Thursday, May 8, 2014

Because Apparently I Think I'm Anderson Cooper Now

So I'm turning thirty at the end of next week. I remember so well when I was 21 and my friend Paula came to town to visit and she told me that she had just turned thirty and I was like, "HOW ARE YOU EVEN STILL ALIVE?!"

Suddenly thirty doesn't sound all that old.

Nevertheless, I feel the need to go through some sort of early mid-life crisis so I bought eye cream a little while ago and also whenever a Spice Girls song comes on the radio I'm all, "TURN IT UP!" because that's what the kids are listening to.

When I found out that Rebecca was going to be moving to Paris, I thought it would be a perfectly good idea to fly out there and spend my birthday in the city of love where I could practice the one French word I know. #HomeAlone

So I told Rebecca about this a while ago and she was like, "OK! WE CAN TALK ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT IN FRENCH!" And then I immediately changed my mind about Paris. Because I don't need that chaos to be a part of my life in any other country but my own.

It was around this time a month or two ago that Brandt told me that he would be happy to go somewhere with me. We started considering options. We looked up 100,000 different flights. One thing led to another. Bada-bing, bada-boom.

Somehow we decided that we should purchase plane tickets to the most dangerous country in the world right now.

So one week from today we are scheduled to fly directly into the heart of Ukraine. It's basically like going to Disneyland except imagine if Disneyland had borsch and Russia was invading it.

Look. I know. I KNOW. What are we thinking? We bought the tickets not long after the Ukrainian president was ousted and before the annexation of the Crimea. There was this very small window in which things looked relatively calm in the area so we thought we would be going there to survey the aftermath of the violent riots, like visiting a country after a war has ended.

Since that time, not only did the Crimea mess happen, but the entire Eastern portion of the country has devolved into absolute chaos with pro-Russian demonstrators taking over government buildings by force and with Russia lining its military all along the border and threatening to invade at a moment's notice. In the meantime, every powerful country of the world has threatened one another up and down with sanctions and more.

I have been constantly heartsick over it for months now and have worried for my friends there.

To say the situation has been volatile and intense would be a huge understatement. Some have gone even as far as stating that this conflict could lead to the start of World War III.

Well, Brandt and I must want some borsch real bad because we have not changed our plans. We have, however, obsessively checked google news approximately 200 times a day and then texted each other things like, "so a new battle just broke out" and "well that city is still pretty far away from where we're going to be."

None of it is really much of a comfort.

Bob and Cathie haven't spent a lot of time being concerned over it because, as Cathie so inspiringly put it a couple of weeks ago, "son, I'm not worried about your Ukraine trip because you're going to die in the half Ironman first."

And now, suddenly, this trip has sprung upon us. It's true that there probably hasn't been a more interesting time in recent history to visit Ukraine. There probably hasn't really been a more dangerous time in the last twenty years to tour the country either. And while I'm apprehensive about the potential danger, I'm looking forward to turning thirty in the same country in which I was living when I turned twenty. A place that I really love.

I'll keep my fingers crossed and my prayers sincere for my Ukrainian friends that they'll find peace soon. And I have no doubt that if we are actually able to go next week, I'll have some strange stories to send back to you.

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. Just think, when you're turning 30, asking "How are you still alive?" will be a question of legitimate concern.

  2. I can't believe you're abandoning me on OUR birthday, though I do understand your desire to flee--I turned 30 at the state track meet and then had an icing fight with my athletes...but you do realize that by fleeing to the east, your birthday will come that much sooner than it would have are LITERALLY jumping closer to your 30s.

  3. #HomeAlone is my new favorite thing you have ever posted. Ever.

  4. ELI NOOO!

    Haha, sorry, lemme explain ;) : My pastor is apart of a missionary group that works specifically in the Russia/Ukraine area (Slovic Gospel-blahblahblah). He's been over there quite a lot since the whole Russian invasion thing, and actually, there's not much going on. It's incredibly peaceful for what's been happening, and the news people have just been making a small thing into a large thing. You will be safe though, I promise. They took a group of teens a few weeks ago and would not have done that if it wasn't safe. You'll be a-okay. :)

  5. Eli, don't die in the Ukraine! You still have to compete in the Ironman in Tahoe...where you have to survive potential cannibalism from Donner Party enthusiasts!

  6. Wait, what day is your birthday?! My husband is turning 30 tomorrow. He hasn't let on about any mid-life crisis, but I suffered at 30. I insisted on spending the whole day at Disneyland in deep denial bc i was turning 30 and hadn't even had a baby yet! I'm still not over it and now I've had a baby it's been almost 3 years... I'm hoping that I can grow up before 40... But what do you want for your birthday? Because i have to go get him something...

  7. Good for you! Everything is sweetened by risk.
    You are on path to be the next 'Most Interesting Man In The World" in about 30 years and after that creepy Dos Equis guy drops dead.

  8. Pleeeeeeease don't go!!!!!!!

  9. I had a conversation with my younger brother a couple of weeks ago. I told him I'm planning a trip to Austria at the end of the summer, and he got perturbed that I was going to get myself killed. The conversation went something like this...

    Him: Have you ever seen Taken 2?! It happened in Austria!

    Me: Yeah, I've seen the movie...but didn't it happen in, like, Prague or something?

    Him: No, it was Istanbul. But that's, like, right there. And that's not the point. The point is that if you get kidnapped, I'm going to have to come save you, and you're going to have to reimburse me for my plane ticket!

    Me (consulting Google Maps because I'm terrible with geography): Umm...Turkey and Austria aren't that close.
    *sends Google Maps picture, stating that, in a car, it takes 27+ hours to drive from Salzburg to Istanbul*

    Him: That's like driving from Idaho Falls to New Orleans. Not that far.

    I told him I'd be careful, but if he ended up coming to save me, I'd totally pay for his plane ticket.

    As it turns out, my friends and I are actually going to Switzerland instead, and when I told my brother as much, all he said was, "Switzerland is safe." I guess I'm good to go?

    Although you're heading into the War Zone very shortly, I'm really excited for you that you get to spend your 30th in a place you love so dearly. Keep us posted, Coop! We'll pray for your safety.

  10. I turn 30 in 3 weeks, and I planned to go to the zoo. Now I feel a little lame. Maybe I'll lean dangerously over the ledge into the bear pits?

  11. okay, okay. Do Ukraine. Give Rebecca time to miss you and think she's not going to see you for a long time. Then make a detour to Paris.

  12. My best friend is currently in Ukraine adopting 3 boys. This is a lengthy process. She has already been there for about 4 weeks and will be there for at least another 4, most of it alone, knowing very little Russian - only what she's picked up in the time she's been there. She's in Donetsk, which is a bit of a hotbed and only 100 km or so from pro-Russia central in Slovyansk. I knew next to nothing about Ukraine before they started this process and now have a need to know more than I want to. The older 2 boys are 5 bus stops away from her, the younger one is about an hour east by bus, which passes 2 checkpoints. So far she has not been stopped but did have a 2.5 hour longer train trip back to Donetsk from Kiev as the train detoured onto freight tracks to deter any planned sabotage. She, like I assume you do, finds it to be kind of an exciting adventure. Those of us waiting on the sidelines are not enjoying it so much since she KNOWS she's okay all the time, but we are left to wonder until we are in contact again. Fortunately, she has wi-fi in her apartment and is online much of the time so my anxiety over the situation is much less than it would be otherwise.

    All this is to say that, yes, there are signs of political unrest. There are demonstrations at government buildings (but business has so far been able to be completed for her adoption paperwork), there are militant-types milling around, there are checkpoints which are randomly manned, there are precautions being taken which make travel a little unpredictable. But she has never felt unsafe in the time she's been there. Granted, she has the assurance that she is doing God's will in this and is protected. But even beyond that, things are not necessarily dangerous at this point, even in far eastern Ukraine.

    Enjoy your trip. Remember not to smile and they may not even realize you're an American. That is the hardest thing for her to get used to - no smiling. And not having popcorn. :-)

    1. Wow. Thanks so much for sharing! We will be in Kyiv and heading west from there so we will be avoiding what is the "hotbed" right now. And fortunately I speak Ukrainian and know pretty well how to blend in (as much as an American can blend in). My friends throughout the country tell me that they feel safe but afraid for the future of the country. I'm very curious to go and get a feel for things--see how they are different/same from the usual.

    2. That will be interesting since you are familiar with the 'before' version. My friend has only seen it since after the riots and all of that, so doesn't really have anything to compare it to. If they could just settle down until she gets the kids out of there, that would be awesome. I'm praying for greatly accelerated court dates and a quick removal to Kyiv to finish everything up. There have been several miracles in timing already, so we're trusting for more.

      I can't wait to hear your reports on your travels! Hopefully you'll take and share more pictures than my friend does. :-)

  13. Traveling abroad just isn't enough for you, huh? You have to go and make it all death-defying.

  14. 67 LDS missionaries transferred out of Ukraine

  15. Or if you like, you could come to my house tomorrow evening. I am in the process of making a giant Ukrainian feast for some friends. The borscht is ready, holubtsi are made, cabbage salad is melding its flavors, pork and beets are waiting to be roasted, and mocha walnut torte is chilling in the fridge. We are nice people and we won't be forcefully taking over any buildings. We love Ukraine!