Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sidebag Withdrawals

I breathe deeply and begin yet another meaningful blog post! Oh, it feels good. Oh, and this internet cafe doesnt allow me to plug in my camera, so I can't upload pictures. And it also doesn't have a headphone jack, so I can't listen to Annie's playlist on her blog. Makes me sad.

Life is great right now. I think it is so great because I find myself in an environment that isn't particularly great. Let me explain.

I have jetted off to Ukraine--to a country that some in Provo might consider 3rd world without having consulted google or wikipedia. The 11 hour plane ride from Salt Lake to Paris was spent in disgust, listening to a conversation in the row ahead of me. I have a bad habit of people watching (aka eavesdropping) while in transit or long-distance travel. The row ahead of me consisted of two people: an appelate court judge for some US circuit (female) and a german businessman (male) of roughly the same age. Overhearing their conversation, their manners were at first polite, then comfortable, and then downright distasteful. I heard the woman whine about her soft-spoken husband, her rowdy children, and the apparent ease of her life. I heard her utter the words, "I have done my best to play by all the rules of life, and am getting tired of it," in a tone that didn't convey frustration, but boredom. After a few drinks, the woman confessed of an online relationship with a man in texas (she being from Salt Lake) and proceeded to be very forward with her neighbor, who had been forward from the get-go. He urged her to leave her husband. She confided that such a move had been in consideration for some time. They kissed, they shmoosed, and were entirely unaware that they were seriously injuring a 22 year-old's trust in the insitution of marriage. We all know that adultery happens, but it was an almost mind-numbing event to witness the beginning stages of it with my own eyes.

After arriving in Paris a connecting flight for Kiev was found and boarded. After landing in Kiev and putting on my best "jason bourne" face, so as to avoid questions and interrogation from police officials, we met our driver and were taken to our apartements. Our driver was an older man, obviously Ukrainian, who had all metal teeth and didn't speak a bit of english. He pointed to a map, drove us to a location, and bode us farewell. The streets and driving of Ukraine are great! Each road is generally divided up into 4 or 5 lanes, but for what reason I do not know! Cars speed down the road regardless of lanes or limits. Shoulders and sidewalks are also fair game. I don't know what it takes to get a driver's license in this country, but it appears all you really need is just a face for the picture.

The country is not a sight to behold. The first thing we noticed were the grey and neer-ending apartment buildings. Hundreds of them-identical-stretching off into the distance. The second thing was the abundance of factories. Smoke rises in plumes in every direction. The third thing was the trash. Trash dumps are to become of streets, trees, corners, fields.

The temple is a beacon on a hill. It took over 10 years to get the government to approve the building, and hopefully it will prove to have been worth the wait. The temple site is largely unfinished, although the exterior of the temple is nearly done. The interior is a work in progress. We have already finished the gold leafing of one room and supplies are slowly arriving through customs.

A bit of sad news, though. Because the temple and church have been under such scrutiny for decades, they church leaders worry that a group of loud, obnoxious americans could hurt the allowance the church has received from the government. We are not allowed to go out in public in groups and are instructed to keep our heads down when out--and be as inconspicuous as possible. I sometimes pretend to be James Bond. I still have found time to leave the apartment and roam the streets of Kiev. And I have already finished the Count of Monte Cristo in my spare time.

Life is good, especially now that I am not provided with everything I want. It seems that everything I need is highlighted by this lack. I can enjoy a simple walk more, enjoy a familiar smell or taste. Man, I love it. If anyone reads or sees something about Kiev--something that is worth seeing--let me know. We are already planning a trip to the Russian Ballet (for 15 dollars) and the catacombs, which I am very excited for.

I hope that satisfied your curiosity. Questions are welcome. Email me.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Piece of Bread after Church

I returned home from church today and instinctively reached in the cupboard for a piece of bread. I haven't lived at home for years now, but as far back as I can remember, the desired 'after-church' snack for me and my siblings was always a slice of white bread. Methods for eating varied. I would always take the crust-first approach. First eating the crust, and once finished, would then begin my slow enjoyment of the fluffy white center. I remember Hilary balling her piece of bread up until it no longer resembled bread, but perhaps a bread egg, and eating it that way.

Today I have my 22nd birthday.

I thought about the days I used to live at home with my family after I considered the 'bread after church' tradition. I couldn't help but think about my siblings as I've talked with them the past couple days and as they've expressed their love for me around my birthday. They are my favorite people in the world, and I can't imagine wanting to be more like anyone else--and how much I want to be just like them. I love my siblings. To me they are the happiest, most successful, most beautiful people I know.

I wish I had each of their qualities. Be it Hilary's wit and love of life, Amy's creativity and motherly kindness, Bryce's humor in any situation and caring thoughtfulness, I would do well to attain any of their virtues to any small degree. I currently keep a small journal about all of the things I love about my siblings, but knowing pride to be one of their collective vices (funny?), I don't think I'll ever share it with them. Suffice it to say, I respect you guys and love you more than anyone--except for maybe the two parents that donated their genes to you.

Also in my little journal of siblings are my siblings-in-law. I really think that each of my siblings married up, so if I feel the need to compliment my siblings, the need to compliment my brothers- and sister-in-law remains necessary. I was a little tike when you entered the family and my life, and I will forever look up to you all and take your advice and help as scripture, or close to. I also love you guys for making my siblings even better than they already were.

I love you guys. You are my great examples.

Life is good. I leave for Ukraine on the 21st at 4:45pm from the Salt Lake Airport.