Thursday, August 17, 2017

Lessons I learned in Ukraine

For most people, living in Ukraine is not an easy life.

As such, many Ukrainians are not happy people.

I struggled with this as, in my profession, it is my goal to always be polite and courteous and kind (as I can be) even when things are awful.  When people come to me their lives are not going well, so it is my goal not to make people's days worse because I'm having a rough day.

That is not always how it was in Ukraine.

Keep in mind, I do not know Ukrainian or Russian.  I can count to 13 in Russian.  I know "hello", "goodbye", "thank you", "please", and "excuse me". I can say "milk", "apple", and "latte". (Hint: it's latte) But, other than that, I am useless.  Without Google Translate on my phone, I would not have survived.

My view from a coffee shop of the bustle below

Many people in shops that I went into were kind and patient and encouraging. But there were some people...

I struggled with those people.

One Apteka worker in particular was awful.  She would harrumph and roll her eyes.  She would mutter and bang her hand on the counter.  She treated me as though I was the stupidest human ever to be in her way.  There were others who were similar (although there were  more that were entirely lovely humans) but this dark haired horrible woman was the worst.

After 3 weeks of dealing with people like this worker, I learned two things:

    It is hard to not understand a damn thing that is going on around you.  To be incredibly smart and capable in your own country but to be a raging moron in a different language is incredibly frustrating and disheartening.

    We have so many new people coming to our countries.  Some will know a bit of the local language.  Some will know none of it.  No matter what, they are likely overwhelmed and exhausted trying to constantly translate things in their heads all day long. Because, for newcomers, nothing is like home and everything is hard.

    It does not take much to be kind to someone. Be kind.


    In Ukraine, things there are often harder than they need to be.  Every day is the same.  People get up, travel a long ways to go to work, work very hard, make very little, do it for a huge part of the day, travel a long way home, make supper, and then go to bed.  Then, they do it again the next day.

    People might say, yeah we do that here too, but it is so much easier for us.  We have conveniences they do not. Our systems (while flawed) are not so deeply messed up that everything takes 10x longer to get anything done.

    For me, after 3 weeks of struggling EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. to do what needed to be done and then doing again the next day, I was grumpy as hell too.  It taught me to be a little more understanding of people who might not have had a lot of extra f*cks to give when they were dealing with me. 
I am grateful for the lessons Ukraine taught me.  The hardness of the Ukrainian life experience humbled me.  The kindness people showed uplifted me. The beauty of the land inspired me.

But God knows, I was ready to go home.

Past excerpts from Ukraine

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