Thursday, December 31, 2009

post 31 december

Okay, so then what happened?

Well, I sent some of you bits and pieces of information, forgot who I told what, and then kept delaying writing a blog post because I’d afraid some of you would find it outrageously redundant, and then, and then, and then…

And now! I’m in Lutsk, as you already know!

I gave the speech! You can watch it HERE!
It went pretty well, actually, and I got lots of nice compliments, but now I’m spending most of my time speaking English, so I’m concerned that all of the Ukrainian I know will slip out of my head before I start tutoring!

My counterpart, Natalia, and I took an overnight train from Kyiv to Lutsk, leaving at about 9 pm and arriving around 7 am. It was a very chilly evening, with lots of snow, and some [newly sworn-in! :)] PCVs were delayed in Kyiv for a few more days. In Lutsk, we took a taxi to my new home, an apartment in a dormitory. The elevator wasn’t working, and the apartment was on the third floor, but we still managed to get all of my luggage up to my door—including a giant bag containing a Peace-Corps-issued heater [for which I am thankful now, clearly, but was a little overwhelmed by then!].

My apartment is quite spacious, and I have it all to myself! I have a living room, bedroom, bathroom, shower, and kitchen, plus a tiny balcony accessible through the kitchen window. The windows are large and let in plenty of light, especially on especially snow-gleamy days.

The university where I will be working— for the next two years!—is Volynska National University [named for Leci Ukrainka]. That’s the entire name. Leci Ukrainka was a Ukrainian [surprise!] poet who changed her last name to show her pride in her language and heritage, but that’s basically all I know about her at this point. She shows up in statues and busts, as well as on the 200 hryvnia note [the back of which shows the castle in Lustk!].

So, there’s a castle in Lutsk, as well as parks, restaurants, and all kinds of other fine establishments, including at least two bazaars, a few theaters, and one giant “hypermarket” called Tam-Tam, meaning there-there. Where can I buy hangers and butter and a pillowcase all at the same time? There-there. It’s an exciting place.

I’ve observed and taught a few lessons so far, but this is now on hiatus: now it’s break time! New Years comes first in Ukraine, with Christmas on January 7, so our break is from December 31 to January 10. Then, there are two more weeks of classes for most students in the university, then two weeks of exams, and then the new semester starts in February.

I mention “most” students have classes after the break, but only some master’s degree students have classes then, and that’s who I’m teaching at this point. Conversational English/ Philology and Applied Linguistics- oh my! In the new semester, I will be working with more students, including possibly in a Political Linguistics class, and maybe even a Creative Writing course! Hooray!

Additionally, I’m helping to revise a translation of a Ukrainian history book, and coaching a high school student who is competing in the English Olympiad. Each subject area has an Olympiad, and the English competition includes reading, listening, writing, and impromptu speaking. Luckily, she’s very well prepared, so it’s fun to help her practice.

Other than that, I’m spending much of my time adjusting, including figuring out which buses I can take other than just bus 15, deciding what and how to cook for dinner, and buying the things that I turn out to really actually need after all, like that pillowcase. It’s for the pillow on the second bed, by the way, meaning that hey—you could come visit Ukraine! I have two beds and a big couch, and lots of floor space, too, so, what are you waiting for? :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

post 27 december

I realize that this is a different sort of entry from those you've seen before, but for those of you who read my other blog [] or who have ever read my justwrites, no surprises! Just a day in the life sort of justwrite from yesterday--

I am going to tell you something real and you will feel there’s a difference a glimmering whisper of sense although I usually mention much less reasonable items today I was cooking I was looking outside and I was gathering ingredients there was a half a sky of sun and the slants over the buildings used the views to dry varied laundry and assorted rugs and the dustier ones were given massages of a forceful sort beaten full of sunlight as the dirt flew away there were loud sounds resounding across the courtyard and you’d think hardly reasonable and wouldn’t someone protest wouldn’t someone neglect the soup and turn to yell out the window hey you kids that’s enough or to call last night’s bluff those men in the rain singing out pain or hilarity in occasional harmony after a few rounds of the block taking stock of what they have and finding each other there are numbers we can’t add up ourselves but today from my shelves I drew down a recipe that perplexed me into poetry there were vegetables and the troubles they found themselves in sought light and water and escape from the dark earth the roots of their lives they found surprise in the sink and drank deeply and in the pot not ten minutes later the beet danced alone stronger than the others and requiring more time to contemplate the heat to seek out safety and to offer a hand to the carrots to follow and their fellow potatoes and what I heard as I made my lists and counted fists full of wants and needs was exceeding joy dancing in a covered pot poetry that’s not meant to be read but to be felt instead bouncing off the insides the metal laughing back as the beet playfully attacked each edge of the stage no sage could build an easier demonstration no consternation of interpretation just fascination with this beet meeting itself in the dark and dancing in the boiling heat of an antiquated stovetop

Friday, December 25, 2009

post 25 december

Merry Christmas! I realize that I'm due for a good update entry, and I will write one soon! For now, though, here's a gift for you-- A Ukrainian cookbook put together by and for PCVs. Enjoy!


Monday, December 21, 2009

mini-post 21 december

Volyn National University!


Saturday, December 12, 2009

post 12 december

My time in Chernihiv is almost at a close, and as you can tell from these pictures, a lot has been going on!

- I went bowling at the best—and only—bowling alley in Chernhivi!

- I had my Language Proficiency Interview! Not too sure how it went, exactly, but the interviewer was complimentary and very nice. Questions ranged from telling about myself, to identifying my favorite color and explaining why, to finally… what causes terrorism?! Wow.

- We went to Kiev! We traveled two hours by mini-bus/ van/ marshrutka, then on the metro in the city, saw the Peace Corps office, the English resource library at Kiev-Mohila Academy in the National University, ate lunch in a multi-floor fancy cafeteria, then walked around a lot to see the street of artists leading up to Saint Andrew’s, then Saint Sophia’s, and Saint Michael’s churches, then way high on an overview of Kiev at night and the river all a-fog, plus a giant friendship rainbow, then Independence Square, then two hours back! It’s a beautiful city, but we only had a few hours to see it. Luckily, we should have some chances in the next two years!

- We have snow! Maybe not two feet, or even half a foot, but it’s pretty!! There were big flakes falling in the afternoon when we were in Kiev, and there’s more on the ground up north here in Chernihiv. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of plowing of roads or clearing of sidewalks, but today’s sunny and the snow makes everything look merry and bright. :)

- Monday’s the last day in Chernihiv, and we’ll be saying goodbye to our host families, packing all of our luggage into a bus, and heading to Kiev. That’s the day we’ll find out how we scored on our LPIs and where we’ll be sent for the next two years! We have one day to figure out exactly where that is and meet with our regional managers, and then our counterparts will join us for the next few days of our end-of-training conference. The Swearing-In Ceremony is on the 17th, and that’s when I get to give a speech in Ukrainian! And depart to wherever! :)

I’m not sure what kind of internet access I’ll have in the next few weeks, but I’ll let you know when I have an address and a real place to call home in Ukraine, for at least a little more than two months… :)

Happy holidays!

picture post 12 december


- Why is Laura so angry?
- Because the pigeons like this man more than they like her!
- always random things to buy on the street- sometimes a single cigarette, sometimes peanuts of sunflower seeds, sometimes half a pumpkin
- the class of teachers to whom I presented my final lesson/ workshop
- ‘tis just about the season!
- the wild Nescafe machine in captivity
- what would you choose?
- foxy bowling shoes! the car in the background is a dining table
- Sharon shows how it’s done
- Jessica, the picture of confidence
- Pat, Elise, and some cards thrown by a man who had to be escorted out twice
- Where do birds go in the snow? They can’t really figure it out either.
- the cutest educational tool around== Oksana’s “hot dog” who we toss gently about in review games
- it’s official!
- In Kiev-- McFoxy? Wonder if that’ll take off… Note “I’m lovin’ it” at the McDonalds to the right.
- visiting the Peace Corps office
- statue in kiev! imagine! there are lots :)
- excited-for-cake faces, on cue
- our link cluster, minus Lucas
- Natalia [TCF] and Oksana [LCF]
- flowers grow even on walls along this street of artists leading up to Saint Andrew’s church
- Taras Shavshenko and a dog
- traditional embroidery
- Saint Andrew’s
- awesome mural in an off-street parking lot
- ministry of foreign affairs building
- look! perfect snowflakes!
- look! a picture of perfect snowflakes!
- Saint Sophia’s
- Bogdan the famous
- Saint Michael’s complex- includes a seminary, too
- the church itself, inside the walls—no pictures allowed inside of the church, though!
- flashed-on snowflakes
- overlooking Vladimir the Great overlooking the river
- from quite a distance, a huge arch—a friendship monument between Russia and Ukraine put up in the 1960s
- Archangel Michael watching over independence square
- from this monument, the lines on the ground point to and give distance to lots of national and international cities
- are we to Lviv yet?
- for some reason I always forget to take a picture of this in Chernihiv, but my training city is the home of a famous brand of beer—
- and this building’s all lit up like the flag!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

post 5 december

So, how’ve you been?

I could easily start this post with apologies, but I’ll just honestly tell you that I’ve been busy! I finished my NaNoWriMo novel, learned a lot more Ukrainian, shared some Thanksgiving joy, and taught my last lesson. Phew!

- So, no more quarantine! After three weeks, each oblast got to decide whether an extension was warranted. Chernihiv decided that three and a half weeks was enough. So, school’s back in, just in time for us to wrap up and leave. After the quarantine, I only got to teach one lesson, but as a bonus, it was at the teacher recertification institute. Susan V and I presented a workshop on teaching listening skills to about twenty teachers, whose experiences ranged from six to over forty years of teaching!

- We had our site placement interviews! Still no more information to share there, but I was asked how I’d feel about teaching Conversational English. The truth is, I’ve been practicing that very subject for a long, long time. :)

- Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Ukraine, but we had the afternoon off! I used it to make the little display you can see in my pictures. On the cabinets in the kitchen, I posted information about the history, traditions, and foods of Thanksgiving, as well as a “hand turkey” thank-you note for each member of my family. I also prepared the most crucial dish of the holiday: mashed potatoes! Be careful, though. I’m glad I checked in advance with our teacher about leaving the skins on the potatoes—mashed potatoes with the skins on is usually food for pigs in Ukraine. Lucky pigs! I also brought home some ice cream cake—not exactly pumpkin pie, but pretty good, too!—and we ate that together on Friday night while they made their own turkey hands, none of which turned into turkeys. :)

Random bits:

- Igor could not finish all of his ice cream cake, but then saw that there were mandarins and ate two of them! :)
- People have all kinds of trust in each other. Several times, I’ve seen a baby carriage parked outside of a store, with no mother or father in sight. Once a dog was watching the stroller, super intently.
- Along those same lines—When there’s not much room, people on trolleys and buses pick up nearby unrelated children and set them on their laps. This happens without conversation. Almost the same: I saw a kid the other day spot his grandmother, who was on the other side of the street. He called out to her, and started to cross toward her. Another random, unrelated woman, walking by on his side of the street, approached and took his hand to help him cross the street toward his grandmother. The grandmother called out to thank the woman, but came across to his side of the street instead.
- Our language proficiency tests are next Wednesday. We have to test at “Intermediate-Mid”… or else, I guess! Hopefully I can guide the conversation smoothly toward the kinds of foods I like and don’t like, because that’s one of the topics I know the most about in Ukrainian.

And here’s the bit I’m really proud of—I was asked to give a speech at the Swearing-In Ceremony in Kiev! Out of 113 PCTrainees, about to become PCVs, I am one of three who will be speaking, and, ta-da!, I’ll be speaking in Ukrainian!! I’m definitely very honored to be chosen for this in the first place, and flattered that my teachers have such confidence in my Ukrainian skills! The three of us—Susan A, Ty, and myself—will give the same speech. I’ll go first, because Ukrainian is the national language. Susan will go next, because English is the PC language, here meaning Peace Corps, that most of us will understand best. Finally, Ty will speak in Russian. Oh man! So, the speech has been submitted, and Ty and I will hopefully be getting back our appropriate translations in the next two days, so we can start practicing! So, on December 17, think happy, good pronunciation thoughts for me! :)

December 17 is a pretty big day in general. That’s the last day of our close-of-PST conference, and after the ceremony, we’re heading off to our sites. Where, exactly? I have no idea!! :)