Valentine’s Day, Murder, and a Puppy

Ukrainian kids really know how to spoil their teachers, and Valentine’s Day was no exception. My desk was full of flowers, chocolates, and valentines in a variety of languages (include Ukrainian, Russian, and one in English). I was preparing for my lesson with the fifth grade, and teaching some of the munchkins how to say “Happy Valentine’s Day” in English, when my student Ihor (like the Russian name Igor, only Ukrainians pronounce the “g” as a “h”) walks in with a live, squirming present for me—a PUPPY! I always talk about dogs in example sentences in class, and Ihor decided I needed a dog of my own, so he brought me a purebred Pekingese puppy as a Valentine’s Day present. Once I got over the shock of it, I was excited and pleased. Passing around the puppy for all the kids to hold and discussing puppy names effectively derailed our English lesson, but it was hilarious and I really didn’t mind. We narrowed down a list of twenty names to six: Sharik (which means “ball”), Foontik, Barbos, Reechie, Roman (“Romchick” for short), or Bohdanchik (who could be “Beau” for short). After class I told Ihor I couldn’t take the puppy home with me right away, because I had no dog food and no place for him to sleep. I also had to think about whether I could feasibly have a pet here, given how often I travel and knowing that I’m going back to America at the end of the year. So Ihor agreed to keep him until I could make arrangements.

After school, the presents kept coming! I stopped at the post office to see if I had any mail, and a huge package was waiting with my name on it! It was from my friend Liz, who was a fellow PCV in Ukraine until November, when she finished her service and went home to California. She sent me a huge care package full of goodies, including peanut butter, Mac n’ Cheese (in prehistoric shapes, haha), Pez dispensers and candies, and even some gossip magazines from the states so I could stay in the loop. It was a lovely surprise, and I busted out the peanut butter right away : ) Thanks again Liz!

Valentine’s Day was on Tuesday, which happens to be the day I have English Club, so I planned the lesson around the valentine theme. Our warm-up was students practicing giving compliments, which was hilarious and precious at the same time, because we have a huge majority of boys at English Club and only 2 girls who attend. So these two girls got showered in compliments, and didn’t mind it at all ; ) The funniest compliments I heard were, “Nastya, I like your shiny hair” and “Pavlo, you have nice big eyes.” I also taught them some slang words (they love learning slang), such as “hottie,” “heartthrob,” and the verb phrase “to have a crush on someone.”

But the highlight of the lesson was the Bruno Mars music video, “Just The Way You Are,” which the students listened to and wrote down all the words they heard. Then we translated the unknown phrases, and everyone agreed that Bruno Mars had some smooth moves. The girls even mentioned how attractive he was, which shocked me a little, because I’ve found that usually Ukrainians are pretty racist and Bruno Mars has definitely got some chocolate to his skin tone. But I agreed that he was a “hottie” and the girls giggled. I love my English Club kids 🙂

Here’s the Bruno Mars video so you can see for yourself what positive parts of American culture I’m sharing over here in Ukraine… haha.

Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day ended on a very bad note. I’m reluctant to even share it here, but I’d really like to request prayers (or even just positive thoughts if you’re not the praying type) for one of my students, Ira. Her mother was killed last night, and they found her body this morning in a snow drift outside of school. Sokyriany is a tiny town where murders don’t really happen, so they even had to call in police from the nearest city (3 hours away) to handle the investigation. The good news is that they already caught the murderer—it turned out to be the boyfriend she was living with, who was enraged that she was trying to leave him. He confessed when he was arrested, so its good to know he’ll be brought to justice and there’s no murderer wandering our streets. But the really terrible, heartbreaking news is that Ira, who is 12 years old and in my 8th grade, is now an orphan. She has no other family members living in our town, and we’re not really sure who she’ll end up living with, or if she’ll even get to stay in Sokyriany. So please, please keep her in your thoughts and prayers, I’m sure today was the worst day of her life and its not going to be any easier when she wakes up tomorrow.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading my friends.


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