Friday, November 5, 2010

Social Patrol

I spent the first couple of days confused about my role with the program "The Way Home," here in Odessa, Ukraine.  I thought I had come here to teach English, but I soon realized that maybe my life wouldn't be as easy as all that.  Anyone who knows me knows that my interests are all over the place - my passions range from politics, economics, health, theatre and dance, name it, I probably love it.  "So, what can I do to help?" was a question I kept asking.  
Mini Bus used for Social Patrol

My first real day I was scheduled to do Social Patrol.  I bought my "new" used clothes from the second hand store, tied up my hair, and walked to the office, ready for anything.  I headed out on the patrol with our driver, a social worker, Roman; and one of the boys, Dima, who lives at our center.  We drive about fifteen minutes downtown, and I am a little confused.  They didn't tell me exactly where we were going, so I though, "Hey, I guess it is time for lunch, why not make a stop downtown for some food."  I see the Mango clothing store I had been looking for earlier and make a mental note what streets we are on so I can come back later.  All of a sudden, I notice we are pulling over; Roman and Dima jump out of the car.  "This is strange, we are still in the center of the city," I thought, "but I might as well follow them."  We walk down a crowded street past nice clothing and shoe stores, then abruptly we turn into a courtyard and it immediately becomes clear that we are not going to stop to buy food.  I kept thinking, "Be careful you don't touch anything or cut yourself..."  So glad I have had my Tetanus/Pertussis immunization shot.  We jump a fence and climb over some concrete, past fallen leaves broken glass and other trash. They open a door, and the boy peers into the darkness and begins a conversation in Russian.  This is a regular homeless woman that they see often.  They have a familiar conversation, point out that I am a volunteer from California, and very nonchalantly grab our old tupperware and we head back to the van.  There we will up it back up with soup, hand it back to Dima and he runs off with the soup and a few slices of bread.
Living under ground is warmer than the alternative

This was basically our day.  You would not even have any idea where you would find some of the homeless here in Odessa, but they are there.  You better believe that they live in the most sturdy and well hidden abandoned buildings there are, because as I was reminded today, it's going to get cold soon...  "How soon?" I asked.  Ten days.  

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