Wednesday was a typical or maybe slightly atypical adventure. I decided to visit the fairly large city of Chernivtsi (population about 270,000) because a volunteer who lives there raves about it on facebook. The family I live with said they’d like to go also to visit the huge bazaar located there. And Wednesday was predicted to be the only day this week without rain (and hot, over 80 degrees).
Well, the family backed out, but I decided it was time to try my wings a little farther away from Kolomyia. I bought my bus ticket—no problem—and sat back to enjoy the (bumpy) two hour ride. At the end of the line I was not in the middle of the city, instead I was at the bazaar. So taking advantage of the situation, I shopped for an hour or so. As I looked at a red skirt, the vendor proved to be a master saleswoman. The skirt was too large but she kept showing me other articles made of “natural” material. I found a long summer dress and a print blouse (purple print, of course) that seemed to be made of cotton and well made. The price, 470 hryvnia (about $19 for both). When I gave her 600 and expected change, she gave me back 200. My first major act of kindness for the day!
Then I decided it was time to make my way to the town center, my original destination. When I asked which bus to take—in my very poor Ukrainian—I was pointed to “over there.” After walking several minutes in midday sun, I grew frustrated and asked again, this time of a man who seemed to be working on some major construction contiguous to the bazaar. This man must have realized my lack of understanding. He closed the gates to his work site and walked with me up some stairs to a street with bus stops. No wonder I hadn’t found my way! And his action was my second but not final major kindness of the day!
As I sat on the bus wondering where to get off, I got a phone call from the volunteer who lives in that city. She tried to give me directions but it was very noisy and I wasn’t at all sure I understood where to go. Right after I ended that call, a woman seated nearby told me—in English—she would tell me where to get off the bus. She also volunteered to show me around the city if I wouldn’t think she and her granddaughter were an imposition. Imposition-ha! The offer was a “godsend.” And it was the third very major act of kindness in this amazing day!!
The woman, Irina, had moved to Chernivtsi from Eastern Ukraine two years before due to the fighting. She is about my age; we also seem to have a number of other things in common. So it was not only wonderful to have a tour guide but to also make a new friend!
When it was time to get a bus back to Kolomyia, we realized it was too late; all buses to Kolomyia were through for the day. Irina then offered to let me spend the night at the apartment she shares with her daughter and granddaughter. I almost took her up on the offer but decided against it primarily because of Peace Corps rules about overnight stays without prior permission. As I got into a taxi (which I found with her help), I was given a gift of a bag of coffee and hugs from both Irina and her granddaughter, Sasha.
Just another day in the life of a Peace Corps volunteer…