When we came to Ukraine in 2011, we came with four suitcases and a cloak of optimism that everything would work out. To paraphrase Ray Bradbury, it was more a matter of going to the edge of the cliff, jumping off, and trying to build our wings on the way down.
After all this time I can't say that our wings are fully-built... or perhaps it's just that they don't actually look anything like wings should look.
I thought that by 2014 every "i" would be dotted and every "t" would be crossed.
Guess what?- our life in 2014 is more like a document riddled with spelling errors and haphazard grammar. It's still a fantastic story, a story we wrote word by word and wouldn't wish to trade for any other, but it's a story that I could never have seen coming, full of uncomfortable compromises with fate, distant and displeased family members, and tenuous legal maneuvers (that last part probably being the consolation prize of everyone who comes here).
For one, I thought this story would have ended by now (hence the blog title "8 Months in Ukraine").
I never imagined it would still be going on the fumes of hope.
Two years ago we had a small financial cushion.
Now we're sitting slightly uncomfortably on the floor.
Two years ago we didn't even have a plant to our name.
Now there's a cat. An in-extreme-need-of-remodelling apartment in Crimea with a water leak. A supremely pissed-off student loan company. And let's not forget a revolution tearing up the streets of Kyiv.
I don't mean to complain or sound ungrateful. One thing in our favor is happiness. At least, I think we're happy. Every single day I wake up and am so grateful to be in Ukraine and am very aware that coming here was a choice. My students are wonderful and kind and eager to study. I'm learning to take control over my schedule and, through experience, direct the reins so that I have some control over how each day goes. This blog has been an absolute lifesaver, especially in terms of meeting fascinating people (like you!!! Thank you!) and finding out new things about Kharkiv. As for D being happy, unfortunately I can't vouch for that anymore. He was tremendously generous to agree to move here and I believe he's proud of transitioning from programmer to a management role, but he's carrying a lot on his shoulders these days... and problems just keep piling up.
In Ukraine there's a strong obligation for men to be breadwinners and be able to provide for their families and he takes this idea very seriously. He works so freakin' hard while encouraging me in everything I do. Sometimes I worry that I owe him more than I'm giving. I've taken to heart my version of the stereotypical role of women in Ukraine- cook for your man, clean the apartment, aim to be a Heidi Klum with the brain of an Einstein :p - and I contribute to our income. But I see the little things adding up; while I may be the voice of our duo online, he usually has to fill in for us in all day-to-day errands (shopping, phone calls, dealing with the landlord, etc). And there's been so much bureaucratic crap lately, stuff that is disheartening and adds up to 3 steps back for every 2 steps forward, stuff that doesn't seem to accomplish anything yet needs to be done. Sorry, I'm probably rambling here. What I mean to say is this: he put my happiness first by moving here. If he's no longer happy here, perhaps it's time for me to prioritize his happiness in return.
This doesn't signify an imminent departure from Ukraine. Leaving would require things like sufficient funds for plane tickets, medical hoopla to get the cat out with us, and some kind of landing pad (or even a crash pad). We need at least a semblance of plan before we jump off the edge again. And I don't want to go.
But it's on the table now.
I didn't mention this idea on the blog before, but it's been on the table since Thanksgiving- we went from not-even-thinking-of-leaving to acknowledging it. I feel like we're still happy in general, but these little things are piling up and taking more space in our psyches. And Euromaidan has been a big trigger. It's such a painful thing for everyone. No one wants chaos and heartbreak, no one wants to see their community torn into warring factions- but it's happening. People are taking sides and it's impossible to ignore from any distance. I cry for the dead, for the hatred that has sprung up between neighbors, for the growing chasm between the people and the leaders. It seems like the very air we breathe these days is laced with sorrow. The country can not focus on positive things at this moment, things like helping the elderly, improving the roads, fighting the HIV epidemic- everything has been put on hold and this is echoed in our lives. Survival mode is engaged.
Will we all wake up and find that a loaf of bread suddenly costs 1,000 uah? Will there be more violence on the streets? Will foreigners be targeted? Will TV and internet work? Will the government have suddenly absconded to safety and left only crumbs for the nation?
So that's life right now. A lot of little things and some rather big ugly things too. I guess we're all just holding our breath, waiting for answers, waiting for the sun to rise and tomorrow to come.