Saturday, October 28, 2006

In Tarasha, off the cuff . .

Hello!! I'm here in Tarasha, for a few hours, and the internet cafe here is working! So, before we catch the bus, we're communicating with the outside world for just a little bit. Unfortunately, I didn't really expect it, so I have no cut and paste entry prepared . . so this isn't v. organized, sorry!

Everything's still going well. I'm glad some of my letters made it home! Sorry I screwed up the addresses (oy, as they say here) . . . and to reply to other comments, yes, sweatpants are pretty great . . and I think of all of you when it's warm outside :)

So . . in no particular order . . . I taught three more classes this week (co-taught two), and they went well. For the 9th and 8th form classes we played a game where I would read the text outloud, and the students had to slap their desks when they heard a new vocabulary word. That was cute, and they had fun . . for the 9th form class (which my host brother, Vitalik, is in, which is maybe why he didn't take us v. seriously), we read an adapted James Thurber story about the tiger fighting the lion to be the king of the jungle, and in the end all of the animals die fighting eachother over it. One of the questions for the text, which we didn't end up asking, was "Will it not be the same in the atomic war?" Oy - the textbooks (at least the national curriculum textbooks, occasionally magnet "Lyseum" schools have imported British textbooks) are by a Ukrainian professor named Plahoytnik, and he pulled them together quickly after the independence in 1991, to fill the need for the transfer from the system of teaching Russian to English, to comply with having Ukrainian as the national language. So they're pretty slapdash books (that's one of my new favorite words here), with tons of grammatical "innovations," and v. corny, British vernacular. And interesting texts - while flipping to the Thurber before class, I was shocked to see a story about John Lennon's death. Pretty random, quotes from the doorman and everything . . but the books are definitely better than nothing!

So teaching is going well, I'm renewing my practice of wildly gesturing along with everything I say, and saying things like "Everyone - look at Miss Virginia" (adapted for minimal understanding, even more minimal than the summer program I taught in) . . and most of the kids seem to get a kick out of me so far, and a few even remember my name when they see me! The teachers are being generally helpful, although they sometimes insist on translating everything we're saying, which is a little undermining in addition to not helping the cause. But yesterday, after the 8th form class, the teacher told me I did well, and that I "always knew what to say to the children" - so even though that's not true, it was nice to hear! On the subject of children, one of the cutest things that ever happened to me: I was walking home alone from Ukrainian class, and a little girl carrying a bucket down a side street called to me "Hello!" And I said, "Hello!" And she said, "My name is Luda!" So I told her my name, and said it was nice to meet her, and then we said "Goodbye!" Although I'm not in a Peace Corps country like those in Africa or S. America (Ok, or really any other region), where it would be obvious that I'm a foreigner from my appearance, from far away . . it's still clearly v. obvious to everyone here that I'm an English speaker. One of the volunteers we met in Tarasha was joking about people yelling "Good morning!" to him at 11 pm . . .

Besides teaching, we go to Ukrainian class every day. It's going well, but even though I do well in class - when I leave, all my progress seems to shrink. I feel like Eddie Izzard in "Dressed to Kill," saying he wanted to bring a table, a cat, and a monkey into the forest in France, so that he could appear fluent and say "The cat is under the table," and "The monkey is in the tree" . . and the French passers-by would say Ah, oui, oui. But we have fun: this week we had a movie night, and made American pizza with the recipe a Volunteer friend of Yulia's had given her. The pizza was good, and we watched Princess Bride, which Yulia loved (I thought the humor would translate), and I always love to see. At the end, she said "Tomorrow . . prepare to die, in Ukrainian class!!" This week we also wrote texts describing our hometowns, so now my little map of Alexandria, and the maps that Katie, Jasmin and Yulia drew according to my description, are hanging in the corridor.

We went to Kiev last Saturday, where I wrote you from last. It was very fun, we saw two cathedrals (a yellow one? and Sophia), which were beautiful, and Yulia's boyfriend Yura drove us all around to places we couldn't have reached on foot all in one day, so that was nice. But I should probably wait to describe Kiev until I know what I'm talking about . . .

Last night was my host father's birthday, and they had a big party - lots and lots of food (and samahon, which, though I made an effort to sort of keep up during 8+ toasts, never stood a chance against all that food, and I felt fine). I basically didn't understand much during those three hours, besides their saying that people at bazaars are "charlatans" (same word!), and the v. sweet babysya looking at me and commenting, she's never seen the sun. I misunderstood, and said No, I saw the sun! Today, here! And they laughed and explained, no - you're pale. And I blushed and attempted to explain that my family is from Ireland (which they found out a week or so ago, when the uncle said - yeah, yeah, you're American, but where are you from?), and that there's no sun there.

Ok, running out of time, but will close with some fun traditions we've noticed here:
- It's bad luck to put an empty bottle on the table - must put it on the floor.
- Bad luck to whistle in the house - will lose money
- Bad luck to throw out bread
- Women are not to sit upon cold surfaces, for fear (really) of freezing their ovaries.
- Women are not to sit at the corner of a table, or they'll never get married

Can't think of any more now, but I'm sure they'll keep coming. Miss you all, love you much, and will hopefully have the internet again some time soon, so can tell you about the upcoming events, such as a week-long visit to my site and future host family and school, and PST University, where all the trainees will meet up again in Prolisok. Happy Halloween! Keep in touch!!

Love, Virginia


At October 31, 2006 2:19 PM, Blogger carolyn said...

Oh VA!

Thanks so much for the letter--your limited food options made me laugh, not to mention the bad luck ovaries freezing rituals.

Homecoming was last weekend and it just wasn't the same without my favorite elitist :)

At November 04, 2006 7:09 AM, Blogger Virginia said...

Oh dear, I'm actually sorry to miss Homecoming, but I hope you all had fun!! Your fascist self had better be there in three years with everyone else, and not too many toddlers to slow us down when we go out on the town . . .


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