If you had to guess what it was that finally prompted me to write this blog entry, which of the following would you choose?
a) A successful return from a mostly successful trip from Moldova
b) My apartment being flooded while I was away
c) The beginning of a new semester of classes at the university
d) Supercold temperatures prompting week-long school closures
e) Running out of internet and being unable to activate a new round of service
I mean, really, all of those things led up to it, but now it’s the fact that all of my recent picture uploading, job searching, and actual work have left me with only dregs of internet—probably barely enough to post this entry, should I finish it tonight.
In fact, no rush. I think I’ll work out for a bit and watch an episode or two of The West Wing, and then I’ll be back. Just kidding. Right?
First, though, it's finished! A Day in the Life of Ukraine! Take a look HERE to see the map, click the links, and read the stories! You'll see 111 entries, submitted from all over Ukraine-- teachers, students, Peace Corps Volunteers, and more-- all telling the story of December 13, 2011. Enjoy! Woooooo!!
So I went on an adventure trip to Moldova! Although your first question most certainly will be, ‘And did you sample any Moldovan wine?’, it seems likely that your second question will be ‘Why? After all the nice things you just got done saying about Ukraine, why run away now?’ Fair enough.
In fact, the trip to Moldova was designed to… extend my stay in Ukraine! Due to changes in Ukrainian laws, foreigners living in Ukraine need to go through a new process to obtain visas. For me, and for the other 16 or so extendees of Group 37, this means that we have to go to a Ukrainian embassy—yes, outside of Ukraine—to apply for a new D-1 visa, then return to Ukraine and begin the regional registration process. So, about 26 of us in this situation gathered in Kyiv, then piled on a bus and headed to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova.
The outcome of our trip was general success. We all left Moldova with D-1 visas. Hurrah! The process, though, was a little rough. When the expectation of a 12-hour trip turned into the reality of a 22-hour trip, however, some stress was admittedly experienced. The basic problem was that the diplomatic discussions and agreements hadn’t trickled down to the staff at the border crossing, and so they were concerned to find so many people with expired visas attempting to leave the country. As a result, they didn’t want to let us cross the border. Catch-22ish indeed. We wouldn’t be trying to leave the country if we didn’t have expired visas. What can you do, kick us out? As we discovered, some time between our 3:30 a.m. arrival and our noonish departure from, they could make us wait. And wait. Finally, the agreed-upon solution, negotiated by some elsewhere-but-important upper-level entities and our fearless guide/ PC staff member Sasha, was to interview each of us and to have us sign documents acknowledging that we were wrong to have expired visas and that this was our official warning never to do it again. Okay!
The rest of the trip, including our actual time in Moldova, was fine. I’m used to seeing lots of wide open spaces in Ukraine, but the countryside in Moldova seemed even more wide and open. Orchards, vineyards, and fields stretched expansively, covering the distance to Chisinau. Chisinau itself was a fine city, not too big, but nice for a day or so of walking around in. We drank bubble tea, ate nachos, saw the biggest bazaar, took pictures, and went souvenir shopping. Many of the souvenirs were similar to those we might find in Ukraine, and I had to laugh when one vendor suggested that we might like to buy some pysanky. “We live in Ukraine,” I told her. She laughed. To be sure, we made a strange group—speaking English to each other, half of us speaking Ukrainian, half of us speaking Russian, none of us really sure about the bright-colored bills and their values. In Moldova, people speak either Russian or Moldovan—which is actually Romanian, but just called Moldovan in official documents. It was sort of surprising to realize how much I could understand of what people were saying, but a good boost. However, the fact that their largest cell phone company seems to be called Moldcell--? I'm not sure I can support that. I have allergies, you know.
The trip back was an expected and uneventful 12 hours, and landed us in Kyiv for more information about the visa registration process. On the date they were issued, our visas were good for 45 days. So, within the remaining time, we need go to through a slightly complicated regional registration process, with the help of our regional managers, local counterparts, landlords, and multiple governmental offices. There’s some stress and nervousness involved in this process, but hopefully all will be well.
When I came back to Lutsk, I found that my apartment had recently been flooded. Pipes, hoses, or othersuch had conspired to flood my apartment with hot water while I was in Moldova. The building staff became aware of the situation due to its effects on the two floors below. My floors had mostly dried, but I found wet papers, clothes, and very clean shoes. A high-water mark can be found a few inches above the floor throughout my apartment, and I immediately commenced an open-window/ space heater campaign to try to dry it all out. Unfortunately, the next step was the rippling of the floor in my living room and bedroom—the two rooms with hard-wood floors. Now parts of the living room floor show gentle swells, but the bedroom floor has a sort of mid-Atlantic ridge running from door to window. The building staff have been wonderful, super kind and understanding, and have comforted me to no end by repeatedly telling me I’m not to blame. This is the only good thing to come out of this experience—to know that people I don’t really know very well were willing to step up and support me when I was in a bad situation.
I can only say this so many ways: it’s been supercold this past week. Yes, there was a little more snow today on top of the ice and snow already, but the cold itself has been the real problem. Schools were closed for the week. News reports suggested that more than 100 people died as a result of the weather. Forecasts in the negative degrees forced me to realize, as my friend Andrew pointed out, ‘The closer you get to -40, Celsius and Fahrenheit are almost the same.’ Brrr. Seeing your breath is one thing. Seeing your breath freeze on your scarf in front of your face is another. Feeling your nose hairs frozen solid when you rush out to get the mail is another. Still, should be up to 0 soon, so maybe we’ll all be able to stop camping out in our kitchens and by our space heathers.
Not too much to report in the new semester just yet, but lots of plans for good things to come! Writing Beyond Reality is coming to Lutsk (and Rivne! Andrew!), a spring film fest is in the works, a Valentine’s Day goodies-and-crafts fair is happening next week… I’m teaching master’s students in Applied Linguistics and first-year Ap Ling students in Country Studies. I think it’ll be a quick semester, not just because it’s my last (oh no!) but because the schedule is squished to make sure the summer is clear for Euro-2012, the big soccer championship to be held in Ukraine and Poland this summer. Woo! For some schools and universities, this means more Saturday classes, or, as in ours, longer days. Normally there are 6 ‘lines’, or class slots. This semester, there are 7. So, for those lucky enough to have a 7th line, this class starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 7:20. There’s only one of those on my schedule for now, thankfully.
We’re also now working on Camp ACT—Action, Creativity, and Teamwork! It’s a regional camp for students entering grades 8-11, and will be held [hopefully!] in Shatsk in early July. We’ve already built our staff—half American and half Ukrainian—and they are indeed, as Vitalik pointed out, a dudical crew. There’s a lot of great energy and plenty of good ideas—and I’m especially excited that almost all of the Ukrainian staff members are students from my university, many of whom I’ve worked with on previous projects. This may actually be my favorite thing about this camp so far, but I have a suspicion I’ll continue to like it more and more.
So, until I run out of internet again… :)