April 7, 2013

Ukraine: What Did I Know?

Posted in Adoption, Blogging, Faith, Japan, Just Life, Korea, Ukraine at 5:41 pm by catsinboxes

Disclaimer: This is more of a personal post than a list of facts.  For those of you interested in size, population, geopolitical status, and other such information, this will not satisfy you, but I hope to write a post more to your liking in the near future!  

As I got ready to leave for Ukraine, I considered writing a blog post about what I knew -so far- about Ukraine.  It didn’t happen; time and creativity did not meet while waiting for my flight to Kiev at Chicago O’Hare.  Once in Ukraine, there was so much to write about, so much to learn, no time for writing THAT kind of post.  Now that I am home and have had some time for reflection, I am glad I waited.  It is so neat to see how God has been preparing my heart and working in and through my trip to Ukraine.  So, let me tell you, what I did know about Ukraine.


3 Years Ago

Ukraine was part of Eastern Europe, I knew that much!  I was too busy getting ready for a trip to Korea to think about Ukraine.  Korea was another trip that had fallen into place, not as quickly as Ukraine, but it was a country that God had given me an excitement and curiosity about, the details had come together, and I was going to Korea!  Ukraine?  No, I wasn’t thinking about Ukraine.

 2 Years Ago

I had been home less than a month from Japan.  My head was too full of Japan and uncertainty to think about traveling anywhere besides back to Japan to resume an internship that had been cut short by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11.  It was a time of uncertainty, so many questions as to what lay in my near future.  Would I go back to Japan?  Would I stay in the States? What would I do during the summer?  Thinking back, there were so many questions and tears, but God was at work.  He taught me patience.  He taught me to rely on His plan, a plan that would not include a return to Japan.  His plan would involve becoming a member of a wonderful church.  So life continued, summer passed, autumn came -and went- and then winter came.  And at about that time, I started to hear about a ministry, a ministry called Reece’s Rainbow which advocated for the international adoption of children with special needs, particularly Down Syndrome.  My mom had visited their website before, and as winter progressed, she did so with increasing regularity.  So I started to hear about children, a number of whom lived in Eastern Europe and Russia.

1 Year Ago

Ukraine?  Oh, I knew about Ukraine!  I had read blogs about Ukrainian adoption, I was praying for Ukrainian orphans, I had started to learn statistics and facts about the Ukrainian orphan crisis.  On March 6, I did my first blog post mentioning Ukraine.

Ukraine had separated itself from the blur of Eastern Europe.  I did have foggy recollections of what I had known about Ukraine, the Orange Revolution of 2004 was slightly familiar as were the faces of Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko, but I only knew faces, I couldn’t have told you their names!  Who I could name was every child available for adoption and listed on Reece’s Rainbow in one Ukrainian orphanage.  I prayed for them, wished we could add someone to our family, wished I could do more!

And so spring passed, and days grew warmer.  I was still involved in our wonderful church, at that point serving as an interim small group leader in our youth group.  At one youth group, as an icebreaker, we were asked the question, “If you could do anything and go anywhere in the world for one day, what would you do?”   I knew my answer right away, and I almost felt guilty for having such a kitsch answer, but I knew it was true.  If I had one day, I’d go to Ukraine and visit an orphanage; I’d spend a day with the children.  That is what I would do!  (Wait, why not Korea or Japan?  I knew I needed way more than one day in each of those countries, and a trip to either was doable, while this, on the other hand, was a dream.)

Was this something that I developed of my own volition?  I truly believe God was behind it.  He is the one who gave me a heart for orphans over a decade ago.  He is the one who began to stir this love and awaken a desire to learn more and to help orphans, especially those in Eastern Europe . . . particularly those in Ukraine.

In the past year, I read more.  Pieces and facts about Ukraine began to fit together.  Chernobyl happened before my generation and I hadn’t known about it, not until following March 11 as BBC and other newspapers began ranking the situation at Fukishima with other nuclear disasters, the worst of which -to my recollections- was Chernobyl.  I’m embarrassed to admit that as I learned about Ukraine I had two light-bulb moments.

First, connecting Chernobyl with Ukraine -I had thought it was southern Russia.  (Granted, it  was USSR, but we won’t go there right now!)  Then as I learned my Ukrainian geography, came the other realization.  Wait a minute, Crimea is in Ukraine???  That’s where the Crimean War was, all those times I was reading about Florence Nightingale, the whole war was taking place in Ukraine!!!

I learned even more about Ukraine late last year, when my family become involved with New Horizons for Children, a Christian orphan hosting program.  While we hosted two boys from Latvia, many orphans in the program came from Ukraine.  So, I pieced together more, including the reoccurring fact that Ukraine had roads in need of a lot of repair!

Yes, the roads do need work!

I also learned sobering facts: statistics of what happens after orphans age out of the system, the bleak future that any orphan faces, the realities of life after the orphanage.

Early this year, when we decided to host again through New Horizons, Ukraine became more personal because Pasha was from Ukraine.

We will be hosting Pasha this summer; I can’t wait to meet him in person!

I was learning all the time, small facts, more than I could write here.     Some people speak Russian.  The trains can be bad.  The chocolate is good.  People don’t smile at strangers.  There are mountains in western Ukraine.  There are coal mines in eastern Ukraine.  The number of flowers you give someone is very important. . . . Little things, but they were adding up!

Then came the opportunity and at first the uncertainty.  I might be going!  It was so exciting, it was unbelievable, but I didn’t want to get too excited.  Then it was definite, the tickets were booked, it was actually going to happen!  The suitcase was packed, a phrasebook purchased, and a small travel guide downloaded.  Then, less than 48 hours after learning of the opportunity, I was on a plane, headed for Ukraine!  On my last flight of the day, sitting in a window seat on Ukrainian Airlines, surrounded by a lot of people speaking more Ukrainian and/or Russian that I had EVER heard before, I quickly read through my travel guide.

What did I know about Ukraine?  When it came to adoption, quite a lot.  When it came to other things, not that much.  But I learned so much on my trip, and I do not intend to stop learning anytime soon.

Soli Deo Gloria


September 10, 2010

I spy two feet!

Posted in Humor, Korea at 5:01 am by catsinboxes

September 6, 2010

I Love Mountains . . .

Posted in Korea at 8:18 am by catsinboxes

August 7, 2010

Another DMZ picture

Posted in Korea at 3:53 pm by catsinboxes

Inside a building in the DMZ:  The table by the lefthand guard marks the line between North and South Korea. The guard standing by the back door (into North Korea) is South Korean. I’m still sorting out how they divide the buildings!  Fun fact, I was able to stand on North Korea’s side of the room, so now I’ve been “in” North Korea!

August 6, 2010

Photo of the day

Posted in Korea at 4:49 pm by catsinboxes

In the DMZ: the three men in the foreground are South Korean soldiers. You can see one North Korean soldier standing on the steps of the large building. (That’s in North Korea; the north-south line cuts the blue buildings in half. You can actually see the line running between the buildings in this picture.)

August 3, 2010

A Fun Picture

Posted in Korea at 2:48 pm by catsinboxes

I’ll be posting the rest of the Gyeongbokgung pictures soon, but I thought I’d add this one for fun.

Are you laughing?  I love the glasses.  From Sun Young’s explanation, Paul George von Mollendorf was the first foreign diplomatic adviser to the Joseon Dynasty.  I admire the man, takes a lot to wear that, but I couldn’t resist posting the picture . . .

July 31, 2010

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Posted in Korea at 1:10 pm by catsinboxes

Two days ago I went to my first palace.  It was amazing.  This palace, Gyeongbokgung, was used during the Joseon Dynasty, the last Korean dynasty before the Japanese occupation in 1910.

This is the throne room where the King viewed his subjects. In Korean it is called Geunjeongjeon

With a traditionally dressed Joseon guard

A view of the walls surrounding the Geunjeongjeon compound.

Leading up to the throne room there were lots of carved animals, all the animals of the zodiac and some others. I'm not sure what this one is!

I loved this rooster!

I've been experimenting with different angles. Do you like this one?

The royal throne

I love the beams and the details; it's so different.

Another angle: this one has been alternatively liked and pronounced a cause for motion sickness!

Well, that’s all the pictures for now, but I will be posting more within the next few days.  I’d love to know what you think of these!

July 29, 2010

Views from the Mountain

Posted in Korea at 2:08 am by catsinboxes

Yesterday I walked up to the top of the mountain that is behind our apartment.  It was quite a walk; it’s not even funny how many stairs you get to climb.  Before I leave, I’d like to actually count them.

At the top of the mountain, there is a pavilion with amazing views of the Seoul.  It is well worth all the stairs, even if you do collapse panting as soon as you get there.  After gradually reviving from the climb, I took a lot of pictures:

A view to the south east

You can see a little bit of the Han River. I love the mountains in the background.

The Han River

Not the best picture, but this is the pavilion at the top of the mountain.

Isn't it beautiful?

Another view

July 28, 2010

A French Bakery

Posted in Korea at 12:42 am by catsinboxes

Yesterday, Sun and I had lunch here.

Until last week, I'd never been to a French bakery.

Everything looks so good, it's hard to choose what you want.

Eventually I did choose.  Right now, as I’m writing this, I’m eating a pistachio chocolate roll for breakfast.  Delicious!

July 26, 2010

Pig’s Head, Anyone?

Posted in Korea at 3:12 pm by catsinboxes

I’m very sorry for the delay in posting.  Does this picture make up for it?  I will add more pictures soon.  Right now I’m about to head to bed.  Hats off to my faithful readers and thank you for reminding me to post!  ~Hayley

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