Monday, September 14, 2009

From Tea to Dinner

Olga, Natalie, Mike, and Luba adding to the table. So here's another photo of Luba.

I invited my fellow PCVs Mike Young, who teaches English at the local branch of Shevchenko University, and Natalie Schur, who teaches English at a secondary school in Antratsyt in the southeastern mining region of our oblast, over for tea to meet Luba and our friend Olga. As is the Ukrainian custom, Mike and Natalie brought a gift for Luba, a box of brandy-filled chocolates.
Mike's family is with the US diplomatic corps and foreign service, so they've lived all over the world, most recently in Taiwan. His parents are now at their home in the Washington, DC area awaiting another assignment. Mike is not sure where home is.
Natalie is from the Chicago area, and her mom keeps asking her when she'll be home. How about Christmas? Natalie says she hasn't made plans yet, in true Ukrainian fashion. When we were out for dinner last night, Natalie's mom called. During our visit at Luba's, Natalie's mom called. I know don't tell me, I joked. Your mom wants to know when you'll be home!

Mike and Natalie are recent college graduates, young and smart. They majored in Russian language and literature and are fluent in the language. They demur about this, but to me they are fluent. They've been here a year, and they are sensitive and wise about Ukrainian ways and traditions.

Luba and Olga were delighted to meet two young Americans who spoke Russian. They chatted away, and it was wonderful because Mike could translate for me. I learned for example that Luba's father had been in a Soviet concentration camp, something I had never grasped before. It's import touched me deeply.
I made the tea and offered cookies and a plate of fresh bread and cheese. Luba looked over the table and had other thoughts.
She went to the garden and picked bunches of green and purple grapes and ripe plums, washed them, put them in a pretty straw basket, and added to my meager, by her standards, offering! On top of that, she had spent all morning making stuffed peppers (she had picked and cleaned the peppers the night before) with fresh tomato sauce and, lo and behold, she brought these out as well.

Our tea became a dinner. Best stuffed peppers I ever had. Mike and Natalie feasted on a real home-cooked meal, thanks to Luba's true Ukrainian hospitality. Delicious and delightful!
From tea to dinner with love from Starobilsk.

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