25 October 2006

Leaves everywhere

For some reason falling leaves seem to be Enemy #1 around here...and they are swept up almost as fast as they fall. I can't really understand this, because to me they are so beautiful and natural and they will just become mulch under the snow in a month or so, won't they?

During my walk to school in the morning I pass numerous women, mostly elderly, bent at the waist, backs parallel to the ground, sweeping leaves. Their brooms are about 2 feet long, forcing them to bend over really far in order to reach the ground. Their "dust pans" are made of metal, and must be really cold to hold on to. Usually they are putting the leaves into big trash bags, and after that I don't know what happens to them.

In the park there is a flatbed truck which serves as the trash truck and leave truck. Interestingly, the bed to this truck is only about 3 feet deep, so much of what's inside flies out when it moves.

Often you'll see someone sweeping into the wind, scattering leaves more than gathering, or someone else dropping more leaves to the ground than they manage to put into the trash bag. It has occurred to me that perhaps they are creating work for themselves. At home I might think they get paid by the hour, and are therefore not in any hurry to accomplish their task. However, here I'm not sure that they're paid at all.

We've had similar puzzlement over the trash issue. I've come to the conclusion that people really do want to throw their trash in a trash can, there just aren't any. They will often pile their trash neatly in a pile, with a lot of other people's trash, near an overflowing trash bin, or just in a corner somewhere, where there ought to be one. Perhaps this severe lack of trash bin creates jobs for people: picking up trash. If you installed dozens of new bins, someone could just dump them, replace the bag, and be done with it. As it is, someone sweeps it to a neat pile somewhere, and then by hand puts it in a bag. It's easily a half day's work. I've heard of Volunteers meeting opposition when trying to install new trashcans in a city. It takes away jobs.

19 October 2006

a short

Just pulled out of an AP wire story--written by a former PCV in Ukraine--about a dress made entirely of confectionery. The last graph of his piece reads as follows:

"The baker hopes to someday open a business with his sister in Ukraine, believing there's more room for skillful bakers here than in Paris. 'Here you can buy jobs,' he said. 'You want to be president, governor, (parliament) deputy, OK. But my job you can't buy--you have to do it.'

The here being Ukraine.

The here being Ukraine.

15 October 2006


Forgot to say. www.perigee-art.com published my newest Peace Corps piece. Enjoy.

a crisp begin to autumn

The sun is up, but doesn't really start to heat anything until 11am or later. We are lucky to still be in for warm afternoons, but the promise of a continued "babane lito" (or Indian summer (known as Grandma Summer here)) is fading. Today, the chill sunk in. The thermometer on our balcony read 8 degrees C. The whole sky was an overcast grey spitting a fine mist over all of us ants walking around the earth over here. Soon, it'll get much colder and much wetter. I'm beyond happy that I have a happy pile of books to sustain me through the long, dark cold.

Karen is busy reading journals written by her students. They have a weekly correspondence where they can practice their written English with a native speaker. Several of her students are imploring her to have children because that is a woman's duty. Those of you who know her know that's going over well. So well. Women are born to make children, and Ukraine's population is dropping. So the government offers "cash for kids," probably not unlike our tax breaks. Seems like a surer way to keep your population stable would be to keep people in your country, but that seems beyond the means of the leaders here.

All the rest is well beyond well. We are having a good, busy time and look forward to coming home in 10 weeks!

10 October 2006

jeebus i'm famous

I'm in a Wikipedia entry that I didn't even write!



08 October 2006

Teacher's Day

What a wonderful sentiment: to honor those who teach, to say thank you for choosing a respected, but often underappreciated profession.

Ironically, during the same week of this holiday the teacher's at my College didn't receive their paychecks. They were told they would be waiting for them in their banks for over a week, but the money never appeared. Last time I checked, they were still waiting.

I did receive some gifts: 3 different boquets of flowers, and a really nice book in English about Lviv. I received the book a week late because the class that gave it to me only had 5 students the day of the holiday.

Many of my students didn't come to class on that day, which also happened to be the day of their presentations. So for teacher's day I had to adjust my planned lesson, and reduce their grades by 25% for being late (a new policy I've implemented which is shocking to them).

Other volunteers had no students at all. Or students who presented them with chocolates and then asked if they could be excused for the rest of the day. In one of my classes students had to give their presentations over the distracting voices of the teachers celebrating their holiday in the back of my classroom.

Nevertheless, however well-intentioned but misguided these celebrations were, the sentiment is there. Somewhere in history someone decided that teachers were important enough to merit their own holiday. And if it's the "thought that counts," it's a gift that makes me smile.

06 October 2006

diversity in Ukraine

The PM of Ukraine recently wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post.

He said, among other things, "Finally, Ukraine is and will remain a country of great diversity. We have the largest Jewish population in Europe. I have many close friends of the Islamic faith, and we have countless Christian denominations, including at least three Orthodox ones."

In McDonald's yesterday, a dark-skinned man walked up the counter and asked for an application for employment. The employees handed him an application while laughing at him, and as he walked away they continued to laugh at him, using words to characterize his physical apperance which I considered racist.

Diversity is not one of the things I see here.

02 October 2006

bittersweet news

As some of you already know, my work was being considered for a
nomination for the Pushcart Prize. The PP is a very prestigious award
for small press authors and can lead to much bigger things. I was very
honored to be considered for this prize. They say to be nominated in
itself is a prestige unmatched at this level, and I agree.

That said, I have the humble honor of letting you know that I am now a
Pushcart Prize nominee. I am nominated for a piece I wrote about my
Peace Corps experience titled "Mirrors Finding Floors." You can find
this piece at perigee-art.com . I can't express how honored I am.
Perigee was only able to chose six pieces out of their entire stock of
published work's for 2006; mine was the only work of prose selected.
The work will wing its way to the Pushcart editors after I get another
edit done. They make decisions sometime late next year. What happens
from then we'll discuss if I am selected--which is very doubtful.

That's the sweet; now for the bitter: I was selected for a piece I
really don't like anymore. I wrote it during a difficult time of my PC
experience; in fact, it was my first written in Ukraine. It reminds me
of the dark, so maybe that's why I don't like it. But, I really just
think it could have been written better. Here's goes the editing

P.S. The Perigee letter:

"Dear Lawrence Lawson,

As you know, over the last several weeks the editors and I have been
reviewing the work we published during 2006. We've been looking for
our Pushcart Prize nominees. The Pushcart Prize is a respected and
coveted award which only the best writers and poets receive. Even to
be nominated for the prize is an achievement and an honor.

Each year small presses, like Perigee, have the opportunity to
nominate six of the works they've published. The nominees are then
considered by the Pushcart panel for that year's prize--which includes
publication in the annual Pushcart Prize Anthology.

I'm pleased to inform you that Perigee is nominating you for the 2006
Pushcart Prize, for your Peace Corps prose piece "Mirrors Finding
Floors"--which we published in our 12th issue. Not only have we
continued to enjoy your Peace Corps writings, but this piece in
particular was among the very best work we've published this year. You
have our thanks and our congratulations on a job well done.

We have announced you as a Pushcart nominee on our official weblog.
We'll be sending your work to the Pushcart panel in November, in time
to meet their December 1st deadline. If you wish any final changes
made before the panel considers your work, please let us know during
October. Otherwise, we wish you good luck as the panel considers your
prose. We will notify you of any prize status as soon as we receive
word. If you have questions, feel free to contact me directly.

Warm Regards,

Managing Editor"