Tuesday, June 18, 2013

An unexpected stay at the beach

I was recruited to go to our summer camp and was not sure what to expect.  I was told to bring a swimsuit, shorts and sunscreen – but for some reason I didn’t really realize I would be staying in a Soviet era sanitarium on a beach, somewhere in Ukraine.  I have very limited internet here, so I am not even sure where I actually am.  All I know is it is beautiful.  This definitely feels more like a vacation than volunteer work.  The children are all very sweet, though sometimes I wish they didn’t talk so fast!  They are really patient with me though, so I appreciate them even trying to converse with me.

The grounds

The grounds entrance from the beach

Today we went to the beach, which is literally across the street.  The sand, little swimming shrimp and jellyfish fascinated me.  When we first arrived to the beach, the children instantly ran up to the jellyfish and started picking them up.  I was alarmed by their actions, and told them that they are dangerous, but they just looked at me like I was crazy.  They told me they weren’t dangerous at all, as they held them up for me to see up close.  Maybe they were too small to be problematic.  Then we jumped into the water and splashed around.  One six-year old little girl immediately became my friend and her smile and laughter nearly brought tears to my eyes.  This is a very special vacation for all these children who the rest of the year living in poverty, children’s homes throughout Odessa, or worse.

Huge jellyfish!

My new best friend holding a jellyfish

Catching shrimp in the rocks

 I love being tan, yes, but there comes a point where enough is enough.  With my wedding around the corner, skin cancer on the rise, and just being too tan, I decided I would start trying to limit my exposure to the sun.  This proved very difficult because we go to the beach at least once a day, if not twice a day!  I think I went to the beach more this week than I have in a year, which is huge since for the summer, I lived in Orange County.  The kids would see me applying sunscreen and ask me what it was.  I would tell them it is sunscreen and they would look at me confused and ask why I would  want to put it on.  One Ukrainian woman stopped me on the stairs and asked me if I use sunscreen, so I showed her my little bottle I carry in my purse.  She said I had a beautiful color, and told me I was a very beautiful girl.  This was a huge surprise, since I was certain Ukrainians preferred fair skinned people, like their Russian counterparts.  I suppose when you have a fantastic beach on your border, unlike Russia, you value tanned skin as being a sign of leisure and vacationing!

The kids loved my dress, and were confused by my desire to stay out of the sun

We are having Ukrainian borsht for lunch today.  I will be helping in the kitchen, so I will take note of exactly how it is done. My attempts at home have been good, yet not authentic.  Well, time to hit those communal showers (which by the way only produce frigid water).   Don’t worry, I lock the door and make sure I am the only one in there! 

I later found out that if I use the shower to the left, it has hot water.  Sure it’s not a steady stream, and it gets super hot or cold for no reason, but it works great!

I also discovered that those shrimp people were catching were for eating.  I can’t imagine catching something by hand in a bottle, cooking it then eating it.  I am thinking about the time my sisters and I caught a bunch of crawfish in a local park in the river by our house.  They were alive, yet filled with worms… yuck…

While one of our girls cooked the borsht, I paid diligent attention and wrote down the recipe.  Goodness, it was delicious!!  I cannot wait to cook it when I get back.  It’s way better than anything I made while in the US.  Yummm!

Ukrainian Borsht

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