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.


  1. THANK YOU for the post! I have been dying to hear something about what you're doing. Man, I can't imagine the flight over there... that couple would have disgusted me too. Man. Sad people. Wait, so is the temple under construction or are they still working on getting permission and what not? How long are you there? What do you do during the day?

  2. I have a tendency to "People watch" but I usually just make up what I think people's lives are like. Maybe I should start listening too? Or maybe I'll just learn from your experience.

    I'm glad you're happy... and alive. I'd e-mail, but I can't, so in the meantime enjoy the Russian Ballet!

  3. Sounds like Yekaterinburg where Mark and Ann served in Siberia. Because it was so unAmerican in sight, sound and smells it absolutely intrigued me!!! Record in that little black book of yours the minutae of what you are experiencing. It will truly be an experience of a life time. I still get chills when I think of the time spent in Russia.

  4. Hope you don't mind that I read this but I saw your site linked from Keri's blog... I think you're a way good writer and what you wrote about the couple on the airplane really made me think. That woman didn't seem to have a testimony of the gospel, Ryan, that makes all the difference. Sometimes I'm afraid I'll drive Scott crazy and he's too good to ever cheat on me but maybe he'll want to... but I realized that his dedication to the Gospel means he would love me through anything. He would make the effort, he wouldn't give up. I trust that. You should too-- if you marry someone who loves the Lord more than you, she'll always stay with you.