Saturday, August 04, 2007

Refresher, etc.

Hi everyone! How are you? Things have been fairly low-key here, but I’ll give a short update . . . with pictures!

Two weeks ago, this time, I went to the city for my English club there. I was on my own to think up a topic that week, but I remembered that jazz music had been suggested a few times. I don’t know all that much about jazz, but with my new internet, I was able to look it up on Wikipedia t
o do my research! I had had no idea how many different variants of jazz there were . . . and some music I had considered to be something else, like “big band,” turned out to be jazz, or at least had been considered jazz at one point. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of division in the music community over what jazz is, so it was a lot for a novice like me to take in. [Fun fact/example of division: in the 50s, jazz began to change from dance/swing music to a less commercial form, which Louis Armstrong dismissed as “Chinese music.” Ok, maybe not such a fun fact.] I played them music from different periods, as well as some of the precursors to jazz, like ragtime. My speakers aren’t very loud, but it was a small group, so everyone could more or less hear. I even allowed myself to play Christmas music (in July!), so they could hear the swing version of The Nutcracker that I have, as well as Art Carney reading “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” to jazz accompaniment . . . when you have as many Christmas CDs as I do, you end up with some weird stuff . . .

A few days later, I left with fellow Volunteer Brittany to go west for our Ukrainian language refresher. PCVs can sign up for a refresher in either Ukrainian or Russian twice a year (you can sign up for one even if you were trained in the other, just to try it out, or if, like me, you live in an area where both are used interchangeably). Ours was in a sanitarium near Rivne, and about sixty of us came. It was fun to see the people from my group whom I hadn’t seen since December, and to meet people from other groups for the first time. Brittany and I got there after traveling all night, but luckily we had time to sleep before the activities began. We were divided into different groups, and everyone got handkerchiefs in their group colors – my group was red, and our leader (a former LCF, or language teacher for training groups) taught us how to tie them around our necks like the Pioneers did (aka Communist boy scouts), having had much experience as a child. We had to pick a team name, motto, song, etc. (all in Ukrainian . . . this may seem obvious, and I guess it was, but it was still something of an adjustment for those of us who teach English and tend to restrict our use of Ukrainian to grocery shopping, etc. But then, that was the whole point). We decided to be “Chervona Ruta” meaning “Red Ruta,”; ruta being a kind of flower here. There is a folk song about the chervona ruta, and how if a girl picks that flower in the woods/mountains/somewhere at night, she can bewitch whatever guy she wants to like her, so we made that our song (the song is actually a guy telling his girlfriend that she doesn’t need to use the ruta on him, aww).

The refresher was sort of like the gatherings we had during training, but more interesting – or maybe we’re just more relaxed now that we’re not frantically worrying about where we’ll live for the next two years. We had language and grammar classes, which were much needed for me, and very very useful: I’ve mentioned before how prepositions are generally optional in this language, and how in order to convey any meaning you have to know which of the seven cases to put your words in, and then how to make the adjectives and pronouns, etc., agree with that case. Otherwise you end up saying “bread good, fire bad,” which I imagine is how I sound most of the time. We learned about how to put the adjectives and pronouns into the right cases near the end of training, and I’m afraid it didn’t take, so it was very good to go over it again. Most of the grammar sessions, we spent exclaiming over rules we had completely forgotten, like how if it’s Sunday and the person to your left is wearing blue, you use instrumental case. [Ok, want a real example? If you say you see someone or something, you use accusative case . . . unless you see a man. Then it’s genitive. Seriously – for every normally accusative verb, when dealing with a “masculine, animate” direct object.] We didn’t get too stressed out though, and our teachers were very supportive . . .

The rest of each day we had more fun activities, like hobby clubs or competitions between groups. It was like camp! The first day I beaded a bracelet, and then spent the rest of the hobby periods in the gazebo with the knitters, or, as one of us called the group, “stitch’n’bitch.” I had a great time sitting there knitting a scarf and talking endlessly about things that would have bored a decent percent of the population, like how many stitches per row and how to block. We had several beginners, including one boy, who tolerated us long enough to make what he decided was a “wrist-warmer.” We had several competitions during the week, between the groups, but what stood out for me was the “limbo.” I can’t remember having ever limboed before, but apparently I’m good at it! I was in the last five, when it got too low and four of us fell – but it was fun!

I went to other classes, about Ukrainian idioms, and folk songs, and about HIV/AIDS in Ukraine. It was all very interesting, and very good practice speaking. The last day I got to go swimming in the lake (the sanitarium is right by a lake, in the middle of pine trees, very pretty), which was fun. We had a bonfire, and someone even brought marshmellows from America for us to roast, and a group of us ended the celebration by singing all the songs we could think of that we all knew, ranging from the national anthem to “Don’t Stop Believing” to Johnny Cash . . . including a very long rendition of the “Tally Me Bananas” song (whatever that’s officially called), with various people improvising lines to rhyme with “six foot, seven foot, eight foot punch!” We weren’t so much singing as shouting at the tops of our lungs, very fun.

Brittany’s and my trip back to Vinnytsia was shorter than we expected, thankfully – we got back in time to grab some mcmeals at McDonald’s. The rest of the week has been fairly quiet, I’ve been doing laundry and getting ready for my next camp, for which I leave on Sunday.

Thank you to Catherine B. for an exciting postcard from Peru! . . .

. . . and that’s about it. I hope you’re all doing well, happy August, take care and keep in touch!!

Love, Virginia


At August 04, 2007 2:05 PM, Blogger Mary said...

I believe it's "Day-O (Banana Boat Song)" - and it's bunch, like a bunch of bananas, not punch.
/annoying record store jerk personality

Glad to hear you knitting is coming along well - my lifetime total of knitting accomplishments, is, um, half a scarf. I think I'll just wait for you to come home and then you can teach me how to do more than that.

At August 04, 2007 5:21 PM, Blogger Virginia said...

Ha, scarves are about it. We talked about other things . . . but never tried them. Yeah, I heard "punch" . . . but probably didn't have the greatest sense of hearing, sight, etc. at the time. Also was screaming. But now I know :)

At August 11, 2007 11:34 AM, Blogger Tim said...

Hey, I finally caught up on reading your blog, it seems like you're having a good time! I'm not sure what my plans are for winter, but maybe I can make it Germany or the Ukraine for a bit. Also, I added a link to your blog on mine, so maybe you will find some strange traffic from Chicago that you haven't gotten before. Be well, and enjoy the heat while you can.



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