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Day 29: Ternopil, Ukraine to Sviatets, Ukraine

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Start: Ternopil, Ukraine
End: Sviatets, Ukraine
Distance: 77.8km
Elevation Gain: 2145ft
Elevation Loss: 2380ft
Time: 6h15m
Reading Material: The Good Soldier Švejk – Jaroslav Hašek; Ukraine: A History, 4th Edition – Orest Subtelny
Audio Material: Forget due to vodka intake

I was adopted by a family today! But, first the lead-in…

Heavy rain overnight on Pond Ternopil gave the morning some dread. Started out under overcast but dry sky. I kept the raingear off and was rewarded with a full drenching from 10 minutes of surprise heavy downpour. I felt sluggish (maybe after effects from the long ride yesterday) but kept plugging away. Around 3:30 (~70km) I decided to start preparing to find a camp spot for the night. I noticed a store with a group gathered on the patio and stopped planning to fill up on water for the night.

Before I could enter, I was called over to the group, given a seat and a glass of vodka. And, the toasting began. No real English speakers (I have absolutely no Ukrainian or Russian), but we did fine. Ivan, the ringleader, was celebrating his 45th birthday with friends. Lots of vodka, fresh cucumbers and sausage. The camera was passed around and we drank more to the toasts of “American Boy!” Ivan kept pointing up the road and giving the sleepy head signal. I was in need of a place to sleep, so decided to see where this would lead.

After about 2 hours the drinking party dispersed. My bike was loaded into a van, Ivan hopped on a moped and we drove around for a bit (could have been in circles, given the fact I had just hydrated my ride with a large amount of vodka). I got the bike out of the van and followed after Ivan’s moped (he only slid out of control once). And, we arrived at his house and I met my new, adopted family, the Yatsuk’s: Ivan (father, who gave himself the nickname “Ukrainian Alcoholic” to go with my “American Boy”), Valentine (mother), Victoria (sweet, 17 year-old daughter who recently graduated from school), Maria (Aunt, who made sure to underscore that she lived in Kiev), Nadia (camera-shy grandmother). They were fun to watch. It was pretty clear that Ivan often stumbled into trouble, but all the women found him lovable and helped fix whatever situation it was that he broke.

We hung out in their separate kitchen structure and did more drinking (schnaps added into rotation), eating (fresh green onions, borscht, bread, sausage, strawberries) and talking. As with many younger Ukrainians, Victoria understood English quite well and helped translate. I met all their different animals (cow, piglets, baby chicks, two rambunctious dogs and the cutest 2 month-old kitten ever). More pictures (except for grandmother who hid behind the kitten).

I got a warm bath around 10pm and was given Victoria’s room for the night while she made due with the couch in the living room. Everyone drifted off to sleep (or fitfully tossed for those of us unaccustomed to Ukrainian vodka).