четвер, листопада 30, 2006

Israel, cheating, and World AIDS Day

Funny thing from my trip to Kyiv that I forgot to post: On the way home, a woman in my train compartment asked me, "Are you from Israel?" When I said no, she said, "But isn't your book in Arabic?"

My book was a collection of feminist essays by Gloria Steinem, in English.

So I just said, "No, it's the English alphabet, not the Hebrew one," and continued reading.

Sometimes I feel like poking pins into my world map of all the places people in Ukraine have thought I'm from, most of which aren't America.


I gave a dictation (ie spelling test) to my 7th form on Tuesday. It was a sad, sad experience...I gave them 10 words that we'd studied about the telephone, plus the bonus word "Nokia," a popular brand of cell phone. Three kids only spelled "Nokia" right. I gave 1 point for each correct word and 1/2 point for each wrong word that I could easily read, and still all but three scores were 5/10 or less. To top it all off, I had told the kids that they had to put their books under their desks or in their bags, that they could only have a pen on the desk, and that I would give a 2 to anyone I caught cheating. Well, Nelya and I caught Oleh Y. with his book open under his desk...his argument was that while I had said, "Put your books under the table," I had never told him that it had to be shut.

He got a 2. So did Tanya, who I caught when she dropped her book on the floor. Do not get me started on a rant about cheating in Ukrainian schools!


Tomorrow is World AIDS Day. Here in Ukraine, AIDS has reached epidemic proportions with a lack of information about prevention and consequences. What does this mean for me? I'm teaching about abstinence and contraceptives tomorrow in my 10th and 11th forms. It's going to be a stretch for me...I never thought of myself as someone who'd be teaching sex ed, and that's pretty much what it boils down to. But I'm choosing to teach these lessons tomorrow instead of the normal curriculum because I think it's important that the kids know how they can get AIDS...and how they can avoid it. It won't be an abstinence-only curriculum, because regardless of my own beliefs, I know that a lot of my students are going to have sex before marriage. But to make them stop and think about possible consequences and wise decisions...that's my goal. So if you're wearing a red ribbon on December 1st, think of me in Ukraine, doing the same.

понеділок, листопада 27, 2006

post-Thanksgiving tidbits

Random thing I keep forgetting to post, particularly for Mom's benefit: When I spoke to the kids from the college, one of the teachers thanked me afterwards for speaking so slowly. She commented that other times she's met native speakers, they talk very quickly. Mom, do you remember all the times you told me I talk too fast? Maybe Ukraine has slowed me down. :)

Thanksgiving was great. It ended up only being three of us: Susannah, Greg, and me, but we had a good meal, played Apples to Apples (their first time), and watched Lost episodes until 1:30 am. They're now hooked on A2A (Susannah thinks she can use it with her students and I'm hooked on Lost...Greg rocks because he lent me the entire first season.

Yesterday I went with the rest of the young people from our church to the youth/young adults meeting at the church in the center...they have it every Sunday night, I hadn't been in quite a while, and Yulia, who's the girl closest to my age at church (also Nadia's niece), had asked me if I wanted to come along. Normally, I think it's singing, Scripture, and discussion, but they were having a "fun night" and we watched Garfield 2 in Russian. The language wasn't an issue...but WHY did I have to go on movie night instead of something edifying? :)

Best class today: 8b. We're learning about literature from English-speaking countries this quarter, so today was Library Day. I brought in books from all genres and taught the necessary vocab, and then we had a mock library where kids came up to my desk, asked for a book from a certain genre, and then checked it out. They liked it, and what I loved about it was how many of them flipped through the books once they got back to their seats.

Supper tonight: Thanksgiving leftovers! I have leftover chicken and stuffing, and I'm going to make white sauce to go with them. I'm hungry just thinking about it!

середа, листопада 22, 2006

happy Thanksgiving!

Had to wait an hour and a half for the Internet today (part of which I spent running errands) while the two young men ahead of me looked at pornography. This irks me on multiple levels.

Funny moment that happened while waiting: I was sitting in the post office, reading my mail, and opened my Christmas card from Aunt Rebecca and Uncle Ross...only to hear the beginning of "Joy to the World". I shut the card very quickly and decided to wait until I get home to finish reading it. :)

PST Unveristy was pretty good. My sessions went well, I was able to share a lot of info about being a current PCV with the trainees, and it looks like we have a good group coming in. I also had the chance to hang out with some PCV friends, do a group crossword puzzle (our English has deteriorated to the point where we need to work together!), and played two awesome games of Catchphrase. I love the fact that my Ukrainian is good enough that I can chat with the PC staff in Ukrainian this year.

Mom and Aunt Rebecca: one of the girls I roomed with (I was in with 3 trainees) has personally met Tom Tierney of paper doll fame. Her mom worked with him or something. Small world.

I work tomorrow, but then I have Friday off for Thanksgiving. The current count expected for dinner is 4 plus me, including one person I've never met (a PCV friend of one of the girls). I've bought a tablecloth and some of the food, and am very excited.

[The guy who is waiting for the Internet after me is ticked off that I have 40 more minutes. He apparently does not realize that when I told him I was going to be on the 'Net an hour, I would have to wait for the pornography-viewing guys to finish. I think we need two computers with good Internet access in this town.]

And, in honor of Thanksgiving, some things/people that I am thankful for (in no particular order):

~The Yukhemets (usually "Y" for short) family...although I just said that this list isn't in any real order, they deserve the top spot. If it wasn't for them, there have been times it would have been a lot easier to quit and go home. But instead, I have a large, crazy, Christian family who has taken me into their hearts and lives. I love them so much!

~My family back home, who love me and support me, who call me when I'm down and pray for me daily.

~Jason. 5 more weeks!

~My church here in Balaklia, as well as the people at Brockway and Riverview who still keep in touch and let me know they're praying for me.

~Lots and lots of friends...if I start to list you all, I'm sure I'd forget someone. If you wonder if you're on the list or not, you are. :)

~Internet. Cell phones. Stamps.

~Commentary on DVDs, so you can watch them again. I swear that directors' commentaries were created especially for PCVs.

~My own apartment.

неділя, листопада 19, 2006

making a joyful noise

I went to Kyiv International Bible Church this morning. It was all in English, which was really, really weird for me. I almost couldn't handle it. And I'm not joking.

But I liked singing in English, almost as much as I like singing in Ukrainian. We sang "Grace Greater than All our Sin" and "It is Well With My Soul", plus a few choruses. Afterwords, another woman (who had been sitting on the other side of the church!) came up to me and said that she liked hearing me sing. Oops. Maybe I was a little loud.

Then I attempted to go Christmas shopping. I found two gifts (multiple people left to buy for) and Christmas cards in Russian. Not as much as I'd hoped to accomplish, but it's a start.

a proud "big sister"

I went to a concert for first-year students at the music school yesterday to watch/listen to Oleh, Valery, and Liza Y, plus four other kids from my school and two neighbor girls.

I took pictures. And since I'm in Kyiv, I can post them!

The kids, all dressed up. L-r: Liza, Oleh, Valery

The kids post-concert, with some of the teachers from the music school, who had been characters in the concert.

Valery and I in the van after the concert, being silly.

Vitaly, doing his imitation of an Orthodox priest

the train was like a sauna

Am in Kyiv, enjoying new books and good Internet. Today's plans involve Christmas shopping, McDonalds, and potentially church in English.

Last night, I had been planning to meet up with Teresa and Julianne to travel to Kyiv together. When I got to Kharkiv, I found the majority of PCVs in the oblast, all gathered together at the Irish pub to celebrate our 5 new PCVs in the oblast, who had been on site visit. So I got to chat with people, which was great. Greg and I are nerds, we decided, because while everyone else was being silly and drunk, we debated the merits of Plakhotnyk textbooks and calender planning. :)

I think we convinced Laurel to join us for Thanksgiving, which brings our total up to a family-esque four (and if anyone else comes, I won't have enough matching dishes). I need to buy a tablecloth.

You all have stopped commenting...am I less interesting these days?

пʼятниця, листопада 17, 2006

serpents' teeth. thankless children. can you tell I've taught Shakespeare this week?

I know, I know, I'm not posting as much these days. Attribute it to lack of time and a need to do school-related things, and forgive me, please.

The highlight of the week was meeting with a group of 25 or so people, a mixture of students from the college in town (10th and 11th forms, more like a specialized high school) and people associated with EuroLing, a foreign-language organization that my friend Natalia works with, to speak English. I told about my life and answered questions for 2 hours, all in English. They all had really good questions, and ones that showed that they understood English and were wanting to know more about points I'd mentioned earlier. I think they knew pretty much everything about me by the end! :)

The other highlight of the week was reading King Lear with my 8th form. Our textbooks have a page and a half summary of the plot, simplified, which I turned into a 6-page play, typed up, made 15 photocopies, and handed out to my kids on Thursday. We divided up the roles and went at it. And it was great! Sasha M, who played King Lear, did a good job, and Firuyza, my best pupil in that class, put some emotion into the role of Cordelia. And, since there are no small parts, only small actors, kudos to Maxim's excellent portrayal of the Fool (let me comment that I wrote the part with him in mind) and Vitaly's soldier, who very dramatically killed Cordelia.

We've talked about memorizing lines and performing it for the school. I hope it happens.

Tomorrow I'm going to the music school in town to watch various of my students perform in a recital...at least 3 Y kids and several 3rd formers at the minimum that I know of already. Then I'm off to Kyiv for the first part of next week for PST University, teaching our new Trainees about primary school. I teach next Thursday, and then I have Friday off for Thanksgiving! PC, perhaps to make up for sending us to site on Christmas last year (the only time I've ever had McDonald's for Christmas dinner!), gave us either Thursday or Friday off to celebrate if our schools let us. My friends Greg and Susannah are coming to my place, and we're going to have a big dinner.

пʼятниця, листопада 10, 2006

you can only run into the woods halfway...then, you're running out of the woods

I had half of a long post written, and then the computer here at the post office kicked me off the Internet. Honestly, that pretty much sums up the week. For those people who wondered why I haven't posted, I've had food poisoning, needed to do laundry, missed the train to Kharkiv that would have given me time to hang out at the Internet club there (not my fault, it didn't stay at the station for 20 minutes like it's supposed to), got a flu shot, and didn't want to be out after dark, which currently happens at 4:30ish.

It's been a long, rough week...and now I've either got a head cold or the touch of the flu that Dr. Sasha warned me could arise from the flu shot.

I could whine on and on right now about frustrations with my school, my coworkers, my pupils, my lack of hot water, etc...but you don't want to read all that, and it's not good for me either.

So instead, I will keep my chin up, be happy that I am immunized against the dreaded flu (which has been known to close schools for several weeks), and celebrate November 11, my half-way mark as a PCV (assuming I stay until December 22, the last possible day of my service, which seems unlikely...more likely to leave mid-December). I have been here 13.5 months, learned 1.5 new languages, made many new friends, learned how to deal without the aforementioned hot water, and maybe even taught a little bit of English.

Yay me! (Take that, week!)

четвер, листопада 02, 2006

fall break

I can't believe it's Thursday already...where is my autumn break going??? Well, let's stop and recap...

Sunday was church, then hanging out at the Y house. Apparently there is a Boy (yes, the capital B is intentional) from youth group at the church in the center who is interested in Vlada (age 13). I had suspected something along those lines about a month or so ago, when Vlada and one of her girl cousins had left for youth group long before Oleh and Vitaly were ready. Victor had muttered something about he didn't understand why they had to go so early, but I had my suspicions (having once been a 13-year-old girl who went to youth group). At any rate, the Boy had called to talk to Vlada a few times, and Vlada is rather distraught (to the point of tears and talking back to her mom) that it will now be too dark to walk to youth group on Sunday nights.

I got a chuckle out of Oleh, who was attempting to tell me about all of this in English. "Vlada has is boy. 100 minutes! [which I think refers to the phone call]" I asked Vlada about the Boy later, and was told that he's "just a friend" and that Oleh likes to talk. Hah. As I said, I was once 13 myself. :)

Sunday night Erin arrived, tired from traveling here, there, and everywhere, and stayed for two days. We had a great time, despite rainy weather...amusing my Internet ladies by our attempts to print off photos, Trivial Pursuit (15 hryven at my second-hand store!), Rainier Maria Rilke, pizza in Kharkiv, and lots of talking, both about our lives here in Ukraine and various philosophical/theoretical stuff that I love talking about but never get to. Her visit ROCKED! I love Balaklia and the people I know here, but it was good to spend time with an English-speaking friend.

Yesterday started out as a Bad Day, as it appeared that I would be waiting around home for someone to help me tape my windows for the winter, possibly in vain; the water was turned off; and my mailbox was empty, as it had been for the past week. However, one of the janitors from school did eventually come help me, the water got turned back on, and I was flagged down by one of the post office ladies, who for reasons I don't understand had been collecting my mail in the back room instead of my mailbox and gave it to me in one big pile (four letters, one box, one PC envelope, and one Christian Science Monitor).

Today's adventure was mailing Tif two large boxes of winter clothes she left here when she thought she'd be coming back. It took over an hour, but the post office lady was so nice and helpful. One of the babuskas who was at the post office wanted to know why on earth I'd send a box to America, as that just seemed like doing things backwards.

Stopped at the second-hand store on my way home to see if they had any new books yet. The owner said no, but she was going to Kharkiv tomorrow to pick up a new shipment of stuff, and if she found any books, she'd add them to the stuff. I find it amusing that I am drafting Ukrainians to help me with my book addiction. :)

Tomorrow I'm off to Kharkiv to hang out with the girls; buy train tickets to PST University, where I get to teach about teaching little people; and I just might splurge and buy myself some books at Books, a very nice bookstore with a decent English section. There's a comparative linguistic analysis of Ukrainian and English that looked interesting, plus comic-book-style Shakespeare I want for my 8th form. They're all a bit pricey, but I only spent just over half of my living allowance this past month.