Faith, Hope, and Love Remain

Alei's adventures in Ukraine

And Then There Were Two… September 13, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — aleicook @ 8:58 pm

Months.  Total.  As in two months until my time on this crazy beautiful Peace Corps adventure is up.  Just two months.  Can you tell I’m having trouble grasping that?

I will officially touch down in Chi-town on the afternoon of November 17 but our last few days in country have to be spent finishing up business in Kiev, so in exactly two months I’ll have already left Yampil for good.  Insane in the membrane.  The thought just about permeates my every move as I navigate through my last few weeks teetering between the two very enticing worlds.  Not even crossing the street is safe.  In one moment I’m making note of the goat wandering along the road in a deliberate attempt to appreciate & store away the charming oddities associated with village life.   But then.  Before I know it, I realize that one of the cars yielding the barnyard animal is a Hyundai which reminds me that I ‘ve been hearing great things about that brand & should definitely check out the Carmax website after school… & just like that I’m back in a world where buying a car equipped with a cupholder for Dunkin Donuts coffee & driving with a seatbelt on roads clearly marked with speed limit signs is all a part of my reality.  It’s a mindtrip for sure.  Thankfully the lesson I’m starting to glean from these moments of mental mayhem is that whether looking at a box before or after November 17 on the calendar I’ve got it pretty good.  The morning commutes probably couldn’t be more different, but I appreciate them both immensely & either way I’ll likely spend them talking to people I love.  The difference being that here ‘talking’ implies returning my students’ enthusiastic “Hel-LOs” & there it will mean hours of catching up on all of the free calls to Fave Fives that I’ve been missing.  T-Mobile (& traffic cops for that matter) be warned.

My last first day of school was September 1 & we’ve been up & running ever since.  I have the slightly scratchy teacher voice to prove it too since apparently no amount of summer camp shenanigans compares  to the energy my little darlings exhibit during English class & the sheer voice volume required to keep them all focused.  Lucky for them, I still kind of like them & am prone to letting them get away with murder now that I realize how fleeting our time left is.  Lucky for me, they’re adorable & intersperse their arm flailing, talking-during-class with professions of love for me & boxes of chocolate.  I think we’ll get by.  My grants have finally all come completely into fruition so now I get to make the most of the time with my students by holding weekly extracurricular clubs & seminars using the new technology.  This week will  kick off our Movie Club featuring English TV shows & movies to watch & discuss after school, our Journalism Club with researching, writing & printing articles, & of course our Yoga Club with trying to follow Miss Alei as she makes weird shapes with her even weirder long limbs.  Weekends will be the prime time for a series of seminars that I want to host for older kids focusing on topics that are important but don’t quite fit in to our curriculum, like gender equality, healthy lifestyles and options for work & study abroad.  Fun for all.

This is the exact moment that she discovered I have a belly button ring forcing me to spend the rest of the night running away from the kids as they tried to touch it.

Lest you worry it’s been all work & no play I’m happy to inform you that there’s been plenty of socializing as well.  Olha invited me on an evening picnic celebration after the first day of school that involved cooking potatoes over the fire, playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with her three year old son, & trying not to laugh as her husband shouted every bad word he knows in English.  It was a perfect, giggly end-of-summer celebration with Olha, Valya (teachers) & both of their big boisterous families & I was delighted as ever to be included.  My weekends have been spent away in Vinnitsia with friends & in Kiev making a dent on the mountains of paperwork that closing up shop here entails.  Both cases have provided an excellent means of easing out of summer by affording me the opportunity to keep on speaking English to my little heart’s content.  They’ve also led to more random exploits with ridiculously wonderful friends including impromptu but intense dance parties & hour-long cartwheel tutorials.   

That’s a pretty good segue into my next & final topic: taking advantage of weird opportunities PC gives me that I won’t have at home.  Realistically I will not be able to spend an entire weekend watching movies with my friends with absolutely no other obligations in the near future.  Never again will I be able to start my workday at noon two days of the week (Monday & Thursday, holler!). Crackle nail polish or metallic reverse french manicures, despite looking pretty fly, will probably no longer be considered work appropriate.  20 minute phone calls with my host mom may not be as fluent (already I catch myself feeling like one of those stuffed animals with three programmed audio responses that I default to when I don’t understand what she’s telling me but am trying to pretend otherwise).

That's what a Yoga Club poster looks like in Ukraine. And business professional nails.

I’m even trying to take advantage of the daily surprises that pop into my schedule. Like the elderly man who asked me to sit with him & translate an entire “How to Make Millions by Printing Stickers at Home” manual after school today (He’d sent away for a kit based off of who knows what cheapo advertisement & gotten a package from Los Angeles that contained some adhesive paper & a packet of instructions in English that I’m pretty sure was printed using a typewriter back in 1952).  Or the four year old girls with a makeshift stand outside of school selling apples that they picked off of trees (lemonade’s not a thing here).  As draining & frustrating as it could be in the beginning, living in a foreign country really does seem to bring something bizarre  unexpected to the forefront each day & I’m trying my darnedest to appreciate it all before I return to a land of familiarity where things tend to make sense to me.  Please remind me of that when I find some cultural difference to rant about tomorrow.

That’s just about all of the news here.  The leisurely job search has morphed into a full on job hunt partially because the clock is ticking ever louder & partially because I just finished reading the Hunger Games & everything seems a little more intense these days.  Really though, while I’m thrilled to have my house ready & filled with three wonderful roommates waiting for me in Austin (my room is literally sitting there, all empty & patient) I’ll be even more thrilled when I know I have a steady income & means of staying in said house after my Peace Corps allowance runs out.  And on that note, I’m off to embark on tonight’s application fun 🙂  Hope you’re having a splendid September!

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