Saturday, November 28, 2009

picture post 28 november

more pictures!

- presenting our community project, a collaborative resource website, at the pedagogical university where we teach
- the ceiling of a café we call Paris, as it’s right beside a model of the Eiffel tower
- another beautiful sky [with a sign to Kyiv telling you proceed straight up!]
- flowers and a note for my host mom upon her return to work after some time off due to an illness [“I congratulate you on Return to Work Day! I wish you health!”]
- my family in Ukraine
- Tamara the Patient, my host mom
- obviously I just like to take pictures of the sky
- Laura’s self-directed learning project: writing in cursive Cyrillic!
- Sharon’s SDL: a comic book!
- Chris’s SDL: performing a Ukrainian rock song, and translating it!
- our group with SDL projects—Happy Thanksgiving! You can tell because I’m wearing a brown sweater…
- foggy night in Chernihivtown
- my Thanksgiving display
- more turkey hands on the way
- hands in progress
- the complete display, with thanks to all

Monday, November 16, 2009

post 16 november- pics


164- Me, Laura Ruth, and cooperating teacher, Sasha
167- Halloween after-lesson
89- sleeping dogs… let them
2412- transportation in Ukraine—buses, cars, bikes, walking, and… hot air balloons!
2421- just a few of the mushrooms picked recently by my host sister
2425- library!
2438- some of the ingredients for the brunch I made last week
2440- waldorf salad, and happy eggs and milk
2448- exercise in prepositions, and flu prevention- garlic in front of and on the television
2449- cabbage rolls! haluptsi!
2457- green day at Dva Gusya
2458- it’s beet salad, and Igor helped!
2469- train station
2490- hot dog stand in the train station
2492- who is that masked man? one of many in Ukraine at this time
2501- train station group pic
2502- walking on the tracks is dangerous, as this sign lets you know
2519- McDonalds, also with a McDrive, not shown
2526- Anton on his last day with us, with some of his going-away gifts
2528- group picture on the marshutka
2540- bread, fresh bread!
2541- frying some onions for topping pizza, at Laura Ruth’s apartment
2542- L-R trying to add just a little salt, despite Kevin’s protests
2550- L-R and her host mom, proud of the pizza
2553- the cooks: me, Laura Ruth, Kevin, and Karen
2561- because when you can’t find scissors, you cut tape with an ax

post 16 november

questions to be answered---

How much longer is this all-schools-shut-down quarantine going to last?

November 20 will be the last day of the third week of ordered shutdown. Hopefully, that’ll be it.

How big is Chernihiv?

There are lots of public transportation options, you could get lost, and it’s bigger than Frederick, MD, and Gettysburg, PA [my two hometowns!], put together. It is not as big as Washington, DC, or Baltimore. Really, I have no idea about the population of most cities or towns I’ve ever lived in. Here, it’s about 350,000. There are lots of restaurants, some museums, several schools and universities, and many surrounding suburbs, by which I mean villages. Does that help? J

What’s the coffee situation?

This is definitely a tea[-at-the-table] country, and you won’t find people carrying around coffee in insulated carafes or in white and green Starbucks paperboard cups. You will see, however, Nescafe vending machines at various points throughout the city. People buy small, uncovered cups of these drinks, but usually drink them shortly thereafter. There are some cafes—today, I had an Americano, with sugar from Italy—but tea is more commonly served and widely available. My host mother regularly prepares instant coffee for me with my breakfast, as I’ve expressed that I really like coffee, but it’s usually tea with dinner. Plus, if there’s no milk to be had at the moment, or as a treat, she’ll sweeten and “creamen” my coffee with sweetened condensed milk. That’s reallly sweet. On a somewhat related note, milk is mostly sold in small, square bags. That takes a little getting used to. Plus, when you open it, you’d better have a plan for how to use it.

What kinds of recognizable American “institutions” are there?

Chernihiv has one McDonalds, although one of our language teachers recently pointed out to us that he would never call that a “restaurant.” Agree. In Chernihiv, though, I haven’t really seen any other American chains that exist as independent businesses. There’s a store called “America,” more or less, that serves Apple products and consumers. Out front, there’s one of those silhouette statues of an enthusiastic iPod listener, balancing upside down on his hand. There’s also a sign for Sony PlayStation on the wall of a corner store I pass regularly.
In the grocery stores, you can usually buy Fanta, Schwepps, maybe Sprite and Coca-Cola, and sometimes Pepsi. One of the more common brands of water, BonAqua, is bottled by Coca-Cola. Snickers, KitKat, and M&Ms can be found, although sometimes in perhaps different varieties. For example, there are Snickers that I think come with sunflower seeds [really? I said I think so--], and M&Ms come in brown, yellow, or green bags. Yes, plain, peanut, and… ? I don’t know. I just tried some the other day, and I’m still not sure. They tasted a little different, but I couldn’t tell you how or why.

Are handkerchiefs or tissues more common?

There are no tissues in my house, other than the ones I buy myself. Many people seem to have handkerchiefs, but there are small packs of tissues available to buy everywhere. Be careful, though—many of them are scented, and not always with the most gentle scents. A few weeks after moving here, I had a very small cold, and suddenly discovering that the new pack of tissues I had bought was overpoweringly flower-scented did not help. I didn’t feel bad for not having known this from the start, though, as the brand and labels were Polish.

What’s the bathroom situation?

In the city, none of the members of my group have homes with outhouses. That being said, bathrooms in public places may have either western-style or squat toilets. Plus, in many places, to avoid exacerbating the problems of the troubled city plumbing, toilet paper is used and then deposited into a small trashcan beside the toilet. This varies from place to place. In the apartment where I live, no toilet paper gets flushed.

So, what are you doing for your Self-Directed [Language] Learning project?

Okay, so no one really asked this question [why would you?], but I’ll tell you, because that’s where some of my writing time is going.
One project: Keeping a daily journal in Ukrainian. Fabulous tales, clearly, but good practice for all sorts of constructions. Here’s an example: Now it’s fifth hour thirty-six minutes [ie, 5:36!], and today is the ninth of November. Today, I went to the post office, the library and to two stores. I sent two letters from the post office. At the library, I tried to print. It was not good. There wasn’t much paper and there was not much ink, either. Maybe I will print somewhere else tomorrow. Fascinating! Imagine how long it took me to write that in Ukrainian!
Second project: Creating a reference of mnemonic devices for helping me to learn Ukrainian. Unfortunately, these usually just work for specific terms, mainly nouns, and so constructing appropriate conjugations and sentence structures… still in progress. Here’s an example: вхід [vihd] means entrance, and вихід [veehid] means exit. I had trouble remembering the difference between them, since they’re so similar. Now, here’s this—If you go into [вхід] a store and buy something, you’ll carry more [one letter] on your way out [вихід]. Yeah? Works for me. :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

post 10 november

Hi, all!

You'd think that with three weeks of no teaching, I'd have much more time to work on my blog. As it is, though, I've taken up the challenge of NaNoWriMo again [write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November], I'm now writing a journal in Ukrainian in addition to my regular English journal, and I'm still planning real lessons for imaginary/ future students.

Rest assured that I am well, that work continues, and that the waldorf salad I made on Sunday for my family turned out to be fairly tasty. Also, so you know, celery is an import, and you can't buy it at the bazaar, but you can get it at the store. Don't worry! :)

So, more blogs to come, more pictures to be posted, but I'd be happy to have some more specific questions to answer!

In a future post, I will answer the following pressing questions:

What's the coffee situation in Ukraine?
How big is Сhernihiv, "a city of some kind"?
What recognizable American institutions can be found in Chernihiv?
When on earth are you going to know where your site will be?


Thursday, November 5, 2009

post 5 november

Let me tell you what I am proud of today [where today means Tuesday, although I'm posting on Thursday].

1. I turned on the hot water heater this morning without causing any sort of gas explosion. All I caused, in fact, was hot water, as well as a reason for early-morning wandering-into-the-kitchen concern on the part of at least one family member.
2. I went to the post office and sent a letter to America. Half of the writing on the envelope was in Ukrainian, and half was in English. All of the language used in the associated dialogue was in Ukrainian.
3. I checked my coat at the library. Apparently this is what you’re supposed to do. Otherwise, all control breaks down! J
4. I bought a new month of credit for my cell phone from a vendor at the bazaar. All Ukrainian again.
5. I lit the burner on the gas stove and made coffee. Not a big fan of coffee without milk, but it worked, and again, no explosions.

I ended up sharing some of these accomplishments during dinner today. Lacking speed behind the right verbs on occasion, I ended up announcing that “Today, I cooked tea.” Great. You’re right, it wasn’t even tea, but somehow that’s what I ended up saying. Genius.

I laughed and patted myself on the head to demonstrate my own awareness of how hilariously inadequate this particular accomplishment might appear to be.

I will not tell you how many times I used the wrong case endings during our language lesson today.

I will not tell you how many errors there were on the written test I reviewed with my language teacher during my tutoring session.

I will not tell you how little I understood of a fairly developed conversation with my host sister about why there are so many internet clubs and what really goes on inside of them.

I will say, though: Today, I cooked tea. Sort of.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

post november 3

So, this time you saw pictures well in advance of full explanation. Hopefully you've been able to develop your own entertaining stories behind each picture. :) I'm writing on the first of November here, so remember it's National Novel Writing Month use your creativity as you see fit!

To begin with last weekend, we met with Molly, a current volunteer who works at a university in Ivano-Frankivsk [spellings will vary, clearly, in transliteration!], to the west. She regaled us with stories of her situation, including life in a university-owned dorm, without a kitchen, but with her very own hot plate. At one point, missing the ability to bake cookies, she tried to make some in a frying pan! She was very positive and engaging, and made us all hope that well have it so together, too, in a year's time.

After the session, I took the long walk back home, both to see if I could and to enjoy the free time. I passed by Saint Katherines, then headed to the Vol, a park overlooking much of Chernihiv and protected by twelve cannons. Just like in Gettysburg, these cannons currently exist for memorial value and for people to take pictures with. It's a lovely walk, and one of the stops on the we-just-got-married-lets-take-pictures! tour. That day, I saw one bride with a white tutu-like skirt, short and flared and layered, and her bridesmaid with a matching skirt in bright red. The styles vary widely and wildly, well say, but most of these fall brides have cute little white jackets that look furry and warm.

Also, about the cannons-- apparently this is a popular strolling area for couples, but if a guy asks a girl to meet him there and she doesn't really want to join him, she'll tell him to meet her by the thirteenth cannon. Haha. In response to this joke, a cafe called The Thirteenth Cannon opened up. :)

Plus, in this park, I passed the big man-on-bench statue of Taras Shevchenko, Ukrainian poet and national hero. Random dogs, which run about at will throughout the area, tour groups, and two American runners [Laura Ruth and Karen] were all part of the show at the Vol. On the way back, I traveled on Vulitzia Shevshenka [Shavshenko Street] to continue the appreciation.

On Sunday, my family took me to see a nearby monastery. Tamara, Ira, Vika, Igor, and I took the trolley to find a service in progress, and climbed up the bell tower for a view of all of Chernihiv. It was a clear day, and the view was beautiful. The service that was going on turned out to be a celebration of the canonization of a new saint from this area. The attendees surrounded the church, filling the front courtyard and crowding around a set of side doors. The music from inside was amplified outside, and was lovely, if completely incomprehensible. Much of what I was told about this place, in fact, was fairly hard to follow, but it was easily appreciated visually, too.

After the monastery, we walked through a nearby park and ended up at the caves. I'm not sure if these are part of the same monastery, but they are definitely monastic caves. Parts of the interior were high-ceilinged with chandeliers, but many parts were fairly dark, narrow hallways, with varying types of flooring. Some of the signs had English segments, but we did not take an official tour [which probably wouldn't have helped me much, either!], and so I was left with the general impression that this was a very holy and a little bit scary place. One room even featured a glass-windowed stone compartment containing many human bones.

Next was the World War Two monument, with an eternal flame and obelisk on the top of a hill, giant stairs down, and then a series of flat... reliefs? Not really sure what to call them, but they were panels with statues coming out of them. Sorry that sounds so awkward, but thats why I'm including pictures. Finally, at the bottom of the hill, a series of giants pose in statue form, looking both threatening and protective. Two running-by Americans, continuing the weekend trend, stopped to chat with my family. Mattison and Pat are both PCTs in the advanced Russian group, although not quite as advanced as the group I was with. :)

Continuing the same long but good day, I helped Vika and Igor to make pizza. Yes, pizza is popular here in Ukraine, as evidenced by earlier pictures Ive posted and lots of pizza places throughout downtown. Hooray! Ours had no tomato sauce, but the veggies made up for it.

And then the work week began! Phew! Highlights included Monday's trip for Teacher-Trainer Trainees [haha] to the Teacher Recertification Institute. There we observed a workshop conducted by a guest lecturer [Zolya, seen with the long, curly dark gray hair in the left of the picture] and discussed the work of such institutes as well as Teacher Trainers. According to PC staffer Valentina [standing in the at-tea picture, with the short hair], the week of a Teacher Trainer includes about 41 hours of week, including all kinds of different activities. It seems like one or more of us will be at a Recertification Institute, while the rest will be at Pedagogical Universities, teaching both English and methodology. We will probably travel and give workshops, as well, although our specific activities will definitely depend on where were placed. Also, no, we still don't know where well be placed, and we won't know until the very last minute or so.

This week also brought us a new language teacher. LCFs rotate for three weeks in the middle of PST, so we now have Anton instead of Oksana. Our first day together started with individual interviews so that he could see where we are. Basically, I have a name, a job, an age, families, and I like to do certain things and eat certain foods. Maybe not the most fascinating conversation, but he was complimentary and I was appreciative. It's interesting to have a new teacher, with a different style, and Im hopeful that my skills will multiply exponentially because of the opportunity. Clearly, Im able to hope. :) Also, we'll each be developing personal Self-Directed Learning projects, and Anton suggested that keeping a journal--even a brief daily entry-- in Ukrainian would be a great way to utilize writing to practice. Plus, he suggested that I work on compiling some of the mnemonic devices I've come up with, in order to help other students, too. We'll probably do this as a group project, but I've started on the list and hope people will be able to see the benefits beyond the ridiculous nature of many of the suggestions. :)

I ate lots of good food this week, too, including a tasty shredded apple/ shredded carrot salad, oatmeal, apple pancakes, and more. Ira just went mushroom picking yesterday [Saturday, 31 Oct], so looks like well be having some of those. For breakfast today, one of the dishes I had was a baked casserole sort of deal with eggplant on the bottom, rice in the middle, and peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions and cheese on top. There's usually more food than I can imagine eating, but I do my best.

I missed the lesson with Lucas on Monday due to the field trip to the Recertification Institute, but I did teach with Laura on Friday. Our cooperating teacher asked us to come up with a lesson involving Halloween, and so we did. The students almost all dressed up, and they even brought cake and a drink to celebrate. Needless to say, it was not the most serious lesson ever, but it was fun and we had a chance to chat at the end, too. We suggested that they ask us questions about Halloween, but their questions ended up including whether we'd like to eat pizza with them, how we like the weather and transportation in Ukraine, and what our thoughts on "Twilight" are. My camera was out of battery, but Laura will share her pictures with me, and I'll share them with you at the earliest convenience.

Also, on Friday night, we each got calls from Peace Corps Ukraine putting us on alert because of the concerns about flu in the west. The Prime Minister announced the closure of schools for three weeks in an attempt to keep flu from spreading. This means, too, that we [PC] are not allowed to travel or to gather in groups larger than our cluster, and we are encouraged to avoid public transportation. So, on Saturday, Laura and I walked the hour and a half to our LCFs apartment, and later, I walked back, too. Then I took a nap! Some people are wearing masks, and theres information on the news, especially about the stricter quarantine in the west. So, were washing hands, avoiding groups, staying home, and being healthy. Im confident that well all be okay, and also that the Peace Corps is monitoring everything very closely.

Man- I really wrote a lot! I didnt even tell you that I washed my clothes again! Or that I had a sparkling grape drink that came with extract of Melissa! Or that Laura and I saw a hot air balloon on Saturday morning! Really, though, I could go on and on, but Id also like to answer questions that you have. Send them to me, and I'll do my best!