We spent yesterday continuing in program and microfinance training. Most of yesterday was dedicated to team building and final preparations. We spent part of the afternoon touring Lancaster County and the Amish Villages. It was amazing to learn more about their heritage, trends, and future challenges. I knew of Lancaster County and the Amish from when my sister lived on the East Coast - whenever we went to visit her we'd always stop in at the Amish Market. But to learn more about a culture within the American culture, a history within American history - it was a reminder that it does not take traveling thousands of miles to be immersed in a culture so different from my own. Toward the end of the afternoon, we spent some time in an Amish 'village' (more like a tourist attraction with Amish shops) - the sweetest little band (not Amish, but they added a touch of "old home" to the village) played in the center of the village. It was so relaxing to just sit for a while and listen to them play.
We spent the evening cooking out, enjoying the summer, and playing Catchphrase. It was HILARIOUS. It's funny how close you can grow to people in such a short period of time. Our team is a strong one - well balanced by one another's uniqueness but united by fundamental commonalities (i.e.: a commitment to global social justice and integrating faith into our work).
We leave today for our countries and summer work. I am excited but that excitement is manifesting itself in somewhat frustrating ways. I'm losing everything and feel utterly incapable of repacking in a way that is organized and complete. I've already managed to lose the book that is most important to my summer studies. I'm sure it will turn up somewhere. I still have around four hours to finish some final tasks, pack, and get ready for the flight.
Bags or no bags, books or no books, in a few short hours I will be in the Ukraine. It's a little nerve-racking, given the escalating political tension there. But I am confident that our work will be uninterrupted and that we will be safe. The 'crisis' in the news has been in the making since March, and there are many international actors with eyes trained on developments. There is much pressure on both President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yanukovych to reach a peaceful solution. It's unfortunate that troops are involved, but I have a feeling that the media is over-dramatizing events. Sensationalism is so much a part of our media. I guess I'll find out the true nature in a few hours and days. In any event, it is an exciting time to be there. The unfolding events are sure to change the course of the Ukraine's history. They are pivotal in the country's struggle to transition from communism to democracy. And whether that transition occurs, is delayed, or is stopped entirely rests on what happens in the course of this crisis. Alongside of it, I will be experiencing what I know will be a life-changing summer with Hope.