Rudy is napping in front of the open window. I’m wearing a sundress. My toes wiggle free from socks and shoes. A big bouquet of flowers in every shade of pink sits on the kitchen table. The cottonwood fuzz floats freely around the apartment, never to be truly tamed.
Our social calendar is crammed with end-of-the-year barbecues and bowling nights and dance parties. When there aren’t solid plans, we let the afternoon tick away while sitting lakeside or on a patio while sipping mojitos.
From the early morning chirps of the songbirds out our bedroom window (with an emphasis on early morning) to the last sliver of skylight as we slip into bed in the evening, these are the days I cherish. Anything feels possible with more than 16 hours of sunlight.
New Year’s Day might be the obvious marker for new beginnings and fresh starts. But there’s something about these long days combined with the leisurely conversations and self-absorbed thoughts woven into them that make reflection and opportunity feel buoyant and possible.
Finally sitting down to lunch with A.
A was one of my first non-school community friends in Kyiv. She’s also a returned Peace Corps volunteer and has lived in Ukraine nearly 15 years. She’s a connector, a wonderful conversationalist, and willing to drive on road trips!
Over the last few months, we’ve been staying in touch by text. She’s been deployed on long-term election observation missions and, when she’s in town, I’m gone.
Finally, the stars aligned and we managed to meet up for lunch.
We tend to default to a delicious Korean joint tucked in a nondescript building without a sign up a flight of stairs and behind a door. So, basically, like every other business in the city.
We talked about elections and work, travels and summer plans. And it was so lovely to finally sit down and catch up after such a long time.
The neighborhood heartbeat.
Nearly every day I head out for a walk to stretch my legs, clear my head, and just step away from my desk.
Though I occasionally head for the nearby park, the sidewalk can be a bit crowded at times. So, more often than not, I head out into the neighborhood near our home.
I love making this walk every day because I can see the day-in-and-day-out pulse of this single street:
The woman who cleared weeds then planted flowers outside her gate a few weeks ago. The flowers as they began to sprout. The butterflies en masse that are currently hovering around the big, beautiful flowers now in full bloom.
The men surveying a plot of land, pointing out features on a nondescript swath of dirt. The backhoes that moved in a few days later. The holes they dug, and the building materials that piled up. The men taking a break near the active building site.
Something about these observations makes me feel more connected to Kyiv as my home.
Three cheers for Eurovision!
Ukraine hosted Eurovision in 2017, and we’ve been converts ever since.
This year Eurovision was hosted by Israel. Ukraine didn’t send a contestant, so we weren’t able to vote. That didn’t keep me from listening to the Eurovision playlist on repeat and having favorites among the entrants.
There were a few notable things about this year’s contest that stood out to me:
First, I think this was a lost opportunity for Israel to tell its story. Normally the introduction to the show highlights the awesomeness of the host country or city, but this year the focus was really on last year’s winner. I didn’t really care for last year’s winner, nor do I feel like I got a sense of Israel as a place.
Second, unlike the winner from Portugal a couple years ago and the Israeli winner in 2018, it finally seemed like the most talented artists floated to the top of the list. This year’s winner, from the Netherlands, was certainly worthy of the title.
Finally, despite the fact this isn’t a “political” contest, it’s fascinating how political beliefs seep in around the edges. Of course they do. We live in a political world. But this year’s outlying participant, a death metal band from Iceland, certainly tainted its performance with some controversial lyrics and even flashed a Palestinian flag at one point. For me, though, their statements didn’t fuel any sort of political fire. Rather, I honestly felt kind of embarrassed for these guys. Eurovision is fun and weird and quirky. The fact they felt like they needed to throw sand in the sandbox just seemed immature and unnecessary.
Nonetheless, Eurovision swept us up for a few blissful days in May. And, once again, it’s behind us for another year.
I’m legal again!
I made my first trip to the U.S. Embassy here in Kyiv to get a new passport.
Never in my life did I think I’d fill up a passport before it came due for renewal, but there wasn’t a sliver of space left in mine with more than three years left on the clock. Honestly, I’m lucky I was able to travel to Sweden and back in April.
It was actually a pretty funny experience involving a photo that was mere millimeters too small and a new photo shot in the back of a van which also happened to be the Absolute. Worst. Photo. Ever. taken of me.
Unsurprisingly, the embassy is like a fortress, but luckily American citizens can jump the long queue, and the process itself was pretty painless. And now I have a spectacularly empty passport ready for hundreds of stamps to fill it up!
I also renewed my residency visa in May. This process involves a number of trips back and forth to the immigration office, a lot of paper, a lot of red tape, and probably a lot more bureaucracy than I can imagine. It comes back up for renewal again early next year, but for now I’ve got all the paperwork I need to live and travel without any problems.
Colorful wanders with K.
There is a neighborhood in Kyiv I’ve always wanted to visit. It’s considered a ghost town of sorts because there’s essentially nothing there. Rumor has it this neighborhood was built without actual city planning: there’s one way in and one way out by car, and there’s no subway station nearby. There are also no living amenities like grocery stores nearby.
So, hardly anyone lives there.
But it is stunning. Absolutely lovely. Candy-colored buildings with detailed fascades line the roads. From afar, it looks like someone spilled a paint palette across the neighborhood.
I’ve always wanted to see this neighborhood up close, so K and I headed out for a wander. We admired and took photos. We thought about how Kyiv could have done better.
I’m bummed this is a ghost town of a neighborhood. But at least it made for a colorful stroll into a new part of town.
Pardon me while I hack up a lung.
Among all the May-time fun, I picked up a wacky chest cold for a few days. Luckily it behaved itself, and within a few days had moved on instead of digging in.
So, a minor zag, but hardly more than a quick little bloop on the radar.
Everything In Between
A writing fool.
I spent some time sitting with my thoughts and a notebook and pen last month. I spent extra time with my journal while looking out the window and thinking deeply about what I want — and what I want to say. And I wrote something big and scary and wonderful. It’s supposed to be published in June, but I don’t want to jinx myself and tell you about it quite yet.
Here’s the thing: I have so many words I want to share. I just haven’t been giving myself the space and time and freedom to write the stories I want to share. So I’m working on a plan that can help make that reality come true.
Life is too short for me to wait for the perfect conditions, so I’m going to make the conditions good enough.
In the meantime, I’ve managed to carve out time to write a few things on the blog: I had a free day to explore Mykolaiv, Ukraine, while in the city observing the elections, and it was lovely reliving our night in the Sahara Desert. And, yep, you guessed it … I’ve been reading!