A Travellerspoint blog

United States of America, Part 3

Home

I am home now. Sixty-seven days passed since I left on June 15th. I flew into Sacramento International Airport from Washington, DC together with my sister and two-month old nephew. I was prepared to write an emotional story about the hardships we faced flying across the US with a two-month old, but I have nothing to write. We had no problems. As soon as we sat down, the baby just fell asleep and slept most of the flight. No problems. No noise. Such an awesome baby.

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I was greeted at the airport by my two cousins.

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It's great to be back home. While I was on the road, my home was my 25'' x 17'' x 9'' backpack. I would hear about people backpacking through Europe, so I decided to beat that. I backpacked through the world :)

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It was quite convenient having all of your belongings with you at all times. I was like a turtle, or a snail. My home was always on my back. I didn't have to check in luggage whenever I flew because my backpack qualified as carry-on. Toward the end however, my backpack was packed with stuff from all over the world and it became mega-heavy.

Even though I lived out of a backpack, I still think I took too much stuff with me. When I left, I packed:

  • 7 shirts
  • 3 pairs of pants
  • 5 pairs of shorts
  • 1 sweater
  • 2 jackets
  • 6 pairs of socks
  • 3 pairs of shoes [2 pairs of flips flops and 1 pair of sneakers]

Whenever you pack, I guess, you always imagine the worst-case scenario and pack extra to be safe. I didn't need 2 pairs of flip flops, even though I took two just in case one pair ripped or something. Well, when travelling, extra stuff becomes a burden. Some wise person said, "nobody wishes they packed heavier."

So true. Because I had so much stuff I wasn't wearing, I gave away a jacket, a pair of pants, and a pair of shorts. In Turkey, I threw away 2 shirts that were filthy and wreaked of Mongolian dirt. In Israel, I lost all of my socks after I gave them to be washed and never got them back.

Packing light is no big deal. When travelling internationally, you can always BUY whatever you need for cheap at some flea market. When I lost my socks, I just got some cheap ones to wear until I came home. Simple as that.

Even though I am home for the time being, my journey is far from over. This is a little pit stop. My voyage is only just beginning.

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Posted by DanPan 12:59 Archived in USA Comments (1)

United States of America, Part 2

Washington, DC and Baltimore

I have been to Washington, DC multiple times before, so not much was left for me to see. However, I hadn't been inside the US Capitol before, so that's where I decided to go.

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I enjoyed being in the building that makes America what it is today. So much history has taken place in this building and I was glad to be able to stand where our founders once stood.

On top of Washington's crypt under the Capitol's rotunda, for example. .
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Or under the the Dome of the the Capitol
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Washington, DC is beautiful. It is unlike any other US city with its huge green lawns, historic brick buildings, and numerous monuments. I explored DC with my sister's family and found a few spots with stunning scenery.

My nephew, America, and Me
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Beside brushing up on my American history and resting from my non-stop voyage, I decided to take a trip to Baltimore, Maryland. The group of Americans that came to the Alpha and Omega camp in Ukraine lived there, and I was invited over. In Baltimore, my American history lesson wasn't over yet. We went over to Fort McHenry, where the Star-Spangled Banner was written during the War of 1812.

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Fort McHenry was full of people dressed in 1800's attrite. Poor people. They must've been really uncomfortable. At least we got some fun pictures with them, though.

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Posted by DanPan 10:30 Archived in USA Comments (0)

United States of America, Part 1

Washington, DC

I took an overnight train from Dnepropetrovsk to Kiev, from where I was in transit for nearly 24 hours from Kiev to Amsterdam to Detroit to Washington, DC. Though I was hungry, smelly, and red-eyed, I was glad to be back in the United States. I was greeted at the airport by my sister who lives in the area.

I love America. America is awesome. America is the best.
I have been to six countries in the last two months. I have a new perspective on the different lifestyles and mentalities around the world. Only when you leave the States do you realize how great American citizens have it. I don't understand how Americans can say they hate America. They should visit Mexico and then repent.

I think that America is the best place to live on Earth. BUT. There were some brand new aspects that I experienced in the other nations. Some better, some worse. Below is a list of differences I have observed between America and the rest of the world:

  • Pretty green lawns are virtually nonexistant in other nations. Lawns in the US are meant to beautify the houses in the suburbs. In the rest of the world, lawns serve no purpose beside growing trees.
  • In former countries of the Soviet Union, sidewalks are a rarity. Beside in downtown, the government is too lazy and corrupt to pour asphalt for people to walk on. There are little trails alongside the roads that have been paved by the feet of the masses beforehand. That's where people walk.
  • The ENTIRE world is a mans bathroom. Seriously. Men just get up and urinate wherever they please. I remember back in California when I drove past a bus stop and saw a man peeing against a wall. I flipped out. It is totally normal for men to pee wherever they want in other parts of the world. I saw this happen in Russia, Ukriane, Israel, and Mongolia. Men walk up to a wall, do their business, then keep walking like nothing happened. I even saw a police officer pee against a tree in Ukriane. Whoa.
  • In Europe, women go to the beach without a top if they want. Even at non-nudist beaches. They let their breasts hang down for the entire world to see o.O
  • Everyone smokes everywhere. There are so many more smokers in every other country than the US. We may have an obesity problem, but everyone else will surely die from lung cancer. The entire world smokes barrels of cigarettes regardless of the "smoking ruins your health" announcments on each box.
  • The citizens of developed nations are super agenda-oriented. They've got things to do and they rush around all day doing them. In countries not as well off, people are more relationship-oriented. They got stuff to do, but they would rather sit around and drink tea with friends and family. Then they go take a siesta. Suddenly, it's the end of the day and they got nothing done.
  • I do not know if it is homophobia, but two guys can't be friends in America without someone thinking they are gay. In other nations, especially less-developed ones, intimacy between male friends is so normal that nobody questions two guy friends. Whenever two guy friends take a picture, they put one arm around each other and may even put their heads together. In the US, guys taking pictures don't usually put their arms around each other, but if they do, they always leave a little gap between their bodies.
  • America, as far as I know, is the only nation with water fountains. People can drink as much water as they want FOR FREE. This is incredible. Everywhere else, you are required to buy water bottles and lug them around all day. Same goes for soda machines. America lets you refill your soda forever. This is unheard of everywhere else.
  • America gives out free T-shirts. Coupons and discounts come in the mail. Dental offices give out free tootpaste and toothbrushes. America has so much stuff that it gives it out FOR FREE. America is the best.
  • The moment I returned to the US, I noticed the fake smiles costumer service workers are required to wear on their faces. It's as though they plastered them on. In other countries, customer service workers don't smile at you. If they feel like it, they will yell at you. If you complain to the manager about the awful costumer service, the manager will yell at you too.

This can be avoided, however, if you are polite and have a genuine smile. Pretty much, costumer service works like this in the world:

In America: People are nice to you until you give them a reason not to be. You are innocent until proven guilty.
Everywhere else: People are mean to you until you give them a reason to be nice. You are guilty until proven innocent.

  • It seemed as though all of the people I met in less fortunate counties were much more creative. It makes sense, if you think about it. The people in less-developed counties have less opportunities than Americans. Americans have so much stuff, they have begun to rely on their stuff to think for them. People from less well-off nations have to rely on their brains to survive - because it's all they have. As a result, they are more creative, interesting, and so much more fun to be around.

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Posted by DanPan 18:40 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Ukraine, Part 2

Dnepropetrovsk / Alpha & Omega Camp

Being in Dnepropetrovsk was an interesting expirience. My family emigrated from Dnepropetrovsk one month before I turned two in 1995. We left under the status of refugees due to religious persecution experienced under the Soviet Union.

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Because we left when I was so young, I remember absolutely nothing. Walking down the streets, I tried to imagine what my life would be like if we hadn't had left. I began to image the places where I would hang out, what school I would go to, and things I would do for fun. After a while, I got tired of this imagination game. Being raised in the United States is such a vital part of my life and character - imagining my life without America would mean growing up an entirely different person. And I like the way I am. Shoot.

Once the Soviet Union fell in 1991, religious freedom was finally allowed and my parents became part of group of university students who would meet and discuss Christianity on a weekly basis. Over the years, the group of Christian students grew and began meeting at a local church under the name "Alpha and Omega". Although my parents left in 1995, the group kept growing and still meets to this day, albiet with different students. Alpha and Omega organizes a camp at the Sea of Azov each summer, and this was my third year attending.

The camp was very insightful. Roland Syens, a Canadian pastor, lead lectures about spiritual issues including the law, the Holy Spirit, grace, and eternal life. I was glad to use my gift of multilingualism to interpret for the 30-something English speakers who came from the US, Canada, and Germany.

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The Americans decided to teach the Ukrainians some smooth American dance moves; including the Cupid Shuffle and Soulja Boy.

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The relationships formed with the campers are an essential part of any camp, and this year I was able to rekindle old friendships and make friends with people from all over Ukraine, America, Canada, and Germany.

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The two guys below, Vlad and Dima, have a special place in my heart. They came to the United States earlier this year and it was great to see them again.

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A few Alpha and Omega veterans from the times of my parents were also at camp. They told me a lot of interesting stories about my family that I didn't know before. I learned that once the Soviet Union collapsed and education was finally permitted to believers, my father went to study although he was 35, working, and had three kids at the time. All of his classmates were in their early twenties, but my dad faced embarrassment in order to get the education he was voided during communist times. I was told that through my dads presence in university, missionary organizations were able to get necessary connections with teachers and students to spread Christianity.

After camp, I went to a small villiage called Zarya to meet with the assisstant director and teacher of a school where my dad began teaching the first Sunday school in 1991. Though my dad, some of my friends from Zarya came to faith. Some even came to Alpha and Omega. My dad and my entire family were local missionaries who worked tirelessly to spread the Good News. Even though we have lived in the United States for 17 years, people still remember our family and regard them with respect and honor.

My family has two old family photos from Ukraine, one before and the other after my birth. Before l left Dnepropetrovsk, I decided to find those places and photograph myself there. Althogh the first photo was taken before my birth, I know that I am somewhere deep down inside the hearts of my mom and dad, therefore I exist in this photo as well.

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This next photo was one of the last, if not the last, of our family in Ukraine. This was after I was born. Wasn't I cute, or what? I don't understand what happened. Where did my cuteness go?

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I didn't have the photographs with me when I was looking for the places, so I had to find them from memory.

Posted by DanPan 23:46 Archived in Ukraine Comments (0)

Ukraine, Part 1

Kharkiv

After Israel, the next stop of my journey was Ukraine - my motherland. Before I left Israel, however, airport security confiscated my Dead Sea bath salts. I don't know why they wouldn't let me take them on the plane, perhaps they thought I would throw them at the the stewardesses. Goodbye 18 shekels.

I enjoy coming to Ukraine because everything is so familiar. This is the place where I came from, the place where I was born. It is my second home. I flew from Tel Aviv to Kharkiv, the city where my cousins live. A lot has changed since I was in Kharkiv last year. Kharkiv was a host city for the 2012 Euro Cup in June, so the government decided to clean it up and finally make it tourist-friendly. I was greeted by my aunt and uncle who took me to their house/farm.

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On Sunday, I went to church with them. My uncle decided to spontaneously tell me to get onstage and talk about my missionary in Israel and Ukraine. He wouldn't take "no" for an answer, so I was onstage five minutes later speaking in Russian in front of the congregation.

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My cousin's church organized a family camp in the outskirts of Kharkiv where we went the next day. The theme of the family camp was, surprisingly enough, "family". During the lectures, I would translate into English for the American guests or I would organize games and activities for the kids who also came to family camp. I was shocked by how respectful and obedient Ukrainian children are. Compared to Israeli kids, these are little angles. If any of these angels decide to misbehave in public, parents aren't afraid to find a branch and whoop them up. Then they become angels again.

I taught the children an American song we sing called "Baby Shark." Perhaps I shouldn't have taught them, because they wouldn't stop asking me to sing it.

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The camp was a nice place for me to relax from my non-stop globe-trot. I would sleep around 10 hours a day; it was great. Beside sleeping, we enjoyed some really old Ukrainian practices - like walking 30 minutes to get drinking water from a well.

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Back home in Kharkiv, my cousin Vera returned from Moscow. Vera and I are really good friends and I see her as a spiritual leader.

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The two of us participated in the Israel day-camp in the past two years. Last year, Vera got together a team from Kharkiv and Dnepropetrovsk to come to Israel and serve in the camp. We were able to get a few people from last year's team together and reminisce.

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Kharkiv was great, but my next stop will be better. I am going to my own hometown - Dnepropetrovsk!

Posted by DanPan 02:37 Archived in Ukraine Comments (0)

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