вівторок, серпня 29, 2006

summer's ending and school's coming!

We're gonna howl at the moon, shoot out the light
It's a small town Saturday night
It's a small town Saturday night

(Hank Ketchum, "Small Town Saturday Night")

No howling or shooting involved, but I did have a Ukrainian-style small town Saturday night on...well, on Saturday night. Having spent the day doing basically nothing, I bought myself ice cream and walked around the park near my building for a little while. On the way back, I ran into my neighbor Oleg (see previous posts) and he, his wife Lesia, and I decided to go hang out by the Palace of Culture in hopes that the postponed fireworks would happen. They didn't happen, but we millled around among the teenagers who had been at the disco (my 11th form boys ignored me, no surprise there) and the young couples pushing baby carriages, and had our last hurrah before Lesia and I start teaching on Friday (she's a piano teacher at the music school).

An older guy who Oleg knew was chatting with us and asked me in Ukrainian, "Aren't our girls pretty?" We all sort of looked at him like he'd gone a bit crazy, and then he said, "Well, aren't our boys pretty?", except that he was trying to use Ukrainian instead of Russian and used the word stem for "boys" and the plural suffix for "girls". We got a good laugh out of it after he left. And then we, along with another couple, bought cheese and peach juice and tomato juice and vodka and found a picnic table for Bloody Marys (which translates, amusingly enough) and peace juice for the non-drinker. We talked about my life in America and other stuff, and then sang folk songs in our respective languages. Then, we headed home and I hung out in their apartment until 12:30 watching a DVD of their recent wedding.

As I was walking to the post office just now, I heard "Miss Sally!" and saw Dasha and Alina, two of my soon-to-be-third-formers, bearing down on me. They've missed me, they are looking forward to English class, Dasha's birthday is tomorrow and Alina's is next week, and they had been at Grandma's. I was also presented with two bouncy balls, a scented pen, and a scented tissue. It's nice to be loved.

Andrey and Ira from the church in the center of town are coming over for dinner tomorrow night. I was going to make fried rice, but apparently this is not the week to buy fresh mushrooms or carrot salad (two of the main ingredients) in this town. I think pizza's the backup option.

Finished Les Miz at 12:20 this morning, crying heavily. I confess to skipping some of Hugo's long tangents, but the story itself is wonderful.

School on Friday! Where did the summer go! I think I want to go back... Hard to believe I've been here almost 11 months already.

субота, серпня 26, 2006

scraped knees, why I'm here, and Les Miz

Last night, I went over to the Y house for laundry, showing Germany pictures, and getting a good dose of family. Vitaly and I swapped music (Oleh was ecstatic that I had Christian rock), Serojia insisted on reading his alphabet book to me, Snizhanna curled up on my lap and bopped me on the head, and, in retaliation, Valery bopped her on the head so hard she cried (Nadia, loosely translated: "Valery, if Snizhanna is causing problems, you need to tell me, not take it into your own hands."). And two-year-old Alosha was running a fever and was cranky.

It was a good evening.

Of course, it was not without its (literal) downfall. The kids recently got a scooter, which we were all taking turns riding around the cement courtyard, and I was trying to turn upward on a downhill slope (with more mass than the kids)...

I now have a lovely scraped knee, bruised shoulder, and a cut on one foot. Honestly, I don't think I've scraped a knee like that since I was 10 or so. But I came up from my fall laughing, was bandaged up by Nadia (who has a large stock of bandaids for such occurences), and reassured the kids that I was okay and might even be willing to try the scooter again once I heal up.

(Peace Corps requires us to wear helmets if we ride bicycles. Should they require knee pads for scooters?)

In answer to my mom's question: if September 1st is a Saturday or Sunday, I assume they would start school here on either Friday or Monday. Although we did go to school on Saturday once last spring because we'd had both Monday and Tuesday off for holidays.

My Ukrainian Independence Day ended up with me going to the square by the Palace of Culture for a concert-type thing along with some people I know from the church in the center of town. I talked with Alosha, who is currently getting his Ph.D in physics in South Korea and speaks fluent English. On one hand, it was nice to talk to someone in English, especially someone who knows what it's like to move to another country. But he didn't believe me when I said I liked Ukraine, and that really annoyed me. Everyone seems to think that I can't really like Ukraine, that I'm just saying I do to be polite. But I do love it here. Granted, there are things about the US that I miss...hot water, easy access to English books, chocolate chips, Chinese food, etc. And I miss my family and friends. But when I think about the opportunity I have to be in another culture for two years, the chance I have to help with cross-cultural understanding from both ends, and all the people I've come to know and love here, it balances out, or maybe even comes out ahead on the Ukraine side.


I've spent the week listening to the Les Miserables soundtrack (thanks, Tif! The CDs were great!) and absolutely loving it. I saw Les Miz when it came to Wharton my sophmore year at MSU, and I'm struck by the power of the story, even in the songs I have. I recommend it to anyone who likes a good story involving history, love, grace, and redemption.

And so now I'm rereading the book on my computer with the Project Guetenberg version. :)

четвер, серпня 24, 2006

happy Ukrainian Independence Day!

There was a plane crash in Donetsk Oblast on Tuesday, killing about 170 people, including quite a few children. Please keep the families in your prayers.

Because of the plane crash, today's Independence Day festivities have been mostly postponed. Balaklia will have their fireworks this weekend (I think), and the Elsa's Ocean concert in Kharkiv is postponed until either this Sunday or next Sunday.

However, my friend Rita (she's a bookkeeper at my school) and I had planned to go see a movie in Kharkiv. So I was out the door in plenty of time to walk to the train station this morning...and then, when I was 3/4 of the way there and doing well time-wise, I ran into one of the 7th form boys from my school (who I don't teach), who walked with/talked with me to the train station, slowing me down. I got to the station, saw Rita, and we were going to cross the tracks to our platform, when another train came through, blocking our path. It was a long train, and by the time it had left, our train was pulling away. I felt so bad, although Rita told me it was okay. This is the second time this week we've tried to do something together...we'd originally planned to go see Pirates of the Caribbean 2 at the Palace of Culture in Balaklia this week, but a rainstorm (literally) put a damper on that. Sigh...

So instead, I am consoling myself with half-price Internet and wandering around downtown. All the stands from the bazaar are lining the main street, and people are milling around, buying watermelon and shashlik (barbecued kebobs of meat). I ran into the K family and saw the Y's van (but not them, so I suspect that it was only the adults...it would be hard to miss seeing 10 kids).

In other news, I start work again on Monday, with the kids coming back next Friday (we always start on September 1st, don't ask why). I've run into quite a few of them these last couple of weeks, and no one seems all that excited about going back to school. Not surprising, of course. :)

понеділок, серпня 21, 2006

matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match

Yesterday, I was at the K's church in the evening (they've opened a window and bought a fan!). When I walked in, Nina Federovivna came over to me and started talking. (For the benefit of Tif and Erin: she's the baba who was in favor of Ukrainian language in church.) She likes me very much and is sad that I don't have a home phone so she could call me easily. And then she said, "I've been praying for you, that God will send you a Ukrainian husband."

Oi. This appears to be the semester of matchmakers.

I think I made friends with the K boys last night. I've gotten along great with Natasha and Lilia from the beginning, but the four boys always seemed like they were teasing me because they couldn't understand me. Well, I was sitting in the car with them while we were waiting for their parents, and they asked me if in America, bald people wore wigs. I told them that if they wore wigs, I wouldn't be able to tell if they were bald. This made sense to them. Then Sasha (age 2) was pulling my hair (because that's what you do when you're two), so I told him to stop. David (age 4) was like, "Yeah, because she's going to cry." So I broke out into loud, copious, fake tears. Which led to giggles from everyone. I think I'm in now.

After church, all the K family plus their cousins and I piled into two cars (18 people between two cars, most of them were under 10) and went to the hospital so that Guiesella and her sister could visit a woman from the church who had just had a baby. (This church takes "be fruitful and multiply" very seriously!) This left Victor and his brother-in-law and me with all the kids. The older girls went for a walk, and the younger kids played tag, hide-and-go-seek, and push-the-car-around-the-parking-lot. After 40 minutes or so, Victor says, "Women sure like to talk." The joys of being in charge of large amounts of small people.

It was so nice to come home to Balaklia. I've heard so many PC friends say, "Oh, when I was in the airport coming home from [insert European country], part of me just wished I was headed back to the US." But I didn't wish that, and when we touched down at Boryspil Airport, I was just happy to be back in Ukraine and hearing Ukrainian and Russian spoken around me.

I didn't miss the weather, though. The heat wave continues. Apparently this, like the very cold winter, is also atypical. I am living on bread and cheese, bread and Nutella (outrageously expensive by Ukrainian standards, but I had some at Brandi's and liked it), crackers, and ice cream today.

пʼятниця, серпня 18, 2006

home from Germany...almost

I'm home (meaning Ukraine...specifically the PC office in Kyiv, not Balaklia until tomorrow) from Germany, with the "comfortable" (ie airplane) part of the journey over and the "uncomfortable" (ie third-class train compartment) part yet to go tonight. I think that I have decided that upgrading to 2nd class isn't that much more expensive. :)


Summer '06



вівторок, серпня 15, 2006

guten tag!

Brandi says I don't post enough, that she can't follow all the little details of my life. I assume she means in general, since we're roomies this week and she's generally aware of what I'm doing.

But for everyone who's not us, a short recap:

*lots of movies: Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (***), 13 Going on 30 (*...or no stars), Luther (****), and a couple of apologetics-type DVDs (no plot, some interesting info, sort of fall outside the realm of star-giving).

*lots of books...I'm losing track. They've included a biography of Galileo and books in favor of both very large and very small churches.

*baking oatmeal-butterscotch-chip cookies to give to people

*wandering around the Döm (the big cathedral) area, watching street performers and eating ice cream

*shopping in used clothing stores and dollar (okay, Euro) stores...this is a vacation on a budget!

*hot water. 'Nuff said. :)

*soundly trouncing Brandi at Scrabble. Twice. (It didn't help that she drew the Q twice and was unable to play it in either game, giving her an extra -10 at the end.)

*talking about missions, God, churches, Ukraine, Germany, family, friends, books, and lots of random stuff

Very good vacation.

субота, серпня 12, 2006

in Germany!

Got to Koeln around 6:15pm-ish yesterday, tired but happy to be here. Brandi and I stayed up until after 3am...starting to catch up on a year's worth of news, random discussions, you name it...

Now we're at Martin and Heike Bonnet's for house church, and I am trying to adapt to a German keyboard, which has the y and z keys switched around. And a few other small differences.

Having fun, reading Brandi's books, had bacon and eggs for breakfast. Life's good. :)

четвер, серпня 10, 2006

trying to fill time...

At the Internet cafe in Kharkiv, killing time before my 11 pm train. Mike and I had pizza, caught up on our summers, and had a grocery store run for travel snack foods (he's off to Odessa tomorrow). Much fun. We need to hang out more often.

So today, I went to school to drop off my gas bills to my director, and I was talking to Nelya. She asked me, "Who was the boy you were walking with?" I racked my brain for a bit, and then realized she meant Andrey, the guy from the church in the center who's learning English. So I explained to Nelya who he was and that he is married. Happily married. Apparently someone who works at the school had seen him walking me home (because it is apparently inappropriate for a young woman to walk alone after 8 pm) and wondered if I was dating someone.

Honestly. Small towns. And I can't even say "small Ukrainian towns", because I know it's universal.

So then, of course, Nelya tells me that we should find me a boyfriend in Balaklia. Or on my trip to Germany. I try to explain the various reasons why we don't. She brushes them off.

So far, the only people I've talked to on my trip are the 54 year old, female teacher of Ukrainian from my school who sat with me on the elektrichka and Mike, who's basically my older brother. The prospects ain't lookin' good.

(This does not bother me.)

After this conversation, I walked to the post office. As I get there, I hear (in English with a New Zealand accent) "Where are you from?", followed by "Hello, Sally" from a Ukrainian woman.

I looked perplexed and said, "Do I know you?" It turned out that she was an English teacher from the lyceum who I'd met before and he was a New Zealander starting a pig farming enterprise in the area. Actually, I'd been asked if I could work as a translator while he was here, but declined as I didn't think my Russian/Ukrainian was up to it.

(Poor man. He's at the "how do you do" stage of Russian, and was incredibly happy to be speaking with a native speaker. I was attempting to explain that the woman he was with speaks some of the best English in town, but he didn't look comforted.)


Mike and I found real chocolate chip cookies at the grocery store. W00t.

середа, серпня 09, 2006

sit at mushroom!

No, I haven't gone off the deep end...my post title is a quote from Oleh Y (in English!) yesterday afternoon. The mayor, for reasons I really don't understand, had given the Y family three large stuffed toy elves with mushroom hats. The Y family then decided to take a family picture with them (a cousin visiting from Kyiv acting as the photographer). Oleh asked me how to say "mushroom" in English and then went around telling everyone to "sit at mushroom." I fully believe in encouraging the use of English, but I was tempted to strangle him.

And yes, there is now a picture of me sitting next to plush elves with mushroom hats. If I ever get a copy, I'll consider posting it. Maybe.

[I begin to realize that the majority of my posts these days are mostly about the Y kids. You all have to realize that they are the people I see most often these days...I'm sure when school starts, I'll have more varied posts. But the kids are so much fun!]

Off on my Germany trip tomorrow! I head to Kharkiv tomorrow afternoon, have dinner and catch-up-on-summer with my friend Mike from training, and then take the overnight train to Kyiv. Friday morning, I take the bus out to Boryspil Airport...and then off to Germany! Brandi has assured me that I'll have Internet access, so I hope to be posting at some point.

The weather has finally cooled down, putting me in a cooking mood. The honey-mustard dip in the Peace Corps cookbook really does taste good, and I have chicken marinating in it right now. I also made sugar cookies. :)

понеділок, серпня 07, 2006

it's REALLY warm here...

Oh my word, it's warm here! Yesterday it was about 104F, and today it's still in the mid-90s. I compensate by eating ice cream (they have bluebery ice cream here) and not doing much.

Yesterday was one of those days when I had to question what culture I was living in. At the Y house after church, we played Twister (in Ukrainian), ate corn on the cob and drank Coca-Cola, and watched the Hallmark Channel films Love Comes Softly and Love's Enduring Promise (supposedly based on the books by Janette Oke, but not particularly) dubbed into Russian. Liza, who is my cuddle buddy these days, decided to curl up next to me despite the heat. I was both touched and well...warm.

I opted out of going to the K's church in the evening, as they have no fans and don't believe in opening windows during a two-hour service (is it spiritual to suffer through church?) and instead went with Vitaly, Vlada, and Oleh Y to a youth group-type thing sponsored by the church in the center (which has a lot of young people and a total congregation of about 200, making it at least double the size of any of the other Protestant churches in town). It reminded me very much of American youth groups...singing praise songs (that were on PowerPoint) with a guitar, a short devotional talk, and a video of the kids' time at Youth Camp. Teenage boys are a lot like teenage boys everywhere, and I felt rather old for it all. :)

Today I was walking to the post office and saw four girls running down the sidewalk. Then I realized that they were four girls who will be in my 5th and 6th forms and they were running towards me to give me a four-girls-and-one-dog-deep hug.

Ihor Y, age 4, yesterday: Where are your kids?
Me: I don't have any.
Ihor: You don't?
Me: I don't. I'm not married.
[Then I told Nadia.]
Nadia: It's a bit early yet.
Me: Yeah. First the husband, then the kids.

Looking forward to finishing my Internet time and going home. As much as I love checking my email, being in public means I have to be dressed appropriately. And living by myself means...well, that I don't!

пʼятниця, серпня 04, 2006

quick post, no real news

Yesterday was Cooking Day. A batch of croutons (favorite new homemade junk food...you spread slices of bread with butter mixed with Italian spices and garlic powder and bake until crispy), another chocolate kabachki cake (this one for the Ys), and lemon-herb chicken from the PC cookbook that wasn't all that good.

(This means that today should be Clean the Kitchen Day. Ugh.)

Tif, this one's for you: I forgot to mention about Andrey's mom during my Monday visit. She told me that a friend of Andrey's who speaks English and works in Korea is coming to visit in a few weeks, and that he's tall and handsome. She then asked me if I was engaged. She also gave me a pamphlet in Russian about the dangers of television for the Christian family.

One week until Germany! (Brandi, you are going to be at the airport to meet me, right?) :)

середа, серпня 02, 2006

a new source of Internet

At the Y house, checking my email. (Victor's comment: "Now we have a computer with Internet. You can be the teacher, and the entire Y family will be students!") I've spent the evening writing everyone's name in chalk on the cement outside, teaching the kids to play Duck Duck Goose (very popular), and playing the piano.

I made a new friend yesterday! Sunday night when I was at the Kotlars' church, I was talking to a couple of the women, and one of them mentioned that she had a son who was learning English. I assumed he was a student, but he's 27, married, and goes to the Protestant church in the center, which has about 200 people. Anyhow, Andrey (that's his name)invited me over for dinner yesterday to get acquainted. He's a neat guy...works at the railway station and is teaching himself English, partly because he wants to work in England at some point and partly because he likes the language. I'm the first native speaker of English he's ever met...his English definitely needs a lot of work, but he tries hard, and we had a good conversation in a mixture of English, Russian, and Ukrainian. After my Germany trip, I'm planning to have him and his wife Ira (who's studying to be an agronomist) over for dinner sometime. It would be good to have Christian friends who are also in their 20s. (Not that I don't love all the Y kids!)

My chocolate kabachi cake was a success, and I managed to give half of it away. Planning on making one for the Ys as well.

That's all, really, right now.