I write from a warm and sunny garden patio in Zhytomyr, Ukraine. My partner in crime Cima (the youngest sister in the family) and I are drinking tea — she’s watching a video in Russian on a phone next to me as I write, the family cat Tom seruptitiously inching ever closer, and every actor in our environs from the bees to the distant farm animals reveling in the pleasantness of a mature summer’s day. Ukraine may not see many more weeks of this weather and we’re soaking it in.
I’m at the house of my adopted family here in Ukraine. Yuliana, a couple years younger than me, was married yesterday and I was blessed to be here for the whole week. Her parents are my parents and I’m privileged to be treated as another daughter. We spent the week preparing — doing errands, cooking, cleaning venues, decorating, and doing all kinds of running around, including fitting some basketball coaching in. The festivities yesterday lasted from 11 in the morning until midnight, the ceremony followed by a first reception at the church with games and tributes and music and lots of food, followed by a trek over to a camp property outside town (where I’ve spent lots of time for various basketball camps and events in the past) for another smaller reception with more games and tributes and music and lots more food.
I had the honor and pleasure of playing music throughout the day, doing some covers and specials and background music, and getting to riff with an excellent guitarist friend from here with whom I’ve played in the past for camps. The evening was incredibly full — so beautiful. So much fun and laughter and translating and funny games and coffee and good food and friends old and new. By midnight the happy couple had made tracks, and after we put some of the pieces back together and decided to leave the rest for tomorrow, we drove home — vehicles aren’t in great supply, so a huge white windowless van with picnic benches resourcefully added to the back became our “Ukrainian limo” to get 10 or 12 of us back to civilization.
In the few moments of consciousness I remember in my bed last night, I thoroughly enjoyed a bout of warm and fuzzies about all the incredible people in my life. Backtrack to the days before Zhytomyr and the wedding:
I left Edinburgh last Thursday bound for Billund, Denmark and got to spend two quick nights and almost as many days with my dear friend Ellen, who introduced me to her beloved western Denmark. We saw Viking museums and both coasts (Denmark is quite small and cozy), cooked and drank coffee and played games and enjoyed solid conversations about life and happiness and our next steps and more. It was long overdue and much too short a trip, but it was a start.
Then, early Saturday morning, I flew from Billund to Kyiv, Ukraine where I spent a rapturous three nights first with a dear friend on the east side of the city and then with other dear friends on the west side. Life talks, taking a basketball to the local park court, church, forest walks, quality time with a tiny tot, cooking, practicing Russian, and meetings with various friends about sports ministry and the things they’re seeing God do ensued. I wouldn’t trade the bounty of quality time with a wealth of incredible people like I’ve gotten over the past ten days for anything.
Today, we’ll rest after the craziness of putting on a wedding. We’ll eat leftovers, enjoy each other’s company, and hang out at the camp where we were last night. If I were to guess, it will involve campfires and sweets and cleaning up as a team and lots of tasty barbeque and laughing and making Eng/Russian work and cracking jokes and intensely enjoying doing life together. Then tonight, we send the happy couple honeymoon-bound to a sea-side city in Ukraine and I pack up to leave in the morning for Kyiv.
And now for next steps: I’ll fly from Kyiv back to Edinburgh tomorrow evening by way of a long layover in Hamburg, Germany. I’ll arrive in Edinburgh Tuesday morning, and then will pack, say goodbye to my city and hopefully some of my buds if they’re around, and then will leave Wednesday morning for Belfast where I’ll be living this coming basketball season. I’ll be coaching, working with a couple organizations, and potentially working alongside the Northern Ireland basketball federation to support coaches’ development. I still don’t know much of what this next season will look like from day to day, but God has opened this door and that’s all I need. I’m excited to get there and get started.
More to come soon. Until next,