Friday, April 20, 2007

Rainy Day Running Errands

Hi everyone, how are you? Shortish entry today, I think . . .

Things are going well here, am continuing to settle in, and the weather is continuing to settle into spring, although I woke up to snow and freezing rain yesterday (what is it with Thursdays in April . . . in Ukraine . .?) I have an oven set up, and I’ve inherited some nice things from the departing Volunteers in Vinnytsia, such as a rolling pin, so my kitchen seems like the place to be, lately.

Last Wednesday, I visited the English club that the aforementioned Volunteers, the Jacobs, are leaving behind, and which I’ve offered to help continue. It’s definitely different to visit an English club for adults, though I introduce myself the same way to every group – name, where I’m from, and that I have parents, a younger sister, and two dogs. Pretty universal, and I can say it in English and Ukrainian!

On Thursday, I attempted to make chocolate chip cookies . . . which prompted the first, I fear, of many battles with my smoke detector. Unfortunately, the cookies spread out pretty thin, so that about half had to be scraped off and put aside in a “cookie scrapings” container (the same thing often happens to us when baking at home, and there is a similar practice – they’re not burnt, just too flat to pry off in one piece, and they still taste good!). I’m told I need more flour, or possibly baking soda, will try both. The ones I salvaged, I divided between my neighbors, and the English teachers at the 1st School and orphanage, who have still not attended my teachers’ club as of yet. So I handed out cookies, but despite changing the meeting time to an ostensibly more convenient one, two days ago was another repeat of the same thing. Luckily, I found the “composer” function on my cell phone to entertain me while I waited – it lets you try to make your own ringtones, and I came close to getting “O Canada” right, along with some others, so that was exciting.

On Saturday, I went down to Vinnytsia again, with Clara, to visit what appears to be a budding English club of our own, at the Windows on America Library. We may merge the two clubs – and have Saturday morning movie meetings . . sounds fun! The library has a good selection of movies, and I was asked about Breakfast at Tiffany’s and what state Scarlett O’Hara is from; sometimes being here makes me feel so smart – I get to be a local expert on things that, in America, I only know an average amount about! Later, we met up with other Volunteers, in town to say goodbye to the Jacobs as they head back to the States. We had a very good time, and I took a lot of pictures. If you ever read this, Jacobs – you will be missed!!

I’ve had a few electrical struggles this week, which appear to be resolved now, but highlights included: power strip wires warming up; adapters sparking and making crackling noises; and even a power strip wire somehow breaking open to reveal inner wiring, and to melt a small section of my kitchen table cloth. Basically, everything I buy around here is suspect, and I should maybe look for such purchases in larger venues – but it does not seem to be a larger problem with the outlets.

My fifth graders are really impressing me with how quickly they’re learning – they’re definitely improving faster than older students, probably because they are the youngest. Something that has proved to be a huge hit with all of my classes is Mad Libs – I write out basic Mad Libs, and then ask them for the appropriate type of word, and every age group loves to hear the stories they wrote. They think it’s just crazy, to end up with a story about meeting William Shakespeare in the park to go ice-skating. I tried to make a health-themed one for the fifth grade, since that’s the section they’re studying, and they about died when the resulting story had a doctor telling his patient to “Drink two Coca-Colas and call me in the morning.” One of the boys, seemingly inspired, announced “Goodbye Doctor!” which made me laugh – he especially, and several others will occasionally come out with the most bizarre statements, sometimes when trying to answer my questions, but they’re never offended when I start laughing, they laugh too.

The tenth grade continues to be terrified of me, and last week I resorted to singing to get them to read out loud: “I need a volunteeeer . . . I need someone to reeeeead . . . . I come from Ameeerica . . .” which made them finally respond, though they still won’t raise their hands – they’ll just start reading out loud without warning, but it’s better than nothing. I’m not sure if you remember my mentioning the Plahotnyk (textbook author) lesson about how John Lennon was shot. I discovered it last fall: it’s a completely random text, with no introduction of who he is, that very abruptly describes who shot him and how, and that’s it – I about fell over the first time I saw it. So the time for that lesson, for the ninth grade, arrived on Tuesday, and I decided to attempt to do it right, and brought in my iPod and speakers to play “Imagine,” and discuss who he and the Beatles were, etc. etc. This prompted my coordinator to bring out her supplemental materials on the Beatles, which offer such vital trivia as the fact that John and Paul disliked each other’s wives. A little early to introduce all that, I think, when the kids didn’t even know what country the band was from, but whatever works. The subject continued yesterday, when she taught the class to sing “And I Love Her” – I’ve offered to bring back my iPod so they can actually hear the original next week . . .

I made some holubtsi, Ukrainian cabbage rolls, this week, which was pretty successful, and yesterday, some chocolate-chip banana bread, which I recommend that everyone make, whenever possible. Cooking is at least a more interesting chore than laundry and mopping, so I’m trying to be creative . . .

On Tuesday, I heard from other Volunteers, and later from home, about the shooting at Virginia Tech. I’ll try to get more details while here at the internet today. Obviously, I was very sorry to hear about it. It’s made the news here as well, I think unsurprisingly, but no one mentioned it to me until I said something to someone; she said she had known but didn’t say anything because she didn’t want me to find out. I realize they mean well, but occasionally I feel like the people who have toasted, and spoken at length about their hope that I never have any problems here, neglected to mention the promise “by any means necessary.”

I got some wonderful mail this week, from the Roberts, Katie B., and former-clustermate Luke, who fulfilled the requirements of my poetry-for-news exchange, and requested “an original Virginia Suellen Pasley poem!” (how could I refuse a request like that?) To top it off, Gigi sent me a long awaited video, which was apparently lost in the mail when it was first sent last fall, of some fellow W&M alums celebrating homecoming five or six months ago. It was very very funny, as were the other videos on the CD, including one from a wine-and-cheese binge that Gigi hosted last spring, and a very well done montage of friends and others, including a little boy who I assume is someone’s two-year-old cousin, dancing while “Call On Me” plays. On the Homecoming video, the alums asked me several questions about life here, in addition to asking each other if they were really going to send this thing, and about when they were due to arrive at The Green Leafe. I’d love to make a video reply, and surely one of the three hundred crazy Volunteers here has the necessary tools, so watch out for one . . . sometime in the next twenty months . . .

So, that’s about it! Thanks again for the mail, etc., and I hope you’re all doing very well at home, or wherever else. Oh, and although I love hearing from you all in any form, those of you who are wonderful enough to free-text me (details on my facebook profile) . . . just give a little glance toward your watches, and add seven hours, when you do . . . I don’t mean to discourage any communication, really, but early this morning I found out that the free-text messages must have a limit on length, because I received a message about extortion at the Post Office in four parts . . . when I finally figured out what was going on, I stopped trying to go back to sleep during the intervals, and even managed to write a text back saying, I think, something to the effect of “Kristen, you are so dear to me that I don’t mind it being 5 am right now. I am assuming you are Kristen, not because you signed your name, but because I don’t think anyone else would text me about New York City post offices and sign off in Spanish.” (Kristen is my correspondent in Spanish, valiantly attempting to help me keep at least a little of the language.) Of course, my reply might have been a little less coherent than that. So, sorry, Kristen, or whoever you are.

Take care everyone, and keep in touch!

Love, Virginia
P.S. And another short story: The other day I thought I might have discovered sliced lunch meat at Ukrainian Walmart, down the street, so I thought I'd take a chance. Now, I know I'm not good enough at Ukrainian or Russian or whatever language the ingredients were listed in to ever really know what I'm buying . . . but I see no way to reconcile the picture on the front of the package with what I found inside . . .
. . . a chunk of meat encased in gelatin. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, and, actually - I really wasn't.


At April 21, 2007 9:11 AM, Blogger Gigi said...

Yay! You got the 'movies' :-)


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