Faith, Hope, and Love Remain

Alei's adventures in Ukraine

Goodbye Maddie Jean April 21, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — aleicook @ 9:01 pm

This week’s post is dedicated in remembrance of Miss Madison Jean, my loyal friend, entertainment, foot warmer & truly the best dog a girl could ask for.  After 17 years she’s as much a part of most of my childhood memories as Lukie, so letting her go is hard & weird from afar.  That being said, I know that her impressive lifespan was definitely not normal for a dog of her size & feel very grateful that she stuck it out until Christmas so I could see her one more time.  I vividly remember a TV commercial from back in the day (& I’m not saying this just to validate my choice of a major) for dog food that showed a girl about my age playing with her new puppy & then they both morph over time into teenagers & college-aged, & I remember being bummed that our timing was off & Maddie wouldn’t be around when I was a “grown-up” going off to college.  Now two years post-grad (although the grown up thing is debatable), it looks like she outdid my eight-year-old expectations by far.  I’m not walk-around-crying sad which is a nice surprise, but the news has put me in a bit of a funk this week which was definitely not helped by having Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind (Norma Jean version)’ stuck in my head.  I don’t want to dwell, so I guess I’ll use that little backstory to illustrate another aspect of life here, particularly why it is not the ideal place to stop thinking about your dog.

On a daily basis I see upwards of 20 dogs roaming our streets.  Some are strays, some are pets that get free reign of the town & some are security systems that spend their lives on a 10 foot chain.  The latter group tend to be the most vicious as they really are kept with the sole purpose of scaring away intruders & are quite good at their jobs.  My favorite  lives by the river, is called Tarzan, & is a dead-ringer for the monster from Sandlot.  They break my heart a little when I see them hooked up & spike my heart rate a lot when tricky ones manage to get loose & prowl down the street trailing their metal prison-style chains behind them.  The wanderers’ presence struck me a lot when I first touched down, but now they’re just kind of a part of life.  They find their way into stores, train stations, & even official ceremonies.  They usually  travel in friendly packs & are fed by kids, babusias, & the fairly abundant leftover food on the ground at most times.  It’s a country-wide epidemic apparent in little villages & big cities alike that the government is allegedly trying to fix, but the only problem I face with them is the constant temptation to steal one much to my landlady’s dismay.  That is until this week when the last thing I wanted to see was 14 reminders of my Maddie on the way to the store, or hear her apparent twin who spends the night barking right outside my window from 11pm-1am.  Sweet dreams to me.

On the bright side, God seems to be lobbing consolations at me left & right.  Case in point, on Sunday after hearing the bad news I walked outside & found that literally overnight my favorite cherry trees decided to bloom.  I really do love them & am all the more appreciative since last week’s school days were cut in half due to the cold.  Never a dull moment in spring.

The end of last week reconfirmed my status as a sappy fool of a teacher when we held our first Journalism Club & I was so touched by the enthusiasm from my little reporters in training that I veered on the edge of tearing up for a solid 45 minutes.  The 6th graders all brought coffee cups from home so they could have tea at a meeting like adults do & begged us to come back to school on Saturday morning to extend the meeting even though all that was on the agenda was choosing a name, mission statement, ect.  It could easily be described as a trivial gathering of eleven year olds drinking tea, but watching their excitement & creativity  overflow while they dreamed big dreams together made for a perfect “This is why I did Peace Corps” moment.  Our equipment came in today & they’ve already started petitioning for more club time on Sunday (Easter) so I’m definitely looking forward to tomorrow afternoon with them & will try to keep it together this time.

Other highlights include last weekend which was spent in Vinnistia with my friends for a brief meeting followed by a night of dancing to a classic American rock cover band  (sung with a super-thick Ukrainian accent).  I don’t know how we managed to find the sole bar in the city playing anything in English, but it was amazing to hear live music again & flail around to Another Brick in the Wall.  The “Hey teacher, leave those kids alone” part was particularly fun since it reminded me of both Hello Dave & what I imagine my 9th graders are chanting in their heads every class period.  Aside from the chance to enjoy some revelry & speak my native language, my sole mission in Vinnistia was to find an exercise ball. It was sadly a bust but then to my great surprise I found a bright orange one sitting on the counter of the single, teeny, tiny sport store in Yampil.  I was amazed & not at all phased by the fact that there was only one pump in town (at the store) leaving me to  further weird out my fellow Yampilians by walking down main street with a fully inflated yoga ball resting in front of my stomach.  Crazy American.  And last but not least, as of an hour ago I am officially the proud/embarrassed owner of a handknit sweater.  I’m certainly not going to break any land speed records as it’s been in the works since January, but I think it turned out pretty good as far as bulky, but toasty warm sweaters go.  I afforded myself the liberty of adding an extra 5 inches onto everything length wise so I finally have sleeves that cover my wrist which was something new & exciting for my lanky limbs.  It’s just too bad that Prom is  approaching so quickly because now that I know I can assemble things other than hats I bet I could have whipped Patience &/or Luke up something real nice.  Nothing like wool for a long night of photographs & sweaty dancing.

This weekend will bring a long awaited return to Morozivka with my host family & some friends from training.  I can’t say I’m too thrilled about the prospect of  the oily, carby force feeding sessions before next month’s Turkish beach vacation, but I am very excited to see everyone  again & experience a more traditional Paska celebration than last year.  I miss you all & hope the Easter bunny treats you well.

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