovely spicy tofu dish. It made for a most spectacular birthday celebration.
Plus, I’m sprightly and vivacious again!
Sneaking away to Sweden.
It feels like we just got home from our quick February getaway to Istanbul and April break snuck up on us.
Things have been a bit touch-and-go in planning our April break because I’m currently having my residency permit renewed. But we got the green light to leave the country, so off we went!
Originally, we thought seriously about going to Cinque Terre in Italy, but flights didn’t align right. So, off to Sweden!
I traveled through Sweden as a college student on a short study abroad tour, but haven’t been back. I’ve always had a lovely memory of Stockholm, though my reasons for loving it had faded.
I’m happy to report Stockholm is as lovely as I remember it being. We visited the Vasa Museum (which I’d been to before) and the ABBA Museum (which I hadn’t). We walked miles through the city, over bridges, up and down hills. Of course we took the free walking tour and kicked back in coffee shops when the wind kicked up. And we spent the better part of an hour fawning over one of the world’s most beautiful libraries.
Stockholm is impeccably clean and environmentally aware, though I can’t quite shake how slightly off-putting it is that the headquarters for fast fashion (H&M) and disposable living (Ikea) are both Swedish brands. I’d actually like to read up on this juxtaposition.
A very vegan-friendly holiday.
Sweden’s healthy lifestyle — particularly its food options — is worth a mention of its own accord. As any vegan likely knows, the common menu option is salad (hold the chicken) or Asian cuisine. Generally, eating out sucks when you’re a vegan.
Sweden’s dining establishments — even the fast food joints — all have vegan options. Cory even found a place serving a variety of vegan milkshakes! From burgers to burritos, we ate fabulously during our whole trip, and we didn’t even have to make much of an effort.
Ugh. My poor blog.
Dear ol’ Kaleidoscopic Wandering turns 10 years old in a couple months. I really need to start treating her like the trusty friend she’s been over the years.
Once again, I made a commitment to myself to spend more time blogging at the beginning of the year. Once again, I’m failing to follow through on my commitment to myself.
I have so many stories to tell. We’ve traveled so many places I haven’t written about yet and observations about expat life I want to share. And all the ideas continue to percolate on a dusty to-write list.
I promise to you, readers, and I promise to myself, that I will share these stories eventually. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
Paris is burning … but so is the world.
I imagine that years from now people will ask, “Where were you when Notre Dame caught on fire?” It will be one of those moments people will remember, just like they remember where they were when Princess Diana passed away and planes hit the Twin Towers.
I found out about the Notre Dame fire while on a conference call about content strategy. It was surreal watching it burn, and I feel particularly fortunate that Cory and I visited it when we passed through Paris in January. We enjoyed the experience by just a few months.
On further reflection, however, the world’s reaction to the fire didn’t sit well with me. I’m appalled by how much attention was given to this church burning when three black churches burned down the same week in the United States with hardly a nod of acknowledgment. Further, I can’t believe how much money has been donated to rebuild it when there are much more dire issues that require attention and demand financial funding.
Every morning I wake up and slightly dread checking my news feed. Figuratively speaking, the world is burning. Let’s turn all the attention we gave the Notre Dame fire to issues that truly need attention.
A slightly disappointing nature getaway.
Part of the reason we went to Sweden in April was for a three-day digital detox.
Obviously, we like nature, and we both needed a break to just set everything aside for awhile. We chose a “nature spa” and booked a tree house for our stay. We knew we’d be roughing it with no electricity or wifi, but we were reassured that the camp would provide all the amenities and facilities we needed to cook and be comfortable.
Well, a handful of rusted utensils, no spatula or coffee cups, and a clogged wood-burning stove later, I can say that we roughed it, but not in the way we’d planned. And, for the price we paid, we would have been better off checking in to a nice hotel and just truly unplugging for a few days.
I know not all experiences shake out the way you hope they will, so we’ve shrugged this one off as one that just didn’t make the grade.
Everything In Between
The delicate balance of age and physical / mental health.
Cory and I often chat about how we still feel like we’re in our early 20s. The truth is, life is great. We really couldn’t ask for a better place to be financially or professionally.
Yet, even though I became a year younger in April (see Cory’s birthday zig above), I’m starting to see and feel the little signs of age: The wrinkle that doesn’t spring back smoothly after a smile. The stiff lower back if I lay too long in one position. The running hamster wheel of thoughts that keep me awake at night.
Self-care still tends to be something I struggle with here, and I chip away at getting better about it every month.
In April, we finally went ahead and splurged on a really good mattress, and it’s made an incredible difference for my back and my occasional insomnia. We continue to check in with each other a lot about taking care of ourselves, and little lifestyle changes and choices like this mattress really do make a massive difference.
Because, let’s face it: Despite what Cory says, we’re not getting any younger.
Still writing (of course) but still hoping to diversify.
I’ve been working on a few exciting pieces of writing to be pushed out to the world soon. Until I can spill the beans, I’ve been busy over at AdventureTravelNews juggling a lot of different duties but also writing about responsible tourism research, smart shark encounters, and responsible traveler pledges.