Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I've Had a Cold for a Week: Or, My Life as Paris Hilton

Hello everyone . . . how are you? Again, not much has been going on, but that’s never stopped me from talking before.

A lot of SPA Committee members had colds while in Kyiv, and although I fought it off at the time, the cold finally caught up to me two Saturdays ago, so I’ve been hacking and coughing and just being very attractive in general since then, which has caused me to miss some school, and, I’m sure, many funny stories for you. Meanwhile, it’s been getting very pretty outside – Ukraine really does change completely at the end of spring, it’s very warm and there are flowering trees, etc. absolutely everywhere you look, and, if I could smell right now, I think it would smell very nice outside.

Last Wednesday was V-E Day, Victory in Europe, which is a big holiday here, and I visited fellow Volunteer Clara and her host family. Although it was raining, they had a parade, with music from loudspeakers competing with that of the marching band. Veterans dressed in uniform, and everyone else dressed up as well, and we saw a concert which ran the gamut from poetry recitation, to rock music, to veterans singing patriotic songs, to young girls doing a belly dancing routine. I’m still shaky on Soviet history and all of that, but watching the celebration (complete with CCCP (USSR) banner, since that’s who won), it felt like I had gone back in time behind the Iron Curtain. Anyhow, it was very nice to have people cook for me while I was sick, although I had pretty much no appetite (I hate that), and they really liked the banana bread I brought for them (everyone’s reaction was “bread . . . with bananas?”).

On Saturday, we had our English club for adults again, and lots of people came (many from the club the Jacobs used to hold), and we talked about study and work programs available in the U.S. Human trafficking is a serious problem in the part of the world, so we tried to emphasize the importance of caution and checking programs’ legitimacy. Besides a tangent during which we discussed natural disasters in America (and in which we were asked why we didn’t just build all of our houses out of stone, to keep the twisters from getting them), we generally stayed on topic.

I made it back to school this Monday, and caught up on my English clubs there. For the older kids, I discussed the Beatles (after a suggestion made by the 9th graders, who had that John Lennon lesson), and tried to explain why they were important. My attempts included an explanation of the word “trippy,” and the story my Dad told me about how the Beatles, upon arriving at a hotel and seeing the crowd of crazy fans waiting at the top of the “up” escalator, turned and ran up the “down” escalator instead. I played them a few songs, and then broke out the real treat – a clip of Paul McCartney on “The Chris Farley Show” on Saturday Night Live (which can be found on “The Best of Chris Farley” DVD). I had to explain a lot of the references beforehand, such as the “Paul is dead” hoax, but they were able to understand the gist of it, and laughed a lot. (The gist, for those of you who never saw it, is that Chris Farley is a horrible interviewer, and most of the interview consists of exchanges like “Remember . . . when you were in the Beatles?” “. . . Yes.”) My favorite part is when Chris Farley quotes “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make,” and then humbly asks Paul, “Um, uh . . is that true?”

Random thing I meant to mention before: while walking through Vinnytsia the other week, I saw a large Ukrainian man wearing a black t-shirt with white block lettering that said “You are a lovely friend.”

I’ve had some successful cooking adventures . . . pre-cold: tacos (making tortillas is surprisingly easy, and it makes you feel accomplished!), mid-cold: corn chowder, post-cold: chicken fried rice. Somewhere in between I completely failed at making falafel.

And lastly . . .

It occurred to me, during a recent shopping trip at “Ukrainian Walmart,” that in this country, I can be in a room filled with women whose hair is dyed various completely unnatural colors (pink, orange), and who are wearing totally skin-tight clothes covered with rhinestones, and I will still attract the most attention of anyone in the area, by a long-shot. Such is my life as the American. Then, while sitting at home sick, and reading about Paris Hilton in the Spanish Cosmo that Kristen sent me, it occurred to me that this is something I share in common (really the only thing) with Paris Hilton’s life. So, to show off what remains of my ability to translate Spanish, and to give you insight into my celebrity-like situation, here’s are some of the questions from Paris’s Cosmo interview, with my answers:

Is there a goal in your career that you have yet to reach?
To convince teachers to come to my English teachers’ club.

You haven’t commented on your recent reunion with Nicole Richie, your costar in “The Simple Life,” with whom you had a famous split.
No, I suppose I haven’t. (This is one of the pieces of celebrity gossip I’ve missed, til just now.)

Do you get tired of everyone (and the media) wanting to know about your love life? Of course, you still go out with your ex, Stavros Niarchos . . .
If by “everyone (and the media)” you mean everyone I meet in this country who asks me if I’m married, then yes. And I guess the rest of the question doesn’t so much apply to me . . .

Have you ever fallen in love with someone famous?
Everyone who knows me knows the answer – yes, frequently (generally actors on West Wing). I tried to convince Clara’s host dad that John Cusack was waiting for me back in America, when he was pestering me about when I was going to get married. He then accused me of living in the future instead of the present (though, in the case of John Cusack, I would argue that it’s really neither).

What do you write on your grocery shopping list?
Milk, or what Americans generally know as “cream” (I will probably think that skim milk is water when I come home); “Coca-Cola Light”; Nutella; the right tuna . . .

What is your favorite drink?
Coca-Cola Light! (which apparently gives Paris a terrible head-ache).

What is the best event, with important guests, that you have attended recently?
Coffee with the ambassador?

Well, that’s about it. Thanks for humoring me . . . I hope that everything is going well at home! Keep in touch!

Love, Virginia


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