Wednesday, December 16, 2009

До свидания!

Goodbye, Ukraine!

Host family
School children
The metro
Winking strangers
-14 Celsius weather, not counting humidity or wind chill.

Until we meet again...

Edit: When we left for the airport at 3am, it was -18 Celsius--the coldest I have ever been.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Today's Battles

Battle #1: When I got to Ukraine, I was told to expect snow by mid-November, at the latest. Mother Nature teased me with a day of flurries, but then she yelled "PSYCHE!" and it's been frost-less ever since. What kind of world do we live in where Ukraine doesn't have snow in December? I've been asking everybody, from our Russian teacher to my host sister, "Do you think it'll snow before I leave?" The official response has been "Probably not." Whadda let down. I move to the other side of the world and I don't even get one lousy sleigh-ride. If willpower controlled weather, Kiev would be covered in snow right now. I've been wishing so hard for snow, encouraging it to get cold by blowing extra-big clouds with my breath every time I walk outside, saying in my head, "Come on, weather! You can do it! Look what you've done with my breath!" I would like to say that I'm kidding, but I'm not. At least my efforts have not been entirely in vain. I woke up in the middle of the night and my peanut-buttery brain managed one thought: It's snowing right now. I swear, I couldn't see anything, but when I woke up in the morning I walked out on the balcony, confident that it would look like this:

And it did. Victory!

Battle #2: This has been a really hard week with the kids. I mean really, really hard. Angry parents railing on the school for their stupid kid who spends all day elbowing the other kids (who finally retaliate by knocking her to the floor. "She had it coming...") and therefore not paying attention in class and therefore not  learning. Pre-language, which is basically pre-school, makes me feel like I got the wind knocked out of me. Let's not even go there. On top of all that, I was sick all weekend and I'm still not 100%, so my battle defenses are not completely intact. (My nose was so runny that I used an entire toll of toilet paper. In one day.) And it's only Wednesday. Defeat.

Battle #3: After school (aka "war") today, Lynsie and Jill and I were so totally defeated that we just sat at the table contemplating how we could possibly survive the last few days of teaching. Imagine three corpses flopped over the table; one occasionally lifts its head to mumble, but only manages to let a little more blood trickle out of its mouth. That was us. So I came up with a genius idea. Two words: Celery. Fight. Jill had thrown away some dying celery sticks, so I broke off three swords and let out a battle cry. I dubbed Lynsie as "The Lion," Jill as "The Jolly Jack-O-Lantern," and Jill called me "The Limp Noodle". I tapped them on each shoulder with a stick of celery, King Arthur style, to make it official. Then we turned off almost all the lights in the school, and when I turned around, they had gone into hiding. I started crawling, but was quickly ambushed by the Lion and the Jolly Jack-O-Lantern. A bloody battle ensued. Soon our swords were down to stumps, hanging by strings, but the wave of fury did not relent. We stabbed, we jabbed, we punched, we kicked, we jumped, we sushi-chef chopped, we wrestled, we doggy-piled, we went for the nostrils. It was very dark, very loud, and very fierce. Lynsie and Jill are very small, but if you ever find yourself opposing them in a war, here's some advice: Run. The front-door into the hall is paper thin, so I really hope everybody walking by enjoyed our battle cries. It was the perfect release after a soul-trampling day. Victory!

Battle #4: I wasn't paying attention on the way home tonight, and I accidentally went one bus-stop too far, to a place I wasn't familiar with. I was out later than I wanted to be, and the side-walk was extremely icy (come on, snow!). So I was on the lookout for ragamuffins and hooligans. What I was not prepared for, however, was a car to zoom around the corner with a Ukrainian guy leaning out the window shooting a gun. I'm pretty sure it was just a cap-gun or something though, because the shots weren't really loud. And because I am still alive. Victory!

Battle #5: This isn't a battle, really, unless you count it as a battle against our public image and our sanity. I have an awesome pair of mittens that just seem to attract people's hands. Whenever I wear them, whoever I'm walking with just ends up holding my hand! Ok, maybe I help a little bit by asking if they want to hold my mittens, but nobody has ever turned me down. So Lynsie, Jill, and I walked to the bus stop by our school, one on each side of me, holding my hand. In this part of the world, girls hold hands all the time, so it's not a big deal. We stood at the bus stop, short-tall-short, holding hands and singing: Doooo you think the bus will coooome? Yeeeees! I think the bus will cooooome! All very badly sung. I hope the other people at the bus stop had ear-plugs handy. While we stood on the curb, waiting for the headlights of our bus to appear, we did the Hokey-Pokey (or the "Pokey-Pokey" as six-year-old Katya would say). It wasn't wimpy or quiet either, we did it full-out, the three of us still holding mittens as we turned ourselves around. Why? Because that's what it's all about.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Catching up on details.

I am knitting a scarf. It was pretty cool until I realized that the stitches are way too tight, causing it to stand up like a collar when I try to wrap it around my neck. But I am going to have a hard time getting rid of this semi-ugly collar-scarf because of the things I knit into it:

1) Sitting in "my chair" at home, talking to my sister and knitting with both cats asleep on my lap.

2) Hanging out with George while Lesya took a two-hour shower. George, sitting at the computer using an online translator to help him find the words in English. Me, trying to guess what word he was looking for. And knitting.

3) Riding the line. This is what I/we do when we need to get out of the house but there's nothing to do. In America, this is the situation where I would head to the library to read, nap, or just sit. Here, there's not really a warm, dry, free place where I can hang out and waste time. So we head down to the metro, weasel ourselves onto a bench, and ride up and down the line. We have unlimited metro passes, so it's free. It's dry. People-watching doesn't get any better than the Ukrainian metro. Riding the line encourages exploration. Sometimes I go alone and just listen to my music. Sometimes I put my headphones in without turning on my music, just so creepers won't bother me. Sometimes I just sit and listen to everything. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I knit.

4) I spend a lot of time with Camille. She is hilarious in ways that I am not, and helps me forget to worry about the little things. She is my riding-the-line companion. Sometimes, if we have good seats, I tell her to wake me up at our stop. So far, she hasn't left me asleep on the metro, and I am very thankful for that. One time, we jumped off at the Hydropark stop, one of very few stops that aren't underground. It was one of those perfect autumn days--crisp air, leaves blanketing the floor, all sounds muffled. Hydropark is an island in the middle of the Dnipro river, and I hadn't been down to the river yet, so this was my official introduction. We had no idea which way to go, so we set off down a quiet path through the thin woods, and eventually ended up at the water's edge. I stuck my finger in the water, and it didn't fall off. (The water is only radioactive at the bottom. Thanks, Chernobyl!) We sat on a ledge overlooking the river, with the gold domes of the Lavra on the opposite bank. Whenever anybody walked by, we pretended that they were giving us the Your-Ovaries-Will-Freeze-If-You-Sit-On-Anything-Cold! lecture. We shared headphones, listening to our favorite song. We talked. We listened. We sang. We knit. We got out a camera to snap a photo, but stopped. It was more than a scene, it was a situation. Too perfect for a camera.

In other news, today is December 6th. Since I got here in August, I have done my laundry three times. Count: one, two, three. I am strangely proud of that. It's not as dirty as it sounds, I promise.

Did I mention that one of our cats has a dreadlock? A real, legitimate dreadlock on its chin. Not my favorite thing.
Related Posts with Thumbnails