the last few days (with side notes on the Romani and Harry Potter)
Olympiad results, because I'm sure you're all dying to know:
11th form: Olena and Katya finished up somewhere in the middle of the pack, which is a distinct improvement over last year, where they were at the bottom.
10th form: Zhenya tied for 3rd place in the rayon, and Oleh B tied for 4th place. Yay!
9th form: After 4 1/2 hours of checking papers (and correcting the incorrect official answer key), I left before the teachers checking the 9th form papers were done. Since that was last Thursday and I haven't heard anything, I doubt we did spectacularly well.
8th form: Oleh Yukhymets came in last place. :( He hadn't prepped for the olympiad, since we hadn't known that he could compete, and he goofed up on his writing--he was supposed to write about a short story competition. Instead, he recognized the word "competition" and wrote a page about a running competition he was in last year. He also apparently didn't do well in speaking. My goal since Thursday night has been to try and avoid talking about the results with him beyond "you didn't do very well," because I can't find it in me to tell him just how badly he did.
Friday was my last day at school. My kids all wrote me goodbye letters, which I have somehow misplaced in the half-packed mess that is my apartment, and the only one I remember right now is Lyuba, one of my sweetest and shyest 11th form girls, who wrote that she was sorry for not listening to me sometimes. Of all the children I taught (how odd to put that in the past tense), she's one of them who least needs to write that!
We had an assembly on the first big break. The director made a speech, Nelya made a speech, Natasha, our school president and one of my 10th formers, presented me with a gift from the student body (which, as faithful readers remember, I picked out), the little kids sang several songs for me, and I said a few words in Ukrainian and sang "Yesterday," because the music teacher knows how to play it. And lots of people cried--the director, Nelya, various students (including Vitaly Yukhymets, who told me this later, adding, "But I don't know why"), me (when we started singing the school song), and a very large number of the 4th form girls, who were convinced that this was an awful tragedy that Miss Sally was leaving, which made me cry all over again. I especially feel bad for Dasha, whose mom isn't in the picture these days and who lost one of her grandmothers over fall break. She just bawled, and I know it's not just that I'm leaving, but this is one more Big Person who's leaving her. Of course, Valera Y was also standing there, saying, "This isn't the last time I'm going to see you. We've still got church. Can I see your digital camera?"
After school, we had a teachers' party in the cafeteria. Robert had helped me go to the supermarket that morning and buy enough food for sandwiches, fruit, candy, and beverages for 35ish people, and I had baked three cakes--a chocolate chip torte, a carrot cake with maple-flavored cream cheese frosting decorated with walnuts (let's not talk about what happens when a oil-based cake recipe baked in a pan with removable sides drips down into a gas oven...my smoke detector works!), and a sour cream cake with orange juice-and-vanilla-flavored cream cheese frosting decorated with ABC 123 sprinkles. Everyone liked the cakes and wanted the recipes.
Once again, lots of nice speeches and toasts, and the teachers presented me with a traditional Ukrainian rushnik, or embroidered towel. It's the sort that's used at Ukrainian weddings when the parents present the newly married couple with bread and salt, is probably at least three feet long and decorated in red and black counted cross-stitch, and is WONDERFUL. They also gave me three napkins embroidered in traditional patterns, and the grandmother of one of the fourth form girls had embroidered a--wall hanging, I guess--of a bird sitting in a tree. I love embroidery, and it's very packable, which gives it big bonus points these days, as I struggle to fit two years' worth of memories into a suitcase, a duffel, a backpack, and a computer bag.
On Saturday, I slept in (first time in ages) and in the afternoon, went to a concert celebrating the 45th anniversary of the Balaklia Music School. The music was good, and I was amazed how many people I knew there. Seriously. It was a good way to mark how much community integration I accomplished.
At church yesterday, we had a group from a Romani (traditionally known as gypsies) church near Kharkiv come for the service--they sang in Russian and Romani, preached, and gave their testimonies. My church has been doing a lot of outreach with the local Romani population over the last year. We had several Romani there yesterday who don't usually come, and two of them prayed to accept Christ at the end of the service!
[Let me interrupt this post to say how much I love my church here, and this is one of the biggest reasons. The Romani have a reputation of being shiftless and dishonest, and our church, as far as I know, is the only church in town where they attend. On any given Sunday, it's quite likely that you can hear people singing in Russian, Ukrainian, Romani, and English at our church. Quite multilingual for a small-town church!]
After church, I spent the afternoon at the Yukhymetses'. I gave the kids a bunch of my stuff, which I was pleased to see they all liked. Nadia unknowingly made two of my all-time favorite dishes of hers, plov (a baked rice and chicken dish) and a salad of chicken, pineapple, mushrooms, cheese, boiled eggs (?), and mayonnaise (of course). Then she asked me what I want for dinner next Sunday, and I was like, "Well, we had it all this week!" So I think next week is going to be borscht and mashed potatoes and meat.
In the evening I went to the Kotlars' church, where I hadn't been in a very long time, because I know a lot of people there and wanted to say goodbye. I was glad I did--everyone was really friendly, and the pastor prayed for me at the end of the service. I'm not sorry I stopped attending there regularly after my first summer--getting home afterwards was always a challenge, and they're more conservative and separate from the world than I'm comfortable with, but they've always been very kind when I've visited and never suggested that I'm not a Christian because I don't believe exactly like they do.
Afterwards, I went over to the Kotlars, which was a nice visit, with 7 kids all around. (Guisella wanted to know if the Y kids are better behaved. Humph. Not particularly...wait, make that not at all.) The only awkward moment was when they were talking about how bad the Harry Potter books are, how they were written by a Satanist in order to lure children to the occult, and I just bit my tongue in the same way I would in the States.
(Sally's Official Position on Harry Potter: I don't find fantasy novels inherently evil. The books, especially as the series go on, get too intense for little kids, but I would have read them at that age anyway. They're not the greatest writing, and I think the issues of respect for the rules and authority are at times more of a concern than the magic, but I've read them all except Book 7 [ah, the glories of the US public library!], and I enjoyed them. Rowling does a good job of creating a world, and her little details are what make the books so much fun. Okay, random moment over.)
Anyhow, it was a good evening, and I was so glad I'd gone over there.
This week includes: Vlad (last tutoring session), Shevchenkos from church (taking a load of clothes over for Tanya), Andrey (last tutoring session), Robert's birthday party, a visit to Chervoni Donetsk Gymnasium (a school in a neighboring town), cleaning, packing, and who knows what else!