I’m typing this blog entry sitting on the couch with my host parents, watching a James Bond movie dubbed in Russian. There are no subtitles, but I’ve seen enough James Bond movies at home on the couch with my own father to know what’s going to happen next. This one is From Russia With Love, which is ironic because A) I’m watching it in Russian and B) I’m pretty close to Russia here in Ukraine! Tonight my homework for Ukrainian is watching an hour of T.V.—pretty fun homework! But half of the channels on the TV here are in Russian, so I’m not really learning any Ukrainian sitting here. So I’m working on my blog instead : )
My host mother just asked what I’m doing on my computer and I showed her this word document I’m typing on. I’ve tried to explain the idea of a blog to her, but she’s never heard of it before and I probably don’t do a very good job explaining it. Here in Kolychivka computers aren’t very common, and there is no Internet. Anya has heard of email (she calls it “electronika poshta”), so I tell her I’m writing emails on my computer and saving them for when I have Internet. I do this pretty often too, so between writing blog entries and actual emails, she probably thinks I’m writing a book.
Anya has had enough of James Bond, and she tells Victor to change the channel to what we’ve been waiting for all evening. This family dynamic is so similar to the one in my real home that I can’t help but smile—my Mom gets sick of James Bond pretty quickly too : ) And tonight girl power gets Victor to change the channel to our favorite Friday night show.
Friday night is actually the only night I look forward to watching T.V. here. Why, you ask? Because there is one show that I can enjoy no matter how much Ukrainian I understand—Танцють Всі! It translates to it “Dance everyone!” and is kind of like American Idol in the US, only with dancing instead of singing. After a couple dances, a panel a judges critiques their performance and a number flashes on the screen so you can call in and vote for the couple you liked the best. Tonight I was tempted to call in, not because I loved the dance routine, but because one couple used a favorite song of mine to dance to! It was “The Dog Days are Over” by Florence + the Machine (who I was introduced to by my awesome little sister), which was also in the movie Eat, Pray, Love this summer with Julia Roberts (crappy movie, but a great soundtrack!). You can listen to it here on Youtube if you want to hear it for yourself : )
One of my friends in my cluster, Tammela, also watches Танцють Всі with her host family, and we get so excited for Friday nights. At the end of class today, she pointed out that it was time for Танцють Всі and I was so pumped! Other nights I watch TV with my host family just to be sociable and get out of my room, but I don’t usually understand much. So I look forward to watching this dance show where I don’t have to know any Ukrainian to enjoy it! Tonight Танцють Всі impressed me twice—first, with the “Florence + the Machine” song, and then with Super Mario Brothers! One couple used the theme song and dressed up as Mario and the Princess, and it was hilarious. It made me think of when Heath and I were little and we used to play Super Mario Brothers on his Nintendo. Back in the good ol’ days before Playstations, when we fought over who got to be Mario and who got to be Luigi. Oh the memories : )
The last week I’ve had a little bit of free time, and I got to Skype with my Mom and Dad twice! It was so great to see their faces and talk instead of trying to find the 2 feet of space in my village where I get decent phone reception. My Dad woke Tori up too so she could say hi (the time difference means we usually talk in the early morning for them, and the late afternoon for me). I also got to see Leo and Sophie on Skype, which is fun but not as satisfying as seeing them in person because all you see is big black blobs scurrying past the camera. Dad got Leo to stand up on his back legs to say hi, but Sophie wasn’t bright enough (or dumb enough, depending on how you look at it) to let Dad help her stand up and look at the camera. I miss those big balls of fur. Mom said Sophie got her winter coat and is all soft now, and I wish she was here in Ukraine to keep me warm! Sophie gives the best hugs : ) I love Skype; it makes living abroad so much more bearable when you can see people you love at home and know for sure that everything is fine there. Talking on the phone isn’t the same as seeing them : )
This week was fall break in Kolychivka, so the students didn’t have school all week. Which meant no lesson planning for us! I knew I was going to love being a teacher! ; ) Starting next week I’ll be teaching more lessons and spending more time getting tutored in Ukrainian, so I’m glad we got a little bit of a break before then. Right now, my cluster mates and I study Ukrainian 4 hours a day together, and then each get tutored an hour on our own with the language trainer once a week. But at the end of PST (Pre-Service Training) we have a Language Proficiency Interview (LPI) that we have to score at least an “Intermediate-Mid” on, so starting next week we each get tutored for two hours in order to prepare for the LPI. Its not the end of the world if we don’t score “Intermediate-Mid;” if anyone is below this level, the Peace Corps just assigns you a tutor at your site so you can continue your language study. I want a tutor to help me study even if I pass Intermediate-Mid!
The LPI is pretty basic—each Peace Corps Trainee has an interview with a Language trainer and, based on the conversation skills the trainee demonstrates, is placed into a category. We have two mock interviews with our own language trainer as we get closer to the end of training, so I’m sure we’ll all be ready for it when the time comes. I’m surprisingly not stressed out by this : ) I guess its because I know what’s going to happen; its not something uncertain hanging over my head that I have no power to change. I know the LPI is coming, when it’s coming, and how to prepare for it (studying A LOT!). So it doesn’t really stress me out like many other things Peace Corps-related. The Peace Corps favorite word is “flexible;” every time something is done last minute or not explained at all, they just say “be flexible! It’s a core Peace Corps virtue!” and expect that to make everything okay. In my book, “flexible” is the new “f” word. But I’m trying here, that’s got to count for something, right? : )
Tomorrow morning we’re going to Nizhen for the day, and I have to leave at 7. So that means I should be in bed now instead of pondering the mysteries of the Peace Corps universe. I’ll save that for another day.
Much love to you all!