Missing family, making family, and visiting family abroad

I've been away from my family and friends for three and a half months. As I'm sure you can imagine, I miss them. But I wouldn't say I'm home sick. Just "people sick."

I miss lunches at Baba and Gigi's, sibling dinner dates, running around with my niece and nephew, answering my mom's technology questions (though, this is still ongoing), checking out a sports game with my dad, and laughing, eating, singing, dancing, and chatting with my friends.

Thankfully, there's this thing called the internet that allows me to stay in touch daily, but of course FaceTiming to wish a happy birthday doesn't compare to being there in person.

Well, last week I barely even felt people sick because I had a representative of my Canadian life visit — my sister.

She was here for just over a week, and gosh did we ever do a lot. We went to a football game (Ukraine won!), checked out multiple themed restaurants (including themed around an executioner, a coffee mine, and the last hiding place of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army), ate delicious food (I was so excited to introduce Georgian food to her), checked out a few museums (my favourite was the beer museum, Lʹvivarnya), and walked miles upon miles.

It was nice to explore the city with her, since I have so much to learn about Lviv seeing as I've been here for only a few weeks.

We also made a day trip out to our family's village, about a four-hour drive from Lviv. My sister had never met them before (well, they visited Canada in 1989, but she was young so doesn't remember), but I met them three years ago when I was in Ukraine with my mom and her cousin.

My Baba's mom lived in the house our relatives live in today. Our families still keep in touch, but more so in recent years when we've come to visit.

When we arrived, the table was covered in dishes — meat, salads, cheese, bread. And that was just the start. As Ukrainian dinners go, the food seemed to never end. We ate borscht, holubtsi, pampushky, nalysnyky, and so much more.

We had a translator with us since our family knows little English, and we know little Ukrainian. But it worked out just fine, and we were able to exchange stories about our families and ourselves. I think I invited myself back out there in springtime so I can go foraging in the bush with them, since they love harvesting mushrooms and plants ( ... perhaps another Planted chapter?).

After dinner, we toured the village a bit, visiting the cemetery, where we have family buried, and the church. Once back at the home, we got a look at our aunt's recipe book, and get this, she has a recipe book for specifically mushrooms. And I love mushrooms.

Because hosting us for the afternoon was apparently not enough, our family sent me home with preserves, vegetables, and meat to get me through the winter. Pickles, beets, mushrooms, sour cream, eggs, carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic. A full fridge and pantry is a welcome sight, I tell you. 

By the end of my time in Lviv, I hope to be a deruny (potato pancake) master, cook the best potato soup in town, and make borscht like no other. I have plenty to practise with.

I had a nice family-filled week, but it made me realize how tough the holidays will be without everyone here. Thankfully, us dancers have formed our own little family that does so much more than just dance and live in the same city together. And together, we'll make it through the holidays all right. There will be plenty of winter markets, skating rinks, dance performances (we had our first once on Sunday!) and Christmas parties to host to keep us busy.

Proud to say that it was the debut of not only me performing with the Yunist Honoured Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, but it was also the debut of my new red boots.

Proud to say that it was the debut of not only me performing with the Yunist Honoured Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, but it was also the debut of my new red boots.

I don't mean to end this on too sappy of a note, but I will anyway. There's this song by The Apache Relay that, since living in Ukraine, randomly pops into my head from time to time. Sometimes it's when I'm feeling down. Other times it's when I'm out exploring the city or sitting in a coffee shop. Or maybe it's just when I'm at home putting away my laundry.

But there's a line in the song that's a good reminder that no matter where you are or who you're with or who you're without:

Home is not places; it is love.
— The Apache Relay

And I couldn't agree more. So I'm going to continue to surround myself in things I love, like walking down Lviv's cobblestone streets, sipping a cappuccino at the coffee shop below my apartment, writing whatever I want whenever I want, and, even if it has to be through FaceTime, continuing to connect with family and friends.