For the last 7 years or so, I have had something of an obsession. It began (and continues) with Eurovision. From the moment I decided to find out exactly who these seemingly strange people they called “Eastern Europe” were, I was hooked. Before I knew it, I had a better knowledge of the Croatian music scene than the UK’s and found myself singing along to the lyrics of Macedonian pop songs. Learning a new alphabet was just an obstacle that was made to be overcome. All I’ve probably convinced you of so far is that I am, in fact, even weirder than you had first thought. The point I’m trying to make, however, is that coming here, seeing these new places, taking overnight trains, eating borscht morning, noon and night, is the stuff of dreams for me.
In my mind, coming to Ukraine would be nothing but adventure. I would take every chance there was to explore, go further, see weirder. An invitation like the one I received this week to go to Chișinău in Moldova (via the unrecognised breakaway region of Transnistria) would be like a golden ticket. But when this did actually happen I was extremely confused. I did not jump at the chance, but started to hesitate.
Seriously, what’s the deal? You’re living THE DREAM. YOUR dream.
First of all I tried to rationalise my feelings. Yes, it’s true that people do sometimes have issues going into Moldova through Transnistria (as you do not receive an entry stamp) and end up paying bribes to border guards, but surely that’s all part of the experience, the adventure, and nothing 20 euros won’t solve? Still I had a gut feeling that this was not something I should do. But why? I kept thinking back to last weekend and the lovely people I have met here in Odessa, to church and the snowball fight which ensued afterwards. Suddenly a phrase came to my mind: “Bloom where you’re planted”.
I first heard this phrase back in Paris, and had not looked back to it since then. It gives a great and punchy summary of 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 in the Bible (worth a read). When this phrase came to mind and I went back to read these verses, I realised that my desire to stay here, to forge friendships and deepen connections is greater than my desire to collect passport stamps. That is not to say that the dream has been let go, but that there is a time and place for everything. This is my time to hang out in Odessa and come to love it (until my friend Jonny gets married in Belarus, but that’s a story for another day!). The last few days of umming and ahhing forced me to reconsider my priorities. So, in some small way, this invitation was very fruitful.
In other news, Chisinau is Кишинёв in Russian- won’t be making that particular mistake again.
The church got a sign! Exciting times. Now you can see it from the main road.
It got very snowy. Erinn and I had fun.
We also went to see the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra. To maintain the crucial culture/crap balance we are also working on the dance moves to this song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvXChulddFU
The girls from church are wonderful and beautiful too. They are also excellent at snowball fights.
Here is a chinchilla. His name is Theo, he belongs to my lovely bosses, and I am in the process of working out a plan to steal him.
Even if the sky is grey and the streets are muddy, beauty is there.