What a difference a day makes, right? Try five years! My last visit to Ukraine ended two days before Christmas in 2003. During that year it was decided I would return to the states, attend seminary and prepare for a lifetime of overseas missionary service. I had no idea I would be returning to Ukraine, and now that I am back, it feels like I never left…in some ways at least. In other ways, it is a whole new country.
The top five ways Ukraine looks differently than in 2003…
1) All of the building that is happening. Below there are three new stores all right next to each other. Before there was one new store for every five old ones. They are also repaving streets and redoing drainage systems on a large scale instead of a patch here and a patch there. We’ll see how they do!
2) Cars are another big difference. I only remember old ‘sovietish’ cars. There was the occasional nice new car, mainly Mercedes, so you knew they were owned by someone who had money. Now there are all kinds.
3) Tennis shoes are another noticeable change. I don’t remember them much. I went out in them once last time I was here and was stared at during my entire ‘errand running.’ I didn’t do that again. I even told David if he was going to bring tennis shoes they needed to be dark. Was I wrong… They’re everywhere in all kind of colors and styles. Don’t get me wrong the women still wear their stilettos and the men wear their square toed black shoes, but you won’t be stared down for trying to be comfortable. You can even wear white. In Ukraine you ALWAYS take off your shoes when entering a home, or apparently the student center, and you put on some slippers that will be waiting for you by the door.
4) This next one means a lot to a Texas girl…limes. I found them last time I was here only once and that was in Kiev and they were one dollar a lime. I have now found both limes and avcadoes at two different markets in L’viv and for reasonable prices. I don’t believe they will be here all year round, but I am going to enjoy them while I can. The day I went to the market to take my pictures, they were out of avocados. This goes to show they aren’t always available all the time.
5) Finally we have yellow marshutkas. Marshutkas are the little mini-buses you take from here to there. They now cost 30 cents a ride. In 2003, they were 10 cents. Inflation! But the other difference is that they are now bigger and very yellow. I love it. It’s like mini school buses everywhere, but way more crowded. There are certain times of day David and I would not dream of trying to get on one, at least not yet. People muscle their way on and make room for themselves even when there is none.
There are many more changes that I have not even touched on like all the colors people wear now, the cell phones they are always on, etc. There are actually some changes that matter too – government, economy, culture, but we’re not going to tackle that today. This should give you a small taste of what is going on here. This is a new time for a new generation, and David and I are so excited to be a part of it all.