Friday, November 4, 2005

Transcarpathian Dreaming

It's November 4th, and I've had to open all the windows this afternoon because the heat of the apartment was stifling. Working on some old photographs, I came across this one of a sanatorium in the Transcarpathian Mountains of southern Ukraine. My colleagues and I stayed in cabins a short walk away, but we would make this trip at least once a day to buy supplies (i.e., water, fruit juice, beer). Over the week we were there, I got a (not more than usual) severe sinus infection, and I bitched and complained that I was not meant to live among grass and nature. "Take me back to the concrete and steel of L'viv," I would whine. No one took me too seriously because they had all already heard my tales of growing up on a farm in east Texas. It was at this time that I learned how to say, "Важко дихати." ["It's hard to breathe."--one of the few Ukrainian sentences I can formulate after five years of not speaking the language. (In fact, I found the entry in my language notebook dated June 30, Monday.)] I remember I was still sickly during the Fourth of July party a few days after we arrived back in L'viv. None of this sickness stopped me, of course, from drinking myself blind either in the mountains or at the Independence Day party or from smoking (at least) a pack of cigarettes a day. It's strange that I documented so much of my brief time in Ukraine without managing to write down the name of this sanatorium. I took a couple of photographs of it because I didn't have any sketching supplies with me at the time, and I wanted to sketch this building at a later date. That date hasn't yet arrived. But in the heat of the Texas November, I remember the slight chill of the evenings in the mountains in Ukraine, the liters of good, strong beer, the deep conversations with Van and my other fellow travelers and (fellow) intellectuals over shish kabobs and an open fire, Aaron playing the guitar that he borrowed from a group of nearby campers, Andrew playing some classical work on his violin, staying up laughing till it hurt making stupid jokes with Peter about a Ukrainian professor at the university. While the others were forced to continue their language lessons out in an open field, Liz--who swore she was having her period just to get out of the "voluntary" hike--and I would walk to the sanatorium for orange juice. I probably drank two liters a day just to flood my body with vitamin C to help fight the infection. When we weren't going for drinks, I would sit in the cabin by myself and nap or write in my journal, never thinking that there would come a day that I would look back on all that as if it were one of the most magical experiences of my life.

Here are some other photographs I found online.

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