Hi all - this is a quick update... I have arrived safe and sound in Ternopil, Ukraine and am exhausted. I am unsure as to how reliable the Internet is here in my apartment, so blogs and updates will most likely come in random spurts (just a heads up!).
Jessica and I survived a nine hour flight from Toronto to Vienna, and managed to reunite with Ruby at the airport before our departure! We also spent the first half hour or so unpacking and repacking our baggage, until it was under 23 kgs (I fully believed that I was packing pretty lightly for three months. Nope.). Anyways, we managed to survive the parental goodbyes, I was too excited to be all that sentimental (I mean that in the best possible way, Mom & Dad!) Turns out the girl beside me on my flight (Kristina) was born and raised in Odessa, Ukraine - she was friendly and gave me good advice about who/what to watch out for.
We had a few hours in Vienna before flying on to Lviv, but sadly didn't manage to get out of the airport... The plane to Lviv was tiny and only about half full, giving us plenty of sleeping room (hallelujah! - it was much needed rest).
I was nervous about going through customs in Lviv, mainly because all of the security gaurds/officers were scary, stern, solemn Soviet fellows (kinda intimidating). Turns out it wasn't a problem at all; as soon as we collected our baggage we were met by Olena, who will be our language professor as of tomorrow, along with two of her students (who spoke wonderful English - a relief by that point).
Originally we were supposed to be taking a train from Lviv the rest of the way into Ternopil, but Olena had managed to rent a bus as she was collecting some students from Saskatchewan as well. It was dead silent the entire trip - all 8 (I think) of us were passed out, sound asleep. Our host families then met us at a central station in Ternopil.
I'm living with an older woman named Slava - who speaks absolutely NO English... I guess this just means I'll have to work harder at learning Ukrainian?! I was picked up by her son Igor (? not entirely sure if that is actually his name) and his wife Ira, who teaches at the pedagogical university where our language classes will be held. It was a relief/comfort to be able to speak English with Ira... she acted as translator between Slava and I, and as overwhelmed as I am right now, that aid in the language barrier is something that I am incredibly thankful for.
Not going to lie - I lost it once I started unpacking here... Just started bawling. I can't communicate with Slava, I'm thirsty, I can't call home just yet, and I have no idea where I am or how to figure out this language as the alphabet is entirely new/foreign to me. And, I already missed Jessica... I'm thankful that we have our own host families, as we will each have our own individual, unique experiences over the next few months - but I just needed a hug at that point, and I'm pretty sure that I would have scared Slava and company if I had asked for one. I cannot WAIT to shower and sleep, I'm a dirtbag after all this travel and am smart enough to realize the beauty of sleep... Good night!
Side note #1: I am now 7 hours ahead of y'all back in Ontario ... and will probably be getting a phone in the next few days. Will keep you posted.
Side note #2: I managed to collect more than 96 notes... more than one note per day that I'm abroad. Yes, Jesse, the 'Jump Rope for Heart theory' came through... thanks to Steve Boesveld on having faith in my notes. Ha.
Side note #3: Your thoughts and prayers are INCREDIBLY, undeniably, overwhelmingly appreciated! I am grateful and blessed to have so many awesome people encouraging me in this crazy adventure. You all mean the world to me, thanks for the support this far!