This one is for Robert Saunders.
Yes, this really is me.
It was both a terrifying and wonderful experience. The first winter I was there Russia had shut off the gas pipeline to Ukraine due to the fact that they were trying to bring Ukraine back under its’ control. For the first time in my life I learned what it was like to have true hunger, and have to wait in line for things as basic as a chunk of cheese. I was a humbling experience to have people ask me what time it was in Russian, and not be able to answer. It was frustrating at first because I couldn’t fully express myself. Two-year-old children could express themselves better than I when I first arrived.
After about six months, I could speak fluently, and I am proud to say that I have been able to retain my language ability. I may have forgotten a verb here or there, but I am at about 85%. At one point I was preparing to work at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow after I came home, but backed out. I had a security clearance and everything, but that is a story for another time…
Kiev is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is the birthplace of the Slavic people, and from there the Slavs moved farther east and west. I miss it greatly. I miss my friends that I made there. I feel that Kiev is as big a part of me as the city I was born in.
Today I was trying to find some of my pictures of Kiev, pictures of myself on my mission, and I could only find one that I didn’t look too dorky in. I also included one from my passport just to show you how different I looked back then.
Today my wife and I cleaned out the garage, and I found a couple of old photos from college, and from when my wife and I were dating. A couple of these were taken in a Korean Karaoke bar somewhere in lower Manhattan in 1997, the first time I visited New York. I was the only one not drinking, and still made a complete fool of myself.
While cleaning today I was hoping that I could find the photo of me flanked by women Ukrainian soldiers with AK-47s. I can’t find this picture for the life of me! I am not lying, this picture really exists. If only I could find it…