I live in a small village where everybody knows everybody and everybody tells everybody everything.
“But Whitney, how do you know everybody tells everybody everything when you can barely ask where the bathroom is?”
On Friday, in sleepy little Sloboda, the power went out. This was the second time since I’ve been here, but it was the longest. The power was out for all of our Ukrainian lesson and for some time after. Madge and I decided to head into the city as there wasn’t really much to do without power and we got done fairly early for the day.
We found a café and had some tea and I had these bomb pancakes (crepes) with some sort of nut-related spread in the middle. Honestly, not all that sure what I ate, but 10/10 would recommend.
Like the red-blooded Americans we are, we of course had to stop by McDonald’s on our way back to the village.
My host parents weren’t home when we got back, but I decided to brew some tea. They arrived as the water started to boil.
“McDonald’s?” they asked.
“Смачно!” (delicious) was my stereotypical American reply.
I have no idea how they found out that I went to McDonald’s, or even that I was in Chernihiv, because they weren’t home when I left, but it’s comforting to know that they knew where I was.
This brings me to the title of this blog post. After we discussed my eventful trip to the City of Legends*, me in broken Ukrainian of course, I brewed some tea. I’m all about this tea-drinking life in Ukraine. If you know me, you know that I love me some tea. I usually drink three or more cups of tea a day here.
I also brought a bunch with me because I love me some tea. My favorite is this kind of hipster, locally-sourced brand from Spokane that I discovered when I was in college at Whitworth.
I’m obsessed with Winterwoods Tea Company. I brought four different types of their teas and my host parents like to try them. Their favorite (and mine as well) is Northern Twilight. They’re not big fans of High Desert Sunrise, but it’s a different flavor; lemongrass isn’t for everyone.
I’ll fully admit to being a tea snob, and Northern Twilight is a black tea with flower blossoms and it’s just rich and delicious. My host dad clearly has excellent taste and LOVES it. He talks about it all the time.
That night, I brewed a bunch and we just sat in the kitchen drinking this дуже Смачно (very delicious) tea and we talked about my family at home and my time in Ukraine and it was great. When they ask about my mom, they say “Mama vanilla?”* and they always tell me to tell them hello.
Out of all this, I think the coolest part was realizing how much they have learned about me and how much I’ve learned about them, despite the fact that we don’t speak the same language.
I know their favorite snacks and treats. They know that I like 4 scoops of sugar in my tea. We’ve both learned things about each other just by paying attention. I’m learning about myself and about these people who have incredibly opened their home and their lives to a complete stranger who doesn’t look like them, speak like them or really know anything about them. We’re both learning a lot and they care for me like I was their own.
I need to leave these sweet people with plenty of this tea though.
*for the record, that is the legitimate motto of the city
*if you weren’t aware, Momma Carter is white, aka vanilla. She is generally more tan than I am though #lightskinproblems