Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Short entry, with more pictures

Hello! Well, I’ve been here seven months, it’s spring outside, and school is over in a few weeks – all very hard to believe! Hope everyone is doing well at home . . .

The last couple of weeks have been normal, except for a three day trip to Kyiv! A few months ago, at Sandy J’s suggestion, I applied for the SPA Committee, which is a group that reviews grants written by Volunteers for small projects for their communities. The projects can range from English resource centers, to summer camps, to tourism projects that promote local restaurants and traditional artists’ work. I didn’t mention the committee here til now, because I was half-wondering if someone who had accepted me would realize that I’m an English/Spanish major without any experience whatsoever in the area of grant-writing, but apparently that’s not a problem (per se)! The process of normal grant-writing is apparently very different from the way we do things here – we are more informal, with everyone continuing to try to make projects feasible all the way through the process. At least that’s what I think – I’m still learning, but so far so good!

I left on Tuesday, and got to meet my former language teacher, Yulia, for dinner (at McDonald’s, which I would frequent often in the coming days). She’s doing well, and it was fun to see her again. The hotel where Volunteers generally stay has BBC World! So it was exciting to catch up on world events a little, again. The next day, we started work on the grants, and I shadowed real reviewers to try to learn how things go. Everyone was very nice (and even took a few of my suggestions!) and lots of the grants were very interesting; they included a tree-planting project, a film-series for university students, and a girls’ softball league. Everyone worked hard to make the project plans realistic, and I’ve never heard so many people use the phrase “That being said . .” so often in a discussion before! It was fun to meet other Volunteers, and have some good food, etc. (including lunch at TGIF’s with a fluent English-speaking waiter – like, the best English I’ve heard from a Ukrainian here. He had worked in the U.S. – apparently that does the trick). I will, ostensibly, be back for another SPA round at the end of June.

I also got to see a little of Kyiv, as you can see in the pictures . . .

On Saturday, a few of us went to Vinnytsia to have our English club at the library there – and one of the members had suggested we talk about American teenagers. The best movie I had for the subject was “Clueless” (the 10th Year “Whatever” edition, no less) – I know it’s a little outdated, but I’ve never even seen “Laguna Beach” or “The O.C.,” so it was the best I could do. Plus, it’s clearly a classic movie, necessary for any serious discussion of teenage life in America. I showed a few clips – like the beginning when Cher picks out her clothes with a computer program, the makeover scene with Tai, and the party where Tai keeps changing the way she wears her sweater in an effort to fit in – and tried to connect them to real life. I mostly explained that it was, of course, a ridiculous exaggeration of reality for the purpose of comedy. But I also went on about how the story is based on Jane Austen – revealing how young people have been obsessed with the same subjects forever, or at least several hundred years . . . . and I explained that although the movie’s point would seem to be that Brittany Murphy (Tai) is pretty and fine the way she was, and that all the obsession with image is silly, she has actually since turned into an unrecognizable, very skinny, blonde person – which would seem to confirm the real-life pressure on American girls to look a certain way. Despite my sort-of intellectualization of the clips, the club generally wanted to know things like: when are kids allowed to drive in America, and do Americans really sit on the grass all the time? (Answers: 16, and yes.)

We’ve had three days off from school because of Workers’ Day (I guess a kind of Labor Day?), and I finally got around to decorating my apartment some. I put up a little Irish montage on the wall, because I couldn’t think of anything else to do with the St. Patrick’s Day decorations Kimmy and Gigi sent me . . .

. . . And speaking of being sent things, I got some nice mail recently! So, thank you to Paige for the magazines, and to Kristen for the package for which she became the victim of extortion (buying official Postal Service tape), that included a Spanish Cosmo, which is probably above my Spanish reading level by now – thank you both!

My cooking adventures were few, because of my trip, but I did make empanadas, and discover which can in the stores has normal tuna-fish inside of it.

Ok, that’s it – I hope you’re all doing well! Take care, and keep in touch . . .

Love, Virginia


At May 02, 2007 4:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yayyy you got my package!! i was worried they lost it hehe



At May 03, 2007 9:36 PM, Blogger Mary said...

Eee, pretty pictures!

As I understand it, May 1 is Labor Day for lots of countries, but the U.S. labor movement didn't want to be connected to all those pinko commies in other countries' labor movements, and picked a different day on purpose so as to disassociate themselves.
Or something.

I keep meaning to send you a package and I haven't, because I am a totally sucky friend. I miss you though! I took a Ukrainian guy on a Capitol tour the other day and I told him aaaaaaaaall about you, except I am pretty sure I am pronouncing the town you live in completely wrong.

At May 04, 2007 6:52 AM, Blogger Virginia said...

Ok, because of confusion involving the fact that the page now shows all instructions in Russian, I'm not sure if my reply just now worked, but it was basically:

Thanks for the package Kristina!

Mev: I wonder if Ireland's Labor Day is our day or not - not that I know for sure they have one, but I bought a t-shirt there that said "Labour Day" as well as "Virginia Woods" or something. Hurrah for Ukrainians in D.C.! My town is easy to say, basically "brah - t - slav" - Bra as in undergarment, slav as in Slavic Languages. But here you also have to roll your r's for people to understand. Hope all is well!


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