Saturday, August 16, 2008

94 Days To Go

Hello again! I don’t have much to report, but things have been going well. I’ve mostly been taking it easy and working on various projects (like Project: Research Grad Schools) . . . but somehow, I’ve made it past the 100-Day Mark! So, that’s exciting. It’s about the only exciting thing I have to say.

A few days after returning from Mozambique to visit my PC Twin, I went to our big city English club to show off pictures from the trip. They were well-received, and one of our club members told me a funny joke connected with the many students who come to Vinnytsia from warmer parts of the world (Asia, Africa, and the Middle East). The joke goes: an African student’s family asks him how the Ukrainian winter is. He writes back that the “green winter” isn’t that bad, but the “white winter” is deadly . . . haha.

Later that day, I went to buy train tickets with my fellow Volunteer Matt. He only had to buy a few, but waited patiently for me to buy thirty-two. See, in order to get to a summer camp across the country in Donetsk oblast, I was going to have to take two trains each way – and I was taking seven campers with me. It took me about an hour to buy them all . . .

My campers and I were bound for the same camp went to last summer: Camp HEAL. H.E.A.L. stands for “Human trafficking, Education, AIDS, and Leadership.” Last year I took three girls, and taught about HIV transmission and prevention; this year I worked the system in order to take seven, and taught about trafficking. One of my girls was a “junior counselor” this year, because she came with me last year, and had studied in America.

My group was composed of: two girls who were with me last year and are in university; two from School #2, one of whom is entering university this fall; two from the local technical college; and one whose mother used to teach at the technical college. What made things even more fun was the fact that I had three Yana’s and two Aliona’s . . . there are not enough Ukrainian first names, in my opinion. Keeping track of all seven throughout the various train rides was interesting – walking through the stations, it was like Make Way For Ducklings. It’s funny how, even though the girls pro
bably understand transportation in Ukraine much better than I do, I was always the default leader because I’m older, and “the teacher.” I did okay, though. We even picked up an 8th when we were nearly there – Olya, a girl who recognized me on the platform from camp last year! So, I was quite the mother hen/duck.

Camp was good! I met some new Volunteers; including the amazing Megan, who was in charge of organizing the camp this year. The only major drawback, for me, was the lack of an office where we could gather: last year, we were able to spend our free time together in a nice room with chairs and trashy teen magazines, but this year our office had no chairs and was half-flooded. Oh well.

One addition to the camp’s schedule this year was a talent show! One of my girls, it turns out, it a very talented hip-hop dancer. We began to refer to her as “Madonna.” Another one of my girls is also very talented at belly-dancing, but, unfortunately – due, perhaps, to the too loose knotting of a few scarves – her dancing was a little more exotic than I think she had planned. There was a bit of a wardrobe malfunction. Bless her heart, she kept a smil
e on her face – and another counselor pointed out later that if you’re going to be dancing in your underwear anywhere, it might as well be Ukraine. (Summer outfits here can get pretty skimpy . . . you can pretty much see most girls’ underwear all the time, whether they’re dancing or not.) Everything turned out fine, and I eventually recovered from the anxiety attack I suffered sitting in the audience . . .

On the last day, my girls and I took an excursion to a nearby monastery. It has caves – like the Pecherska Lavra in Kyiv – where monks are buried, but unfortunately everything but the museum was closed when we got there. The outside of the cathedral was pretty, anyhow, and we stuck our hands in the healing fountain. Then, I gathered my ducklings, and we began the long trip back to Vinnytsia.

Speaking of my oblast – there is a new Lonely Planet (tour book) out, that includes Vinnytska oblast! And, what’s more – it even includes my town, Bratslav!!! Yay!! Seriously: go check it out, in Barnes & Noble or something.

I’ve seen many funny t-shirts recently, but I can only remember the two I saw at the monastery: “I’m a Serious Guy” (red letters on the back of a black and white striped t-shirt), and “How Can I Be So Thirsty Today When I Drank So Much Last Night.”

The only new cooking adventure I’ve had was making oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, which I doled out to the various families I know here . . .

Thank you very much to Alyssa for her beautiful, artistic card, and to Gigi for the postcard! I’m working on sending out one last, massive batch of letters before I go . . .

So, that’s it! I hope everything’s going well at home. I miss you all, but I will see you relatively soon . . . keep in touch!

Love, Virginia


At August 20, 2008 4:46 PM, Blogger Louisa said...

Can't wait to see you again!!!! Your poor, poor student! Wardrobe malfunctions are never fun!

At August 23, 2008 12:31 AM, Blogger Virginia said...

87 days . . . yes, I know. But she was smiling, I was like having a nervous breakdown . . .


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