I interviewed Jason who visited Ukraine for six months. He went there because he is a minister so the trip was a missionary service for the church. He was a guest minister and preached at some of the community churches there.
Jason told me that he especially wanted to go to the Ukraine so he could learn more Russian. He wanted to be able to practice speaking Russian with native speakers because that is supposed to be one of the best ways to learn. He learned a lot of Russian and also a lot about how differently people live.
The food was the first thing he noticed was different. The food was like they eat in Russia not in the US. He ate a lot of salads and soups which he usually never eats. The salads and soups were made with winter vegetables like cabbage and beets. The older women spent a lot of time in the kitchen making everything from scratch. There weren’t any big supermarkets or fast food restaurants in the area like we have.
The culture was very different to him; mainly because the people there are so poor. They walk everywhere. People make things by hand more. The women do a lot of sewing and colorful embroidery so the furniture had beautiful doilies everywhere. And of course, the food was from vegetables they had grown and the meat was from their farm animals. Everything tasted a lot different from the food we eat in the US.
One of the things he told me that made me really think was that value was put on simple everyday things we take for granted. For instance food is a “precious commodity” to them and they don’t waste any food.
Jason described the people as being “simple and humble.” Also they were very kind and friendly. He felt very welcome and comfortable there. He could spend hours chatting with people who were very patient with him when he couldn’t say a word exactly and they were patient about teaching him new words in Russian.
He was able to practice Russian all day long. He said that made him feel really good that he had studied hard. He learned a lot of new Russian words and words he could understand better now that he could see the item they named. A lot of household goods and tools had names he didn’t think he could remember so well unless he had seen the item.
He really didn’t like seeing the poverty. He hadn’t expected the people to be so poor. Jason told me that that kind of poverty changes the whole culture and was why they live so differently from the way we live. Their lives were difficult but the people weren’t sad; they just had different values. The church was a very important part of their lives but also they respected each other more and took more time to talk.
The funniest thing Jason told me was that he was really surprised that the guys there were “terrible” at playing basketball.
Jason wants to go back, if not to the same community then to another Russian speaking country. He convinced me that I should go to a different country to live for a few weeks or even months. I think I can do that now without being scared all the time. I learned how interesting a visit to a new place can be. Jason didn’t say it was easy but he did say it was worth every minute. He is telling everyone they should try staying in a different country for a few months, too.