A couple weeks ago we were able to go spend a day with our friends, Misha and Vera, at their dacha. Dachas are basically little country homes outside the city where most Ukrainians retreat to on the weekends. It is a place to grow a garden, get away from the city noise and pollution, and just relax. We've heard about them many times, but this was our first experience visiting one and I hope it's not our last!
We met Misha and Vera through our first apartment rental here in Kharkov. They managed the place we stayed in when we first arrived in Ukraine. Of course the apartment was great, Vera's English was wonderful, and she offered to help in any way she could as we didn't (and still don't) always know what to do in this culture. We kept in touch with them, we had them over to our house one time, then they had us over to their house. Recently, Vera and I have started meeting on a weekly basis for coffee and conversation. It's been a great help to me, especially in my Russian, because she is patient with my mistakes and explains new words really well. Over one of those meetings, she invited us out to spend the weekend with them at their dacha.
We left late Saturday morning and were able to spend the rest of that day with them, their son Sasha, and Vera's godmother, until the next morning. It was a great experience. We went not knowing what to expect, but excited to experience whatever and ended up being treated like kings! The whole time we were there they served us, it was so humbling. I was hardly allowed to help even with preparing meals and the only reason they let me help was because I could learn how to cook like a Ukrainian. They took us to their nearby pond to swim, pointing out plants along the way, the set us up to bask in the sun and drink tea, it was great. David was also able to play the Russian card game "Durok" with Misha several times (apparently there is a strategy we still don't know because Misha kept winning!).
The meals were traditional Ukrainian meals which was perfect. Of course, Vera knew that I didn't like mayonnaise, so she kindly fixed meals that didn't have mayo in them. (Mayonnaise is a staple in Ukrainian meals... I'm telling you, we were spoiled!) We had cottage cheese, sala, and bread for lunch, borsch for the first course of dinner, pork kabobs for dinner, and finally oatmeal and fruit for breakfast the next morning. On the way out, Vera bought fresh strawberries, cherries, and red currants from some ladies on the road for us to snack on the whole time and they were to die for!
I know all of you are jealous at this point, I think even our teammates were a little jealous we were able to go out there. But we have a new understanding of this tradition - getting away from the city and from the chaos of everyday chores is definitely good medicine! We are so thankful to Vera and Misha for opening up their dacha to us. It was a great Ukrainian experience and a huge blessing!