After nearly three years abroad, what should I be thinking about at this time—finally spending Christmas in America with my family—? Of course, I am grateful, glad for the health and many happinesses in my life and the lives of those dear to me. Still, this season has brought with it an unusually high number of those moments that I have often felt since my return: homesickness for Ukraine.
First, though: good news! I have a job! After the holidays, I’ll be starting with a company in Herndon, Virginia, that helps public school systems across the US improve their communication with their stakeholders—employees, parents, students, and other community members. My job will be to meet with school district leaders and make sure that they are happy with the work of the company and getting the most out of the information gathered. It’s a small company that is part of a slightly larger technology company, which is exciting, but this division is based in the world of public education, which is a sector that I care a great deal about. Plus, my first day of work will be Ukrainian Christmas-- January 7! Yes, I did choose that date... lucky indeed!
Another piece of news: it looks like I’ll also be doing a little teaching via Skype for an online learning center for international students! The director of this center met me while I was presenting at TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Conferences in Ukraine, and contacted me about a vacancy they had for an English teacher. So, if it works out with my schedule for my full-time job, I will be doing that, too. The center is online, but registered in Russia, and students may be from all over the world. I’d enjoy the opportunity to continue to teach on my own schedule and to work with international students, so I hope that the arrangements can be managed.
My parents and I spent Christmas with my aunt and uncle, enjoying vareneky/ pierogies and other goodies on Christmas eve, then waking up to stuffed stockings and a tree surrounded by presents. Magic! In Ukraine, the lack of presents on Christmas—transferring all of the presents to New Years—mixed things up a bit for me. In America, it’s all about Christmas. Christmas also brought us some snow, finally. I wasn’t looking for much, just a few inches—I certainly wasn’t angling for anything close to the three feet of snow that fell in parts of Ukraine a few weeks ago, adding to fears about the coming apocalypse.
In a few days, I’ll travel to spend New Years with friends from Peace Corps Ukraine—a mini-reunion! We’ll celebrate our shared past as we look forward together to the next steps we’ll all be taking in this new year of adventures ahead. For me, how much will Ukraine play a part in my year ahead, in my future life? Now, even five months after I’ve left, I can honestly say that Ukraine is still very much a part of my life, through connections to friends, family, and even projects. As I move on to new full-time work, I will continue to value and nurture those connections that matter most, but I know that my changing schedule will necessarily shift my available time and energy. Should I change the name of this blog? Should I start a different blog? All this remains to be seen.
For now, wishing you and your family happinesss, health, success, love, luck (what else am I missing?!)…. and all the best!