Shortly after Easter, I had another visitor in Sokyriany… my boss, Roman! He was coming to my tiny town to oversee the end of my site-mate Rachel’s service. She’s finished with Peace Corps this month and going back to the US, so he came to talk to her director and help her close her service. Soon I will be the only Peace Corps Volunteer in Sokyriany, and I’m looking forward to that day!
Roman also stopped by my apartment to make sure it was up to Peace Corps standards of safety and such. He approved, but unfortunately I’m moving later this month, so his approval doesn’t count for much. When my landlord picked up the rent money last month, he told me that he wanted to start renovating my apartment in May so he could sell it this summer. So I need to move by the end of April, which means I’m currently on a house-hunt. We haven’t found anything yet, but my friend Olha is looking, as well as the teachers at my school. The teachers suggested an apartment near school where one of my students lives—she lives alone because her parents live in the next village over, and her mother wants me to move in, not only for rent money, but so I can serve in a sort of supervisory capacity. Thanks but no thanks, I’ll keep looking : )
Roman’s visit also included a discussion of my current projects as well as future goals I want to accomplish before the end of my Peace Corps service. I told him about an English seminar I have planned at my school in early May, and also about the grant that is currently in the works, provided I can find all the funding we need ($1700 to go, click on the Donate tab if you want to help us meet this goal!). He asked me if I have any plans for life after Peace Corps, and if I would consider staying in Ukraine and extending my service another year. I told him I hadn’t seriously considered staying, but that I had no definite plans for next year either. I promised to keep the option in mind, but I’m pretty sure (90%) that the end of 2012 will find me in America. I guess we’ll see!
After Roman left, I had a few more days of teaching to get through before the weekend came and I could go to Chernivtsi to meet Mark. He had been visiting friends in Odessa, but decided to come back to Sokyriany for his last few days in Ukraine before his flight back to the UK. I guess he didn’t get enough of Sokyriany the first time ; ) His first visit definitely inspired some whispers and rumors (maybe now the teachers will stop asking me if I’m getting engaged to Slavic!), but on the second visit people were flat out asking me if he was my boyfriend or husband. Ukrainians aren’t always subtle, and the funny thing was that it was complete strangers who were asking—like the cashier in the grocery store or the secretary at school. But I like that Ukrainians tell you what they’re thinking—in the US, people talk about things behind your back. In Ukraine, people tell you to your face, even if its something that’s not very appropriate to say (like if the guy standing next to you is your husband, if you look a little fat, or if you really need to wear some lipstick).
For Mark’s second visit, the weather finally started cooperating and springtime Sokyriany is quite beautiful. I took him to the ravine and showed him our fresh water spring, and also to the prison where we have a lovely little pond that is perfect for picnic-ing. We actually saw some people there who had the same idea, and invited us over to have a beer with them. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this quality before, but generally speaking, Ukrainians are very generous with their food. I wonder if its because historically Ukrainians have known hunger (think the Great Famine in the ’30s) or if generosity is just a positive national trait. But it seems like all Ukrainians are constantly offering to share their food. On trains, for example, people offer to share their food with anyone in the vicinity and can sometimes be offended if you decline.
Mark brought his camera along on my tour of Sokyriany, and he’s quite an incredible photographer. Looking through his pictures, I was struck by how beautiful rural Ukraine really is. Sometimes I complain about living in the boonies, but really, Sokyriany is a beautiful place. It’s a great place for a walk in the nature, as Ukrainians would say! (Or at least, as our Ukrainian textbooks for English would say.) Here, see for yourself.
Sunset on Sokyriany from the roof of the House of Culture
The Jewish Cemetery on the outskirts of town, on the way to the pond/prison.
Our pond (Став), which is located right next to the prison.
The cows were having a picnic of their own at the pond ; )
Perhaps my favourite (the British spelling, of course) shot of the pond.
Another highlight from Mark’s visit was English Club, where we talked about stereotypes. Perhaps you’ve noticed the stereotypes I’ve mentioned about Ukrainians in this blog post (they’re generous with food, they’re quite blunt, they like to gossip, haha), but others I’ve blogged about before include Ukrainian men always being drunk, Ukrainian women loving fashion and always dressing a little provocatively, and Ukrainian babushkas always wearing tons of clothes and claiming you’ll get sick on the bus if there’s a breeze when its 90 degree weather. In English Club, we talked about stereotypes by explaining the ones Americans think about the British and vise versus. For example, Mark said British stereotypes of Americans are that Americans are ignorant, love guns, and drive everywhere. I said Americans think Brits are snobby and wear crazy hats to official functions (You know the ones I’m talking about, the fascinators!).
We encouraged the students to think about what stereotypes they hold, and the answers were entertaining (all Russian men are drunks! Americans are always under-dressed! Moldovans are stupid!). We tried to explain why stereotypes can’t speak for all members of a race or ethnicity, and asked them what stereotypes about Ukrainians they find the most erroneous or would like to change. As for me, I’d like to change the stereotype that all Americans are ignorant. That one stings the most, especially as most of the Americans I know drive everywhere (America is too big to walk! Public transportation is hard to come by!) and some Americans I know are pretty big on guns ; ) But as for ignorance, that’s complete bollocks.
Speaking of which, I learned lots of British slang from Mark’s visit, and I can say that I’ve definitely expanded my vocabulary to include such words as dodgy, snogging, wanker, bugger, twat, and other such colorful expressions. Mark also introduced me to the joys of British entertainment, with funny TV shows such as The In-Betweeners, Only Fools & Horses, and Coupling (the British equivalent of Friends). The British sense of humor is indeed unique, but I’m growing to appreciate it ; )
After Mark left, I realized I hadn’t done much except enjoy his company while he was in Sokyriany. But the day after he left, my apartment hunt finally proved fruitful. My school director’s sister showed me an apartment she wanted to rent out, which is conveniently located on the same block as my school! Its a little bit smaller than my current place, but it has a nice kitchen, a beautiful balcony, and hot water in the shower, so I have no complaints about it! I need to move by the end of April, so I guess that’s the next big project on my list. This will be my 5th move in two years, and I’m hoping its my last.
That’s all for now, cheerio! : P