вівторок, грудня 18, 2007


Yay! I can finally update my blog! (Thank you, Cheryl and the rest of the Tamarack Public Library.)

Wow...I've switched sides of the world since my last post. Last Thursday morning, I was at the PC office, checking my email for the last time before riding with one of the Peace Corps guards to the airport (he was off-duty and offered me a decent price to get me there, plus helped out with my luggage). I checked my flight info one last time...and found out that my New York-Chicago flight was canceled. Cue Moment of Panic.

So when I got to the airport, I went right over to the Delta window and asked them if they could do anything for me. I was supposed to fly out of New York around 7 pm EST, and they were able to rebook me for 7 am Friday morning. They also thought that once I got to New York, I could get a voucher for a hotel room.

The next obstacle arose when going through immigration services/passport control/whatever it's called. Because there was a mistake in my passport (the registration for my visa, although not my visa itself, had expired the day before), I was charged around $140 just to leave the country. Since I only had about $225 on me overall, this was sort of traumatic. Fortunately, another PCV who was on my flight gave me $30 to help me out.

The flight from Kyiv to New York was 11ish hours long and full of people speaking Russian. I helped the older lady sitting next to me with food requests, and the stewardess told me that I was very helpful. I would hope that after two years, I could translate, "Do you want tea or coffee?"

It was icy/snowy/messy in New York, so we didn't land until about an hour after the scheduled time. Once I collected my bags, I tried to find out about my hotel voucher. After talking to multiple people, I was told that they didn't give out vouchers for weather delays. So I was stuck in JFK Airport for 12 hours with two large bags, a backpack, and a computer bag. I rented a cart for $3 and traveled around the airport--from Terminal 3 down to Terminal 1 so I could get food, and then back. I called Mom and Jason and let them know what was going on, and I had Chinese food (of the food court quality) and Starbucks (Mom thought I needed coffee to keep me awake). I ended up with about 2 hours of dozing sleep on the floor of the Delta terminal, with my backpack for a pillow, my laptop bag under my arm, and my coat for a blanket.

Friday morning, sort of rested, I flew from New York to Chicago and was met by Jason, who pretty much hugged the living daylights out of me. Not that I minded at all. He'd spent the night in Chicago, so we went back to his hotel so I could have breakfast and get a shower, and then we hit the road a little before noon Chicago time and arrived back in Lakeview around 5 pm Michigan time. At long last, I was home in the US.

Since then, I've been slowly adjusting, both to the time change (I keep waking up around 5 am every day and getting really tired by mid-afternoon) and to life in general. I called the Yukhymetses on Sunday, and I see that Olha from church emailed me (but the library computers won't let me read Cyrillic font).

I'm sure I could think of a million things more to say, and I'll try and get back here in a few days to post some more. Blogger doesn't seem to work on my parents' computer, so I'm at the library now. (Does anyone know how I can find out if I actually have wireless on my laptop as opposed to wireless capability?)

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середа, грудня 12, 2007

and so it ends...

The paperwork has been signed, the interviews have been held, my pink card (which gave me accreditation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) has been turned in, and I'm no longer a Peace Corps Volunteer. I was joking that I wasn't quite an RPCV (returned Peace Corps Volunteer) yet, since I'm still in Ukraine, so some of us decided that we are ILPCVs (In Limbo Peace Corps Volunteers).

It's been a wonderful twenty-seven months, and I wouldn't have wanted to have spent it any other way. It's not that everything was perfect, or that there haven't been times when I wanted to go home, or that I accomplished everything I set out to. That's not Peace Corps. But I learned two languages (more or less), taught some kids some English (and a lot more about different types of teaching), disproved a lot of stereotypes about Americans (and created a few more...my girls wanted to know if all US women wear skirts all the time), had a successful long-distance relationship, got a better idea of what I want to do with my life, and made some wonderful friends who, even with the distance, I hope to keep in touch with.

It's been a good life. And I've been so blessed. God is good!

I'll be starting a new blog at some point in the next few weeks, so keep checking back here for the address. I may also blog here a few more times, just about the trip back and the readjustment process. To all my readers, both those I know in real life and those I don't, thanks so much for reading...your comments have been the impetus I've often needed to keep writing my posts. I hope you've been amused, entertained, and perhaps, once in a while, inspired.

So...go change the world. Just a teeny teeny teeny tiny little itty bitty bit. That's what I think I did, just a little.


A night at the ballet

The office is buzzing with people COSing, people in for mid-service medical, and people in for reasons I know not.

Yesterday, I went to the Kyiv Opera Theatre in the early afternoon to get tickets to a show this week. My options were to go see a ballet by Tchaikovsky (the title being a Ukrainian word I didn't know) last night or the premier of the opera Yaroslav the Wise, which is about Ukrainian history, tonight. The ballet won out, easily.

Came back to the office and looked up Tchaikovsky's ballets on Wikipedia and discovered that I had a $4 ticket to go see The Nutcracker! (I had the opportunity to buy a $20 ticket, and once I knew what it was, I regretted not doing so, but it was fun anyway.) Three other PCV girls who were in the office also decided to get tickets, so while we didn't all get to sit together, we entered and exited together. :)

The ballet was wonderful. It was the first ballet I've seen. I've always been a very verbal person, and it was fascinating to see how a story could be told only through instrumental music and dance without any words at all. And I hadn't realized how much of the music I already knew!

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вівторок, грудня 11, 2007

saying goodbye

I don't live in Balaklia anymore.

Let me backtrack...the weekend was spent alternating between social functions (visiting a nearby town to meet pupils there, which grew out of the teachers' seminar a few weeks ago and Robert's birthday party), cleaning my apartment (self-explanatory), and saying goodbye (neighbor kids, Julia, church, and the Yukhymets family).

Sunday was a difficult day for me. It was my last church service in Balaklia, and we had Communion. At the end of the service, the pastor prayed for me and my travels. Afterwards, we all took pictures and everyone hugged me and wished me well. Yula and Serogia were visiting her parents, and I was glad to get to say goodbye to them as well.

I spent the afternoon at the Yukhymetses'. Nadia had asked me earlier what I wanted to eat, and she made borsch, chicken and mashed potatoes, sour cabbage, and a salad that I love (it includes chicken, pineapple, mushrooms, onions, boiled eggs, and mayonnaise, and it tastes much better than you might think from that description), plus there was cake for dessert. The older kids were all being unemotional, for the most part (not an overly sentimental bunch, but I know they'll miss me), Valera just sat quietly all day (note: this is highly unusual), and the little kids just didn't get it.

Ihor (age 6): When's Miss Sally coming back from America?
Nadia: She's going to live there.
Ihor: But how's she going to go to church with us then?

Alosha (age 3) only understood that something about me was going on, so he walked around saying, "I love Miss Sally!"

At the end of the afternoon, Nadia videotaped me playing the piano, first singing by myself, and then singing with the kids. We all did goodbye hugs, and Nadia and I both cried and cried. I'm going to miss her so much. Then Vitaly and Oleh walked me home and peppered me with questions about what it's like to fly on an airplane.

Yesterday, I spent the day mailing out the last of my books, dropping stuff off at school, and cleaning my apartment, which included scrubbing my kitchen floor on my hands and knees. Let no one say that the American girl leaves a dirty apartment!

Robert, my director, Nadia, and Nadia's brother Tolik helped me get my bags to the train station ( the Y's van is currently more or less non-operable, and we made it to and from church on Sunday simply by the grace of God). I rode with Nadia and Tolik, and Nadia was crying. Back in October, I'd signed her birthday card, "your American daughter, Sally", and she remembered that.

Nadia, Oksana Yaroslavivna, and I stood around and talked for a bit before I needed to get on the train. I found out that Dasha, one of my 4th form girls, is legally a social orphan now. Her parents are still alive, but they hadn't wanted her, so they gave custody of her to her grandmother. Her grandmother died over fall break, and now no one knows where Dasha's going to go...quite possibly to an orphanage. Please keep her in your prayers.

Robert and I went out to dinner in Kharkiv, and then he got me on the train. This morning, I got in around 7:30, took what seemed to be a horribly expensive taxi to the office (but was told later that it actually wasn't that bad), and am now checking my email and chatting with other PCVs.

When I checked my email, I found this from two of my 7th formers:

Greetings of Ms. Salli. We very much on you have become bored. Had not time to get used to Olga Ivanovne yet. And how are you doing, how have reached? Excuse that could not lead you on a train. We very much love you and we miss. All class sends the regards to you. Good-bye, yours faithfully Arevik and Laura.

I know it's time for COS, time to come back to my life in the US. But sometimes, especially last night and right now, it's hard to leave.

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субота, грудня 08, 2007

for your amusement

Taking time out from cleaning my apartment to blog...

As I was scrubbing baked-on grease off of my stove (ugh), I was reminded of a childhood misconception I had, brought on by this passage from L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Windy Poplars:

How that furniture shone! No bought polish ever produced that mirror-like gloss. I knew it was Rebecca Dew's elbow grease.

This led me to believe for quite some time that elbow grease was, in fact, actual grease of a homemade sort that was used for cleaning (not made of elbows, mind you, but something that a good housekeeper would make every year, like jams or jellies or homemade soap). I don't remember how I actually learned the truth...

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середа, грудня 05, 2007

ooh, it's going to be fun!

Ever since I got Internet this past spring, I've been keeping an Amazon.com wishlist of books I want to read and CDs I want to listen to...not necessarily that I'd be buying them off of Amazon at some point, but more just to remember them for later.

Tonight, I got on the Interloan catalogue for Tamarack Library. Probably at least two thirds (if not more) of the books I marked are available through the inter-library loan system. (Although very, very few of them are actually at Tamarack.)

Cheryl, as soon as I get back to the US and either find my old library card or get a new one, you all at the library will be seeing a LOT of me, as I catch up on 2+ years of books!

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понеділок, грудня 03, 2007

well then, let's all make frumpy faces on the count of 3...

In my earlier post, I forgot to mention that Oleh Yukymets, with a face like a thundercloud (same face he had in class on Friday) told me yesterday, "You're leaving, so I'm not going to learn English anymore."

Which I think translates into, "It really sucks that you're leaving and I'm going to miss you, but as an eighth form boy I can't say that. Therefore I'm going to make you feel bad about leaving." I tried to point out that he could use English to communicate with me after I leave, but he didn't want to hear that.

I think Nelya's going to have a challenge there.

Which all makes me wonder--does this make me an effective teacher or an uneffective one, long-term? :)

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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!

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