Saturday, December 29, 2012

wishing you happiness, health, success, love, luck, and... and...

So this is Christmas… in America!

After nearly three years abroad, what should I be thinking about at this time—finally spending Christmas in America with my family—? Of course, I am grateful, glad for the health and many happinesses in my life and the lives of those dear to me. Still, this season has brought with it an unusually high number of those moments that I have often felt since my return: homesickness for Ukraine.

First, though: good news! I have a job! After the holidays, I’ll be starting with a company in Herndon, Virginia, that helps public school systems across the US improve their communication with their stakeholders—employees, parents, students, and other community members. My job will be to meet with school district leaders and make sure that they are happy with the work of the company and getting the most out of the information gathered. It’s a small company that is part of a slightly larger technology company, which is exciting, but this division is based in the world of public education, which is a sector that I care a great deal about. Plus, my first day of work will be Ukrainian Christmas-- January 7! Yes, I did choose that date... lucky indeed!

Another piece of news: it looks like I’ll also be doing a little teaching  via Skype for an online learning center for international students! The director of this center met me while I was presenting at TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Conferences in Ukraine, and contacted me about a vacancy they had for an English teacher. So, if it works out with my schedule for my full-time job, I will be doing that, too. The center is online, but registered in Russia, and students may be from all over the world. I’d enjoy the opportunity to continue to teach on my own schedule and to work with international students, so I hope that the arrangements can be managed.

My parents and I spent Christmas with my aunt and uncle, enjoying vareneky/ pierogies and other goodies on Christmas eve, then waking up to stuffed stockings and a tree surrounded by presents. Magic! In Ukraine, the lack of presents on Christmas—transferring all of the presents to New Years—mixed things up a bit for me. In America, it’s all about Christmas. Christmas also brought us some snow, finally. I wasn’t looking for much, just a few inches—I certainly wasn’t angling for anything close to the three feet of snow that fell in parts of Ukraine a few weeks ago, adding to fears about the coming apocalypse.

In a few days, I’ll travel to spend New Years with friends from Peace Corps Ukraine—a mini-reunion! We’ll celebrate our shared past as we look forward together to the next steps we’ll all be taking in this new year of adventures ahead. For me, how much will Ukraine play a part in my year ahead, in my future life? Now, even five months after I’ve left, I can honestly say that Ukraine is still very much a part of my life, through connections to friends, family, and even projects. As I move on to new full-time work, I will continue to value and nurture those connections that matter most, but I know that my changing schedule will necessarily shift my available time and energy. Should I change the name of this blog? Should I start a different blog? All this remains to be seen.

For now, wishing you and your family happinesss, health, success, love, luck (what else am I missing?!)…. and all the best!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Giving (informative? entertaining?) thanks

Before I say anything else: The A Day in the Life of Ukraine 3 project site is now available for your viewing pleasure! Congratulations to Andrew and Logan-- it looks great! Thanks to all who participated by writing about your day on November 1-- now the world can read all about your experiences HERE!

pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust (homemade, back in the land of cream cheese!)
Yesterday was Thanksgiving-- hooray!!-- and it was my first in the United States since 2008. This, and my writing for National Novel Writing Month, got me thinking about Thanksgivings I spent in Ukraine.

In a rare double-post, shared with my  justwrite blog-- where I normally post freewrites and rough drafts of creative work, but am this month posting daily excerpts of my Nano novel progress-- here's a bit of that memory from November 2009...


My first Thanksgiving in Ukraine, I lived with a host family. Still, I came back from language classes—I think we had the afternoon off?—with a plan. While other Americans planned for a big gathering in a pizza place in the city, I decided on a different route. I stopped by a grocery store and a stationery stall and got some supplies, then headed back to the apartment. My host mom and sister were both still at work and the university, respectively, so I had some time to prepare.

Luckily, I’d already been living in this apartment in Chernihiv for about two months by the time Thanksgiving arrived, so I was at least somewhat ready to deal with the challenges of the kitchen. I had no illusions about cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner by the time Tamara and Ira returned home, so I decided on a few modest side dishes and some… what would I call them if someone were to ask? Informative and entertaining decorations. That’s if someone were to ask in English, you understand. Or at least that’s how I’d be answering in English, were I to understand the question in the first place.


I chose to make mashed potatoes (probably my favorite dish on the traditional Thankgiving table and on nearly any table upon which it appears, plus easy enough to make with one of the cheapest and most readily available ingredients in Ukraine), but while I was thinking about my choice for a second dish, Tamara made it. That is, the night before Thanksgiving, while abnormal percentages of Americans were eating pizza and going out to bars, my host mom made lots and lots of pumpkin kasha—pumpkin puree mixed up with some sort of grain (rice, I think it probably was). To be clear, I’m not complaining about this development at all; pumpkin kasha should be celebrated, whenever and however it appears. Still, the amount of pumpkin kasha—because Tamara knew that I loved it—made it ridiculous for me to think about making multiple dishes the next day.

So, I scrubbed, peeled, cut, boiled, and mashed potatoes and planned the informative and entertaining decorations that would adorn the cabinets in the kitchen/ dining room. I’m not sure exactly what I had in mind, but what I ended up with was vastly beyond what I had imagined. It’s hard to say whether I was bursting with pride or slightly embarrassed, lest anyone should see my display, but it was impossible to turn back. I kept thinking that someone would show up while I was still preparing and I could sheepishly look excited about inviting whoever it was into my odd style of celebration, but time kept passing.

Eventually, I decided that my decorations were informative and entertaining enough. I cleaned up, ate my mashed potatoes, pumpkin kasha, and hardboiled egg. Happy Thanksgiving to me! Still no one came home. I washed my dishes and went to my room to do my homework.

Some time later, Tamara rang the doorbell—it was our custom to deadbolt the door on the inside if someone was at home, necessitating the person inside to be alert for those returning. I let her in, we exchanged greetings, and I returned to my room. I had decided abruptly that I wanted the kitchen Thanksgiving theme-pieces to be a surprise. So, I kept my head down at my desk, staring through notes that read “whatever whatever whatever you know you’re not even reading this so why even bother pretending oh come on” as I listened to Tamara head to the living room, her bedroom, and switch to home-clothes, then back to the fridge in the hallway to gather a few dinner items. Then, in the kitchen, she switched on the light. I held my breath a little.

O, Melissochka, dyakoyou za pyuree!” she called. She was thanking me for the puree, the mashed potatoes.

No problem, I told her. But did she see the decorations? Was she informed? Was she entertained?

No comment.

That is, she made no comment. She didn’t answer my questions by saying “no comment,” especially because I didn’t ask these questions aloud. I thought this prudent.

I heard her fussing in the kitchen, putting together her meal, and setting it down on the table. Would she never look up at the cabinets where this display was fully prepared to inform and entertain her? I heard her sit down on the bench, which meant she was below and facing away from the cabinet, and turn on the television.

It’s not right to be frustrated in a situation where no one knows that you have expectations for them. Right? Certainly.

I watched my homework for a while, flipped a few pages around.

At some point, the dishes clattered into the sink, the television was turned off, and I heard Tamara laugh with sudden surprise.

“Oh, Melissa, what is it?” she called out to me at last, in Ukrainian.

The only word for what I did was ‘scampered’. I scampered from my room to the kitchen like an elementary school kid, proud and pleased and ready to show off my efforts to my somewhat bewildered but definitely amused host mother.

The display, in classic cut-out construction paper shapes, incorporated various elements of Thanksgiving into a smorgasboard of explanation. There were parts about history, bits about contemporary celebration of the holiday, and a plenty of the ingredients that make this occasion so deliciously fulfilling. The topper was the hand-turkeys, also in classic elementary style, that I had made for each member of my host family, with a note on top thanking each for a specific attribute. “Tamara, thank you for your generosity!” I thanked Tamara, her daughters Ira and Vika, and grandson Ihor, so four slightly confused looking turkeys marched across the bottom of the cabinets, bearing what they hoped were correctly constructed Ukrainian notes of gratitude.

Yes, yes, all of this was in Ukrainian. You see? It took a long time. None of these little leaves or pumpkins or other display shapes took long to cut out or stick up on the cabinet doors, but the construction of the actual words and phrases took much longer. Listing the ingredients of a Thanksgiving feast, while perhaps superfluous, was the easiest task, requiring simple recopying from my textbook or the dictionary. I even knew some of the words already! Potato? Картопля! Corn? Кукурудза! Bam! Of course, writing out these words meant using my gorgeous elementary block print handwriting, but hey, sticking with the theme.

Plus, my host mom was proud, and that’s what it was all about.

I mean, she was entertained and informed, and that’s what it was all about.

When Ira, my host sister came home, Tamara showed off this display to her on my behalf. What did Ira think? She definitely raised her eyebrows, but she didn’t stick out her tongue or anything behind Tamara’s back, so I think that was a success. Yeah, I may have the language skills of a child, but I’m older. So!

The next night, when Vika and Ihor came over to visit, Tamara knocked on my door, and the whole family came in to deliver a present to me. A present? For Thanksgiving, it was explained to me. They didn’t know it was a holiday, really, but they wanted me to have a present. It was a small furry blue bag with a smiling flower on it and chocolates inside. Awesome. Then we all made hand turkeys together, and they wrote notes on theirs, thanking me for something I meant to them. I had to use my dictionary to figure out what they appreciated, but it was clearly well worth the effort.

This was my first Thanksgiving in Ukraine, and while it wasn’t anything like any Thanksgiving I’d ever had before or will again, the opportunity to share this wonderful holiday with such an accepting and loving family is one I’ll never forget.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

1 November: A Ukrainian's Day in the USA

Today's post comes from a guest blogger, Oksana Chugai, a colleague who is an English teacher in Kyiv. You'll recall [or read in the preceding post] that November 1 was the third A Day in the Life of Ukraine project and because I wasn't in Ukraine, I celebrated by writing about A Day in the Life of the USA. Since Oksana was also in the US on November 1, she decided to do the same. Thank you, Oksana!

(As the results from ADITLOU3 become available, Andrew and Logan will post them HERE! Stay tuned!)

It's the third time I participate in this project. As a TESOL-Ukraine member, I received invitations from ETRC (Kyiv Mohyla Academy) and personally from Melissa Krut. I think, this project is very important because it gives a glimpse of one day in the life of many different people. When I read the submissions of others, I was amazed how much I learned not only about others, but about myself as well. Now I am in
Washington DC and I am going to describe my day in Claremont, CA, where I spent six weeks as a participant of TEA Program (IREX).

Oksana, second from left, and other TEA Fellows, on 1 Nov.

One Day in the Life Of Ukraine [in the USA!]
Oksana Chugai

It is chilly in the morning, but roses are in bloom, the trees are green in Claremont, California. We usually walk to the university instead of taking a hotel shuttle - we chat, plan our day, at the same time we admire the front yards of the cottages on the way which are fully decorated for Halloween. Our usual company - Monica from Romania, Nadia from Kazakhstan, Ximena from Ecuador, Natalia from Ukraine. There are twenty-one participants in our group - we are called TEA-Fellows. We all are teachers of English in different countries all over the world. To study here, in Claremont Graduate University, we went through a tough competition. Today I have other thoughts on my mind - I present my "Onion Project" which is one of the assignments of TLCC Class, which means "Teaching Language in Cultural Context". The task is to "unpeel the onion" - to take one layer after another to analyze the system of education in the USA in comparison with the systems of education of our home countries.

Now we are in the university. We enter the building, which reminds me of a maze, because it has several entrances and even different names. We worked three hours, as usual. My "Onion Project" was at least unusual, because I invited the Fellows for a virtual lunch in a popular spot "Square Onion". I was not going to unpeel the onion - I was going to cut it to start from the very core. The teacher or educator is in the core of the system of education, so I was going to concentrate on the influences of school, region, culture on the educator. Then I focused my investigation on classroom management, planning and assessment in the USA and Ukraine. To conclude, I presented influences of the educators on school, region and culture. I chose my favourite pictures - the classroom of my partner teacher at Montclair High School, the library, the contract between a student, her or his parents and a teacher, creative works of students in Honors Class...

It was challenging to be in the classroom and not to participate. It is especially  challenging when you are in a foreign country in a class with students you don't know and you are supposed to collaborate with a teacher you meet for the first time. But we, teachers and students, in spite of all the differences, are basically the same. During six weeks we, Fellows, took interviews in school, studied Yearbooks, explored different areas of school life. We helped each other by sharing  information, sometimes teasing, sometimes scolding. That is why I managed to complete my "Onion Project" - it is something I will bring to my home country. It is the evidence that eight weeks spent in the USA were not just my holidays.

After class we go to the cafeteria on campus to have lunch. It is our favourite spot - in spite of being crowded, it is always open and friendly, it is usually full of teasing smells. Students use bicycles or skateboards to move round the campus, so there are plenty of them near the entrance. What I love about this cafeteria is choice - it is not obligatory to eat soup or meat, you just choose what you want, go to your table and enjoy your meal. Then you take something else. And then more - students are always hungry!

After lunch I say good-bye to my friends and go to the library. It is my favourite place on campus - it is a huge space for everyone. You may sit anywhere, or even lie comfortably on a sofa, putting your shoes nearby.

What I usually do - because of the lack of time I scan the books I need and save the articles or thesis as PDF documents. As a postgraduate student, I should use this opportunity to get as much as possible from my stay here. Now it is time to return home, which is the DoubleTree Hotel.

It was a bit unusual first not to see many people in the streets, but now I do not worry - people go jogging, they walk with their dogs, and shops are still open.

It is getting dark. I hurry back to the hotel, all the streets now familiar and full of memories. In the lobby I ask for a chocolate chip cookie - they are delicious here, not too sweet, warm and soft. I drink a cup of coffee, eat my cookie and look at the palm trees which become darker and darker. Somewhere nearby I hear voices of TEA-Fellows, chatting and laughing. When we speak with each other, we speak English, but when we Skype, we speak different languages - Spanish, Russian, French, and lots of others. Then I go to the swimming pool and cool water gives me energy to continue my day. It is nearly over - Thursday, the first of November. We are planning the next weekend here, but we are thinking about our families, our students, colleagues left at home. Soon it will be over, we return to our home countries and live our usual lives. But this day we will never forget.

TEA Fellows- TLCC class

Friday, November 2, 2012

1 November: A Day in the Life of the US of A

In case you missed it… All across Ukraine, people are about to sit down and do exactly what I’m about to do: describe what happened on November 1. This is part of a project called A Day in the Life of Ukraine, and while it’s the third of such cooperative writing events, it’s the first for which I am neither in charge nor in Ukraine. So, here I am, writing about my own day in the United States of America! If you spent November 1 in Ukraine, I strongly encourage you to participate in ADITLOU3 (you can find out all about how to get involved HERE), but if you spent the day in the US, I invite you to share your day as a response to my post below, and we’ll celebrate ADITLOUSA together! :)

The start of November 1, according to the clock, found me on the couch with my netbook perched on my lap. Was I completing some important piece of work? No, I was finishing reading last year’s book. Arrow key down, down, down, and an hour later, I rolled into the dark and wrapped myself in the hope of sleep.

For those who know me well, the pairing of ‘November 1’ and ‘last year’s book’ leads to a simple conclusion: NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month is an annual contest to write a 50,000-word novella within the month of November, and I’ve successfully ‘won’ this contest for the past five years. Somehow, however, I hadn’t managed to read last year’s text the whole way through since completing it. There were plenty of reasons why I’d been busy—extending my Peace Corps service in Ukraine, returning home to the US, catching up with friends and family, job hunting—but now there was simply no excuse: I had to read through the old book before starting the new one.

Sleep did not come easily, however. The anxiety of preparing to write a new extended piece of writing, the added pressure of advertising it as the sixth such venture, and the realization that being unemployed may offer the most perfect opportunity I’ll ever have for such an undertaking… Just unnecessary.

Morning came when the doorbell rang and my dad let in the guy who was collecting the radon detector test. Speaking of anxiety—do you know what radon is, and would you know it if you saw it, or smelled it? Let’s not even think about it. Instead, I laid in bed and picked up my phone to read emails—some of which were from friends in Ukraine. Since Ukraine is ahead of the US in time zones, it’s nice to get notes from friends who are already in the middle of their day while I’m just getting up.

Just as I finished my morning yoga, my dad was calling through my door that he was on his way into town and would see me later. This left me time for a leisurely bowl of cereal and milk, coffee from our espresso machine, and planning for the day.

Part of my idea for my NaNo novel involves writing (well, yeah…)—the concept of being a writer, and I think I’m going to try to use this month to focus more than I normally do on thinking about and actually doing something about being a writer. So, I decided that I’d do a little work on some past writing today, in finishing up part of a past project—scanning the originals of a few zines that my friends and I collaborated on over the past year in order to be able to share and archive them more cooperatively.

As I did this, I thought about the wonders of having an easily accessible scanner/ printer/ copier, multiple computers, wireless internet… so many things I hope I’ve never taken for granted, but I know I appreciate even more now—knowing that I don’t have to run out in the rain to reload internet at a kiosk or head to an internet café to try to print something at an unreasonable hour, surrounded by boys playing Counter-Strike…

No Counter-Strike for me today, but an hour of Wii Fitness in the basement. When combined with Netflix and the Blu-ray player, this means that I magically ran for about ten miles in a small space, my distance was unexplainably calculated, and I simultaneously watched an episode of Sherlock Holmes—played by Jeremy Brett, my favorite—on the same screen.

After a quick shower, I drove the five or so miles into downtown Gettysburg to meet with Mary, who’s the co-chair at the InterfaithCenter for Peace and Justice. I volunteered to help them with anything they might need, and at the moment, this means making a short promotional video for an upcoming community fundraising event—sort of a version of Heifer International for local nonprofits.

Mary liked the script, liked the video I’ve put together, hooray. The only problem is that all of the suggestions that have been sent in have made it too long, so we need to trim it down. The final product can only be one minute and fifty seconds long! Think about how much you could say about your favorite organization in such little time, then add pictures and video that may or may not be available, and wrap it all up in HD, and you’re done!

romanesco broccoli
Back home, I heated up some leftover macaroni and cheese and romanesco broccoli (it’s amazing looking!) for dinner and chatted with my dad, who had just come back from his day of errands and exploits. He’s retired, but he always has something to do or somewhere to be. Today’s highlight was seeing a movie with two other retired friends, generally a weekly outing that involves films that other family members might not always appreciate. This time, though, the wife of one of his friends came along, and she had a great time, too.

Before I left the house again, I prepared for my next adventure: kids’ club at Manos Unidas. Basically, about a month ago, I made the same offer to the Literacy Council that I made to the Interfaith Center for Peace and Justice—I volunteered to help with anything they might need. For the last month, this has mainly meant spending quality, hopefully language-useful time with kids whose parents are taking ESL classes two evenings per week at a center downtown. I caught up with the ‘diary’ we keep for our sessions, made some lovely alphabet pages for an upcoming project, and headed out the door.

J is for jumping, which makes fuzzy photos
At Manos Unidas, my two regular attendees, who are brother and sister, showed up just late enough for me to wonder if they were coming. After a quick discussion about the seriousness of Hurricane Sandy, which caused us to miss our normal Monday evening session, we made a plan for an alphabet scavenger hunt. First, we made a list of all of the letters of the alphabet. Then, we divided responsibilities: Little brother, who is in kindergarten, would carry the notebook, and big sister, who is in third grade, would write, and all three of us would look for things that stared with each letter of the alphabet. Off we headed, two blocks down to the middle of town, around the ‘square’ (actually a circle) (yes, Ukraine, it is ‘the center!’), and back to our ultimate destination: the library. Along the way, we laughed quite a bit and saw plenty of possible letters, such as ‘adult’ and ‘jumping’ and even a toy ‘zebra’ in a store window. We got stuck on K, but when we mentioned this to a man and his wife who were strolling by, they pointed out ‘kids’! We even met a big dog, but though his owner assured us that he was very friendly and big sister and I were happy to pet him, little brother was still pretty overwhelmed by the sheer size of the dog—and his teeth! The extended nature of our walk left us only a short time in the library, which was a little disappointing, but so it goes. We hurried back to Manos Unidas and left in good spirits. In departing, their father told me that they might not be there on Monday, due to parent-teacher conferences. Big sister called out, “So, come if we come, okay? Bye!”

Back home, I gave my mom the lovely book I picked out for her from the children’s section of the library—A Zeal of Zebras­—and she revealed that she’d gotten me frozen soft pretzels from the grocery store. Wonderful. She often asks what I might want from the grocery store, and it’s sometimes hard to think of something. When she sent a text earlier today, though, I was specific, and my specificity had been rewarded! So, I heated up a soft pretzel for my dad, who was downstairs watching a show, and one for myself. While I was microwaving these delicacies just right, my mom’s mom called, too, just to check in and make sure all was well, post-Hurricane Sandy—there are many such calls these days, with so many family members around the New York/ New Jersey area. Then, I sat down to talk to my mom about my day and her day.  Since she leaves early in the morning to go to work and I stay up late at night to look for work, we have different schedules, but it’s nice to catch up and hear the stories floating around in our different environments and experiences.

A little later, it was time to troll through the regular job sites I normally check for updates. I know I should have just started writing this sooner, but it’s routine. Who knows when I’ll find that amazing job? Better keep looking. Plus, once I finish writing this, it’ll be time to start writing this year’s novel! So, maybe I should tell you more about my day…  Ah, and it’s already tomorrow.

Thanks for reading—and remember, you’re welcome to share your November 1 experiences!  Let me know, or post below!


Monday, October 29, 2012

writing, treating, storming-- surprise!

Yes, I did just post something a few days ago. Can you believe it?

1. writing
While getting my thoughts in order for National Novel Writing Month—and at many other times of the year, honestly—I wonder why I’m not writing more. I drift into the writing-ready zone, which means always being prepared to write down blips of lines from the radio, bolts of inspired thought from space, and questions that mostly don’t need to be answered. This zone involves unusual sleeping patterns, bursts of inspiration-driven output, and waking up suddenly to find I’ve fallen asleep on or under my laptop or notebook. While in this writing-ready zone, I derive great benefit from tasks like lawn-mowing and leaf-raking—basically anything that involves hyphenation, it seems. Dishwashing will do, in a pinch, but it’s low on the list, no matter what zone I’m in.

this place matters! write it down! take a picture!
What am I doing? Getting ready. Sharpening up. Flexing. Opening for inspiration. It’s impossible to know where ideas will come from, which of those that arrive will take hold, and which of those will grow. So, I take pictures of everything that sparks. My notebook is full of NPR, the general public, and my literarification [?!] of normal life. A few from this weekend:

- Tuesdays only? Jeez Manetti!
- Everyone who used to love me has a baby now
- The Nutmeg Trial
- I worry about my clothing/ one gettingdressed at a time
- Silver swan on an orange Suburban, corner turn to lose a wheel
- “Talk about talking about nothing,” she said, doing just that.
- They should’ve trimmed their sails and taken half a loaf// It became a lightning rod for the tea party
- “Your branzino wasn’t smiling,” she reminded him gently. She was the kind of vegetarian you would want to be friends with, although you would occasionally feel a flash of what another species of vegetarian would undoubtedly press onto you as guilt—as in the absurdity of ordering a fish to be slaughtered for your consumption, only for you to complain about the difficulties presented by its too-many bones in the dimly lit cabaret. She would never point this out to you, hence your ability to remain friends.

I like this place, this zone. I realize that I have time to wallow in it because I’m not working, and I certainly have mixed feelings about that. Still, I’m applying, and I might as well apply myself while I do.

Halloween costumes?
2. trick-or-treat
Trick-or-treaters came tonight! Although it’s not Halloween, neighborhoods across America set their official trick-or-treat night for convenience of scheduling. Tonight we had dozens of kids of all ages ringing the doorbell between 6 and 8 to claim their candy. Although some wore jackets on top, all of them had some costume—except one kid, who wore basically a hoodie and a scary look. What was he? A murderer. Luckily he was just in it for the candy. I was the official door greeter at our house, so I got to ask “And who are you tonight?” and encourage them to say “Trick or treat” if they forgot. Traditions, you know! At several points, kids responded to the question of who they were by telling me their first name. “And who are you tonight?” “I’m Logan.” “Um, are you a pirate, Logan?” “Yeah, a pirate.” “Great.” The other challenge was for those who forgot the key words of the evening.  Plenty of kids offered up “Please?”, “Thank you?”, or even “Go Steelers?” before arriving successfully at “Trick or treat!” Good times.

3. storm
As I write this, nearly everyone on the east coast of the US is bracing for Hurricane Sandy to hit and to bring wind, rain, and snow, followed by power outages, flooding, and all sorts of disruption. The rain started here tonight, halfway through trick-or-treating (luckily, we managed to give away almost all of the candy—no one needs to be stuck with extra bags of chocolate peanut butter candy!). Warnings have been sounded, schools and government offices have announced closures, public transportation in DC and NYC are shut down, and people are preparing—buying water, nonperishable food items, batteries, etc. It’s amazing to live in a place in which information is so widely available, even as weather is such a fickle force. No doubt the rain will continue, but hopefully the impact of the rest of the storm will not be as severe as many fear.

4. surprise
Something to shock and amaze: My friend Baltimore Andrew (because this is now his name on this site) works with a woman from Ukraine. I learned this last week and was surprised and excited. Very cool, etc. No, he didn’t know where she was from, but she spoke Russian, etc. There was a lot of etc., mostly on my part, perhaps, owing to his impersonation of her. It must be said that in my experience, Baltimore Andrew generally uses one voice to represent all women, no matter their age or background. To hear him impersonate Sophie, though, was truly an experience in loving stereotype, and I realized that I would need to meet her in person before I had any idea what she actually sounded like or where she was really from. So! I met her this week, and guess where she was born. No? Come on, guess! Just one guess. Okay? Yes! She was born in Lutsk—possibly when it was part of Poland!?—many years ago, and left when she was very young. More on her story when I have a chance to meet with her again, but just amazing indeed.

Stay warm and dry!