That’s how I start pretty much every lesson. This desperate plea is not because the kids have too much energy & too little interest in chairs &/or English but rather because they’ll patiently stand there looking at me until I grant them permission to sit. Talk about potential for a power trip. While a consistent phenomenon, it’s one that I tend to forget & never cease to be surprised when I look up from organizing my notes before class to see them all waiting & at attention. 45 minutes after I persuade them to sit they all file out of the classroom with a “Thank you for the lesson Miss Alei”, that is if they’re not helping me erase the board without being asked. I’m afraid the complete & total absence of behavioral issues may have something to do with me being a novelty right now & will gradually wear off, but for the time being I’ll relish the fact that the only reprimand necessary is ‘One at a time please’ as they all grapple to prove to me that they know the answer to whatever I’ve just asked. So in other words, school is going well. I can’t imagine why we didn’t start right when we got to site because being busy & feeling like I’m actually contributing has made all the difference. I teach 18 lessons a week with 5th, 8th, 9th, & 10th formers (comparable to 6th, 9th, 10th, & 11th graders), have 3 English clubs, & do individual tutoring 6 hours a week so my weekdays are pretty full, but they coordinated my schedule to have Mondays off so I can take long weekends to visit my friends & have plenty of time to relax as well. I’m at a specialized language school so the kids are really motivated & none of my classes have more than 14 students (most of them have 8). They’re really cute & provide a myriad of funny moments. My favorites so far were when a little 1st former shouted ‘I love you!’ during our lesson on American Holidays (Valentine’s Day of course) at the English club for younger students & the other 40 kids in the auditorium followed suit with their romantic professions which was closely followed by the time when an 8th former was trying to say ‘3 sheets/pieces of paper’ but instead proudly exclaimed ‘3 pieces of sh*t’. I didn’t even try to explain why I was laughing at that one.
So apparently the lesson here is downer posts like the last one make all subsequent events seem excessively wonderful in comparison. I’ll go with it, as now my internet is back up & running & the ice death-traps have been covered by inches of fluffy snow. I think the trip to Kyiv was just what I needed as it consisted of 5 seconds of getting a shot, a whole day of exploring the city with my friend Melissa in search of peanut butter & Tom Kha soup (success!), a hot shower, and a full 8 hours of sleep on an American mattress (I’d forgotten how nice it was to lie on something that wasn’t a couch). I’m a huge fan of Disneyworld, but between the water pressure & ample library collection I think the PC office might just be my ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ for the next two years. It was also refreshing to be able to navigate around with a semblance of competency as most everything had corresponding signs (a rarity here) & I was mistaken for a Pole after talking with some people on the train…not a Ukrainian but a step in the right direction nonetheless.
I got back from my trip on Wednesday night & spent the evening preparing for my first day of school on Thursday. I started the morning with a cup of real (not instant) coffee thanks to the generous input from one of my favorite teachers at school (Olha) & had just finished saying my prayers when I heard a knock at the door. It was a bit strange to see four little boys standing there at 6 in the morning but not nearly as strange as what happened next. Part of the holiday traditions here include kids going door to door singing carols for money, so when the boys asked me something in Ukrainian I assumed it was along the lines of “May we sing?”. I realized just how sorely mistaken I was though when they started chanting something and pelting my foyer & I with rice. They were pretty calm about it & seemed surprised by response – laughing my head off – so I assume it wasn’t done maliciously & I gave them pieces of candy, sent them on their way & then proceeded to try to clean up the mess. Luckily it wasn’t cooked rice as I’m quite sure the task would have been more that my dinky little broom could have handled.
Aside from that, things have pretty much been business as usual. No real moments of self-realization other than I now know that I can get by on a diet of mostly cabbage as long as I have a variety of sauces & spices to liven it up & chocolate to wash it down. I also discovered that contrary to popular belief (a.k.a. slight arachnophobia) I can coexist with the 3 daddy-long legs that live in my apartment. Granted, I know where they are at all times and would probably lose my resolve & squash them if they started creeping towards me, but still…baby steps. The only other big adjustment as of late is coming to terms with living under a microscope. I found out just how strong the lens is when I was tutoring an 11th former last week. For a little background, when I was getting off the bus from Kyiv I heard something hit the floor & realized that it was probably my cell phone so I waited for everyone to get off & then went back on, saw it on the floor, picked it up unscathed, said ‘Goodnight’ to the one other woman on the bus, and set out on my way. The whole incident took maybe 30 seconds. Imagine my surprise then when after telling Looda (the 11th former) that I imagine people here probably think I’m crazy after I laughed aloud for a good 30 seconds to myself when I completely wiped out & sent my water bottles flying on my way to the well one day, she said “I didn’t hear anything about that, but I did hear that you dropped your phone”. Even my trash is not safe as my land lady essentially goes through my garbage when she burns it in my furnace every night (if only I knew the Ukrainian word for ‘carcinogen’). I do however, brush my teeth with cherry toothpaste every day so I guess I’ll have to take the good with the bad 🙂