26 May 2006

ramblings on a friday afternoon

Three days ago was the hottest day yet in Ukraine. For Karen and I, it was beach weather. As there is no beach here, or anywhere near here, we made do by going to our schools and doing our jobs--as much as we wanted to just stroll around the center, take in some outdoor sights, or just park ourselves on a bench and eat some ice cream.  Of course, upon arriving at school, we found that our students had done just that. In some classes, I was teaching three students. In others, six. Such is the life here.

All those commercials say it is the toughest job you'll ever love, and it is tough some days. But other days, man, let me tell you, it ain't so tough. Standing beneath the cupola of a 14th century church, admiring the, unfortunately deteriorating, frescoes depicting priests and lay people....and the disembodied--and screaming--head of Jesus. Discovering a new pizza joint--pizza, having recently been rediscovered as our favorite food--and watching my excited wife order pepperoni, a rarity here, and watching her smile decline as a pizza wheels out of the kitchen, replete with hot, red chili peppers (and no the kind that play guitars with socks dangling of their dangles). (Upon receiving the bill, we saw, written, "pepperoni," which ended our debate of whether I had ordered wrong, or if they really though that was pepperoni was hot, red chili peppers. At least, in that new place, themed like a European football hangout, pepperoni has a different meaning.) Taking in a beer (Guinness!!) and a Margarita (Karen) at a newly discovered pub, Irish themed, and meeting with a fellow PCV and new friend to us all, a Ukrainian named Roman who works for a Dutch firm and has a former moto-cross & tennis champion for a father in law. (When info on tennis courts in L--- pans out, I'll let you know if that is fact or farce). So, no, it ain't always tough.

But when everyday you've got to run around the school, finding someone who might know of someone who has the key for your room--because copying them would make too much sense, it's a little tough. When you're getting yelled at on the marshrutka in a language you barely understand (Karen's story), it gets a little tough. When you've got four summer camps looming on the summer horizon, it gets a little tough.

But, man, when those kids get all excited cuz your actually there, cuz you actually understand them, cuz they actually understand them, and cuz you're actually, actually, actually there and will actually be there for another 18 months, it is worth it.

Anyway...rain now. And lots of it. The reason: It's L----. Kinda what we always said for Humboldt County.

"Why's it raining is freakin' June?"

"Cuz it's Humboldt."

This weekend, some folks coming in from the East. A Birthday. Meeting my language tutor on Saturday.

On Tuesday: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. In Ukrainian.

Next week, the last week of regular school. Then a 10-day day-camp. Time to bust out my newly purchased guitar.

Oh yeah, and in the next 10 days, we're moving again. And for the last time until we move back to the US.  Moving to a nice 2-room apt near the center of town.



[P.S. Congrats and golf claps to Scott Webb for getting the accept into MIIS. Too bad we won't be colleagues--as you'll surely finish before we're back. You're at a great school in a great part of the state.]

20 May 2006

a sat morn in l---

A bright sunny day in L--, a fitting epilogue to yesterday's downpour. Monuments and church-tops are drying off in the heat--and hopefully so are my clothes.

I went to class in the morning, bez umbrella, and taught a killer lesson on advertising. End of class rolls around as my students are ready to unveil a slogan and an intended audience for their own products--like a cell phone that doubles as a fork--and the bell rings. I tell then I'll see them during the 3rd lesson, and we'll finish up the presentations. They tell me they don't have class because there will be a history test--scheduled eons ago before I existed in this historic town--that they have to take. This was confirmed by the vice-principal, and I finished editing a few pages of a colleagues Am. Lit. text that I'm in charge of, and then stepped out into the rain. This was at 9:30am. It was still raining when I stepped out of "Tsukerhya," a fabulous cafe near the center where I ate apple strudel and had a perfectly mixed mug of Irish Coffee, at 3:30pm. I'd been trying to hold out against the weather, exploring the new--and dry--markets and shops of my new city, so that I could meet a new language tutor at 5:30pm. We were going to walk around and do the first talking in Ukrainian I've done in weeks. Unfortunately, the rain got to be too much, and I, unfortunately, had to cancel. Boo!

Heading into the summer here. Got a number of camps lined up. Will be working in the old training town of P---. Then off to K---- for a softball/leadership camp. My new site has a plan cooked up that'll take me to Poland for another camp in July. We've been having a go about that because my site kinda thinks it owns me for more than the 18 hours a week they are entitled to. nothing to complain about with a free trip to Poland, though. Of course, I've done 24/hour summer camps ( I.E. Concordia) and I'm not anxious for a repeat.

Anyway, we're off soon for High Castle--again. This time, we'll actually see the castle and avoid the bribing.


[p.s. As I have more frequent access to Internet, I'll be sending more frequent updates. If you want off the list, please let me know. no hard feelings.]

[p.p.s. Congrats to Cris Elder for securing an ELF in Guatemala!!!!!]

09 May 2006

L-town week one


We have arrived safely.


We finally have an apartment.


We have to move again in a month (into our 6th domocile in the goold ol' Ukr).

Okay, now that that is taken care of, welcome to L-town. It's a big city in the west if you don't already know the name. Pretty much tourist central right now. Watched a huge concert in the city center yesterday. One of my favorite Ukrainian bands, Друга Ріка (Second River, I guess), was playing, along with a few other decent bands. The city put up a stage right in front of the historic Opera house, creating a real interesting contrast between old and new, between were we came from and where we are now. the center was filled with 15 year olds, just packed. Most of them drinking--those kind of laws aren't really enforced here. No problems of note, however.
Some friends from the surrounding area acme in to join us. It's nice to be in a place now where we can talk to some of our friends and realize that the shit we went through is some of the same shit everyone else is going through. Or went through. We were so isolated in S-town.
I'm working at a school of international relations. The English spoken there is really good, so I feel like I'm going to be a able to do a lot of good work in getting the kids to a higher level. 
Oh, friends just came in. Gotta jet.

03 May 2006

next stop

After a mid-semester vacation while we waited for our site transfer, we are finally headed to our next home. We have played tourist for nearly two weeks now, and we are looking forward to playing teacher again. We are anxious to feel settled, to be in one place for longer than a month or two, but we have (at least) one more move before that happens.

When we arrive in our new city I will pass along a mailing address through email. Speaking of email, we will likely have much more frequent access to ours where we are headed.

Feeling excited and lucky and, as always, very well taken care of by PC.

02 May 2006


So I didn't really surprise her, but surprise is the same word in Ukrainian as it is in English. What I'm trying to say is that surprises are kinda common.  So I went with what works: I walked her around the Andrivska street market and watched her eyes. She's hard to shop for not because she's got expensive taste and not because she wants a hundred things. якраз навпаки, вона часто не хоче нічого. (Exactly the opposite, she usually doesn't want anything.  I'm the consumer of the relationship; she can talk herself out of buying anything.
So today, I talked her out of talking her self out of buying anything. Except I bought it, of course. 
We picked up a piece of art from a local guy. At first, I had to track him down through the other street vendors whop had set up shop near him. He was engaged in a chess game near the middle of the cobblestone street which dipped--suspiciously like a hill in this flat, flat land--down past a 18th century church which gorgeous matte teal onion-domes. He started in on us in Russian, as they all do. Then he asked if e understood. We said we understood Ukrainian better. He said he saw we were foreign and thought we'd understand Russian; I think he was surprised that tourists could understand/speak Ukrainian. We told him we lived here, which explained our ability. [Once the switch went over and we were getting all Ukrainian, we understood nearly everything].
He quoted us some prices on his really good, part-abstract work. Some really reasonable prices. As we'd already passed buy his place on the street, his work hanging from a black, cast-iron gate, I knew which pieces Karen was interested in. Once Karen knew I was indeed going to buy one of his pieces, and that it was better if she choose it rather than me doing an eenie-meenie-moe number of the ones hers eyes lingered on, she chose one titled, "View from the other side of the moon." It shows the earth in the distance. In the foreground is the side of the moon that we never see. The artist rendered his thoughts of what exists on that side of the moon in his print.
So, happy birthday Karen (a few days early). Now we just gotta find a way to get it to L-town safely.
And find a wall we can truly call ours for longer than two or three months to tack it to.

protests across america

It's pretty nuts to be sitting in downtown Kyiv and watching images and news of the protests gearing up in America.  Seeing photos today of supporters of undocumented workers was uplifting today. I hope the national dialogue changes to one of inclusion. And not into a nation-wide race riot.
All the rich people, poor people, every people who are afraid of the influx of immigrants in America need to look in the mirror. America is a nation of immigrants. We can see it in all of our faces.
And we always will.
It's time to respect ourselves, our ancestors, and those living and dying everyday trying to make a life for themselves in America--or anywhere.
Living in another culture, being the outsider, gives me a perspective I wish more people in our country, our island, had.

01 May 2006

walking with the dead

Still in Kyiv. Today is labor day, so the town--except for Khreshatik--is like a ghost town. In the words of my friend describing Poltava, "It's post-apocalyptic." Yeah, that.
Took the Funicular--a short tram that crawls up a hill near the river Dnipro--today. Thought it would be like a touristy view of the city. Walked up to the kaca to buy tickets for the journey. 50 kopeks each; the same as riding the Metro. Gave the lady a 1 and got two tokens in return. When I looked at them, I realized they were just 50 kopek pieces. Nothing special. Turned out to be just a way to get from the river, over the hill, and down to Khreshatik. Of course, we got a pretty nice view of the river and wound up in a beautiful park which leaned up against old church grounds--one of the churches had an onion-dome made out of wooden shingles. Lots of cool sites up there, and of course today's the day we leave the camera in the hotel.  Oh well.
Went to another ancient church ground the other day. The Kyiv Pechescka Lavra in downtown Kyiv. Part of one of the churches on the grounds dates back to 11th century AD.  We'd heard about the underground monastery. I wanted to see that.  When we finally found it, after winding around the epic churches which crawled above us and into the sky, Karen couldn't go it. She didn't have a head scarf and didn't want to buy one for 15 UAH. Neither did she have a long skirt. Orthodox up in here. So I entered alone. Well, I entered with a large group of Ukrainians. They all had candles and rosary looking devices. The journey into the first part of the cave was slow as everyone stopped to pray at every official looking prayer stop. The narrow, rounded path got narrower as we wound into the earth (really only about 20 meters down).
Then, the stops and the prays got more frequent. Women and men were throwing themselves on top of these box things that were lining the walkway, praying, and clicking their beads against the boxes. Then they'd kiss the boxes and move onto the next. The next of like 20 or 30. As I progressed, I discovered the boxes lining the narrow corridors were actually wooden framed coffins paned with glass. Inside, hermit priests from the 11th - 15th centuries, some replete with oil portraits of how that looked in life hanging above  their final resting places. From some of the dried, blackened hands poking out of the burial shrouds, I had a pretty good idea what they looked like in death. In some other rooms were ancient artifacts that we couldn't look at. Some famous holy relics. The tour wound further into the earth, but I a route out the first exit. Being a little claustrophobic and having a different relationship with the dead than most Ukrainians do, I decided to bail before I really let out the screams I'd been holding in.
Off to L in the west on Weds--so we hear.