Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Miss Valla


      Aaron's village doesn't have a hotel.  No bed and breakfast either.  There is a school with a few rooms that are available to rent.  They were full.  We arrived in the village unannounced.   This stunned us but seemed normal to everyone involved.  We are Americans who plan our lives out weeks and months in advance.  We make lists, consult maps, google everything and make sure every base is covered before we leave home.  
     We drove into a village with no idea where the center of town was located, where the social services building was located, where a bathroom was located!  Our facilitator took it all in stride.  She knew exactly where to go despite never being there before.  She directed the driver and he drove right up to the building we needed, she walked in and within just a few minutes had started the process for us to go see Aaron.  Unbelievable.  But, our housing still needed to be solved.  No hotel.  No rented rooms.  No problem. 
     Calls were made and within a few hours of our dropping unannounced into the village, an 80 year old woman, with dyed hair and gold teeth, vacated her bedroom and invited us to stay with her.  She spoke not one word of English, we spoke about three words of her language, but somehow we communicated - with signs, a bit of polite German phrases we both knew and a lot of laughing. We couldn't pronounce her name so we called her Miss Valla.

      It was not the Hilton.  The three of us were crammed in one room.

It was hot.  Brutally hot.  We had one little fan that we directed so that all three of us could feel it.

We sat on our beds whenever we were in the apartment.  We had nowhere else to go.

We felt like we had gone back in time.

A kitchen much like my Great Grandmother's kitchen,  although not quite as clean! 

To save money, dishes are washed with a liquid dish soap that is diluted down to one drop soap and one bottle water.  One bottle of dish detergent in Miss Valla's apartment will last her a lifetime.  We bought our own bottle of dish detergent.  She thought we were a bit crazy!

An old fashioned phone with an old fashioned ring!  It worked!

A radio that played non-stop.

Our bathroom...

Well... let's just say that it doesn't have a chamber pot - but it definitely is not the Hilton!

A shower room that is separate...

     The image on the door is deceiving.  Unfortunately I did not get a picture of the shower room (or bath stall).  It is a tiny little room that contains a sink, an old style bathtub and a cabinet.  You have room only to walk in and close the door.  The bathtub has a board laying across the back of it that holds a bunch of washtubs.  So you can't use the bathtub as a bathtub.  You can't use it as a shower either.  The hose to the shower is not hooked up to the wall.  Basically you squat in the tub and wash and spray.  Not so bad for my 5'2' frame but poor Rob! 

We washed our clothes in the washtubs and hung them out to dry on a line off her balcony.   We cooked in her little kitchen (washing all the dishes BEFORE we used them) and ate at her table. 

She had funny little rituals.  Before we left we had to sit on short little foot stools in the little foyer for a few minutes.  It was for good luck.

She thought we were going to get sick because we put bottles of water in the freezer. 

She dried bread in bowls in the windowsill.  In the bedroom.

She served us borscht.   

Poor Elijah.  He took one look at the stuff in the bowl and wanted to immediately throw up.  We were whispering to him to 'just take one bite'.  She was watching and wondering why he was stirring his spoon in the bowl but not eating.  Too cold?  No problem.  She whisked away his soup and heated it up in a pan.  Back in front of him it came.  More stirring.  Too hot? 
 She's definitely confused.
We were quietly begging for him to just take a bite.  Both of us eating ours with more relish than we felt to offset his reluctance.  Finally he got some in his mouth.  His shudder and look said it all.   Okay - she pulls out chicken.  The boy will eat chicken.  Relief!  Elijah loves chicken.  Yes - Da  - he will eat chicken.  She brings it to him... AND DUMPS IT INTO THE BORSCHT!!

Dear Miss Valla 

 We left our fan and Aaron's stuff in her apartment. 

She has already told us she wants us to come back. 

We can't wait! 

Please though - no Borscht!


  1. I could picture all of it!

    I love the culture, the old ways, all of it.

    Well, not quite all of it....a nice bath is a good thing. :)

    The funny thing is when we were getting ready to leave Ukraine, our friend Alexander was in our apartment with us and he wanted us all to sit down for a moment...we were in a big hurry...but we did.

    Now we know why!!


  2. Hilarious. I can just picture the stirring....it must have seemed like an eternity! Poor boy is right. Who will go on the next trip? Any plans for bring along food for him if he goes?

    I can't wait for you to bring your new son home!!

    St. Thomas More was my extra prayer helper! Patron Saint of judges, courtworkers, and officials and ORPHANS!

  3. Is she honestly 80? I ask because she doesn't look 80 to me...and every other 60 year old I see here DOES look 80!

  4. She is definitely 80. Our facilitator was stunned too. Elijah and Ben are not going back with us... Rob and I will have our first time alone since Ben was born 15 years ago!

  5. No borscht?! Isn't hers as good as our Russian friends make? That is some tasty stuff! ;-)

    Aaron may like it, so you might want to learn to make it?! ;-) I have a good recipe from Russia if you want it.

  6. How God loves you and Aaron. it encourages me in my own walk to see His provision despite all the obstacles He has allowed to come. I am going to have to google borscht now to see what it is...some sort of yucky stew perhaps? I wait with eager expectation as so many others to see Aaron at home at long last. God is faithful and the One Who calls you WILL see this through.

  7. LOL..... we have learned to LOVE borscht around here too.
    Easy to make and tasty!
    One of our little girls would only eat "red soup".

    When Aaron comes home and looks at the food funny, this will help your son remember how he felt with that borscht. LOL

    She looks amazing! I loved seeing the old phone nad radio. Reminds me of our apartment.

    I wonder if the weather will be cooler when you go back....?

  8. What we learned about Borscht- NO TWO PEOPLE EVER MAKE IT THE SAME!! Our facilitator told us that it is different even in families. The borscht we were served - tasted okay - not my favorite but the way it was made.. well - let's just say it was not the Hilton.

  9. I just read your previous post too...praise God! That is wonderful that you have your court date--so happy for you! I will email you our Ukriane cell phone as my husband and 2 daughters will be over there from August 14 to the 31st unless it goes faster (we hope) ...they will be in Odessa for part of that time which I thought she said was close to where you are. We're praying for your family :)
    We actually loved borscht but always had it at restaurants (some we liked better than others)--never home made. That was really funny and I could totally relate to it with my son who traveled with us for the first trip.

  10. That is hilarious!! I was definitely cracking up reading this :)


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