“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”

Or at least an invincible desire for summer ; ) And while weekend this weather remained numbingly cold outside, inside it was warm with the joy of companionship and the sweat of working out! My dear friend Michelle came to visit for the weekend, which was a godsend because I was sorely in need of cheering up. And it seemed like my apartment knew I had a guest coming, because (miracle of miracles) the water AND the Internet came back on! After school I tidied my apartment and cooked a new recipe I found (chicken with a sour cream/white white/chives/ground mustard cream sauce, with a side of hretchka [buckwheat] = easy and TASTY!) and poured two glasses of wine. I looked at the clock, and worried a bit that Michelle had missed the bus—she was supposed to arrive around 6 or 6:30 and it was almost 8! But just when I thought I should call and check her progress, there was a knock on my door and Michelle came in!

Now Michelle has to come to visit me in Sokyriany plenty of times, and I think she’s my favorite guest. She’s so easy to be around, and I feel like I can genuinely relax in her company. I was so proud of my cooking accomplishment, because Michelle is definitely more of a cook than I am, and having her say its delicious means a lot because she knows what she’s talking about! So we sat down to dinner, watched our favorite TV show (Castle, which she got me hooked on), and I felt the stresses and pains from the week slowly fade as I realized what a fun weekend we had ahead of us.

Saturday morning we woke up early, because I have a twice-weekly yoga date with my Ukrainian friend Olha, and we always do it Saturday morning before she goes to work. Michelle was actually visiting me the first time Olha came over for yoga—we had mentioned that we were going to do it, and Olha wanted to observe. She ended up loving it, and now its kind of our hobby. Olha even jokes about opening a yoga studio in Sokyriany! So we started the yoga video, and it was a fun hour and a half of chatting (in Ukrainian and English), falling out of poses, and making jokes about which guy was the cutest in the yoga video. Michelle and I have been doing the P90X workout series (its great when you’re apartment-bound all winter, and they really get you sweating!), which was created by a guy named Tony Horton. Olha has a huge crush on Tony, and we joke about sending him fan mail in Ukrainian. My favorite guy in the yoga video is African-American, and Olha refers to him as my “chocolate man.” Its so hard to stay focused on breathing when you’re laughing your ass off and failing at balance poses! But I wouldn’t trade these times for anything : )

After yoga, Olha sat Michelle down and pretty much told her that we were going to give her a makeover. I think I’ve mentioned before that Ukrainians aren’t very subtle, and they have no problem being brutally honest about appearance. Olha grabbed my love handles once and said “you need to work on this!” Sometimes I thank God for the language barrier, because by the time I translate it in my head, its funny and not quite as offensive. Its like “did you really just say that?” and laughing it off as I come up with a decent response.

Olha had mentioned that she wanted to give Michelle a makeover (many times, in fact), because Michelle has yet to conform to the tight, sexy clothes and polished, made-up look that 99% of Ukrainian women sport. I’m sad to say I’ve conformed—I see Olha (and teachers at school) every day, who have no problem telling me to put on some lipstick or do something different with my hair—in their mind, they want you to look your most beautiful, so its their way of showing they love you (I think). Michelle is comfortable wearing baggy jeans (she’s lost a lot of weight in Ukraine!) and doesn’t wear much makeup, which is shocking to Olha. So Olha told me before Michelle came that we were going to spring a makeover on Michelle so she couldn’t refuse. I gently suggested that we should ask her first, and she finally agreed that maybe we would ask before demanding she submit to makeover.

I was worried that Michelle would be offended, but she took it so well when Olha said, “its time for a change and we’re going to help you!” She even said she’d be willing to let us dye her hair, so after buying some hair dye from Olha’s store, we came back to my apartment and got to work. I thought Olha would pee her pants from excitement, and I was pretty excited myself. While Olha dyed her hair, I served as official photographer/paparazzi. Here are some pictures of the process:

Olha dying Michelle’s hair

After! Olha is very pleased with Michelle’s post-makeover appearance.

Michelle, completely made-over and looking wonderful : )

And as if the weekend couldn’t get any better, my nearest neighbor (Erin, a volunteer in the next village) came over for Sunday brunch with me and Michelle! Michelle and I were in the middle of another P90X video Sunday morning when Erin arrived, so she patiently waited for us to finish our kickboxing (we were doing Kenpo!) and laughed at my attempts at a high kick. Michelle and I both agreed that doing kickboxing makes us feel like we want to beat someone up, just to see if all the punching, jabbing, and kicking would work out in real life.

Our Sunday brunch consisted of blinchiki made from kefir (like pancakes made with soured milk?) and covered in strawberries, baked egg boats (Click on the link to see the recipe, which I actually discovered with Michelle!), orange juice, and lots of coffee. I was so stuffed and content after lunch that I probably could’ve easily fallen into a food coma, but we started talking about summer plans and agreed that we should plan a trip to Crimea together (Crimea is located in southern Ukraine, on the Black Sea, and is a huge tourist destination in Ukraine). We even researched cheap hotels and considered dates we were all free in the summer, so I think this is going to happen! This is my last summer in Ukraine (and Michelle’s too!) and I want to see as much of this country as I can before I leave. If I’m going to say I lived in Ukraine two years, I need to have seen all the best places here! I can’t wait for Summer 2012… it will bring new adventures, warm SUMMER weather, and my dear little sister for a visit!

So all in all, this was one of the best weekends I’ve had in ages. Thank God for good friends, both the Ukrainian ones and the American ones ; )

Sending you all my love!

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