The end has come.
Tomorrow, my 10 months here in Ukraine will be up. Tomorrow I will fly back to the U.S., back to understanding what everyone around me is saying, back to no longer being the expert on English and American life, back to that other jump rope game that kept going while I was gone, and that I now need to jump back into.
And regardless of the joy that comes with family, friends, and comforts back “home,” there is no doubt that I will miss life here. So here are the top 10 things that I have no way of cramming into my suitcases but wish I could take back with me:
10. Cottage cheese fritters. These I am actually going to try to bring back with me…well, the recipe, anyway.
9. A slower pace of life. Yes, people are busy here, but not like in the States. Last week I went to a picnic on the beach with two families…the whole families were there, and we spent 7 hours together. And I was the only one who really needed to get back home.
8. Fantastic drinkable yogurt. Yum.
7. My apartment. I lived in a penthouse apartment this year, with more space than I’ve ever had before, plenty of good light, and (almost) all the comforts I could ask for. In fact, I’m savoring these last few minutes in this super-comfy desk chair. Add to that a friendly and helpful landlady and quiet neighbors, and you’ve got a winner.
6. Khachapuri, that blessed creation of soft bread oozing with melted Georgian cheese. Oh yeah.
5. A pedestrian lifestyle. I love the wide sidewalks and all of the people out walking on them at all times of the day. I love feeling like walking is the normal way of getting around.
4. Extensive public transportation. I never felt the need for a car this year; everywhere I wanted to go, I could take a bus (or train, or subway). I lived right by the main bus stop in town, and buses came so frequently that I rarely wondered, “When is that bus coming?”
Going up to Kyiv and back, I enjoyed looking out the window at the landscape. It never got old.
3. Reasonable portion sizes at restaurants. They actually serve an amount you should eat, not four times that amount.
2. The purchase power of the U.S. dollar. To say that my dollar got me more here than in the U.S. would be a gross understatement. Goodbye, $2.00 restaurant meal. Goodbye, 3-hour bus ride to Kyiv for $5.00. And a sad farewell to $13 a week providing a woman to clean twice a week and cook once a week.
And the number one thing I wish I could bring back with me is not a thing at all. It is, of course:
1 The people. My friends, my colleagues, my Ukrainian community. The Olgas, the Oksanas, the Julias, the Allas, the Lidas, Oleg and Inna and Yaroslava, Pavel and Pasha and on and on. There is far too much I could say about them; let me just say that they have made this year what it was: rich, formative, unforgettable.
I am most grateful to all of them, and miss them already.