Well, in my case it took 3, plus one Australian-Ukrainian.
Being of Ukrainian decent, I always knew that I would one day travel there, but through the years the timing never seemed right and the offers at hand, never seemed compelling enough. But a few years ago, I decided to take trip; one that would be substantial. So I chose Australia.
The decision to go to Australia wasn’t entirely random though – I remembered that, someone, at some point had mentioned that we have some relatives there. Well, the mere mention that someone in my family might know someone in Australia was enough for me to choose it as my next vacation destination. So like it or not, I decided to reach out – and touch someone.
Lucky for me, these days it doesn’t take a private detective to find people – all you have to is look them up on Facebook. I however am not on Facebook, mostly because I don’t want long lost relatives showing up at my doorstep. But I figured that if you are on Facebook, you are putting the invitation out there and you probably don’t mind if random people pop on by. So, I asked my brother to go on Facebook and find my dear cousin.
As soon as I mentioned the idea to my brother, he told me that he actually met this Australian cousin many, many years ago, when visited the US. Again, that was all that I needed to hear – I told my brother to let our cousin know that I would be in Australia AND to make up the guest room, I was coming to Sydney.
So, a bit of a colorful exaggeration. I didn’t actually expect to mooch off of my cousin, but I did want to meet him and grab a drink or dinner and if he were willing to show me around, it would have been greatly appreciated. My cousin graciously opened his home to me. As it turned out that we were actually the same age, both divorced and had loads of common interests. He was a great conversationalist, had a wonderful sense of humor and was just a lot of fun. He was kind, thoughtful and a terrific host. [so thank you Andrew].
Now back to the story.
While I was in Australia, I travelled to Hayman Island which is one of the many islands on the Great Barrier Reef. And there I was, sitting poolside on the island paradise soaking in the beauty – the warm sun, the crystal blue water, the tropical birds, it was all just picturesque. But the cockatoo that were charming two hours ago were starting to get on my nerves and their deep raspy squawks began to sound like cigarette smoking housewives dressed in housecoats and curlers, barking at the neighborhood kids. At that point, I knew that it was time to walk over to the bar, which exhaustingly, was on the other side of the pool.
All of a sudden, I heard a familiar sound; the sound of a father telling his son that it was time to get out of the water – only it was said it in Ukrainian. I travel often and never hear Ukrainian, only Russian – so naturally, I was taken aback. Without hesitation I ran after them and stalked them like they were animals. The woman was filming and lagged behind the others so I attacked her first. I breathlessly asked “Where are you from?” She replied “Ukraine.” “I am also Ukrainian – from America” – I said proudly as I panted. She gazed at me with a blank stare, like a mesmerized fawn. For a moment, it all felt very awkward. Now I gazed at her like a mesmerized fawn, but then I realized that she probably didn’t speak any English. So I repeated myself, only this time I said it in Ukrainian – and WHAT a different reaction!
With sheer excitement she called to her husband and his friend. They came over and introduced themselves and invited me to join them for dinner. Dinner was nice, but rather challenging for me with the language. I did my best and luckily one of the guys had been living in Melbourne for the last 15 years, so his English was quite good.
The next day they invited me to join them for brunch. With the endless flow of [free] champagne, brunch turned into an inseparable four days filled with laughter. It was truly amazing. Four people brought together from three distant corners of the world; connecting like we were old friends. This was very special, but HIGHLY unusual. I have often met people from Ukraine, but our mentalities have always collided. Them growing up under the hardships of communist rule and having nothing, and me raised in capitalism and having access to everything. But this group was different. They were progressive and forward thinking and we just clicked.
At dinner the last night we were all sad that our party was coming to an end. It also became very clear to me what the destination of my next trip was going to be. Ukraine.