A few years ago, I got my dad a Christmas ornament-sort-of hanging that featured a cowboy hat and said, “All My Heroes Are Cowboys.” Now I’m wondering if it might be possible to find one here that reads, “All My Heroes Are Cossacks.”
Last night, I went to yet another concert-show, a cultural showcase of Ukrainian splendor. This one featured Cossacks, old and modern music, singing, and dancing. Nothing too unusual for a show in Ukraine, but this was a particularly good one.
At one point, I found myself thinking, ’Well, I guess I’ve been in Ukraine for long enough that I’m getting used to this. I haven’t even taken a picture yet. Okay, so I’m adjusting. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad show.’
Shortly after, as you’re no doubt anticipating, I was taking pictures. And videos. And clapping enthusiastically, obviously in an appropriately rhythmic fashion.
So, maybe it’s something you never get over. People here, too, seem to be pretty taken with celebrating their own culture, so I’m in good company.
Other reasons to celebrate, in the past few months, have included a salo festival, a Lutsk production of Carmen, some successful completions of service by fellow PCVs, some travels, some visits with family, and some writing.
1. Salo festival. Salo’s pig fat, so there’s that. I don’t eat it—no, that’s not something that’s changed!—but it’s a point of controversy among PCVs. Is it totally disgusting and worth avoiding, or is it delicious and worth appreciating? Or, is it something that you ought to eat to be polite, but no more than is necessary? Salo is served in a variety of forms, at a variety of temperatures, and with a variety of toppings, additives, and accompaniments. Finally, a festival that celebrates this Ukrainian classic! It was a rainy day, but an opportunity for attendees to sample various kinds of salo, buy lots of meaty products and other souveniers, watch singing, dancing, and music-playing, and even greet several extremely fresh salo... donors? I mean, there were pens of live pigs down one aisle. Very strange.
2. Carmen. Saw her! She sang in Ukrainian, and did quite an excellent job of it. In this show, actually, she was split into four different, colorfully dressed ladies, each of whom took turns with her lines and personality aspects. I’ve never seen the show before, but I’m told there were lots of changes from the original. Still, I enjoyed it.
3. COS. COS stands for Completion of Service, in Peace Corps talk. For me, it means that some of the friends I’ve made over the past year are heading back to the US. Why?! Seriously! Of course, I wish them all the best, but will definitely miss them. I’m looking forward to meeting up with many of them again, but in the meantime, wish them the best with their next adventures. Katie, star of many fine photos and of the nearby town of Rokyni, has already left, and is already missed.
4. Recent travels. One trip took me to a warden training meeting [safety first!] in Lviv, to Komarno to visit family, and then to Horohiv to visit Becky and to see what her town and yoga class are all about. Last week, I headed to Kyiv and then to Chernihiv to meet some new Peace Corps Trainees, to hang out with my dear cluster-mate from training, Laura Ruth, and to visit my host family. Plus, on the way back through Kyiv, I had the chance to visit with Maria, my former tutee and good friend who’s now a university student in the big city. Good times all around! So interesting to be back in Chernihiv, and to see how much more I understand! I also really enjoyed meeting the new PCTs, and wish them all the best as they finish up their final few weeks of training and get ready to head off to their new [as-of-yet-unknown!] sites.
5. Visits. As mentioned above, I had the chance to visit a bit with some Krut family members in early November. On the hour-long bus from Lviv to Komarno, I ended up chatting at great length with a woman who knows my family. Komarno isn’t a big town—I think there are about 5,000 people—so it’s not a surprise that she’d know someone I was planning to visit. It was sort of a surprise to me how curious about everything she was, though! Lots of good practice speaking Ukrainian to start of that part of the trip, certainly. This visit featured lots of delicious goodies—as is always the case! For the first time, though, I had compote [like juice] made from dried apples, and found it excellent and the closest thing to apple cider I’ve had here. It seems odd to me that there’s no apple cider industry, or even production at all, as far as I can tell, because there are lots and lots of apples around. Another first was haluptsi [cabbage rolls] stuffed with mashed potatoes, instead of the usual [for me!] rice, carrots, and onions. This was an excellent discovery, as well, as mashed potatoes make everything better. Well, lots of things, anyway. :) I also had a chance to study English with Ivanka’s daughter Iryna, who is enjoying Disney’s Magic English DVD and book series. “One, two, three, we are happy! One, two, three, we are family!” Indeed! Iryna and I also went with Krystyna on a very leafy walk through a park I’d never been to before, complete with lots of modeling opportunities—mostly for Iryna. I also went boot shopping at the weekly bazaar with Ivanka and Krystyna, contemplated patterns with seamstress Natalia, visited with Hanna, was fed and housed and cared for by Bohdan and Slava, played with a tiny kitten, and saw [totally different from ‘watched’] a pig being gutted. Opportunities!
Also, I had the chance for a short visit with my host family in Chernihiv. They all seem to be doing pretty well, and Ihor is getting so big! I know that this is the standard thing to say about young kids after not having seen them for a while, but it’s true! My host mom, Tamara, has a new Peace Corps Trainee staying with her now, too. I was the first, then Blythe, and now Abby! I’m really grateful to her for continuing to host Americans in need of lots of help and support, because I know that she’ll be able to help! I learned that they thought I was a very good student during training, and that they’re very impressed with my language skills now, too. Of course, I definitely understood a lot more of the conversation over tea than I did on an average day during training, so that was good for my confidence, too!
Now, Halloween’s passed and Thanksgiving is approaching. Several members of my local PCV family will be coming over to my place to celebrate the holiday with lots of eating and hopefully some American football [watching!]. Before then, though,
6. Writing! November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, as you may know, and this is the fourth year in a row that I’ve undertaken this challenge. Write a 50,000 word novel in one month, and you, too, can be a winner! Several fellow PCVs are taking on this challenge for the first time this year, including members of a new informal writing group I’ve started, and I wish all of us the best! I’m way behind at the moment, but hey, there’s plenty of November left before I need to start really freaking out. The weather’s just been so nice… and I’ve been traveling… and I added an aerobics class on top of my yoga class…
Hope the weather’s nice where you are, too! Always happy to hear from you…
PS-- new pictures are up, too! :)