Faith, Hope, and Love Remain

Alei's adventures in Ukraine

A Volunteer Valentine February 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — aleicook @ 3:24 pm

Happy Valentine’s Day 🙂  I’ve developed a slight phobia of holidays as they seem to have potential to increase the homesickness factor, but luckily I think it’s just another unfounded fear because  all is well.  The kiddos gave me all sorts of cards with various creative ways of spelling my name (Alie, Elly, ect).

We do celebrate the holiday here but it’s called the Day of St.Valentine.  I learned all about the namesake in a lesson I taught to my 5th graders.  Due to the very blunt translation the story a little 11 year old read sounded something to the effect of ‘A long time ago the Emperor would not let people get married because he wanted men for his army.  Valentine was a kind priest who performed marriages in secret.  The emperor found out and killed St. Valentine’.  How’s that for mushy?  While nowhere near that depressing, I must say that my mood is pretty unsentimental as well.  As far as I can tell everyone my age here is already married so I think I’m embarking on a 2 year hiatus from dating which is actually pretty OK with me.  There’s quite a bit I like about life as a bachelorette- I can blast Taylor Swift, 80’s music, Disney or any other guilty pleasure & sing along without abandon, I spend absolutely zero effort on looking cute, I drink milk & juice right from the box (yes, box), & I’ve spent over 4 months without hearing anyone burp.  So no sappy chick flicks or desperate pleas to Cupid for me today.  I’ll probably eat too much chocolate but sadly that’s become the norm has nothing to with Valentine’s Day.   I’ll also take a break from my romantic plans with Liz Lemon & Tracy Jordan (yes, the TV marathons are still going strong)  to update you on the past few weeks.

Pretty much business as usual.  School keeps me very busy Tuesday through Friday & then my long weekends are full of rest, relaxation, & random ways of filling my time.  Last weekend I invited all of the English teachers over for tea at my apartment.  I’m sans oven so my go-to recipe when I need to be hospitable is the chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookie.  I don’t think it’s quite the same without peanut butter but it’s usually a pretty big hit so I made those & some rum balls which quickly morphed into cognac balls when I discovered that we don’t have rum or brandy here.  I think they tasted pretty much akin to taking a shot but the teachers liked them & I was able to convince them to take the extras home by handing out plastic ‘doggie’ bags  (they’re suckers for English idioms).  They’re all very cute & it was nice to laugh with them outside of school.  I showed them the Exercise TV website & now there’s talk of starting Yampil’s first weekly yoga lesson together.  Can you say Kodak moment?

I was also pleasantly surprised this week to learn that my host mom & sister had planned a visit.  They bought their tickets on Thursday in hopes of spending the weekend in my neck of the woods.  I prepared accordingly by buying potatoes for the first time & had great schemes of turning the tables in the grand tradition of force feeding.  Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate- the temperature has been fluctuating between above & below freezing but the precipitation has been consistent leaving the roads pretty treacherous so we had to take a rain/snow/sleet check.  It was still really nice to know that they were willing to make the trek out here though & gave me a good excuse to clean my apartment.  I also finally personalized my space a bit.  I stuck to my signature style (an explosion of pictures taped everywhere) which is so middle school, but I really wanted reminders of great people and memories from home more than any sort of attempt at classy decor.  So now I look like a proud babusia with pictures plastered all over my refrigerator & elsewhere. It’s working too, I can’t help but smile when I see a snapshot of you all, Hello Dave, my fabulous birthday cupcakes, or anything involving Chicago.  Here’s some proof and an opportunity for a Where’s Waldo type search for finding yourself.

In all honesty I’ve been feeling a little cabin feverish as of late, but every time I start to feel lonesome almost immediately something reminds me that I’m in good company.  Last week I fought the blues by going to the well where the faucet was not working much to the dismay of a little old woman who was trying to fix it.  I employed the old ‘lefty loosey’ tactic which apparently is universal because it worked & she flipped out & started talking rapid-fire to me in Russian.  We spoke for a few minutes & she completely encouraged me by being adorable in general & saying she had never seen an ‘Amerikanka’ before & was so happy to have met me.  It turns out she’s a friend of Totya Lucia who said last night that she wished she spoke English so I could have more people to talk to.  Then again today I wasn’t looking forward to my empty schedule but on my trip to the bazaar was treated to a beautiful soft snow that looked like the glisteny fake kind on Christmas decorations, was able to find & treat myself to decaf coffee, was excitedly greeted by a 2nd grader from my English club & subsequently dragged into the store where his mom works for an introduction & then was greeted by name & complimented on my knowledge of Ukrainian language & currency identification by my friend at the produce stand where I always buy bananas.  Much better already.

In closing, here’s a photographic trifecta of my life as a Ukrainian.

  1. The miniature broom a.k.a. my vacuum cleaner
  2. The mesh turtleneck I’m sporting
  3. The confused but amused expression that I wear 95% of the time

Have a lovely Valentine’s Day!


5 Responses to “A Volunteer Valentine”

  1. tricia klein Says:

    HAPPY VALENTINE”S DAY ALEI!! Whats the purpose of a mesh turtleneck? It was nice to hear your voice you sound great. Hope the host family can come for a visit soon. I am sure they miss you
    Mrs Klein

    • aleicook Says:

      Hi Mrs. Klein,

      Thanks so much for your call and donation to my Ukrainian chocolate fund. Very appreciated indeed. The mesh concept threw me at first too but I hate to admit it actually makes a big difference. Think wearing tights but for your arms.

      I hope you had a good holiday too 🙂


  2. Maya Says:

    Hilarious as always. You need to be a writer! I love you and I am thinking/praying about/for you! I miss you lots and I am super proud of you!

  3. Mom Says:

    At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, your arm is thinner than the broomette handle…buy nuts missy. I don’t like thinking of you whittling away to nothing in the Ukraine. Seriously, EAT something other than broth/borscht. I am cranky about that… I’m glad to hear that your language is coming along, I thought you were worried about backsliding and it sounds like you are not at all. The pictures look great. Can’t wait to see you, just a few more months:-)
    Love you dearly,

    • aleicook Says:

      Hi Mom,

      At least your aware that you’re being an alarmist. I guess that counts for something even though your concern is completely unwarranted and I have the tight pants to prove it. I can’t wait to see you either 🙂 I’ve been telling everyone so you better start brushing up on your Ukrainian.

      Love & miss you як завжди (as always),

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