Monday, October 5, 2009
Every day is definitely NOT like the one before. I thought the Beauty & the Beast intro was appropriate because I catch myself feeling like Belle sometimes as I stroll down the dirt path to my teacher’s apartment, or visit the cellar with mounds of potatoes and canned food for winter, or feed the chickens w/ corn from the backyard plot, or see people leading cattle down the sole semi-paved road in town. It’s so fun. My house has not one but three cherry trees and huge mason jars of compotes (fruit, sugar & water) so I have delicious fresh cherry juice at my beckon call. The quantity of food is a little overwhelming especially because my host family eats separately since they’re not vegetarian, so dinner consists of everyone sitting at the table to keep me company/encourage me to eat more & more. Between the pressure & the abundant chocolate I think I’ll be fat enough to handle the Ukrainian winter in no time.
My needs are definitely more than met which is pretty remarkable considering a good monthly salary in Morozivka is $200. Both of the parents in this family work outside the home so the farm is run completely out of their free time & makes shopping trips minimal since we can get most everything we need just outside. Their resourcefulness is pretty cool & a remnant from the Soviet Era when whole stores could literally only have 2 items on the shelves sometimes so subsistence farming was a necessity. The affects of that period of history are still very apparent here. For instance, trust was an issue back then so the national culture places an emphasis on forming close bonds w/ their inner circle & not really anyone else. During our first few days here this was a little discouraging because a lot of the time it equated to us smiling at strangers and having them scowl back at us. They warmed up to the crazy Americans though & now they return our ‘добрий день’s (hello’s) & often introduce themselves so I think we’re going to make it.
A few days ago I might have thought otherwise. I’m blessed with an incredible life full of amazing people stateside, so the whole transition to the unknown here was ridiculously difficult. Already prone to tears, I managed to be the girl who regularly broke down in the middle of 4 hour language classes and was forced to learn the Ukrainian word for ‘baby’ so I could adequately explain to my host family that it wasn’t their fault that I was upset. We were finally able to buy cell phones on Saturday though & I think feeling connected is half the battle. I write this now sipping real hot cocoa as our little kitten, Elsa, is purring in my lap, so life is good.
It’s hard to sum up the past week since it all still seems so strange and alien. We basically have 4 hours of intense language class in the morning & feel like we’re mastering it & then go home & try to converse w/ our families & realize we know nothing. With that in mind we’re pretty motivated to learn & spend most of the time at home studying & doing homework. We also have technical training on the Ukrainian educational system that we’ll be working with & attend civic events here (meeting w/ the mayor, school superintendent, ect.). We take the train to the neighboring town on Saturdays for more training & hopefully it will pay off because we start observations this week & student teaching next week…yikes.
My group mates are wonderful; we’re all really different but given the situation we’ve kind of been forced to be ourselves right from the get-go & it’s extremely comforting to share the experience with people who know how truly bizarre it is. Aside from hanging out w/ them and my temporary family, my favorite Morozivka moment so far was this past Saturday when I got lost walking back from my friend’s house in the dark (not allowed) w/out a cell phone and had to ask a few preteen boys for help getting home. Not an easy task when the only words I knew were my host sisters’ first names & ages. Whoops. They managed to lead me (crying of course as I wandered up to them) awkwardly back to my friend’s house while one of them played ‘In Da Club’ on his cell phone and told me it was a song by Piatdecet Kopeks…a literal translation of Fifty Cents. Only in Ukraine.