As yet another addition to the growing ‘Things I Never Thought I’d Hear Myself Say 5 Months Ago’ list, I really love McDonalds. I’m at the tail end of a weekend in Vinnitsia (our closest city) and have been surprised, albeit pleasantly, to find just how many of my needs this fast food haven has met. First and foremost, the free wifi is a nice find as last week’s fire has made my internet down for the count for an undetermined amount of time. I’m not even going to jinx it by trying to speculate what ‘undetermined’ could possibly entail, so suffice it to say the chance to check email is highly appreciated. Mickey D’s also provides a pretty good analogy of life in Ukraine. It looks almost, almost, like what I’m used to but with a few changes, some of them good. After trekking to the golden arches early enough this morning for breakfast I was a bit disappointed to find that they didn’t have the biscuit part of an Egg McMuffin (the main attraction if you ask me). I did find however that they have something called an omelette which is basically just the fluffy egg part served with an English muffin and apricot jam. So while not what I expected, I found myself really enjoying the egg + ketchup combo & never tire of the variety of fruit flavors available here. Much like life here, usually not what I anticipated but full of interesting & enjoyable surprises nonetheless. And finally and perhaps most ironically the McDonald’s bathroom is one of the cleanest I’ve seen in this whole country. Again, probably an overshare but any sign of sanitation is very appreciated here. Of course the comparison involves food which I seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about here, so I guess that fits too.
I’m here to tutor & support four of our brightest students as they compete in the regional Olympiad, kind of comparable to a spelling bee but for English language & taken very seriously. We don’t have matching warm up suits or anything but it did feel kind of similar to an athletic competition as we sat together practicing while trying to gauge the competition. The two-day extravaganza has listening, reading, writing, and speaking tests & will be the culmination of our work in tutoring for the past 2 months. There’s about 100 kids from 9-11 grade & they’re all pretty nervous but I think they’ll do well. They wanted me to tag along to tutor them during their breaks which worked out nicely for me as my wonderful friend Olha pulled strings so that I would be able to stay with Dasha (her daughter and one of my favorite students) in her aunt’s apartment complete with a clean bed, hot shower, & sushi instead of paying to stay in a dormitory sans running water. I think I’ve said it before but I continue to be blown away by the kindness shown by that family.
My trip last week was also fun & full of laughing & comisserating with my Peace Corps friends. We were able to swap pictures from our glory days in Morozivka which means that I think the world may finally be ready to see our Thriller performance. So if you need a good laugh or want to be reminded that the benefits of being 6′ tall fall flat compared to the accompanying lankiness, just click here. The trip back took an entire 12 hours as there are 5 ‘Yampil’s in Ukraine which is just bound to cause problems, but overall it was another great weekend. More on the good news front includes the revelation that I am an adept bargain shopper even in Ukraine & bought a coat yesterday that is substantially less enormous & obnoxious & was on sale 🙂 So now I’m ready for the warmer weather that is allegedly on the way as today is the first day of spring. I miss you all & hope Chicago will follow suit & bring on the warmth.