The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, June 10, 2013

One Last Time

Howdy, folks. This has taken me long enough, hasn't it? How do you sum up over two years? Easy: you don't, and you give up all expectation of being able to. I've been back stateside for about six months now and I still don't really know to answer people's questions sometimes. I had a friend tell me that I'll be processing my time abroad for years to come, and I think she might be right.

And what have I been doing in all that time since I've been back? Well... a whole lot of everything ordinary, plus a huge heaping of looking for full-time employment (or part-time, I'm not picky at this point). I have been reveling in hot showers, the ability to run without being stared at or chased by little dogs, not being stared at in general, the ease of using my native language, being close to my family, fast/working internet, and an abundance of fresh produce, though there are pieces of Ukraine I miss and think about.

Packing up and leaving was stressful in its own ways, but mostly it wasn't too bad. I managed to drag my 50lb frame pack, regular backpack, fire extinguisher, space heater, and a very heavy and unexpected bag of food from one of my English teachers all the way to Kyiv, and once I got there life was easy. I said goodbye to everyone I wanted to, and my school gave me some very thoughtful and traditional Ukrainian gifts, like an embroidered cloth, a Russian/English history book, CDs with photos, a photo album, candies, a bottle of vodka, cards, and one of those beautifully painted decorative cutting boards. I made some banana bread and brought it in for my teachers to enjoy with their lunch time tea, and ended up having tea and a wonderful conversation with many of them on my last day. There was also a little presentation in front of the entire student body with my Director and one of my English teachers thanking me for my service. In true Ukrainian fashion, I had no advance warning and had to come up with an impromptu speech in Ukrainian to tell them all how much I loved working with them and getting to share in their lives for a short period of time. Regardless, it was a really sweet and thoughtful ending to my time in my community. I also had a couple students cry, which was a little bit heartbreaking but I left them all with my email address and I've been lucky enough to hear from a few of the ones who have access to internet.

My dedicated Ukrainian corner. And yes, I bought those nesting dolls because a little cat and chick pop out at the end.

The past six months have felt like limbo where I've been trying to work out my next move, and finally I'm moving on to something else. I'm going to be spending the summer interning at a family member's law firm, and I'm excited to have something to do and expand my brain and learn new things and explore new places.

I've been debating what to do with this blog - to let it rest or continue blogging about whatever happens next or shut it down - and I've decided to let it stand as is. I like the idea of my Peace Corps service having a dedicated little space of its own, like its own little chapter of my life, where I can look back on it or new people can discover it for themselves.

Thank you for reading, and taking part in this adventure with me.

Signing off, with love.

Friday, November 30, 2012

International Volunteer Day

This isn't anything super exciting, but I don't get snail mail that often. So when I got some from the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Senate, I was excited and intrigued. As it turned out, they were congratulating me on being a volunteer in the Dnipropetrovsk region for International Volunteer Day!

I thought it was cool, especially since I'm not sure how often thank-you cards are given in Ukraine.

The outside

The inside

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Final Two Weeks of School - DUN DUN DUN

December 7 will be my last day at my school, which means I officially only have two more weeks, or ten days, left of teaching.

Say whaaaat!

I have a tentative exit plan, which mostly involves me putting all the materials I've handmade over the past two years and extra exercises into chronologically arranged folders for each class and making them look pretty. I also need to buy some small gifts to give to my English teachers as a thank you for letting me work there (I've already done this for one of them).

This is one of the ways I teach vocabulary. I was pretty proud of myself for that pitcher of water.

I have some small paperwork items to be completed for Peace Corps, but these will be fairly simple.

One of my English teachers will be at re-certification courses for these next two weeks, so guess what that means: I'll be solo teaching her classes! Exciting, right? Yes? No? Maybe? One of those classes is the tenth form, and they're fairly unambitious so while I'm not looking forward to it, it shouldn't be too bad. The other class is the third form, and this is the one I'm most worried about. They're a large class, they're young and energetic, and they need very specific, detailed instructions in Ukrainian to understand what to do. Their lesson could either be a little rough but fun, or pure mayhem. Then I remind myself that the worst that could happen is they go bananas and yell and scream and run around for 45 minutes, and I stop worrying so much.

Anecdote of the week: I told my counterpart teacher when my last day of school would be, and she said okay and then started rambling on about how I've done good work or something. Except, I don't remember exactly what she said because I was too mesmerized by THE HUGE SMILE ON HER FACE. I can't really do anything but laugh about her inability to keep her true emotions off her face.

And in between now and my last day of school, another glorious event will be happening: Luba's (my landlady) birthday! I'm always happy about chances to celebrate her wonderfulness.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

This is All Over the Place

I'm just going to start chronologically with this post, because it's all over the place. So, to start:

 An autumn sunset

Right before I came home, I went to my close of service conference. This was mostly a bunch of information about how to officially close out my service and the work at my site, with some extra bonuses of resume writing and slideshows. Oh, and the hotel where it was held was on top of a nuclear bomb shelter!

Luxurious, no?

 I took this mostly because I think it's very considerate to have an actual toilet in the bomb shelter, even if it doesn't have a seat, rather than one of those squat toilets they seem to prefer for daily use

 Should you not feel like walking through doorways, you can just crawl through these

 Ventilation system

 Random crap near plank beds

 Only the best bomb shelters have a ping pong table!

The following picture I took while riding a train home one evening. There's usually also a sign that has a bottle that's crossed out that I presume means you're not supposed to drink, but, come on - no one follows that rule. I'm not really sure what these signs are supposed to mean: are you supposed to throw your counterfeit bottles out the window? Are you supposed to stand and look wistfully out the window? Are you supposed to throw your counterfeit bottles out the window and then watch them tumble away to rest with the multitude of other discarded bottles? 'Tis a mystery.

I've had some people in my life say some rather funny things lately, such as:

"Well, you should get a boyfriend so he can take you on a tropical island trip too."

"Well, I hope you enjoy your last month of teaching. Because, wow, you're really only here one more month." Which made me realize, wow, I am only in my village for one more month. Weeeeeird.

I had one of my classes where a number of boys decided to say multiple variations of the eff word one day. First, this makes it quite clear that they have the brain capacity and ability to remember (bad) English words that they've heard in movies or songs, so it's mostly their lack of ambition to blame for their poor command of English. Second, the teacher part of me wants to be like, "You're not even saying it correctly! You say it like this! [Expletive!]."

Shannon came to visit me during our fall break, where we proceeded to do our normal routine of lounging, eating, and watching American television. We also went to Dnipropetrovsk one day specifically to find the T.G.I.Friday's there and eat a lot. Which is exactly what we did. Here's the evidence:

This is actually only the appetizers, but we were too distracted by its deliciousness to remember to take pictures of each course

And just to round things out, here's the obligatory picture of the kitty, with a particularly salty expression on his face.

Friday, October 19, 2012

You Know You're Bored When...

Oh, the glory of being back in Ukraine! Oh, wait. Just kidding. Kind of.

I returned to teaching this week after being in the states for almost two weeks (it goes without saying that this was a glorious period of time). Unfortunately, I've also gone back to being incredibly bored on a daily basis. So bored that I decided to do more intense cleaning, only to remember that I did most of that before I left for the states so there's not really a lot to do now (when I came back to my house, I actually thought my landlady had come in and cleaned while I was gone until I remembered: no, I did all that). Last night, I killed some time reluctantly painting my nails and taking a shower I didn't really need. Today, I was slightly crestfallen that two of my classes had been canceled because it meant I'd spend even longer sitting in my house, doing nothing. I AM NEVER CRESTFALLEN ABOUT CANCELED CLASSES.

Clearly, I am ill.

So I've spent most of the day on the internet, searching out job information that probably won't be relevant by the time I get back to the states for keeps. In general, I've been cooking a lot more that is usual for me, playing word games on my kindle, napping on the days I get out of school relatively early, reading articles (like this gem of life advice), writing snail mail cards, attempting to load a 10-minute youtube video (and after three days of effort, I succeeded!), planning lessons, and watching re-runs of tv shows on my external. 

I've been back in Ukraine for less than a week...

It's hard for my mind to not automatically calculate how much time is left until I leave Ukraine in mid-December when I ask my students every morning what the date is. Snap - the math is done. This is not actually how I want to spend my remaining time here. I'm all for the future and returning to the states, but I'd like to still be mentally present for this last little bit. This is proving difficult as my mind mostly wants to crawl out of my skull and flop around on my carpet from lack of stimulation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hammock Time

To any future volunteers heading to Ukraine who may happen to read this,

Bring one of those wonderfully compact camping hammocks with you. I curse myself every time there's delightfully warm and sunny weather here (yes, we are still intermittently having it!) and all I want to do is lay out in the sun and nap. It's the only item that I regret not bringing with me.

On a semi-related note, my landlady told me today that this last bit of warm weather we're having is called baboosny/babushky (grandmother) summer.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

шкільні новини/School News

My school has finally printed up the official schedule, though one of my English teachers keeps rearranging one of her classes. Otherwise, school is in full swing and since it's now almost the end of the third week of classes, my students have resumed their normal "I don't wanna!" attitudes. Some days are surprisingly easy, others surprising frustrating and defeating. It's always a toss-up.

Thankfully, I have things to look forward to that help break up the times I have to teach with the times I don't. Mid next week I have my close of service conference in Chernihiv, and I'm heading to Kyiv a day early to hang out with Shannon. After the conference finishes, John, Jordan, Shannon and I are renting an apartment in Kyiv to spend the weekend together. Then, on Monday I'll be flying out of Kyiv and heading home to Ohio! I'll have almost two weeks of family, friends, and yummy American food before coming back to Ukraine.

After that, it's just a matter of time before December rolls around and I officially close out my service.