Monday, April 19, 2010

post 19 april

I have to admit it’s getting greener


Spring is a completely different country

Choose your title! Either way, you get the idea… Things are warming up—maybe not constantly, but vaguely consistently headed in that direction—and this means new leaves and flowers and veggies, new holidays, high spirits, and more people out and about wearing fewer layers. Out from underneath those down-stuffed coats and fur-fringed hoods, more optimistic beings are appearing, delivering handfuls of daffodils and buying fresh radishes at the market.

Today, I bought radishes at the mini-market in front of the closest post office. You know, it’s the one that’s the sidewalk lined by mostly older weather-impervious ladies with displays of apples and beets and water bottles full of milk. I cannot remember ever buying radishes at home, but here, today, it seemed like the right thing to do.

This past weekend, I earned two certificates. One was for presenting at a TESOL [Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages] conference, as part of a panel on critical thinking and active citizenship. Beyond the fact that two of the other members of my panel were from my training group in Chernihiv—Laura Ruth and Sharon—one of the perks for me was seeing Zoya [a really impressive master teacher who I saw present at the Teacher Recertification Institute in Chernihv] taking notes while I was talking and looking intently at my PowerPOint. Hooray! The second certificate was for being part of a winning team in a vareneky [pierogie]-eating contest. It’s clear what the perk was in that situation. Although, it’s hard to say which certificate I’m more pleased with. :)

Easter has come and gone, preceded by a frenzy of inside-out cleaning, accompanied by lots of baking, and followed by full bellies. I spent the holiday weekend with relatives in Komarno, which is an hour south of Lviv. I had a really nice time there and was very warmly greeted by each of the six or seven families I visited. Of course, this made for a lot of eating—pascha [Easter bread], eggs, shredded beets and horseradish, diced eggs and horseradish, veggie salads, probably about seven kinds of cake… plus cherry compote and even strawberry compote—yum! I attended the basket-blessing service—so many people lining the walks around the beautiful blue church! In a town of about 5,000 people, I was amazed by the number of people gathered together. I also visited two other churches and saw a concert/ pageant/ song-and-dance-and-play presentation/ celebration performed by local children. Two of my cousins [everyone’s either a cousin, an aunt, or an uncle, in my shorthand explanations!] took part—one as an egg, and one as a rabbit carrying horseradish in place of the typical [to me!] carrot. It was a bit challenging to spend three days speaking almost exclusively Ukrainian, but it was good practice, of course! Everyone was very generous with their understanding, their send-home goodies, and their offers: Come and we’ll show you how to make good varekeny! Come and we’ll give you a tour of Lviv! Come! You’re welcome!

Of course, school’s still going on. I’m finished with one Applied Linguistics class [more or less Creative Writing], and two English Philology masters’ classes, and this week marks the end of my Applied Linguistics masters’ classes. Still, Political Linguistics starts tomorrow [oh my!], and I’ve picked up a class at the Humanities University down the road, so I’ll stay busy.

In connection to school, I’ll add a bit of explanation about the last few pictures I posted last time. The week after Easter was a pretty entertaining one, as it was the week of the College of Romance-Germanic Philology, i.e., my little part of Volyn National University. This meant that, after the Monday holiday, we returned to Ukrainian Day and an opening concert [Tuesday], German Day and a Miss of the College contest [Wednesday], American Day and Mr. of the College contest [Thursday], and French/ Spanish Day and a closing concert [Friday]. Yes, there are lots of talented students, hence all the contests and concerts, as well as all of the languages spoken and sung within. Thursday was perhaps the most exciting for me, as American Day ended up with the Applied Linguistics Department dressing up as cowboys and performing a variety of country and country-esque songs. The winner was Vika’s class, with “Have you ever seen the rain” by CCR—nice! Plus, I was asked to be a judge for the Mr. contest, which was sort of entertaining, as my Ukrainian skills didn’t cover all of the material included, we’ll say. Still, watching a set of five guys try to give five girls hair-dos for randomly drawn occasions [first day of work, meeting boyfriend’s parents, etc.] didn’t really require too much vocabulary.

Wednesday night of the same week brought an Easter concert spectacular. There’s really no other way to describe it, but it was traditional, Ukrainian, and quite grand. Adding that to Maria’s showcase concert and the jazz concert, my concert total is rising rapidly!

More random bits…

I saw a delegation headed by a Massachusetts state senator speak at the Humanities University—more or less about active citizenship. Cool!

The grant proposal has gotten lots of very positive feedback, and will hopefully be funded soon!

I’ve successfully been to yoga several times now, and hope to keep it up! It’s three times a week, at 7 a.m., and it’s a bit tough to catch the right trolley and get there at 6:45, but the teacher is good, it’s challenging, and I’m enjoying trying to follow along.

Yesterday I received a package of Melissa tea as a gift. It’s tasty!

Film club continues to watch a wide variety of films… most recently Tom Hanks’ Big and the Coen brothers’ Millers’ Crossing… One of those was definitely easier for everyone to understand, including the two of us who are native speakers! We were a little concerned about Air Force One because of the way the Russian terrorists were portrayed, but it was mostly a success, although not as highly rated as Matilda. :)

Hope everything is nicely green wherever you bloomin’ are. :)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

picture post- 10 april

album update!

- carrying candles home in the rain on Thursday [Holy Thursday, Clean Thursday… the one before Good Friday]
- Because it’s spring, buy real plants and plant them! Because it’s Easter, buy fake flowers to decorate the graves of relatives.
- festive pysanky and pascha [Easter bread] decorations on Tam-Tam
- one of many mosaically decorated bus stops on the way to Lviv
- one of many lovely churches on the way to Lviv
- one of many Easter eggs, prepared here by Ivanna and daughter Iryna
- If the paschas are small enough, you can eat three by yourself!
- Mom/ Grandma Yaroslava helps to prepare baskets
- basket-blessing, and the church is surrounded by people and baskets
- iconostas inside, with “Christ is risen” letters in gold… in Ukrainian, clearly
- baskets
- blessing
- lots more baskets
- front of church
- inside another church
- same church, with me
- iconostas of this church
- mosaic icon
- flower-pysanky hanging in gate in front of old Polish castle, or church
- oldest church
- girls offering bread and welcome to traditional children’s Easter show
- forest animals help this poor little lost girl by bringing her a basket, as well as stuff for it… sort of the opposite of Little Red Riding Hood? J
- each item in the basket talks about why it’s most important—this one, the horseradish [krin], is related to me, so he wins J
- me there
- round and round and round in the circle dance
- inside this old church
- same
- family- Veronika, her mom Mariana, me, Mariana’s sister Anya, and their mom Nadia
- not the only stork nesting on an electric pole in the area
- Bohdan, Roman, and Hanna wave goodbye after packing me onto the marshrutka back to Lutsk
- just about every tree in a yard or on the street is painted solid white about three feet from the ground, but here along the road between towns, one stripe does the trick [both a spring Easter-cleaning and keeping-bugs-away tradition]
- Easter concert spectacular
- maypole and jump-roping as part of the same show
- drum corps in university concert… inside!

Friday, April 2, 2010

post 2 april

While walking home from school a few days ago, I decided to time the trip. It turns out that traveling from my office door to my apartment door takes one hour. In that hour, I pass by all kinds of surprises. Sometimes it’s a free hugs campaign in front of the central department store. Sometimes it’s a set of five Pekingese trundling along in a magically untangled web of leashes.

It wasn’t too long ago that I considered the drive from home to Baltimore to take a long time— one hour. Mostly freeways made up the route, and chances are that I saw a lot more in that distance than I do in the same amount of time here. Still, despite occasional traffic jams and construction—the majority of which were admittedly fairly predictable, too— I usually knew just about exactly what to expect. I don’t mean that I didn’t appreciate the scenery, NPR, or my own car. I do miss those things.

Here, though, I’m definitely surprised much more often. On the way home, it’s nothing to pass by an Orthodox church streaming live music into the neighborhood, then to be followed by this music until turning a corner, where it’s suddenly replaced by someone practicing the trumpet, probably very close to an open fifth-floor window. Another turn, and now it’s techno on the third floor of a different building and a chorus of unexpected ring tones from all angles. One more turn, and the church music returns, mixed with the flurry of soccer— uh, football-playing children.

It’s this sort of collage that I like best— not just one really amazing moment, but a variety of layers of different bits all stuck together in an unexpected way. I mean, when my five-year-old host nephew started singing “I like to move it move it” at the dinner table. When I found a yoga class with an instructor named Taras. When I found that even sweet little old ladies in seemingly remote places have cell phones. When the Applied Linguistics Department’s phonetics contest on December 25th included both a rousing rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and a recitation of “Annabelle Lee.”

Now it’s spring— mostly— and I’m excited to see more and more people out concocting new surprises. Of course, they just see it as life, but I’m so interested in each development: the actual sea of flowers that appears for Women’s Day, the profusion of willow branches on Palm Sunday, the lines at both the “cheap bread” and “fresh bread” stands, the way men will cross the street to shake each others’ hands, the sudden appearance of an unexpectedly English song on the marshrutka radio… Last week I wanted to laugh really loudly when marshrutka number nine was suddenly Rick-rolled… but I decided I’d keep that news to myself.

Of course, I sometimes miss getting places faster, but I don’t miss missing what’s in between the two points. The shortest difference definitely does not pass through Ukraine, but I’m glad I do.