Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I would just like to start out by informing you all that I am writing this post squeaky clean after my first ever bucket bath. It really wasn’t bad at all, but after years of savoring 20 minute hot showers I can now officially say that I don’t regret a single minute of them. I’m still contemplating donning a bathing suit & recording the whole process to use as future refutation on camping trips when someone calls me prissy. I realize that was a random way to start a post but I find it fairly indicative of my past few days here & the myriad of new experiences that characterize life in Ukraine.
Sunday night, Monday & this morning were spent at our Arrival Retreat in an area outside of Chernihiv that looked a lot like Wisconsin to me. Our days were blocked into information sessions, a safety presentation by the US Ambassador, doctor’s appointments & our first language lesson together as a cluster (the group of 5 trainees that will live in the same town during our 3 months of training). We found out late last night that we’d be going to Morozivka, a town of 3,000 that’s about an hour outside of Kyiv, to stay with separate host families & as of 6pm tonight we were all moved in.
My host family is adorable & includes a dad, mom, 16 year old daughter, 14 year old daughter, dogs, cats, birds, and chickens. That’s right, I’m living on a quasi-farm. Their house is really nice & comfortable & everyone has their own rooms but I think they converted their living/family room into my room. Unfortunately I know such scant Ukrainian that I can’t effectively communicate that it’s unnecessary or suggest switching arrangements. Hopefully I’ll be able to ask my language teacher Anton if it would be appropriate/how to say that tomorrow during our 5 hours of class. I unpacked everything & spent the rest of the night trying to say ‘No thank you, I’m really full, I promise’ as my house mother kept putting plates of fresh fruit, soup & pasta in front of me. She was really great about the whole vegetarian thing which was a big relief especially as I saw the live chickens outside when we pulled up. The abundance & color of dinner was also a nice change from the arrival retreat where the vegetarian options typically involved a boiled egg & cubed potatoes with a bowl of salt on the side…can you say white? The chocolate however, I seldom refuse.
I guess I’d summarize the trip so far by feelings of uncertainty & hospitality. I don’t know nearly enough Ukrainian to communicate with my host family but instead of giving up on me they sit smiling & trying anyways. I don’t know if I’m doing anything that they’re asking me but they don’t show any indication of what I’m sure are my idiotic mistakes. I have no idea where I’ll be spending my 2 years of teaching but so far everyone has been nice so I think any region would be OK. It’s incredibly overwhelming & without access to cell phones until potentially Saturday I’m still feeling the pangs of homesickness. The country director encouraged us to use the 10 day rule (don’t leave unless you want to for 10 days in a row) & I think that’s going to prove useful due to the intensity of each extreme; when I’m feeling confident I completely see the value of the adventure, when I’m not a direct helicopter couldn’t get me home fast enough.
In order to end on a good note, I learned that my full name in Ukrainian is Елі Кук so I went from 8 to 6 letters & my last name is officially a palindrome. Score.