So, the school year’s wrapping up, it’s warmer, and there are all kinds of fresh fruits and veggies to be had! Clearly, the perfect time to stay inside and finally give you an update! :)
My last class to finish up was Political Linguistics, which was an interesting challenge. I also wrapped up the English class for Journalism students at the Humanities University, and maybe I’ll be seeing them again next year.
I took part in a WELL seminar [English language and leadership] in nearby Volodymyr-Volynsky, and was one of the advisors of the Ancient Greeks! Colorful ribbons told us who was on each team, and spirits were indeed high as the members of each ancient civilization represented learned more about their culture, music, leadership, and project planning. Plus, of course, there was a competition. And pizza!
Also in May, I spent another weekend in Lviv, opening the second bank account for our grant funding [thanks, USAID!], as well as exploring, and going to a rock festival! I’d been thinking of going to this festival, but delayed past the point where the 40 UAH [$5] tickets were available. So, I just made a hostel reservation for Friday night, and not Saturday [the night of the concert]. When I got into Lviv on Friday, it was already dark, and I ended up in the wrong hostel. They’re about a half block away from each other, and neither is well-marked, we’ll say. Anyway, the guy working at the desk at the wrong hostel told me that they had an extra bed for Saturday night still available, and his buddy had a couple of 40 tickets that he couldn’t use. So, yes? Yes! However, when I checked in there the next morning, the 40 tickets were gone. Luckily, there were still 90 UAH tickets, which I decided was okay [about $11], and much better than the 250 UAH tickets that remained an hour later! So, I had an adventure. It was basically just a really long concert, and all of the bands spoke in English in their between-song chats, except for the last band- Okean Elzy. Well, they were the only ones from Ukraine, so that makes sense. It was sunny and hot, then rainy, then sunny again, then chilly at night, but some good music and a new experience.
The end of May is the end of school for students in Ukraine, and although I work at the university level, I was able to experience some of the pomp and circumstance of graduation, as well. Maria, my friend and tutee, graduated from 11th form this year [students in Ukraine don’t go to 12th grade, because it doesn’t exist here!], and I had the opportunity to attend the Last Bell ceremony, as well as the graduation/ concert/ prom/ etc. shenanza! The Last Bell is a ceremony in which the whole school gathers together to celebrate the end of school, and to honor the graduating class. In some schools, this means that the graduating guys wear suits and the girls wear the black or brown dresses, white aprons, long white socks, and big white hair-bows of Soviet times. In Maria’s school, Gymnasium # 4, younger students wear their every-day burgundy blazers, and graduates wear vyshyvankas, traditional embroidered Ukrainian shirts. This ceremony took place on the big grand steps leading down to the park, with various classes of younger students arranged on the steps, gazing down adoringly [perhaps!] at the graduates. The second event I attended was held at the city’s drama theater, and featured lots of fancy prom-type clothes. Though the basic idea was the same, it wasn’t really too much like any graduation I’ve ever been to. Each class entered the stage, each 11th-form teacher danced, various songs and dances were performed, and each individual student received a personalized set of comments from the school director as he passed out the diplomas. One of the parts that really stood out to me, though, beyond all the waltzing and general fanciness, was the fanfare music played for each student as he or she stepped up to the stage, and then as he or she returned to sit down. For the first set of diplomas, when Maria received hers, the fanfare music was “Born in the USA.” Awesome. After this event, students pose for more pictures, then head out with their own individual classes to celebrate with dinner and dancing at a local restaurant. The last part of the tradition has graduates gathering to symbolically meet the sunrise together at a bridge.
In late May, I also had the chance to take part in a picnic for kids who live in orphanages and for people with disabilities. We took two big buses out to a very nice church-owned site, about an hour away, and the weather was beautiful. There were lots of relay races and games, a group-prepared meal, and even a concert at the end. It was fun to meet some new people, and totally excellent to see them get really really excited. :)
The beginning of June means strawberries, and I’ve been enjoying them ever since they appeared. The price is now down to about $1 per kilogram [2.2 pounds], and they’re available in buckets and baskets in every market. Cherries are good, too, as are new “young” veggies, including potatoes, carrots, cucumbers… mmm.
And, after much anticipation, my dad came to visit! He was in Ukraine 32 years ago, but many of the people he met still remembered his visit. I met him at the airport in Lviv with a group of family members, and we went straight to Komarno. We spent a few days there, visiting several houses full of relatives, eating lots and lots of good food, touring the town and its churches, and trying to clear up some genealogical questions. Dad even got to do some fishing. Unfortunately, the fish didn’t speak English, so it was a little challenging to talk them into getting caught. After Komarno, we came to Lutsk, and he got to visit my university, see the castle and other sights, and meet a few friends. Here, he got to try real Ukrainian pizza, too! Then, it was back to Lviv, where we had real Ukrainian Mexican-ish food. I was delighted, and although Dad was a little surprised to find cabbage in his vegetable fajitas, the actual corn chips and refried beans were all that I could have asked for! Cousin Khrystyna and her daughter Olya joined us on Thursday in Lviv, and we toured around a bit, including some places I hadn’t been before. Dad was excited about the Arsenal Museum, and the amazing number of cool churches to stop into [it was really hot outside, and they were really beautiful, as well as pleasantly chilled inside]. I really liked a little café where we had coffee, hidden deep under the Museum of Ideas. Plus, the mayor of Lviv was just outside for a conference. I never would have known it was him if Olya hadn’t pointed him out, but now I have his picture. Maybe I should put it on a flashcard or something. Friday was Dad’s last day in Ukraine, and a surprise contingent of family members met us at the airport to say goodbye to him, and to make sure I got back to Lutsk okay. It was a busy, tiring week, but so nice to be able to spend time with Dad and to share with him a little of what it’s like over here. The family here was so thrilled to see him, too, and can’t wait for him to come back again, along with everyone else in the family!
Now, the rest of the summer has begun. There’s lots of time to read, walk around, sleep in, and eat strawberries, which is great, but I’m also figuring out how to fill some of that time. I’m going to be attending Peace Corps’ Language Refresher Camp in July, maybe working at a scout camp, planning and holding some sessions for the [grant-funded] Difference-Makers Project, probably doing some tutoring, restarting film club, volunteering at a local language school’s summer camp, and maybe doing some traveling inside and outside of Ukraine. Everyone I’ve met here has told me that summer in Ukraine is wonderful, and thus far, I’m inclined to agree. :)
-- Here are the just-added pictures, and you'll note that they're in a second album! And-- and!!-- there are actually captions with the pictures! If you know how slow my internet can be, you can imagine how long it took, but I'm working on it! :)
- Lesiya Ukrainka is the most solid member of the English club
- student seminar in Volodymyr-Volynsky, getting excited about projects
- ancient Greece, represent
- group work
- another group of teachers at the recertification institute
- Stare Misto [old city] Rock Festival in Stadium Ukraine in Lviv
- one of the highlights: almost soft-pretzels of delight, sold by the pack on strings
- Okean Elzy [not that you can tell] performing
- lettuce Ukraine in Lviv
- the last bell of Gymnasium # 4—graduating 11th-formers wear embroidered shirts, the rest of the school listens to how wonderful the graduates are J
- sashes and big hair bows for girls are a must at some schools
- there’s a lot of dancing and fancy-dressing involved in the graduation/ concert/ prom/ pre-party celebration
- Maria, in blue, right in the middle J
- relay race at a picnic for kids, including those with disabilities and those who live in orphanages
- intensity in motion
- it’s not butter that’s getting wedged into these about-to-be-baked potatoes, it’s salo [ie, fat!]
- green onions do a picnic make
- looking over pictures with family in Komarno
- one of many family portraits
- fisherguys, Dad and Roman
- work of the season, in gardens and in fields, in all weather
- in front of the opera theater in Lviv
- Lviv book market, plus pins and random memorabilia
- advertisement- true, if the borsch is without meat!