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I arrived in Odessa Ukraine on June 8th in the afternoon.

My assistant, her husband and son met me at the airport and drove me home. On the way, Platon, Ira’s husband, asked if it had been difficult for me to leave America and return to Ukraine. I told him, “No,” as I was reacquainted with the rough roads of Ukraine. As he helped me carry my luggage up to my second floor flat, I was also reacquainted with the odor of cat deposits in the stairwell. My mindset was strong, so this little uneasiness didn’t change my answer to his question.

Awakening the following morning to the enthusiastic chatter of the school-children across the alley from my flat, I smiled, knowing that I was home again. The crows gathered in the trees for their morning gossip. “Guess who’s back?” As I began my day, the fresh air from the balcony and kitchen windows circulated throughout the house. As I walked to the corner store, the sights and sounds of Illichevsk returned to my memory; the potholes in the oval drive between our buildings and the dirt open space inside the oval. Trees reaching above the five story buildings were now filled with green leaves. All of this was crowned with bright sunshine.

As Ira and I walked to the internet provider, I was once more reminded of my limited Russian language skills. We talk to each other freely, but Ira must adjust what I say as she translates. She is most sensitive to the gentle way of speaking to people in her language. And then there is the awareness of people, as I walk by speaking English. No matter how much I blend in, I guess that I will always stand out.

This morning, I was awake at 4:30 as the garbage truck came to empty the four dumpsters across the way. My eyes were not open, but I was aware of the flashing light. Within minutes, the truck had moved on and the morning was silent once again. Soon the street sweepers, with their branch brooms, would be cleaning the walkways and alleys. I was reminded of the dusty streets yesterday. After returning home, I found that spots of brown dust had collected on the bottoms of my pants.

These are a few of the endearing characteristics that have captured my heart. So, you are raising your eyebrow in question? It is not comfort or cleanliness that I find pleasing to my heart. Rather, these are the sights and sounds that are the framework of my mission, that which gives me purpose and feelings of fulfillment. In the midst of what many people find unpleasant, I have found my Home Sweet Home.

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