Almost a year ago, I flew on the air balloon for the first time. Then I came to Zavallya for four days to check out Atlantida cave, and the crystals of Atlantida charmed me with their beauty. But the main reason I stayed was because I unexpectedly fell in love with my best friend, the bestest man in the world.
This is how we started living together in the village.
Ukrainian village is very beautiful and poor. People are friendly, they smile and try to make friends with us. They sometimes give us milk and sour cream and strawberries for free, just because we are neighbours. Last month our neighbours gave us a bucket of cucumbers. When we tried to refuse, they said they would feed them to cows. I accepted and made pickles.
At first we used to live in Speleogy base camp, Khmelytskyy Speleo Club Atlantida. It is a countyside house with a sauna and outdoor toilets. It is heated by wood in winter. I like it there because every weekend many people come to visit the cave. People from Kyiv come often.
During the week we would mostly stay alone and enjoy the silence. Hanging in the hammocks is my favourite.
We slept on these bunk beds which are called ‘nary’ in Ukrainian. Beds in jail are also called ‘nary’ but I did not feel imprisoned here. This is the place I could be as free as I wished. This is how I found my freedom. And wrote my second novel ‘Frenchman’s adventures in Ukraine’.
Half a year of sleeping on wooden bunk beds and taking people to the cave, we started looking for privacy. Our neighbour Liuda, who likes to go to the church, sing songs and listen to guitar, agreed to be our real estate agent. She contacted some people and found us a house.
Andrii went to see it when I was traveling, and got scared of two many ‘ikonas’, images of Jesus and saints hanging on the walls. The house cost 500 UAH per month (20 euro). We decided to wait and maybe find something with plumbing and without God images. We did not find anything, but the landlord bargained and offered us the house for 300 UAH (10 euro) per month.
We took the house and painted the walls yellow, and started living here.
When friends visited us in May, they were surprised we wanted to have internet more than running water. But we need internet to check how to connect the pump in the well. And to check everything else we don’t know.
This is our toilet.
This is our kitchen
In my garden I have sunflowers, zucchini, pumpkins and potatoes. All the other things I planted refused to grow.
I cook every day. There are no restaurants here, so the only way to survive and not die is cooking. I realised cooking is not as scary as I thought and I have a lot of fun when doing it. We eat a lot of dairy, because all our neighbours have cows and we can buy from them.
There are three shops in the village. One of them usually has bread, but sometimes not. There is one kind of cheese of low quality. Kronensburg beer which costs 20 UAH in town costs 29 UAH here. Things are either more expensive or nonexistent here. There is also a bus which can take us to Kamyanents-Podilskyy 4 times per day. The bus smells bad and plays Russian pop music.
We were very patient with the shop and the bus, until we had enough and bought a car. Now Andrii is very patient with me, he takes me everywhere. When he gets impatient, I will have to learn how to drive.
I go to school almost every week and teach self development workshop to kids. Kids like me. They don’t care about self development. They do not want to get out of their comfort zone, but do it when I encourage them. We practiced yoga and meditation a couple of times and they liked it!
This is my favourite student Katia. She sometimes calls me and asks if she can come over to study English. When I agree, we sing songs together. Now that I am traveling, her homework is to study alphabet. One day Katia told me she wanted a hammock, and I brought her one. I secretly gave her a gift of a friend. I don’t like to give away gifts that are meant for me, but we already had four hammocks. Katia was very happy, she hang the hammock in her backyard.
It feels good to stay at home, watch Games of thrones and be in love.
We like living here because we can play around with life and see what is really important for us. Now we understand hot shower and warm floor in winter are very important. Freedom is more important. I can be free and ok without a hot shower, but I cannot live with a hot shower and have to do what others say.
If you want to learn more of what it feels like to live in a Ukrainian village, check out the video I made