I have been invited to join Luba and her family for a holiday in Berdiansk, a resort on the Sea of Azov, about 7 hours south of Starobilsk. Great excitment. We're taking the train, leaving on Wednesday, 22 July. Luba asks me about a bathing suit. When I show her my old faithful one-piece suit, she crinkles her nose and shakes her head vigorously from side to side. In any language, that means "no way." OK, well I'll look for a new one.
So here I am at the Sunday bazaar, on a sweltering hot day, looking for a new one-piece bathing suit. They are nowhere to be found. Only bikinis. It's what everyone wears. Everyone. At last I find a stall that has a one-pecce suit. One. Large size. I ask the proprietor, a serious woman probably in her 60s, to show it to me. You want THIS, her look seems to say. Yep, that's the one for me. Well, ok. She hauls it down from way at the top of her displays with her hooked handle. I try it on, behind a skimpy curtain that doesn't provide much privacy. No matter. She looks at me, crinkles her nose and shakes her head vigorously from side to side. The same signal in the same universal language.
She takes down another and hands it to me. A black and yellow bikini. I don't think so. Just try it she urges, and sure enough she gets me into it. A bra and a little bottom. She nods approvingly. THIS is for you. I point to my middle. No problem, she says. "Normal'no." Which means the same thing in Russian and English. OK, I'll take it. Now I know I am in a Peace Corps frame-of-mind: open to anything!
Off I go with my package. The more I think about it, the more I like it. When I get home, Luba, who is in her next-to-nothing bikini, asks what I bought. You want to see? Off I go to my bedroom to try on my sexy black and yellow bikini. Beautiful, she nods with enthusiasm. You're all set for Berdiansk. I point to my stomach. She smiles and says, "normal'no!