Faith, Hope, and Love Remain

Alei's adventures in Ukraine

Bring on the Bucket List October 11, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — aleicook @ 4:51 pm

I feel like every single entry as of late starts with me marveling over how little time I have left, so I’ll try to spare you all of the  “whoa” & “I just can’t believe it”s today as a special treat.  Rest assure I’m feeling them though, especially when clarity sneaks up on me like it did this morning after discovering that I only have 3 more lessons with my American Literature class left.  Ever.  They only meet once a week, & given our Fall Break coming up at the end of October I’m down to single digit lessons with almost every class.  Remember getting the wind knocked out of you after falling off the monkey bars (please tell me I was not the only uncoordinated eight year old)?  It feels kind of like that.  Only weirder, because the shock & sadness is tempered with downright giddiness at the thought of finally being home.  I am a complicated lady as of late.

Handwriting twins

I’m trying to enjoy the emotional rollercoaster with both hands in the air by just appreciating the heck out of my students while I still can.  They make it pretty easy, too.  For instance my adorable 7th graders who should be way too cool for school at this point spent an entire lesson last week talking into a flashlight  as if it were a microphone just to appease their crazy English teacher.  The funniest part about it is that my original intent was for them to shine the light on who they wanted to answer the homework question & then pass it on, but understanding complicated directions isn’t something they’re used to & they were just so eager to please that I ended up stifling a laugh & going with it.  Now that I type that out I guess the flashlight seems like a bizarre prop in either activity, but my point is that they will happily play along with almost anything I throw out & I love them for it.  Those of you used to deciphering my weird handwriting may also understand how proud (& a tad vain) I felt when after complimenting one of my tenth graders on her very uncharacteristic writing style (they almost exclusively rock cursive around here) she blushed & said that she had been practicing copying mine.  I think I’ve found my legacy.

The teachers have been pretty great too.  At the beginning of the month I celebrated my last Teacher’s Day with an invite to a party in the woods one day after school.  As yet another illustration of how planning works here we heard about the get together at approximately 12 & were expected to board the little schoolbus  at 2.  Thank goodness we did though, because it brought us to an old Soviet campground where we were treated to an outdoor picnic & reveling  well into the night.  One of the hardest parts of life here for me has been feeling out of place so often (which, duh Alei, seems like a pretty obvious side effect of living abroad), so words can hardly express how nice it was to feel included by my colleagues that evening.  I was sandwiched between teachers who had their arms maternally around my waist most of the night & was singled out in a toast proclaiming me ‘the best volunteer they’ve had’ and a ‘true Ukrainian girl’.  I was also able to share the love via my own toast in Ukrainian that they seemed to like despite my truly atrocious grammar.  Then the next morning we celebrated at school with armfuls of flowers from students, my last school assembly, & a LOT of picture taking & tea drinking with my 11th graders, Olha, & Valya (teachers) while we waited for the town concert at 12.  Here again my words fail me when it comes to describing the warmth & contentedness I got from being considered a part of their little group.  Inappropriately giggling during the concert was obviously nothing new for me, but laughing with them while sharing a bag of “fitness” cookies, trying & failing to figure out which language was being sung & worrying that our ears were bleeding from the ridiculously overachieving speaker system was a nice change.  It was just a comforting, cozy exchange overall & a perfect way to celebrate my last big holiday in Yampil.

Now as for the title, I put together my Bucket List back in August & have been systematically going down the line & relishing the pure joy of checking things off.  Man, do I love lists.  One goal accomplished thanks to my wonderful students was printing a full edition of our new school newspaper, The European Generation.  They’d been compiling articles & focusing on the really important things (like thirty minutes spent designing nametags) during preceding few club meetings, but managed to put it all together & send it to the presses (a.k.a. our printer) in time for Teacher’s Day.  I felt like a proud mama & wished I had room on my fridge to prominently display it despite the fairly embarrassing thank you letter & picture of me they put on the first page.  Really though, seeing their sense of accomplishment and professionalism (including making sales charts) melted my little heart  & made all of the effort completely worthwhile.  Something tells me that issue is making the cut into my suitcase even though I doubt I’ll be able to comprehend a word of the Ukrainian by this time next year.

Next on the list was the world map project that I had helped out with at Katelin’s site earlier this year.  After seeing the pictures my school wanted one of their own & thanks to help from my friends (Kacey & Katelin) & our projector we were able to conquer the world in just one weekend.  For longevity’s sake my principal preferred an inside mural which worked quite nicely since we could just shine the image onto the wall instead of mapping out a grid & attempting to freehand.  It was a lot of fun as well as a good excuse to play hostess for the weekend.  I got to see them & quite a few other PCVs in the area again last weekend when we all met up to do a project in Vinnistia.  Human trafficking is a big & frankly terrifying issue here, so we put on a seminar about the risks involved with working abroad.  Luckily there’s a program called 527 which serves as a free hotline that people can call to verify that their work opportunity is legit.  We made sure to include it in the presentation & then took to the streets sharing the good news with unsuspecting Vinnistians via posters & brochures.  It was a cool if not unconventional project & allowed us to feel like we’d earned the sushi dinner & sleepover that followed at Kacey’s.  Then this weekend I’ll get to check another exciting item off the list: a Ukrainian wedding 🙂  One of our English teachers is marrying our P.E. teacher & I couldn’t be happier for them or selfishly the chance to see such an important part of the culture.  I may not even be all that awkward since other teachers are going thus providing me with pleasant people to sit with.  Oh yeah, & did I mention I’m coming home in less than 40 days?  Life is good.

I’ve been putting all of my ‘end of the line’ pictures into a facebook album seen here & will try to update it relatively often as the list continues to shrink.  Hopefully one shot will include me giving two big thumbs up for getting a job one day.  Hopefully.    I can’t wait to see you all & hope you’re loving the unseasonably warm October…I say while wearing long underwear & gloves inside.  But I swear I’m not pouting.  Luckily 38 days leaves no time to pout 🙂




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