Monday, January 10, 2011

post 10 january

holidaisy chain// holidazy// holidizzy

‘Tis been the season for holidays, and most have already come and gone by the time I’m sitting down to write about them.

As you no doubt recall, when last I wrote, ‘twas just about the night before Thanksgiving, and all through Ukraine, Peace Corps Volunteers were searching for Stovetop in vain… Well, not exactly. The PCVs I celebrated with cooked lots of tasty goodies from scratch, and while the bird was a storebought chicken instead of a homecooked turkey, the spirit was definitely right. At a second Thanksgiving dinner a few days later, hosted by some former exchange students to America, a real turkey was served, but the outstanding dish of the night was one guy’s mom’s homemade pickles. Maybe I’m just saying this because I’m a vegetarian, but really, they were good pickles! The third and final Thanksgiving dinner of the season was a chance for me to share some American favorites with a few of my closest Ukrainian friends. We had—all homemade, mind you!—mashed potatoes, stuffing, baked corn pudding, spiced glazed carrots, pumpkin pie, cranberry jelly, baking powder biscuits, spiced peaches, and dried-apple compote. They even brought along a chicken decorated to look like a turkey so that the meal would be complete. :)

The end of November brought the end of Nanowrimo—National Novel Writing Month—and I’m pleased to report that a few of my PCV friends finished their first novels successfully! I finished, too, although it was a little close at the end. :)

So, then it was December. This meant the end of most of my regular classes, but the appearance of other new projects and opportunities—editing the English translation of the university website, working to improve the quality and organization of the PC-Ukraine Collaborative [a professional development group run by and for Volunteers within Ukraine], editing the content of the Collaborative website, helping to prepare students for the English Olympiad competition, and stepping up to coordinate the International Writing Olympics in Ukraine. I’m really excited about that last project—it’s something that’s been run by PCVs in other countries for a few years, but I really wanted to Ukraine to participate this year, and so we are! Participating students will have an hour to show off their skills in English, creativity, and critical thinking, as they answer questions like: What would you do with a million watermelons? and What would a cloud say, if it could talk?

December wasn’t all work, certainly. I had the chance to attend a concert featuring Peter Yarrow [of Peter, Paul, and Mary, don’t you know], who performed with his son and daughter, as well as an excellent and spunky Ukrainian singer who helped to save the show when it turned out that “Puff the Magic Dragon” would not be performed in its entirety. Ah, well. That weekend was a beautiful time to be in Kyiv, as Sunday was St. Nicholas’ Day—i.e., presents and good times for kids day—and Independence Square was filled with not only snow, but also decorations, concerts, contests, ice skating, shopping, ponies, and all kinds of excitement.

The biggest trip, however, was home to America for a holiday visit. Although my parents and a few people knew that I was coming, this was a big surprise to most, especially my sister. Kudos to her husband for managing to keep this secret for so long, and to my whole family for making my time at home so warm and enjoyable. While this blog is about my time in Ukraine, I can simply say that it was wonderful to see many of the people I love and to check in with their exciting and busy lives. I did speak Ukrainian with a man at my dad’s church [he was born about two hours away from where I live now] and Angelica and I went to see a Gogol Bordello concert, so Ukraine was never too far from my mind. Wow, though— America is, like, a totally different country! :)

On my way back home [to Lutsk] from home [America], I spent a few days at home [in Komarno] to celebrate Ukrainian Christmas with the Ukrainian Kruts. This required some travel management, but it was lovely to arrive at Bohdan’s house and to be greeted with a cup of hot tea and some fresh doughnuts. Musn’t go hungry before Christmas Eve dinner! This dinner featured the right number of dishes, including two kinds of vareneky [pierogies], kutya, lots of fish, mushroom soup, salads, cakes, and more. A few traditions include first eating a small piece of bread with honey on it, putting some cloves of garlic at the table corners underneath the tablecloth, and decorating with straw, under and/ or on the table. The three days of Christmas are a time for children to go out singing carols individually or with a group, in somewhat serious or silly Vertep tradition. I was surprised to see how late some of the kids went out at night, but then I discovered how much money they were receiving! In the past, caroling kids might have received sweets, but now, it looks like they’re filling their pockets with cash. My little cousin Irynka, who’s six, went out with her mother after Christmas Eve dinner, at about 10 pm… a little too late for me after such a long trip to get to dinner on time! A few days in Komarno allowed me to visit more relatives, meet some more complete strangers, listen to lots of carols, and eat lots of kutya and other holiday treats.

Now, I’m back in Lutsk, and starting to pick up a daily routine. Students are mostly taking exams now, so I don’t really have a normal schedule to return to, but getting up at the right time in the morning would be a good start. All that traveling is over for now, and I’ll be sticking around in this same time zone for a while. Next week is Ukrainian Language Refresher camp, but that’s only about an hour away, and comparably quite easy to get to. Before that, though, there’s one more holiday--- Old New Year! That’s right, I get two Christmases and two New Years’ this year! What a festive deal…

Hope your days are merry and bright!