середа, січня 31, 2007

on the 36th or so day of Christmas...

AWESOME NEWS!!! My Christmas package of books from my family (13, all in English!) finally showed up yesterday after 2 and a half months (postmarked November 14). I'd given up hope that I'd ever see it. This is bliss indeed!


Today I went with Tetiana G., one of the Peace Corps lead specialists for TEFL, to the college and lyceum in my town to discuss the possibilities of them applying for a PCV. I don't know if either of them will...the director of the lyceum was interested, but the teachers weren't (they said they're too busy preparing students for olympiads and such to have time for a PCV), but the college seemed interested (except for the cost of housing aforementioned PCV). I hope they apply. They're half specialized high school, half teacher training college, and both halves could benefit. Tetiana was telling me that yesterday, she visited several village schools in my rayon (county), and the teachers there, who had been educated at this college, were afraid of speaking English to an American. So there's definitely a need for better education at the college level. Plus, I know some of the college faculty, and they're hard-working people who really love what they do.

Also good was that my director decided not to meet with Tetiana after all. She had told her last week that she wanted to meet to "discuss problems with the program", which I assumed meant "Sally isn't meeting my requirements for a teacher." It turns out that what she wants is more rent money, and she decided to just telephone my regional manager instead. Rent keeps going up. This is a problem, and I suspect that eventually PC will stop increasing the amount they pay, and my school can't afford more. There are times I'm half tempted to ask Viktor and Nadia if I can rent one of their 3rd floor rooms, but a) I know they'd take me in in a pinch, but I don't want to be a burden and don't know if I would be, and b) I love them like my own family, but one of the joys of having 10 younger siblings is that I can go home to peace and quiet. We'll see what Vasyl says about the rent increase. At any rate, my director didn't seem displeased with my work.


Thinking that Tetiana would have time for tea (she didn't, but we didn't know that originally), I used my new cookbook from my mom (Amish recipes, a good idea because they make everything from scratch, just like Ukraine) to make a jelly roll. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, and now I have another way to use up all the jars of raspberry jam that Nadia keeps giving me. :)


13 kids showed up to my younger English club on Monday, plus there were 6 or so who told me that they couldn't make it this week but they'd try next week. We learned "The Wheels on the Bus" (a big hit) and "There's a Hole in the Bucket" (not as big of a hit, sadly). I had wanted to keep the club for students who know some English, but now my 3rd formers are starting to come as well...what can I say?

We'll see how many show up to the club for senior pupils tomorrow. I definitely have a better rapport with the younger kids, if attendance at my clubs can be taken as an indicator.

субота, січня 27, 2007

on the road (or train tracks, rather) again

Language Refresher was good. I felt like the sessions were useful, and I had a lot of fun hanging out with other PCVs. The group of people we had weren't really wild partiers, but instead preferred playing games--I played Apples to Apples, Catch Phrase, and Pictionary. Much fun.

(The building staff apparently asked PC if we were a religious group, because we were so well behaved. Tee hee hee.)

Celeste, Rita, Andrea, Paul, and I had an iPod concert last night. This is where you put on the iPod headphones and sing along...the other people can only hear you. This is quite entertaining when people don't know the lyrics to their songs. I did "It Ain't Me, Babe" (Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash), "That'll Be the Day" (Buddy Holly), "Hotel California" (The Eagles), and "Turn Your Radio On" (don't remember the artist). I had the worst time with the lyrics to "Hotel California", but got the biggest laughs for "Turn Your Radio On", because if you didn't grow up with old-time gospel music, hearing someone belt out, "Turn the lights down low/ And listen to the Master's radio/ Get in touch with God/ Turn your radio on," was apparently pretty funny.

I went to a couple of sessions on Ukrainian folk music and learned several new songs, which got stuck in my head all week. I enjoyed that a lot...the songs, that is, not having them go over and over in my head when I was trying to fall asleep. :)

I took an LPI (language proficiency interview) and was still Advanced Low, the same level as last summer. However, my tester told me that I was just below the Advanced Mid cut-off, and I know I've definitely improved since last summer. So that was cool.

No real news other than that.

середа, січня 24, 2007

snow in kyiv. lots of it. more than kharkiv oblast has seen since november.

At the office in Kyiv, headed to Prolisok for Ukrainian Language Refresher. Looking forward to Apples to Apples, seeing friends, and speaking English (funny, I know, for being at language classes).

Events of my week so far:

~giving my 7th form a wordsearch, where they had to translate a list of Ukrainian words into English and then find them in the wordsearch. The kids all really loved it, even my slower kids, although I was surprised to realize that Sasha couldn't read Ukrainian...he knew that "divchyna" means "girl", but the word was actually "dvisti", which means "twice". I do not understand a school system that put everyone in foreign language classes.

~Having 3 of the 24 7th formers do their hometask to make a comic strip about Mark Twain's life. Although this is annoying, both Oleh and Vlada Y were 2 of the 3, and Oleh had gone beyond copying the six sentences I'd written and drawing pictures of them to changing the sentences into first person, as if Twain himself was talking. Very cool.

~A staff meeting at which my director chewed everyone out because our kids stink at filling out their homework planners and parents never sign them. Best line: "The daybook is the biography of the pupil!" Unfortunately, my Ukrainian is good enough that I could pretty much follow the entire rant. Fortunately, it's nice to know that she yells at EVERYONE like she's done at me, if not worse.

~Best part of the week: an impromptu jazz session on Monday afternoon with my neighbor Oleh (Jason, that's Sergey Danilovich's son) on the keyboard, his friend Dima on the saxaphone, and me as vocalist for "Fly Me to the Moon." Perhaps that can be my post-PC career--jazz vocalist. I've daydreamed about being a folk musician, but perhaps I should switch genres. :)

четвер, січня 18, 2007

George Marvin Behrenwald, 1919-2007

Ah, the Internet finally works, after not working all week.


My Grandpa B died yesterday. He was 87 (I think), so it wasn't unexpected, but please keep my family in your prayers. I remember riding around with him in his white postal jeep delivering the Buyline and getting Subway afterwards, playing with the Amish kids that lived in the house where he'd grown up, and always getting him socks or gloves for Christmas because I didn't know what else to get him. He always told me to "be kind to small children and animals." Good advice.

(Kate, I'll try and send you memories for a eulogy on Saturday when I go to Kharkiv.)


My senior English club has doubled in size to TWO students! We had our first meeting "All About Us", talked about who we are, played a game where we had to answer questions about each other (tricky!), and made collages. Firyuza and Slava, two of my 8th formers, came, and I think they had fun. Maybe we'll double again next week.

субота, січня 13, 2007

sort of a grumpy post, skip if you like

It has nothing to do with me, I know, that one teacher at my school retired over Christmas break (so weird that you can do that in the middle of the year here) and that our schedule of classes got turned upside down. And it's great (awesome, actually), that I'm going to be starting two specialized multi-grade English classes/clubs for more advanced/interested students.

But the new schedule means that I have my 3rd form (who love me) and my 8th form (who actually enjoy English and work hard at it) each one time less per week. *wails*

Why does it have to be the GOOD KIDS that I lose to the new schedule?!


Also, I apparently am stuck with all 24 7th formers in my school for the next semester. This is very, very bad, as there are about 6 of them who are massive behavior and educational problems. In other forms, the kids are already split into A and B groups, which lessens the problem, but this group is too small to do that with, apparently. Our way of dealing with this last semester was that Nelya took them and worked with them seperately in the cafeteria or the teachers' workroom--sort of a resource room situation. This helped me immensely, but the kids didn't like it and complained to the director (and to Nelya, and to me). And apparently other teachers complained as well that it wasn't fair. So rather try to explain to people the reasons why we'd done this, my director instead gave me back the whole class with Nelya sitting in there to handle discipline.

This is going to be a problem.

I attempted to point out that I'm supposed to be working with the more motivated students in the school (which I thought was in my contract...worse luck, it isn't), and somehow ended up getting in an hour-long conversation with Nelya and the music teacher about the high level of poverty in Ukraine, which apparently is why all of these problems arise. It was rough. They were trying to be nice, but I just ended up feeling horrible for being a privileged American and like the goal of my school is to suck hope out of me like a vaccuum cleaner (or maybe a shop vac). The one comforting bit is that Nelya agrees with me about the need to split the 7th form...but what the director says, goes.

Fact of the week I'm having trouble coping with: beginning teacher pay in the US is roughly 17 times higher than what the teachers at my school who have taught for 30 years make. Yes, living costs are higher in the US, but not that much.

And yet, I look at the believers I know here and realize that there's a lot to be said for "being content whatsoever the circumstances". In any country there are those who are discontent with how much they have--yes, Ukraine's economy is dismal, and I know it's easier for me to say this coming from the US--but your attitude deeply influences your happiness in life, not the size of your wallet. But I can't say that when talking to the teachers at school.


For those people who remember Marina's dip in the river last January, an article adressing the phenomenon.


I have a second-hand (but still new) fake fur coat, bought for 70 hryven from one of my director's friends. According to the teachers at my school, I look very stylish in it. Unfortunately, it really hasn't been cold enough to wear it yet. :)

вівторок, січня 09, 2007

the princess is back to feeling like Cinderella a bit

I spent over 3 hours today correcting test booklets from last semester. The kids did poorly on them, which makes sense, as it isn't material we covered. Plus, as semester grades were already given out, they don't effect the marks that the kids get. Apparently we have to do these so our vice-principal (who doesn't know any English) can see them. And Nelya apparently gave semester grades on how she thought the kids had done rather than by any sort of numerical process.

*bangs head in slight frustration*

Oh, well...if every thing was perfect, I wouldn't be needed here.

And after an hour of waiting, my wonderful post office people got the Internet to work!

субота, січня 06, 2007

One more post from Kyiv. Because I can.

After a lovely morning spent enjoying high-speed Internet, Garrison Keillor, and McDonalds (again), I met up with Tanya at Globus, the big mall on/under the main square in Kyiv. The walls above ground are all glass, so we sat in little pink squishy chairs around a glass-topped table and ate ice cream while simultanteously admiring the view outside and all the crazy boots that walked by. (I've realized that "boot watching" is a hobby I've picked up ever since I needed to buy boots. And not to get off topic, but while I was at the airport this morning, I saw knee-high turquoise boots with very, very high stiletto heels and pointy toes...with a big sparkly turquoise purse to match. Ooh, shiny!)

So we caught up on jobs, movies, books, general life, and all sorts of other stuff, which was fun. We also were amused that we both showed up in black coats, blue jeans, and red sweaters. Mwuhahah...maybe we really are twins born in different countries on different days. :)

these boots ain't made for walkin'

Just for Tif--a blow-up Santa on one of the shops in Balaklia!

More photos on my Facebook account

Hopefully Jason can scan/upload some of his pictures when he gets back to the US, because he has most of the Kyiv pictures on his camera, as my digital decided to have the batteries die on me yesterday. :(

We had an awesome time together, partly just getting to share a different culture and partly being able to have nine days where we could have a relationship that was on the same continent (novel concept). We had fun, laughed a lot, and had good conversations about all sorts of topics.


[Setting: Tuesday on the streets of Kharkiv, by a store with a display of knee-high bright red boots with stiletto heels]

Me: Those red ones are just too much.

Jason: Yeah, black ones are bad enough.

Me: What's wrong with [knee-high] black boots? [pause] I've lived here too long, haven't I.

Jason, grinning: Yeah.


Plans for the rest of break: I went with Jason to the airport this morning, saw him off, and came back to the office. I'm hanging out with Tanya of WHO and Firefly fame this afternoon, then heading back home tonight. Tomorrow is Ukrainian Christmas, and I think I'm caroling with the Y kids. Then a planning week for the next semester and our first English club meeting, and maybe Kharkiv next weekend to visit with people.

Z novem rokum!

New Year's Eve 2006 at the Yukhemets house

Jason and the little boys playing trucks

Me with the two top rivals for my affections, Jason and Valera (technically it's Valery, but they all say Valera, so I will from now on as well). Fortunately, they got along wonderfully and there was no conflict. :)

Vlada actually let me take a picture of her for once! L-R: Dima (extended family), Vitaly, Vlada, Alina (1st cousin)

"Bag lady"? In bag: Snizhanna. L-R: Valera, Vladik (cousin), Yan, Ihor

Dad's job when the plumbing goes out and there are 21 people in the house--Victor fixing the toilet.

Jason and I with our stuffed animals from Did Moroz (Dima), the Ukrainian version of Santa Claus

Sparklers! L-R: Liza, Oleh, Uncle Vova

Singing worship songs in multiple languages just before midnight. L-R: Vitaly, Victor, Dima, Uncle Vova, Aunt Tanya

The little kids the next morning with the books I got them. L-R: Liza, Serogia, Alosha, Ihor, Snizhanna, Yan (Victor in the mirror!)

a night at the opera

The Kyiv Opera House is the most beautiful building I have ever been in (winning out over even the Kharkiv train station). It's decorated in cream, gold, and deep, deep red, with all sorts of intricate architectural details in the moldings. Madam Butterfly itself was very good, with many talented voices, a good orchestra, and a cute little kid (who played Butterfly and Pinkerton's son) who seemed to be enjoying riding the little rocking horse on stage. However, it was definitely very warm on the third level, where our seats were.

I also found Madam Butterfly to be a tri-lingual experience--the opera itself was in Italian, the titles above the screen were in Ukrainian, and there was a synopsis of the story in English in our programmes. It was interesting for Jason and I afterward to compare our respective experiences; neither of us know Italian, although we could pick up a few cognates here and there, but while I could follow along fairly well with the Ukrainian titles and tried to follow the lyrics and the nuances of the plot, he understood the basic plot and simply enjoyed listening to the music.

I'm a Peace Corps Volunteer, not an expatriate businesswoman living in Kyiv. I live in a small town where everyone pretty much knows me by now, walk almost everywhere I go in almost any weather, and have learned to exist without running hot water. But once in a while, it's nice to feel princessy and go to the opera. I think I'll have to go again some time.

пʼятниця, січня 05, 2007

tra la la

And so, Jason's visit draws to a close, as he heads out tomorrow morning. We've seen most of Balaklia, a little bit of Kharkiv (including a very good Italian restaurant), and were touristy in Kyiv today. Pictures will be following soon. :)

Tonight we are going to eat at that well-known and classy restaurant, McDonalds, and then go see the opera Madam Butterfly at the Kyiv Opera Theater, tickets 15 hryven ($3) each. After looking up the plot on Wikipedia, Jason pointed out that it wasn't a particularly romantic story. But the other theater productions we've been to together include Arthur Miller's All My Sons (gloomy, depressing, and provoking interesting conversations afterwards) and Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus (gory, over-the-top, and inducing much laugher). Not very romantic either. :)

вівторок, січня 02, 2007

there's an ice skating rink on the central square in Kharkiv!

Mom said that people have been commenting that I haven't posted in almost a week. To which all I can say is that well, this is the first time I've had someone from home come visit me, and we've been busy doing Balaklia-type stuff.

I met Jason at the airport Wednesday night, and then we took various trains to get back to my site. Thursday was just a catch-up, recover-from-jet-lag day with a belated American Christmas in the evening. (Tif and Kate, thanks for the presents...you guys rock!) Friday was the semester staff meeting and New Year's party at my school, followed by a visit to the Y family. Saturday we went to the bazaar and baked Christmas cookies. Sunday was church (in which Jason gave greetings from America, I translated, and then we sang "How Great Thou Art" in English), followed by an awesome New Year's celebration at the Ys, lasting until Monday morning. Yesterday we had some of my friends come over for dinner, and now we're in Kharkiv.

And that is why I haven't had time to post. :) Seriously, though, we're having a great time. Pictures will be posted when I get to Kyiv this weekend.

Happy New Year, everyone!