Wow that title is so corny but I love it.  So as you may have read in my most recent post  http://russianiac.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/what-ive-been-up-to-lately/

I decided about 8 months back to teach myself Ukrainian and to go to Ukraine to study Ukrainian in Lviv for two weeks and then go to Kyiv to do some research for my thesis.  (Please note, I know that Russians call these placesLvovandKievand I claim to be a Russophile, but for the next 3 weeks I’m going to dive head first into Ukrainophilia, please come along for the ride.)

In doing research about Lviv, I realized there is a huge shortage of information for travelers about the place.  Seeing that there will be huge influx of interest in the place since the European football championship is being held there in 2012, I decided to document my trip for anyone else out there who might be looking for information about it.  So check back regularly.

I have been anticipating this day for ages.  All of my thoughts have revolved around it.  I made the goal of doing this trip and finally it is coming to pass.  I’ll have you know, teaching yourself a language and arranging for international travel for long periods of time when you have a toddler is not easy.  My mother in law is staying with my son while I go pursue a dream I’ve had for a long time. I’m so grateful for all the help and support I’m getting.  But I tell ya, it’s definitely not as carefree as it was when I was winged 20 year old beatnik.

Me in Kiev in 2004 (one of the few days I was standing upright)

My love for Ukraine began many years ago when I visited my then boyfriend inKiev.  We met here in the U.S. and I then departed to Moscow.  Once he went home to Kiev I went down to visit him.  Although two of my three weeks in Ukraine were spent in a hospital ‘room’ in the countryside (I had to have an emergency appendectomy and this is such I terrifying story it deserves its own post) I managed to fall in love with Ukraine and desperately wanted to stay there.  But I had already established my life in Moscow and so I returned vowing to go back to Ukraine at some point and learn more about the country other than its many problems of the corrupt healthcare system (which I learned firsthand lying on my wooden operation board gazing into the glassed over eyes of my drunk surgeon).

You can read one of my previous blogs on Ukraine here:

http://russianiac.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/ukraine-got-the-good-looks-in-the-family-and-russia-got-the-muscles/

A view of Lviv at sunset

I’ve heard that Western Ukraine is very different from Eastern.  That makes sense because historically it had been part of Poland and didn’t really come under Russian influence until after WWII.  Looking at this picture you can see that it, indeed, looks more Polish than it does Russian.  Moreover, I selected this city because the majority of the population actually speaks Ukrainian.  Although ‘pure Ukrainian’, from what I hear, is not necessarily spoken on the streets.  What you’ll often hear is a mix of Russian and Ukrainian called surzhik.

My husband and I in Kiev, 2007, we were only there for one day and regretted we couldn't stay longer

I’ve been dreaming about this trip for so long.  It’s my first big adventure on my own since living in Moscow in 2005.  Some of you, my mother included, may think I’m nuts, but all of my acommodations and plans in Ukraine are mostly reliant upon the kindness of strangers(i.e. people I’ve never actually met, only chatted with).  Through one of the language websites I referred to in my last post I found a friend in Lviv.  We came to be good friends. I help him with English, he helps me with Ukrainian.  He asked his (girl)friend in Lviv if I could stay with her for the two weeks that I am there.  I’ve only spoken with her via Skype.  She is awesome.  So sure, I could get there and should could turn out to be a psycho or a sex trafficker but I’m going off of my experience with Russian hospitality and am going to assume that that open-hearted hospitalitiy is something that is commonly shared among the Slavic people.  In fact, I once read (sorry I don’t have access to my books and articles here in Dulles airport to give a citation) that it was actually the Slavs’ unabashed hospitality and kindness to foreigners that made them so susceptible to being repeatedly conquered.  So if any of you have experience with other Slavic peoples’ hospitality I would love to see your comments here.

I’m just going to immerse myself and go with the flow.  For me the thing that sets toursim apart from culture exploration is having local friends.  Thus, spending time with the locals is essential and the main goal of my travel.  Not to mention, it’s the best way to learn the language.  All of these friends that I have met are SO wonderful and kind and are so flattered that a foreigner loves their culture and wants to learn their langauge.  In fact, my friend in Lviv giggled with delight when she heard me speaking Ukrainian for the first time, saying that she had never heard a foreigner speak Ukrainian before.

Yesterday I was joking with the boyfriend of the girl I’m staying with in Lviv.  They asked how they should greet me in the airport.  They asked if they needed to greet me with signs and balloons like they always see in American movies.  I told them they should do it po ukrainsky (in the Ukrainian way).  We (jokingly) agreed that they would show up at the airport in traditional folk costume with a korovai (the traditional bread served with salt to greet visitors).  So this is what I’m hoping to see tomorrow, I will feel ripped off if it’s anything less.