понеділок, травня 28, 2007

and the rest of the day...

So that batch of strawberry iced tea? Didn't last more than an hour after I finished typing the last post, as my little neighbor girls came over for Go Fish and a tea party. We ate most of the junk food in my apartment, which is good because I can't snack on it, but bad because I don't have junk food.

I currently have a batch of strawberry-mint iced tea brewing. Yum.

Also this afternoon, I installed my first window screen from the kit that someone sent me in the Brockway box last fall. We'll see how it works...it stays up by this tape stuff that's sticky on one side and like velcro on the other. You take the window netting and stick it to the velcro. I think that the kit was designed for people with smoother window frames than mine, but we'll try it. If it means I can have my windows perpetually open without fear of bugs, I'm all for trying.

It was a bit cooler today, and the evening was very nice, so I went for a walk. I was walking through the park, when I heard what sounded like Christian music in Russian. On my way back from my walk, I investigated, and it was a group of young people from Andrey's church (he's the guy I hang out with and help with English, in case you forgot) playing volleyball and badminton. I joined them and ended up playing badminton with one of the girls. I'm not particularly athletic (is this a surprise to anyone? I doubt it), but by the end, I was hitting the birdie a bit more regularly. Apparently they do this fairly often now that the tweather's good, and I think I'll try and join them occasionally. I could stand the exercise, and they seem like an unintimidating group to make an idiot of myself in front of.

Conversation between Andrey and me at the end, in Russian/Ukrainian:

Someone had asked where I live.
Me: On [my street name], in the swamp. [This is literally how the taxi drivers describe where my building is.]
Andrey: *laughs*
Me: What's so funny? That's how the taxi drivers say it!
Andrey: You know who lives in the swamp?
Me: Who?
Andrey: Shrek!
Me: [pause] Well, I'm Princess Fiona!
Andrey: I can see the resemblance.
Me: First movie [when she looks like a princess] or second [when she looks like an ogre]? Never mind, don't answer that!

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a kindred soul, somewhere in cyberspace

Found while surfing the Internet:

Nobody who can read is ever successful in cleaning out an attic. (Anonymous)

This explains my cry of horror when Jason told me a couple of weeks ago that he was going through his bookshelves and getting rid of a few books.

"You can't! I'm not coming back until December! You can't just get rid of books without giving me the chance to browse through them and borrow them!" I then explained how that, when I was growing up, Mom, Kate, and I all had to get each other's approval before getting rid of any books...which often just meant a transfer of ownership rather than any books actually leaving the house.

Jason assured me that the books he was getting rid of weren't anything I'd have any interest in reading, and since he is a trustworthy individual, I'm going to believe him.


Today's batch of iced tea is strawberry-flavored. If it turns out well, I think I'll combine these two attempts and have my third batch be strawberry-mint. The weather's a bit better today...still warm, but there's a good breeze.

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неділя, травня 27, 2007

and a little child shall lead them

The Y's van isn't working again. Apparently, it broke down last Sunday just as they arrived back home from visiting another church in the oblast. (The Baptist churches in various towns and villages around here are taking turns visiting each other this summer...I wasn't able to go this time, as I was in Kharkiv with the other PCVs.)

Serojia Y's birthday was this week (he's five now). At our church here, when it's your birthday, you go up front, you pray, the pastor prays for you, and then everyone sings "Mwe Vam Bazhayem," which is a song where you wish someone happiness, peace, joy, and love in Christ. (We don't just sing it for birthdays...it happens whenever you want to congratulate someone for something.) Anyhow, Serojia's prayer was, "Dear God, thank you for Mama [Nadia] and church. Amen." I don't think I could have put it better myself.

Mom said that I should post about why I didn't have to teach the 11th formers on Friday, so I will. It is perhaps a sign of how much I've adjusted to living here that I didn't think about it as a blog topic until she suggested it. Anyhow, guys in Ukraine generally serve two years in the army after finishing school, as best I understand it. (I have yet to figure out how this connects with university, as they don't wait until the two years are over to finish...I should ask Sasha the next time I'm in Zgurivka.) So when I got to school on Friday, I saw most of the 11th form guys outside talking to the music teacher (the one male teacher on staff, who also teaches the older boys how to do military marches, in addition to teaching the younger kids how to sing)...and they were all in fatigues carrying guns. Apparently Friday was "Anton Get Your Gun" Day. As I entered the building and was walking down the hallway to the teachers' room, I saw Sasha, one of my 11A boys, in the hallway with his gun slung over his shoulder, talking to a teacher. After that, I didn't see the 11th formers (guys or girls) for the rest of the day. Still not quite sure about what happened. But apparently you don't get expelled here for having a gun on school property!

Nor is there apparently any disciplinary action when a 9th form boy tickles a teacher (me). This is a kid who I've been wanting to strangle the entire two weeks I subbed for his class. On Friday, they were taking a test, and Ihor was blatantly copying something out of his notebook. I requested that he give me the notebook, and he refused, putting it in his bag. Having had him for two weeks now, I knew that as soon as I looked away, he'd have it back out again, so I repeated my request. He handed me a different notebook. I took his schoolbag and started to remove the actual notebook in question. He started trying to play tug-of-war with me for it, and in order to make me let go, tickled me under my arm. This is NOT COOL. I was appalled. I never did get the notebook, but he didn't try and copy anything more out of it...instead, he took the notebook of the girl he was sitting with and started copying her work. After class, Ihor came up to me and tried to offer me free Avon samples (he sells Avon in his free time...don't ask) to get back in my good graces. Nope. Didn't happen. After school, I tried to explain what had happened to Nelya...i.e. that it is not okay for a student to tickle a teacher. It took a bit of explaining to make her understand what had happened, and her response was, "Don't worry about it. Ihor's rather strange."

Still...it seems strange and wrong that something that would get you suspended in the US has absolutely no repercussions here. And for the record, people who currently have tickle privileges (granted, some of them can't take advantage of them right now, as I'm here) are all Y kids from Valera on down (Liza and Valera know "tickle" in English, although it's strictly an outside-of-school thing), Jason, and any immediate family members who would want to tickle me. The list can expand if need be, but it's not going to include my older students!

FYI, my mint iced tea was very good. I made a liter jar full and drank it all in less than a day.

Yula and Serojia's wedding is June 24th. Tif, I said I'd help decorate for the reception on Saturday if they need help...you can either join me or sleep off jet lag, if you haven't by that point. And yes, I'll take the skirt. :)

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субота, травня 26, 2007

Sumer is icumen in, Lhude sing cuccu!

Not having any big plans for the day (it's too hot), I went to the bazaar this morning in search of fresh produce. I was hoping for strawberries, but it's a little early yet...a couple of stands had them, but they looked small and squished and were an outrageous 25 hryvnia/kilo. However, I did find baby potatoes, radishes, fresh dill, honey, mushrooms, and two hair clips (a black claw clip and a big pink barrette).

Then I came home and boiled the baby potatoes and then added melted butter, garlic, and a bunch of the dill. Yummy.

It's so hot here...it's been up above 90 for the last several days. I need to go do laundry at the Y's, but the thought of lugging a big bag of laundry over to their house, plus coming up with the energy to be social for the two hours it takes the washing machine just seems like a lot. I might do it on Monday, although I need to find out if this upcoming holiday (Trinity Day) means that people don't do any extra work around the house.

Or, I might just make a liter jar of iced tea and sit around the apartment doing not much of anything until I go tutor Julia at 5 pm.

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середа, травня 23, 2007

a "real" teacher, clothes, and directions

I'm part of a group of PCVs who are putting together a training manual for PCTs who will be teaching YLs (young learners, aka "little kids"). (How's that for acronymic?) I've been a bit slow on completing my part, for several reasons: I was supposed to collect info from other PCVs, none of whom emailed me back with lesson plans and ideas; I'm in charge of writing up the section about grading, which I don't really have much to do with at my school for the YLs, as Nelya grades the 3rd formers and the 4th form has been so out of control I can't say that I've had the time to spend on formulating an elaborate grading methodology...instead, I've concentrated on trying to keep them in their seats and not hitting each other; and plus, that I've been crazy busy with multiple things.

So last night, I dropped Tatiana, the lead specialist of the TEFL program, an email explaining some of why I'm getting the stuff to her a bit late. Part of her response made me grin wryly:
I know how much one could be busy at the end of the semester. It sounds like you're seriously treated as a Ukrainian English teacher and have to cope with all regular teaching and administrative duties. Patience, darling, a week or so and you'll take some rest (will you?)

I'm sure that it's great that I'm taken seriously as a teacher--on Sunday, I was talking to a PCV whose school pretty much ignores her and doesn't let her help with the year-end tests or want her to work in June or anything like that. But sometimes I'd like to be taken a bit less seriously, as far as the work load goes. :) That said, subbing this week's been going fairly well, although some of the 9th form told me yesterday that they would prefer Nelya as their sub. (This was because they didn't like their grades, and one of the boys pointed out that Nelya would quite possibly grade them lower. So they shut up about her and just kept complaining about everything else I do.) But the 6B form likes me because we play games if there's time at the end of the lesson.

I went to the second-hand store after school today and bought some clothes, although I suspect they'll be better for fall, as we've gotten quite the heat wave lately. For 10 hryvnia, I found a long-sleeved white blouse with pink flowers on it, and for 35, a high-waisted, short-sleeved denim dress that looks quite cute on me. However, when I looked at the tag, it was marked "maternity". This surprised me, as I never would have thought it was a maternity dress, so I asked the shop assistant what she thought about it, and we decided you didn't necessarily have to be pregnant to wear it. I supposed if I get the chance I should get my picture taken in it and post it so you all can tell me what you think. :)

As I was walking home from the second-hand store, a large tour bus stopped and a guy asked me how to get to the lyceum. I started to answer, but he caught my accent and asked (in English) if I spoke English. Apparently they were a group of people (students?) from the Netherlands, Germany, and Poland...why they were headed to the lyceum was something I was never told. So anyhow, the guy asked where I was from, and I said America. "You are from Corps [pronounced "Corpse"] of Peace?" he replied. So I gave directions (in English!) and as they pulled away, I could hear him say in Ukrainian to the other passengers, "And on your right is an American volunteer..." Glad to know I'm part of the tour of Balaklia!

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неділя, травня 20, 2007

tak, ya mozhy paracladate (yes, I can translate)

My favorite moment of the day happened at McDonalds, as Julianne and I had an early supper after the PC beerfest get-together to welcome the new PCTs. We were discussing how we love McDonalds here but don't really care for it in the States.

Julianne: It's our homeland.
Me: Yeah, Homeland Security food.
Julianne: *rolls eyes and groans*

Glad to know that I haven't completely lost the pun touch.


Update on Andrei: he's doing a bit better, I'm gathering, and his condition has stabilized. On Friday, the kids said that they'd talked to him and he said to tell me "Hi". Thanks for all the prayers...and don't stop! He's got a long, difficult recovery ahead of him.


I spent Thursday through today, except when I was at school, helping Robert, the new PCT who'll be in my town starting in June, with language stuff and general acclimation. They've only have language classes for six weeks before site visit (I remember those days...), so I did a lot of translating for him and his organization, as his director/coordinator doesn't speak any English. We also hung out with his host family, who are very nice and told me I need to come back and visit them even while Robert's still in training. I was amazed how many of the same people I knew that they knew as well. Really, it's not that large of a town.

Today, I missed church (*sad face*) and went with Robert up to Kharkiv, where us oldies had a welcoming celebration for the newbies at an outdoor cafe. It was nice to chat with everyone, and I have leads on a couple of trips people might be taking this summer to Odesa and Lithuania, which I might be able to join up with. Plus, I met Daisy, a girl volunteer who'll be about 30-40 minutes away from me by train, and we're planning to hang out. The other girls in the oblast all live on the other side of Kharkiv, so when they have "girly nights", it's hard for me to be able to go.

It's really hot...yesterday it was in the 90s, and I think it was today as well. This does not bode well for school this coming week. Friday was bad enough...the last class (11th form) decided to just go crazy and throw paper wads, and all my yelling in Ukrainian had no results. I look forward to someday working in a country with a better discipline system with a more clearly defined set of consequences and punishments.

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середа, травня 16, 2007

the life of a substitute teacher...yes, me, not my parents

No real updates on Andrei...the kids at school told me he's doing a little better and is going to live, but what I could understand of the conversation in the teachers' room today seemed a lot less hopeful, both for his chances and then for what condition he'll be in if he makes it.

I'm spending this week and next week as a substitute teacher for Olha Ivanivna, who had to go to Kharkiv for teacher training. This is a challenge, because not only am I substituting, it's also right at the end of the school year and I have to give the year-end exams. Which I also have to write. For students I don't teach, which means I don't really have a good idea of what they've covered or the level they're at. I also got the fun job of giving the sixth forms English tests from the Ukrainian Ministry of Education...they're experimenting with standardized testing. Yesterday was grammar, which almost everyone flat-out bombed. Out of 25 tests or so, on a 1-12 scale, I had an 8.5, two 6s, a 4.25...and everyone else was lower. I feel bad for the kids...the material wasn't new, but it involved a format that we haven't really worked with and often they had to choose what tense to put a verb in rather than just being told which tense. Some of the girls wanted to know their grades, so I told them. Fortunately, there were no tears (which I half expected), and they don't seem to be blaming me. :)

After a year and a half of being the only American (or native English speaker, for that matter) in my rayon, another PCV is coming to Balaklia to work at a non-profit organization in town. His name is Robert, and he's 46 and was previously a PCV in Namibia. He's coming for site visit tomorrow through Sunday and then moving here in late June. He sounds like he'll be interesting to get to know. Also, another small town about 30-40 minutes towards Kharkiv from me is getting a youth development volunteer, and my friend Mike is also getting a YD PCV in his town (yes, Tif, School #2 finally caved in). So there'll be 3 new PCVs within an hour of me. Wow. It's gonna get crowded! :)

Funny moment from the 6B class I'm subbing for today: Today they had to translate a page of text about the USA into Ukrainian as a year-end test. One girl wanted to know how to say "second" in Ukrainian. Once she figured out what it was, she said, "Oh, second hand!" Used clothing stores are known as "секондь хенд", or "second hand" here, and they're sort of looked down on here. Then she asked me, "Miss Sally, do you go to the second hand stores?" The majority of my clothes are used (from such diverse sources as Nadia, Tif, the PC office, and the infamous second hand stores, which I love), and today's outfit, a light pink sweater and a knee-length denim skirt with front pleats, was from Nadia and the PC office. So I said, "Yes, and what I'm wearing is second-hand" (granted, not from the store, but still used). The kids all stopped, looked at me, and one of the girls said, "Well, it sure doesn't look like it!"

Really, I think the prejudice against used clothes here is silly. According to Guisella Kotlar (who has a new baby, Raphael!), "everyone shops there but no one admits it." I like the used clothes shops here because I can find more Western-style clothing that's better quality for the fraction of the price I'd pay at the bazaar. Plus, they sometimes have English books!

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понеділок, травня 14, 2007

Please pray.


Andrei, one of my sixth form boys (who is also my neighbor), fell off the roof of our apartment building (9 stories) yesterday. A bunch of boys were horsing around up there (the roof is flat) and runnng, and apparently he was running and didn't look where he was going. From what I understand, he broke quite a few bones, had something happen with his stomach, and has had/will have 12 operations.

All of us at school, especially the sixth form, are pretty shaken up by this. Everyone was a little quieter than normal, and as I said, the sixth formers were upset to the point of tears. At English club this afternoon, one of them got a call that Andrei had died, but apparently there was a miscommunication and he hadn't died yet, although I guess it's a distinct possibility. They're moving him from the hospital here in Balaklia to Kharkiv this afternoon.

I've been impressed with the kids here and how soon they started collecting money to help with hospital bills. My neighbor boys came around yesterday evening asking for donations, and the first thing my sixth formers said when they saw me (after, "You heard about Andrei, right?") was, "Are we going to take up a collection for him at school?" For a country where money is often tight, that says a lot to me. We also made him cards in English club, although the general consensus was that, since Andrei doesn't really know English, we should write them in Russian or Ukrainian.

Please keep Andrei and his family in your prayers.


Random semi-humorous thing I heard in the store today (not directed to me): "Why are you so serious? You're like Lenin in October."

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неділя, травня 13, 2007

Weekend update/picture post!

It's been a good weekend. Yesterday, I went to Kharkiv for a going-away party for one of the PCVs in the oblast. We had a picnic out in the woods in one of the larger parks, and it was a nice chance to visit with people. Over 20 people showed up, a mixture of oblast PCVs, visiting PCVs from other oblasts, and foreign exchange students who live in Kharkiv. I took no-bake cookies, which were a hit. Pictures are here.

Question for all of you: do you know what no-bakes are? A lot of people yesterday (Americans) hadn't heard of no-bakes before, and I hadn't thought that they were a regional thing.

Today, I was the pianist at church because our regular one, Inna, was at a wedding with her mom (who is also our best soprano...we were slightly lacking today). I started out rather shaky, but felt moderately confident by the end.

The weather was gorgeous today, and I took pictures of various Y family members after church, including Nadia, who's never let me photograph her before. Pictures are here.

Oh, and for people who like to keep up on news, Yula and Serogia are officially engaged now and getting married at the end of next month. The date's not set yet, but they have two possible weekends.

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четвер, травня 10, 2007

a slice of democracy in action...7th form style!

Current Music: "в моем сердце" ("In My Heart") by Краеугольный Камень (a group that sings worship music in Russian)
Current Mood: Cheerful

Reason #235ish (or thereabouts...this is unscientific) why I love my 7th form (usually):

We're doing the last unit in the textbook right now, which is about the history and politics of Ukraine. And frankly, the textbook stunk more than it usually does...I had 20 vocabulary words and one two-part text to work with, plus a few translation exercises. For two weeks worth of lessons.

So I borrowed a leaf from Katharine Anderson's US government class back in high school and turned my class into the Verkovnya Rada of Ukraine (Ukrainian Parliament). On Tuesday, I put them in their regular groups and told them that for class today, they needed a party name and a party platform. They presented their platforms today, and then each group came up with a bill to try and pass. The class voted by secret ballot on their bills. On Monday I'll tell them the results, give them a diagram of the Ukrainian political system (Nelya's helping me out with that part), and then...we're going to have presidential elections, complete with campaign posters and speeches.

I've been pleasantly amazed how much work the kids put into their political platforms. Dictionaries were obviously used, and every group had a platform. They also got into the bill part of the lesson. We had a staff meeting a few months ago talking about the importance of student government and self-government, and I look at these lessons as a chance for the kids to understand how the democratic process works just a little.

And, since I'm quite proud of my kids (with an exception that will be noted), here are their political platforms. Spelling and grammar are unchanged; if I think you all will be totally confused, I'll "translate" in brackets.

National Patriot Party
1. War attr: to amend war attr force [I never did figure out quite what they meant...]
2. Economics: to amend industrial and egricultural country
3. Education: to amend knowledge foreign languages
4. Language: not correction

[When I asked them how exactly they planned to make these "amendments" they told me it was a secret. True politics--promise to change everything and not say how!]

Killer Party (later changed to Patriots Party after severe objections from Nelya and me)
1. We want to also countries what been in SSSR reunite again and our big country destroy Europe and USA.
2. We want to abolish also lessons.
3. We want to diminish cost on also product.

[This is unfortunately what happens when you have the top student in the class and the biggest troublemaker in the same group. Nelya and I were appalled, particularly at the party name and the destruction involved, and she gave the entire class an anti-terrorism lecture. The boys, I'm pretty sure, were just joking, but we gave them bad grades for the assignment. What gets me is that there really are political groups here with something of this mindset.]

Blue/Yellow Party (who made a pretty pamphlet with different colors and designs)
1. I'd like economical, politikal and cultural relationships promoted the union. It assisted the further development of Ukrainian people.
2. I want that was we have wide relations with Canada, the USA, and Great Britain in policy, ekonomics and culture. [Sort of the antithesis of the previous group...]
3. That in Ukraine medical help is available in hospitals, polyclinics, and also in medical centres in such places as factories and schools.
4. We whent [want] that pupil fulfil all obligation.

Defend Children Party
1. Secured every children house, education.
2. Free hospital.
3. Go to school in winter.
4. Free study.

Vynderkinder [From the German for "Clever Children"...it's a commonly used phrase here]
1. We want pease in Ukraine. [I know they mean "peace"...but I can't help but think "peas."]
2. The pupi stude [study] in institut.
3. the people make timely salary. [People get paid on time.]

So then each group suggested a bill and we voted on them. Here are the bills and the results.

1. Vynderkinder: Minimum salary of 2,000 hryvnia/month ($400). Passed, 13-3
2. Defend Children: All children have the right to a voice [I think this means have the right to be heard, not a physical voice.]. Passed, 13-3
3. National Patriot: 3 years of military service mandatory. Failed, 2-14
4. Blue/Yellow: 50 hryvnia fine for bad words. [my personal favorite!] Tied, 8-8
5. Patriots: 100 hryvnia fine for the group who thought of #4. Failed, 5-11

I can hardly wait until Monday to see what they come up with next!

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понеділок, травня 07, 2007

the best laid plans of mice and men and sal...

I'm sad.

I baked my salmon fillet with a little bit of butter, fresh dill, and lemon slices. I made a small batch of rice to go with it. I grated up some radishes and added a few drops of oil and vinegar for my side salad. I even added a couple slices of bread on the side.

And my salmon wasn't fresh...it was preserved in brine (which I hadn't known prior to baking). It was too salty to eat, and half an hour later, my mouth is still puckering from the thought.

I was going to have such a nice supper, too!


Today at school we had an outdoor assembly for Victory Day, which is on Wednesday and celebrates the ending of WWII. In Ukraine, which was a major battle ground, the Soviet Army were the winners, so everyone had red flowers and we had a red star with candles around it. In some ways, it was if we were celebrating the triumph of Communism over Nazism, which seemed a little odd to the American. But it definitely would have been the better choice in 1945.

Anyhow, we had our assembly with our veterans--one old man in an army uniform with a chest full of medals, and two babuskas with head scarves. All the classes either had to present a musical number or draw a poster. The results were varied, but interesting.

Yesterday at the Ys, Vitaly, who was not blessed with an artistic gift in the slightest, was trying to draw the 10-B poster, as none of his classmates had volunteered. (Viktor asked me, "Do you know how to draw a star so that all of the angles are exactly even?" Since I take after my mom more than my dad, the answer was no. Nadia's comment was that Vitaly shouldn't bite off more than he can chew...or at least, the Ukrainian equivalent.)

We had various musical numbers--mostly Soviet war songs, I think--by the kids. My favorite was my 8-B form, who apparently had raided all the available attics. A group of them came out in various costumes based on old army uniforms--we had Alyona as a nurse, Slava in a long khaki trenchcoat, Alosha as a sailor, Vitaly with a parachuter's helmet, Zhenia in an army jacket with a bloody bandage around his head, and Firyuza looking like a guerilla fighter who had acquired everyone else's castoffs (my personal opinion). Plus Olena, Vita, and Natasha, who weren't in costume but were there for vocal support. They sang a verse of a song and then had a little skit. I liked that they didn't do the same sort of thing as everyone else.

The other performance that I found notable was that of Maksym and Andrei, two of my 6-A boys. With the music teacher accompanying them on his accordion, they belted out two Soviet army songs with more noise and energy than accuracy. The first song was a lively one with a traditional "Russian" sound about partisans out in the forest, and it hit me that during WWII, boys that age would have been involved in the war in various ways and singing the song in much the same way. It gave me goosebumps.

And I got some of the extra tulips that were left over!

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something fishy is going on

Today when I was at the supermarket, I picked up a salmon fillet for supper, as I wanted something different from my usual fare.

So of course, I've been looking up recipes to figure out how to best use up various things in my fridge to go with it.

And what should I find but "Cooking Salmon in a Dishwasher." I can't try it, of course, since I have no dishwasher, but I really want to know who thought of doing that in the first place.

And I'm also greatly amused that they specify that no detergent or soap is to be added...

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неділя, травня 06, 2007

a long post to make up for the lack of them this past week

I have a webcam!

Greg and I had a shopping day at Target (not the US Target, but the biggest grocery/department store in Kharkiv) on Wednesday. Greg found blue cheese, a mop, sticky-tac (apparently you can find it in Ukraine!), and a bunch of other random stuff, and I got my webcam, white-out, two copy-books, and peanut butter, which comes in little packets apparently, rather than jars. I haven't tried it yet, as I keep using my bread for other things (ie sandwiches), but I hope to soon.

So now when Jason and I talk with each other on Skype, we both have webcams and can see each other (although he generally looks sort of like a Monet painting, a little fuzzy around the edges, and when he moves quickly, the resemblance is closer to Picasso's work). It's almost (but not quite) as good as being able to actually go on a date. :)


My 10th form topic this week was "Making Suggestions." For their Thursday night homework, I asked them all to brainstorm three problems that they had in their lives. On Friday, I put them into groups and had them come up with answers to these problems. Below is a sampling, with suggestions in italics.

~No money (a very common problem): Need to work
~I get bad marks: Need to study
~My CD player doesn't work: Throw it out, buy a new one (which went back to "No money")
~I'm lazy: To overcome it (I was very proud of Natasha, as she looked up "overcome" in the dictionary to answer Olexi's problem)
~I live in Vilavatka (a village south of us) and I have to take the train to school (because the school there closed due to lack of students and the kids have to come to our school now): Move to Balaklia (to which Olena replied, "No money!")
~No boyfriend (from Lyuba, a very sweet girl who gets mediocre grades but works very hard for them): Yura, the class clown, said that he was available. Lyuba smiled in a way that said, "Not on your life!"


The highlight (perhaps "main event" is a more appropriate term) of yesterday was trying to fix the lock on my outer door. It hadn't been oiled since I moved in (or ever?), and yesterday, the key finally stopped turning...that is, when I could actually get it in the lock. Lena, my second-floor neighbor, told me that I needed car oil, what the container looked like, and that I needed to go to the hardware store. I went to the hardware store, and the following conversation ensued.

Me (holding up an empty oil container lent me by Lena): Excuse me, do you have car oil?
Shop-assistant: No, we don't.
Me: Where can I get it?
Shop-assistant: At a hardware store.
Me: Aren't you a hardware store?
Shop-assistant: Yes, but we don't have it.
Me: Well, at what hardware store can I get it?
Shop-assistant: At the bazaar. [which was already closed for the day by that point]
Me: My problem is that I can't turn my key in the lock. Do you have anything that would help me?
Shop-assistant: No, we don't.
Me: Thank you. Goodbye.
Shop-assistant: Goodbye.

At that point, I really missed Cantwell's in Lakeview.

I then walked down to the bazaar, on the off-chance that it was still open. It wasn't. Neither was the other hardware store right by it. So I did what I usually do when in a dilemma, and called Nadia. Valera answered the phone, which meant a bit more talking to do before I could convince him to go find his mom. When I got ahold of Nadia, she asked me to call back in a few minutes (I think so she could go look for oil).

I walked home, was met by the neighbor girls (who have been visiting me quite regularly with bouquets of weeds and grass all week), and decided to ask my first-floor neighbors, an older couple. It turns out that "Uncle Misha" (the girls said that since he was "Grandpa Misha" to them...no relation...he would be "Uncle Misha" to me) is a very good fix-it man who took my lock out of the door, oiled it, and put it back in, all while chatting with me about why on earth I speak Ukrainian instead of Russian. He prefers Russian. However, he told me he was glad that I'd asked him when I had a problem and that he helps out everybody in the building when they have problems. So I'm going to bake him cookies or something as a way to say thank you, I think.


Yula, Viktor and Nadia's oldest niece on Nadia's side of the family, was back in church this week. She'd been living with extended family and working as a nurse in Zhytomer, in western Ukraine, since just before New Year's, and the original plan was that she was going to settle out there. However, just before moving out there, she had met a guy (I can sympathize), and after a few months there, decided to move back home. It looks like Yula and Serogia are probably going to get married...they'd been thinking this summer or early fall, but Nadia told me today that it might be as early as next month. On Saturday, apparently, his pastor and close family members are going to meet with the adults of Yula's family (which includes aunts, uncles, and grandparents...her grandfather is also our pastor) to discuss the feasibility of this. So Yula's side of the family was going to get together this evening to talk it all over. It's very different from the US, with such a high degree of family and church involvement.

From what I've read, traditionally at such meetings between both sides of the family, if the girl wasn't interested in marrying, they'd give the guy a pumpkin. Yula's definitely interested, but I want to know where they'd get a pumpkin this time of year if she wasn't.

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вівторок, травня 01, 2007

happy Soviet Labor day!

Wow, it's a small world.

I'm chatting on MSN Messenger with a guy I worked with almost six years ago when I had just finished high school. We were camp counselors together and debated theology in our free time.

It turns out that he has converted to Orthodoxy (which he was considering back when I knew him) and is moving to Ukraine this summer to work as a long-term missionary in an orphanage out West. Small, small world...


Today's been sort of chilly, so I've been cooking to keep the apartment warm (and so I don't go hungry). I finally got around to making pizza with onions, mushrooms, and chicken, which was good except that the dough didn't really rise, since the apartment's not all that warm. Then my little neighbor girls came over and we made carrot bread with the last of my carrots...they got to grate the carrots, crack the egg, and stir things, which they enjoyed greatly.

(Tim, this fits in with my suggestions to you of things to do. Invite your neighbor kids over, cook something, and then blog about it. See, I can combine them!)

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