Sunday, April 22, 2012

post 22 april

The cue to write this blog post came about twenty minutes ago, when I looked up to the sound of thunder and shouting and saw a dozen or so [make it ten or so—everything's metric here] kids playing football [by which I mean soccer] with a basketball.

As spring ripens and the end of the semester shows up ahead of schedule—making room nation-wide for the Euro-2012 Football Championships—I’m increasingly sensitive to these scenes. The odd combinations, the unexpected signs and the big and little changes—these moments and pictures seem especially important to remember. A green car full of balloons parked at a playground. Twins trying to lift each other up to monkey bars neither is tall enough to reach.

My mom visited recently, and we had an excellent time. The best part was spending time with her, of course, and with friends and relatives who brightened the whole trip. It was also a chance, though, to see this world with different eyes, to take a step back and appreciate what’s here. Lots of photos, discussions about observations, and reflections resulted.

Yes, I’m growing more contemplative as my time remaining grows shorter. I’m keenly aware that April 15 was my last Easter in Ukraine, that I won’t be around to celebrate Ukrainian Independence Day or American Thanksgiving, and that at this time next year, I probably won’t be able to buy peanut butter halva.

I still have work to do here. I have a few more classes, with teachers and students, a final exam to give in Country Studies, two more Writing Beyond Reality seminars, an English Teacher Camp to plan and carry out, and Camp ACT to help swing into motion. I’ll visit friends, run in the second 10-K of my life, and welcome my dad when he visits in late May. I’ll celebrate the excitement of Euro-2012 as the madness envelops Ukraine.

However, I need to be thinking ahead, too. So, I am looking for one job while doing another. 

I've put off the job search for some time, have vaguely browsed on occasion or clicked on links that appeared in front of me. Now, finding I am somewhat overqualified for some positions and vastly underqualified for others, I am running out of combinations to search. For now, I'm bowled over by Boolean, AND OR I will look more later.

Still, I don't want to think about leaving Ukraine. So, let's leave that leaving alone for now.

For now, peanut butter halva, training for a race, and taking lots and lots of pictures.

Monday, April 2, 2012

post 2 april

Hi there! What's happening where you are? Here, it's been sort of...

Women's Day
Writing Beyond Reality- three seminars in Lutsk, two in Rivne
School 10 visit
The International Creative Writing Contest
TESOL-Ukraine Conference in Kamianets-Podilsky
Visit to Chernivtsi
PDM in Lviv
Week of the Faculty, featuring the Country Studies Showdown and Spring Film Fest
Semester wrapping up
Summer planning- camps, visits, race

So, unfortunately, this is going to be a bunch of little blurbs. I realize that the truth comes through in details, but it's at least an effort to get caught up. Pictures of lots of the details can be found in albums I've posted online.

1. Yesterday, the sun was shining. For part of the day. Also, it rained. And hailed. And snowed. What? Come on, March. Let's wrap this up gracefully. Remember, you've got Women's Day!

thanks to my first-year students :)

2. One of the biggest successes of this time period has been Writing Beyond Reality. No doubt you recall, loyal reader, that a superfine crew carried out this seminar series in the fall in Mykolaiv. This spring we brought a similar series to both Lutsk and Rivne-- my site and Andrew's. Although the main goals are certainly to encourage writing and to enhance the teaching of writing, working with people I love is definitely an overwhelming bonus. I spent the fall traveling to Mykolaiv regularly, and although I wish no one had to travel very far, I'm so glad to have friends travel all across the country to work with me here. Writing Beyond Reality has taken the form of three seminars for teachers in Rivne, and one teacher seminar and three teacher/adult/student seminars in Lutsk. With one seminar remaining, we've worked through the writing process, considered various genres, and explored new methods of generating material, and now we're heading into revision, publication, and performance.

anya and iea, a well-balanced peer review

3. On the request of a teacher I met at the Teacher Recertification Institute, I visited Lutsk School 10 one afternoon. Although I don't usually spend much time in schools, it was fun to chat with the kids who were gathered for the occasion. These were mostly 6th and 7th graders, and they had lots and lots of questions and lots and lots of energy. I was even presented with some lovely gifts-- chocolates, a book, and a small basket filled with handmade beaded flowers!

School 10 visit

4. The International Creative Writing Contest-- last year's International Writing Olympics-- took place in late February, and while school and regional winners have been chosen, the national and international rounds of competition are still to come. It's a strange shift this year to step back from the national coordinator position and to be disconnected from a lot of the decision-making and mechanics. Still, I'm just happy to see that it's still going on, and hope it continues to continue for years to come! I'll share the link to the results once they're available.

PCV presenters allaboard for TESOL

5. This year's TESOL [Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages]-Ukraine Conference was held on March 15 and 16 in Kamianets-Podilsky, a beautiful and ancient town in the... well, south/west/central part of Ukraine (as if that's much help in looking at a map!). I was lucky to be one of six PCVs whose trip was supported by the US Embassy-- it's a win-win: they get quality presentations given by native speakers, and we get to share our ideas, meet new people, and explore a new place! This is the third year I've participated in the TESOL-Ukraine Conference, and it occurs to me that they're getting farther and farther away from my site [Rivne, Zhytomyr, K-P]. Maybe someone on the organizing committee believes I should be increasingly competent in traveling? Well, success, anyway! We stayed in a nice hotel, ate good food [although who knew that asking for a Caesar salad without meat would remove the chicken but not the ham?], and even went on an English-language tour of the old town. Lots of interesting information on that tour-- including the Turkish turret attached to the Catholic church, the bullet in the left eye of a golden statue of Mary, and , even though we only saw the castle from the outside [and that's some castle!].

the aforementioned 'some castle'

6. Then, I visited Chernivtsi, courtesy of friends Michelle and Megan. What an amazing city! It reminds me of Lviv, but has its own distinct style. Cultures have collided in and around this city throughout history, and it's very cool to see the different flavors and how they've been preserved. As with many cities, there are dark sides to the history of Chernivtsi, with a Jewish ghetto and various occupations. Still, there is a great deal of pride here. The university where Michelle works is actually a UNESCO World Cultural site! Imagine working in a castle...

Michelle, pleased, with university/castle

7. New PCVs and their counterparts are now receiving joint trainings on Project Development and Management, and my most excellent colleague and dear friend Vika and I were invited to to to Lviv and deliver these trainings to those in Lvivska oblast. It was two half-days of training, two days of travel, tasty dinner and a hotel stay, and a lot of rush! Still, with the sessions held at Lviv Polytechnical University-- another lovely building!-- and a follow-up press conference to spread the good word about Peace Corps, it was definitely time well spent.

my counterpart (Vika), my regional manager (Oksana), and my president (Ben)

8. Last week was the Week of the Faculty-- the designated time to celebrate the College of Romance Germanic Philology at Volyn National University. Plus, this year marked the 50th anniversary of RGP, so the celebrations were especially special. On Monday, after we had some joint planning sessions, the first-year students held a Country Studies Showdown, and on Wednesday, the big event was the Spring Film Festival! (Yes, there were other events, too-- Tuesday was a phonetics contest featuring second-year students and Thursday's event was a series of dramatic scenes put on by fourth-year students.) Although there were only two new entries for the film festival, we showed the fall films, too. Excellently enough, although one of the films was my independent project, the other film submitted was a collaborative work by the teachers of Applied Linguistics! Very cool.

film fest audience

9. Saturday was the annual Meet Your Neighbors meeting for PCVs in Volynska and Rivnenska oblasts, and it was definitely a point of reflection. As an extendee, I really felt the pull between wanting to jump in and be really active and the need to let other people have their chance and run the discussions. I definitely don't regret extending, but there are some points at which I wonder exactly where else I ought to be.

April 2

So, the semester's coming to an early close-- to allow for Euro-2012 adventures, and spring's making way for a visit from my mom, a visit from my dad, a camp for teachers, and a camp for pupils. Plus, May 5 will be another 'Day in the Life of Ukraine' project, May 19 will be the second time I've ever attempted to run a 10K race-- and hopefully the second time I finish one!-- and plenty more dates will have significance as they draw near. True, it did snow this weekend, and not just on April Fool's Day, but I have at least tentative confidence that spring is somewhere nearby.