There is still so much to learn, but isn't that what this experience is all about? Each day awaits a new adventure and opportunity to grow. For the short time I've been in Ukraine, I have already begun to develop a deeper sense of gratitude for all my many blessings. This week has proven to me that I am constantly being watched over and blessed; It is comforting to know that I have the Lord is on my side in all I do, to uplift and strengthen me. I am grateful for the struggles and hardships I have been presented with and all that I will face in the future because I know they will teach me that I must lean and rely on my Savior so he may help me through. Despite the difficult moments, I have had a wonderful week! Here are some pictures and stories explaining the details...enjoy!
I have always loved animals, but this would be a first for living in the same house as a chinchilla! Our family has two chinchillas, one bunny named Pixi, two water turtles, and two fish! I wish I could snuggle with Pixi, but she hisses every time I try to touch her. (she's so fluffy!)
Nikita has quite the room! After showing me his turtles, we played on the built-in rope swing and jungle gym; his tricks were obviously much cooler than mine!
Friday, Sofia invited her friend Olya to come over; these two girls are absolutely adorable! Mrs. Pollock made several beanies and was kind enough to give me some to bring with me; I let these two cuties pick one. They love their hats...Thank you Mrs. Pollock! Later, we decided to do hair so I curled Olya's and Sofia braided mine; I love girl time!
Saturday was a long day spent preparing for the first day of school. Afterwards, all of the teachers in Kiev 1 went to Ocean Plaza (a giant shopping center) Hooray! We were all so hungry and after wondering around the food court for awhile and being frustrated because we couldn't read anything, we finally settled on McDonald's. I don't think their fries have ever tasted so delicious!
Sunday was amazing! Tanya (our host mom) drove Kristina and I to church which is located right by the Kiev, Ukraine temple. When the temple came into sight I was overcome with complete peace and comfort. It is true that "you are never lost when the temple is in sight". It was a perfect sight to see this gorgeous white building rising from the city. What a beautiful reminder of our purpose here on Earth, and our eternal potential. I love this temple.
We go to church in a small international branch. I think the ILP(International Language Program) volunteers make up more than half of the branch! Our branch president explained they would be greatly appreciative if we would help give talks, teach lessons, and provide music. What a wonderful opportunity for me to serve others and become involved in my new branch! The testimonies of the people here are very strong and I feel extremely blessed to have the chance of being touched by their sweet spirits each week. We also have the choice of attending Institute each Thursday, but because the location is relatively close to the center of Kiev, and the situation with the protesters and police continues to worsen, we are currently unable to attend.
We all piled into the car to go buy some candy at the Roshen candy store, "the finest candy in Ukraine!"(according to Nikita). It was the most adorable little candy shop and of course was still playing Christmas music. I love it! We picked out so many kinds, but my favorites are definitely the ones with chocolate. I couldn't help but eat a lot of them and Sofia just looked at me and said, "I think Katelyn likes sweets". She is too cute but very right! How can I resist all of this delicious candy when it sits in a bowl on our kitchen table?
Here we are preparing the first day of school. We were so happy and ready for this, but by the end of the day, were completely exhausted! Who would have thought that teaching 23 kids could be so hard? Monday, Wednesday, and Friday either Kristina and I teach Pre-K (4 kids that are three years old) from 10:00-11:00 and every day we teach Primary (ages 4-6) from 3:00-6:00. Because it starts getting dark around 4:00, it feels so late by the time we are finished. The first week of teaching has definitely been a roller coaster, but by the end of Friday I was feeling much more confident, organized, and knowledgeable about ways to better understand, teach, and meet the needs of the children. So far this experience has taught me how to be very patient and realize that kids are kids; you can't expect them to be perfectly behaved because that would be impossible. They must learn like the rest of us and that is why I am here, to teach them English and help them have an increased amount of opportunities in the future. In return they have been teaching me more each day! They all have such sweet and loving spirits and being with them so consistently helps remind me that I need to become more like a child: more loving, kind, willing to help others, and most of all to forgive and accept everyone. I love my kids and though it will be difficult at times, I look forward to the time I have to teach and interact with them.
When we teach Pre-K, we ride with Sofia and Nikita to school, but every Tuesday and Thursday we take public transportation. There hasn't been any snow here, but beginning Tuesday, it started snowing non-stop for 3 days. Now it looks like a winter wonderland and continues to get colder. This week the temperature has reached -4 degrees Fahrenheit, but it feels much colder because of the humidity. Good thing I was raised in Panguitch, Utah and know what it's like to live in the cold. We don't spend too much time outside especially when we are driven to school by our host parents, but Tuesday was our first time riding public transportation (little yellow buses called Marshrootkas) and lets just say after getting lost and turning a normally 30-45 min. ride into an hour and a half ride we were freezing! I have never felt so helpless then I did that day. We tried asking two Ukrainian women for help, but because they obviously didn't speak English, we showed them a paper that had the name of the street we were trying to get to. They motioned for us to follow them to several buses then after saying something to a buss driver pointed for us to board the bus. It was terrifying putting so much trust into these two ladies! We had no idea if they even understood where we needed to go, but we didn't really have a choice. After driving for a little while we finally saw our school and told the buss driver to stop! I have never felt so happy to walk through the doors of that school! Again, another tender mercy.