Faith, Hope, and Love Remain

Alei's adventures in Ukraine

The First of the Lasts February 18, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — aleicook @ 10:21 pm

It’s a big day today.  Friday the 18th of February, 2011 is the long awaited milestone in my Peace Corps journey whereby I would no longer be able to go through a whole pregnancy away from home.  Get excited.  I should probably clarify that this was never a fear or even option before.  The smoking habits & acid wash tight jean trend popular among guys coupled with my reluctance to compete with the scores of beautiful women who speak the language & wear makeup means that I think it’s safe to say that Ukrainian men & I are equally uninterested in each other.  Today, & much of my service here, is all about perspective, & this date is just one more indicator that things are within reach.  Quite a nice contrast compared to this time last year when my friends and I realized that theoretically we could get knocked up, go through an entire pregnancy with access to truly horrifying craving foods (fish jello?), and return home with a one year old child.  That was a very bad day.  So hooray!  Feel free to celebrate however you wish 🙂

Speaking of perspective, the past few weeks have brought on a pretty important shift in the way I tend to mark time.  While usually big togethery events like the Superbowl and Valentine’s Day bum me out a little, I found that it was a wonderful relief to be able to say “This time next year…” and know that if nothing else that sentence could be finished with “I won’t be alone!”.  In all honestly I really am not a die-hard fan of either holiday (as those of you who attended 2009’s hair dye/Superbowl extravaganza may recall :)), but it was hugely consoling just to know that with or without fancy plans I’ll probably be able to coerce someone to bum around and watch the Puppy Bowl or a cheesy chick flick with me in twelve short months.  Things got even more real when Valentine’s Day in particular reminded me that everything has morphed before my very eyes to the ‘last’ stage.  This was the last February 14th I’ll get little tiny cards with Cyrillic writing and way too much candy from students.  It just snowed today despite everyone hyping up the warmer than usual spring that’s on its way, which makes me wonder if this is the last sparkly snow I’ll get to slip & slide through in Ukraine (sort of crossing my fingers on that one).  I remember from senior year of college that once the ‘lasts’ start I get super nostalgic & things seem to fly by.  While I’m not necessarily putting my money on that as 9 months is still a pretty significant amount of time, I do hope that this new perspective helps me appreciate my less-than-300 some odd days left.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, probably at length, but once again I’ve been struck by how much of an alone person I’m not.  It’s just a bad idea for me & I’ve got all too much proof to back me up.  Behold:

  • My bangs- The problem with weekends at home is how quickly I run out of things to do.  It sounds relaxing at first after a week of setting my alarm & whatnot, but then 6:00pm Friday rolls around & I’ve already checked everything off the to-do list.  Creativity is required which ended quite badly last week as far as my forehead is concerned.  My bangs, cut by someone who knew what they were doing in America, were a tad long but mulletphobia and frugality kept me from going to the hairdresser.  Plus I was empowered by the internet & falsely confident in my abilities after I watched “how easy” it was to take a piece of bangs in front of your face, twist them twice, & trim the ends.  I was pretty sure I’d seen the method employed at a salon somewhere down the line & I watched the twelve year old on YouTube demonstrate on video without a problem.  So why oh why did she end up with cute, long side bangs while I now am rocking the same fringe I favored in 2rd grade- ruler straight & real awkward?  I’ll never know but am swearing off the scissors until someone is in the room with me to say “Umm, are you sure?” before things spiral out of control again.
  • My fainting spell- Another unanticipated hazard of time alone, no one is there to freak out when the low-key movie you’re watching suddenly has an excessively bloody scene & you react by passing out.  Granted most people handle gore a little less weirdly, I was watching said movie (Revolutionary Road) with a pillow in my lap providing a safe landing, & was probably only out for a few seconds.  Picturing the whole scene now is kind of hysterical, but at the time it was a tad concerning solo.
  • My inadvertent drinking problem- I decided to celebrate V-Day by watching Casablanca & having some cheese & crackers & a  glass of wine.  I’ve never bought wine here so I just asked the saleslady for a box, yes box, of whatever she preferred.  Apparently she prefers to get hammered.  Everything was going well until about an inch into the glass (I know inches aren’t the standard unit for measuring liquids but I’m rusty on my volume indicators & want to stress the not a lot part) when I stood up to get something & realized I was ready to break out the drunges (Drunk lunges.  A very healthy mode of transportation).  I was suddenly very aware of the fact that being tipsy alone is usually a cry for help & felt the need to defend myself but, obviously, no one was there to hear my explanation or cast judgment for that matter.  Ultimately I decided that I should do something very characteristically not associated with drinking & read my book until bedtime.  Problem solved?
  • My current ensemble- Without someone to keep me in check/mock me into submission this is what I call a suitable outfit: a hoodie over a dress over sweatpants over long underwear over two pairs of socks. Plus my handwarmers, scarf and hat.  The problem is it’s real cold here (as in I can see my breath inside for the hour after I drink coffee) & I never want to take clothes off so I just keep adding & adding them on.  To make matters worse I just stood up to capture my outfit on film & discovered that my dress has been tucked into the back of my pants for who knows how long.  Lovely.

Hopefully there’s some truth behind that rumor of spring because being able to spend time outside of my apartment seems to help keep the crazy under control.  In the meantime I’ve been avoiding weekends at home & feel very lucky to have friends all over the place to spend time with.  Last week’s fun included Vanya’s birthday party complete with equally abundant Russian & food.  Their family was as nice to me as ever & the evening was very enjoyable which says a lot as I spent most of it smiling & nodding.

I said I couldn't eat this cute cake because I'm a vegetarian & they got the joke! It was a very big moment.

Then I had a trip to Julia’s site to teach at a seminar on Friday & spend the weekend taking advantage of her cool town which includes a legit gym.  They had to physically remove me from the fully functioning elliptical but I forgave them 30 minutes into the wonder of  hot, dry, air courtesy of the building’s sauna.  We reluctantly decided as a group to scrap our Spring Break Egypt plan but will head to Prague to watch Julia run a marathon in May instead.  I’d never thought of heading out that way but have heard nothing but good about the city & hopefully it will give me motivation to run so I can do the 10k relay with some of our friends there.  Tomorrow I will head out again to see Katelin’s site with some others before trekking to Kiev to see the host family for a night & pick up my grant funding from the bank.  Then next weekend I’ll go with my top students & serve as a judge in the English competition which brings me all the way through February already :).

Hats provided by Ukraine. Sweat provided by my Cook genes.

I know this is long already, but I want to add another cute kid-ism from this week.  Totally cliche but the enthusiasm and kindess from my students really make the 9 months seem not only doable but also very worth it.  I wish I could capture the day-to-day with them to share on here but I can never fully put into words how much the little things they do/say mean as far as affecting my mood.  My favorite example from this week happened as a result of the Valentine’s Day warm up.  I wrote the ‘Roses are red’ poem on the board but left a few blanks for them to fill in thus creating their own poems.  Here are two of my favorites: “My soccer ball is red, my other soccer ball is blue, cake is sweet, and I love to play computer games” as well as someone who apparently didn’t realize you could choose multiple words & decided to go with “Cars are red, cars are blue, cars are sweet, and I love cars”. And I love them.

And finally, random trivia question of the day…How long does it take to fish out the live water bug swimming in your kettle of well water waiting to be boiled?  The entire duration of Gangta’s Paradise by Coolio.  As for how long it will take for me to be able to drink said water without wanting to gag, ask me in 9 months. Miss & love you all!

Valentine's Day party game at school. They had to dance while balancing the balloon between their heads. Of course.

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