Friday, March 19, 2010

In the States Again

above Saint Petersburg, Fl

I've been in the States since March 11 and, after a year in Ukraine, it's been a wonderful reunion. I celebrated my 70th birthday in Toledo, with my daughter Elissa organizing a large party and providing lots of goodies, along with my daughter Michelle who brought homemade food, fruit and dips, cookies and cupcakes. Best birthday ever! I spend time with all my grandchildren, and my beautiful great-grandson Philip, who's talking up a storm. I have dinners and lunches, tea and wine with family and friends, including friends I haven't seen in years and years. My daughters are talented and amazing and their partners, Mike and Matthew, are both extraordinary artists, so I've been surrounded by beauty and love. I feel fortunate, and embraced.

It's an interesting journey, and it's all great, even though at first I found myself almost overwhelmed in the large giant supermarkets in Toledo. So many choices. The pace of life is fast and furious. Everyone has a car. There's no walking to the market, no shopping at an outdoor bazaar, no bumping into friends in the middle of the street. All the roads are paved (though not without potholes). All the streets have lights. All the stores are full. Everyone speaks English!

In St, Petersburg, Florida, where my condo is, and special friends, wealthy couples walk well-groomed dogs along the glorious Bay filled with yachts, sit at outdoor cafes under a half-moon, shop the expensive stores, eat at expensive restaurants. It's beautiful in Florida now, and I loved being in the warmth and sunshine, but it's a contrast to daily life in Ukraine. Reverse culture shock.

Of course, the best part is being with family and friends, no matter where you are. At my big birthday bash everyone donated books for the Starobilsk Library, and enough gifts of postage money to send two to three boxes of books to Starobilsk. We are mailing them tomorrow, Elissa and I. I want everyone to know how grateful I am. As soon as I have access to a few pix I will send them along, with my deepest thanks.

Luba and Ira have emailed me that Spring has arrived in Starobilsk, with the tulips, leafing of trees, longer days, and anticipation of lilac season near the holiday of Easter (Paskka). I left Ukraine in winter and will return in Spring, this Saturday 27 March, full of wonderful memories of my visit home, and ready for my next year of Peace Corps service.

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