Some family history

My most recent experience in NYC was in the summer of 2012. I was doing the “touristy” thing with my cousins, aunt & uncle. We only had a quick weekend before our trip to Europe so crammed a few things in before we went overseas.

 

 

We went to Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, and, of course, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Ellis Island is my favorite place to visit because that was where my grandparents went when they first came to America. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to meet them because my grandpa died when my dad was four and his mom died when he was twenty.

 

 

In the early 1950’s my grandparents, Igor & Nina Kubik made it to America from Europe. They were both taken from their homes in what is now Ukraine as teenagers during WWII. They had survived through the horrible famine as kids and did not have an easy life.

My uncle Victor has put together a website that has a lot of our family history.

 

 

I am so grateful to have grandparents who were so courageous and through their hardship were able to make it over to America to give their children a better life. 

Visiting my brother

In January 2016 I was able to visit my brother for about five days while he was living and volunteering in Ukraine. He was working at a center that helps children who have physical and mental disabilities. He stayed for a year and is now currently (April 2017) back over there serving as a volunteer for the Peace Corps which will go for a little over two more years. 

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When I was there I spent a day at the school where he worked. He did a bunch of odd jobs and the staff and kids there absolutely LOVED him. It was fun to see him speak fluent Russian and interact so well with everyone. I toured the center, colored with some of the kids, and listened to their music classes.

In Chernihiv I could get a meal and drinks for under $5. We went ice-skating ($0.25), walked around the city, met his friends, and just explored. It was fun to see his day to day life over there. On the last few days we bused over to Kyiv which was just over an hour from his town and stayed in a hostel. We met some other travelers and went out with them that night. We walked all over which is my favorite thing to do in any new city.

I am really proud of my brother for all of the work he has done and the dedication he has put into volunteering in Ukraine. He is now fluent in Ukrainian and Russian and will soon be living in a little village of 1,300 people near the border of Moldova. He will work at a school, help teach English, and start up some clubs for the 130 students who attend the only school in the area.

To see more about what he is currently doing you can find his blog here.

Family in Germany

In January 2016 I met up with my cousin and his family in a small German village called Bad Windsheim. My cousin, Jim, was in the military and had lived there for about the past ten years or so. I stayed with him, his wife Babsi, and their two kids Jackie and Timmy. We did some sightseeing in the town center, went out to the countryside, went to Wurzburg, and also to Nuremberg. They made me the most amazing German breakfasts. Seriously, I don’t know how this country isn’t completely obese. 

Sister turns 21

Surprise!

Happy 21st birthday Heather. What better place to spend it than South Korea? After working for a bit over 6 months and being out of college I felt like I had a stable income. NO RENT OR CAR is always nice. So I bought my sis a ticket for her birthday to come visit me in the ROK. However, as my dad is obsessed with travel deals, he then bought my mom a ticket for HER birthday. So both of the ladies were off to see me in March of 2013. It would be a week filled with soju, KBBQ, going to the beach-ee, and of course me working because who has time for vacation while living this Korean life?

It was a late Saturday night in Incheon (Seoul airport) when I saw two blondies making their way through the gates. We hugged, laughed, didn’t cry and headed straight to our hotel in Gangnam where we would be staying for the night. Luckily I could just easily hop on the inexpensive KTX train and travel across the country in just over an hour and a half to meet up with them. We spent the weekend in Seoul site-seeing. We visited Gyeongbokgung Palace, went to the largest Christian church in the world (which apparently has a bit of controversy – oopsy), walked through the markets and ate everything. Ask ma about the egg-in-a-waffle – mashisayo!!

During the week they hung around Ulsan while I was teaching. I brought them to class one day to show them how I do my thing. When the kiddos saw the two other “Laurens” they were shocked. “Teachuhhhh, I am going crazy!” They also spent time at the beach, read in the sunshine, and enjoyed the local 7 Elevens. We went all around the city during the evenings. The night markets, good restaurants, and the beach were SO CLOSE to my house. I made sure that we were constantly eating because that’s what you do when you visit a new place. DUCK BBQ was my favorite restaurant that I took them to. 

We spent the following weekend in my favorite city, Busan, and hung around Haeundae Beach for a day. I also took them to Gyeongju which is the historical capitol. I definitely got us very lost in Gyeongju for about three hours while we were heading in the wrong direction from what I had intended to bring them to. More eating, drinking, walking, busing, and Korea-ing.

Heather loved the hiking, Shabu Shabu, the talking toilets, the squatters, the markets, the different coffee shops, and buying soju from 7 Eleven – how does it only cost 1200 WON ($1)!?

Ma enjoyed seeing her wonderful daughter and was really impressed with all of the outdoor workout stations.

Showing them my home in Korea was so much fun. I love living across the world, speaking my bits and piece of Korean – 맥주주세요, and making sure others around me are having a good time. 

Meeting my Ukrainian family

Have you ever been to a rock-folk music festival? It was so fun spending a summer evening at a show where everyone was dressed in punk and Gothic clothing while drinking cheap beers. I was dancing around with my little brother and cousins without a care in the world. During the summer of 2012 I spent a few weeks in Ukraine. For about a week or so my brother Colin, cousin Natasha, and uncle Oleh, and I took a bus over to Dubno to visit some of our extended cousins, Oleya and Vasil and their daughter Tania. They lived just outside of town in a cozy little home.

Instead of giving out Christmas presents the previous year, my family decided to donate money to them so that they could have their first toilet and bathtub installed. It’s very common to just have an outhouse outside and so they were very grateful. They were really excited to show it off to us. They were great hosts and seemed to really enjoy showing us around the town and gave us TONS of candy. We went to the Dubno castle, went to a church service, and went in the Spring of St. Anna 

I’m really glad that I had to the opportunity to visit our family and see the roots of my heritage. By visiting them I am even more grateful, despite the politics and craziness, to be an American. The family we visited don’t have the privileges that we as Americans do. It was a humbling experience to see where the Kubik family came from.