I’ve fallen terribly behind on blogging, so for the first two weeks of April I’m just going to give you the highlights (and a few low-lights) to give you a sense of how the month went.
- Upon my return from Cairo, the airline lost my bag AGAIN so I was bag-less in Kiev for a day. This wouldn’t have been the end of the world except for the huge temperature difference between Cairo and Kiev. When I left Cairo, it was 75 degrees outside. When I arrived in Kiev, it was 35 degrees and drizzling, which became snow as the temperature dropped. I could’ve really used some warmer clothes, but alas, they were in my lost bag. Moral of the story: don’t fly the budget airline and expect decent service. The Russian airline “Aeroflot” now has a new nickname in my book—AeroFLOP.
- I spent three days in Kiev for some quality time with the Peace Corps doctors for a little thing we call “Mid-Service Medical”—a medical checkup done for all volunteers halfway through their service. My halfway point was January, but I put off the doctor as long as possible. I finally got an email requesting my presence, so I scheduled my appointments around my return from Cairo, when I knew I would be in Kiev anyways. So I spent three days getting checked out, which included a sand-blasting for my teeth (with a dentist who spoke no English), a TB test, a physical, and some other not-so-lovely appointments that you don’t need to know about. The Peace Corps doctors are good, and by day three I was finished and pronounced “TB free,” thank God : )
- I had lots of down-time in Kiev when I wasn’t at the doctor, some of which I spent hanging out with my British friend Mark, who was in Ukraine on vacation after finishing a job teaching English in Moscow. He knows Kiev really well, and showed me lots of places I’d never been before. I’ve only been in Kiev for brief periods of time, usually work-related, so I’ve never really explored it like a tourist. Kiev is better than I gave it credit for! I also invited Mark to visit Sokyriany and see my life in the boonies, and he bought a ticket to come! Yay for company!
- My dear friend Tammela had a special guest visiting her in Ukraine as well, and she invited us to lunch in Chernivtsi at our favorite restaurant to meet him. So on a cold and rainy spring day in Chernivtsi, me, Mark, and all of my favorite PC friends gathered at Efes to meet Fabian, Tam’s German boyfriend. All I’ve got to say about that is I approve : ) They’re pretty adorable together, and I’m glad I got to meet the guy who’s making my friend so happy!
- This same cold and rainy day, Mark and I took a bus that didn’t go all the way to Sokyriany, so we ended up walking down the highway and hitch-hiking. As we were walking my phone rang, and it turned out to be my parents calling from America to wish me a happy Easter. I honestly didn’t know it was Easter—in Ukraine, most people are Orthodox, and Easter on the Orthodox calendar was still another week away. This was definitely a day when life in America seemed incredibly far-removed.
- This same cold day turned into an even colder night, complete with a SNOW STORM. I kid you not, April 8th and we’re still getting snow? So much for spring.
- Mark came to all my lessons, where he was loved equally by my students and fellow English teachers. In fact, I would dare say that he was loved more by the teachers, who were in awe of his British accent. I’m pretty sure if they could’ve arranged a trade (him for me), they would have made it! One of the English teachers, Marina, who has made no secret of her love for British English (and conversely, her dislike of the American accent), even invited Mark to be a guest speaker in one of her classes. I’ve been here a year and a half and I’ve never had that honor! English Club had exceptionally high attendance, and we spent half the hour asking Mark questions about his life in Britain. In Ukraine, the curriculum is based on British English, and the topic of British customs and traditions figures in prominently to every textbook. So for my kids, talking to Mark was a real treat. His presence even launched an autograph trend, which made me laugh when my kids asked for my signature as well. They see me every day, but suddenly getting the foreigners’ autograph was the cool thing to do : P
- In the midst of Mark’s visit, the teachers at my school were notified that the regional Board of Education would be coming to evaluate our school. Stress levels rocketed, as the teachers updated the class journals, planned incredibly complex lessons, and demanded that the children correct the errors in their notebooks. My counterpart planned a lesson about tea-time in Great Britain, which ended up being a lesson mostly taught by Mark and myself. The woman who came to evaluate the English program was actually someone who I’d already met, at the English Olympiad in Chernivtsi a few months ago. Her name is Svetlana, and she loves Peace Corps Volunteers, so she was happy to be sitting in on my lesson. Plus there was Mark, speaking beautifully proper British English and teaching the kiddos how to make tea like a true Brit—the lesson was bound to be a success ; ) Our lesson included a Powerpoint presentation, teaching the song “I’m A Little Tea-Pot,” and even tea and biscuits for all the kids! Needless to say, Svetlana loved it and our English department got a great review. No matter that our normal lessons never involve forethought or this level of complexity (in fact, we rarely lesson plan)—we looked good for the Board of Education, which is all that matters.
So there you have it. After an incredible week in Egypt and a few days in Kiev, I’m back in the saddle in Sokyriany, teaching again and enjoying the daily adventure that is life in Ukraine. I hope all is well where you are, thanks for reading!