This weekend I celebrated my third Teachers’ Day holiday in Ukraine–can you believe that? The time has flown; its hard to believe that this marks the third and final time I’ve celebrated being a teacher. My first October in Ukraine, I was in training in Kolychivka and we didn’t really celebrate Teachers’ Day like Ukrainians do; after all, we were trainees and hardly teachers yet! But last year in Sokyriany I celebrated with my whole school, and it was a nice trip down memory lane reading this blog post about it from last October. This Teachers’ Day was bittersweet, knowing it was my last in Ukraine and possibly my last as a teacher.
I dressed up and went to school, attending all my lessons and watching the 11th formers teach all of my classes. [This is the best part of the tradition; the 11th formers teach all the lessons!] One of my most hilarious 11th formers, Hallia, who speaks no English, was in charge of teaching the 7th graders English, and she was surprisingly good. She’s an intimidating girl, so their behavior was impeccable, and I was a bit jealous of how well they behaved for her when they always give me a hard time. Hallia had me do most of the reading with them, but all in all it was quite a good lesson.
On Teachers’ Day the teachers are supposed to relax while the 11th formers run the school, and at my school, we “relax” by hanging out in the Teachers’ Lounge, drinking champagne and eating cake. Students make pilgrimages to the Teachers’ Lounge throughout the course of the day, delivering flowers and presents, and the teachers just sit there drinking champagne and letting their piles of presents grow. After attending a few of my lessons and helping the 11th formers teach English, I stopped in the Teachers’ Lounge to drop off my flowers, and the teachers insisted I stay for some champagne. I sat there for an hour with them, and marveled at how quickly the bottles of champagne were going, and then got up to leave. They wanted me to stay and celebrate with them all day, but I had a bus to catch.
I stopped to see Olha on my way out of town, and gave her my huge armload of flowers. They would’ve died in my apartment, because I was going away for the weekend, and I knew Olha would enjoy them and put them on display in her coffee shop. She asked me what all the flowers were for, and I explained that it was Teachers’ Day. Then I thanked her for being my Ukrainian and Russian teacher, and gave her the traditional wishes a student gives a teacher. She was really touched and I knew the flowers would have a good home with her
I spent Friday night in Chernivtsi with two of my favorite Peace Corps Volunteers–Michelle and Janira. We ordered pizza and watched Castle, a TV show that Michelle and I are majorly addicted to, and as we sat there I realized this was probably our last slumber-party in Chernivtsi. I think that’ll be the worst part of this month, knowing that this is my “last” everything in Ukraine. What a depressing thought.
The next morning we woke up early and caught a bus to Ivano-Frankivsk, the capital of the neighboring region. We were attending our last “Collaborative,” which is a meeting of regional Peace Corps Volunteers every season. I missed the summer Collaborative because of my travels, and I really wanted to attend this one to say goodbye to some Volunteers I wouldn’t get to see again before leaving Ukraine. Ivano-Frankivsk is the site of my friend Philip, who had permission from his university to use a classroom for our gathering. Once we were all assembled, the meeting started and we got down to business.
We welcomed the new volunteers who had arrived in the region over the summer, shared our upcoming projects and solicited help from neighboring PCVs, and then the COS-ing Volunteers gave words of wisdom and tried to say goodbye. Many Volunteers are closing their service (COSing) in November or December, and its sad to think how much smaller the Collaborative will be for the winter meeting once we’re all gone. It was also hard to say goodbye; I’m dreading that aspect of my final weeks in Ukraine. So many goodbyes to say, and so many of them are permanent! I don’t know when I’ll be back in Ukraine again, and I don’t know when I’ll see my PCV friends in America. The goodbyes are looking pretty final for now, and that thought scares me.
After the Collaborative was finished, we set off to find the hostel where we could drop our stuff off before going out on the town. One of the volunteers had stayed at the hostel before, so we had no trouble finding it, but once we arrived there was no one there working to check us in. A strange old man came out and asked us where we’re from, which is always a confusing question to answer, because we’re from America (obviously) but we’re all living in Ukraine. So does he mean where did we come from in Ukraine, or where are we from originally? We answer “America,” and he responds with “I hate Americans. Are you Republicans? I want to kill Republicans.” We were too dumbfounded to answer, and he continues to tell us about how American spies roughed him up during the Orange Revolution, the political uprising Ukraine in 2004-2005 protesting the rigged election results.
I had a hard time believing a word this man was saying, because he seemed a bit mentally unbalanced. Also, I would imagine America would be on the side of the protestors, who were demonstrating for a more democratic form of government, one that was more representative of what the people wanted. So I had a hard time believing American spies would be roughing him up for protesting! He seemed like a mentally challenged conspiracy nut to me. But then it got worse; the hostel worker arrived and checked us in, and it turned out we were in the same dormitory as this nut job! AWESOME. In this moment, I was really excited by the idea that this might be my last hostel stay in Ukraine. Usually staying in a hostel is fine, but let’s be honest–its not something I will miss when I finish Peace Corps!
We left the hostel and went to hang out with the whole group of Volunteers for the evening. The rest of the night was a blast, and our little episode with the crazy guy at the hostel was quickly forgotten. For dinner we even went to a restaurant that had “steak-burgers” and it was the closest thing to a legit cheeseburger I’ve had in the last two years in Ukraine. The company was wonderful, the weather was beautiful, and it really was a great “last” Collaborative. I’m glad we went to Ivano-Frankivsk for it I’m also really glad I was sent to Western Ukraine; the volunteers here are the best, and I’m so proud I got to be one of them during my time here.
So this is a shout-out to Region 4: here’s to the most memorable collaboratives and the most fun group of Peace Corps Volunteers I know; my time in Ukraine would not have been the same without you guys .<3