Archive | November, 2009

“and the timing is quite unusual”

27 Nov

With the passing of another American holiday, I’d like to wish everyone an extremely belated Happy Halloween:









Yes, I am carving a pumpkin in a make-shift costume.  Maybe in time for Christmas I’ll have the opportunity to post a picture from our cluster Thanksgiving Dinner!  Though I may not have needed to call the Ukrainian ambulance, get shots in my rear, and stay in the sick bay in the Peace Corps office in Kyiv, Thanksgiving was equally enthralling as Halloween.  We (read: Kari) cooked down a pumpkin to make pumpkin pie, we (again read: Kari) literally pulled the heart out of a turkey, and everyone stuffed themselves American-style.

Another post is soon to come, stuffed to the gills with holiday love!


Music: “Meet Virginia” -Train


“It’s not like my feet aren’t stuck to the floor”

11 Nov

Deep breath, on three.


How many times have I said that exact phrase while teaching swim lessons?



Were my students blindly trusting me out of necessity or belief?  Which more accurately describes the faith I have in the officers telling me to travel to Kyiv by train tomorrow…alone?



звидки номерація вагонів?


In class, the phrase flows silky, smooth, and comforting from my lips.  Think of the way they market any candy that combines peanut butter and chocolate – that smooth.  No searching for vocabulary, here.  Even within subjects our class has covered extensively, there is very little with which I feel confident in the Ukrainian language.  I can introduce myself like a pro. мене звати лінея, мені 22 роки. Need to ask if a store has non-carbonated water, and I’ll step in for you without a second thought. у вас є воду без газу? Then, for some unknown and most likely completely random reason, I can ask how train cars are numbered.  Sadly, but oh so typical of any language learning process, that has absolutely no bearing on my understanding of the response.


повільно, будь ласка.


Conservatively speaking, at any given moment my understanding of native speakers is 85% dependent on my mood.  Tired, cranky, and irrationally craving mustard pretzels (Are those even a food, really? How many chemicals are on those things?) I can fail to understand a basic sentence no matter how measured some poor, patient Ukrainian makes it.  Words or sentences spoken as clearly and unnaturally as language-learning tapes send me in widening mental circles until I’m so turned around I couldn’t tell you my name.  Sprinkle a few hours of extra sleep in the equation, and I thickly decide I’ve heard those words before.  Even this fact seems unclear and difficult to come by, as if I’m up to my elbows in one of the quasi-bogs that clog the streets of Nosivka, digging for some glint of recognition.


допомажіть, будь ласка, я заблукала.


An easy enough phrase, really.  “Help me, please, I’m lost.”  The phrase is nothing if not polite, laconic, and honest like a vast majority of the language.  Article-free, this language facilitates a conversation that gets to the point.  (я – учителька : Literally, I – teacher )  If only stress were this cut and dry.  (Not to mention the fact that I can’t guarantee I won’t be craving toxic mustard pretzels tomorrow on my excursion.)  Now I know why, even after days of coaching, pleading, and encouraging on my part, some of my swim lesson students still couldn’t remember to close their mouths before going under water.  A huge wall of water is coming towards me; screw the position of my mouth!


Even should that same poor, patient Ukrainian spot my helplessness and saucer-shaped eyes (a la my swim students) and decide to ask if I’m lost, there is a very real possibility that I’ll look at them very thoughtfully, take a big breath and respond,


“How are the train cars numbered?”



7:49 am tomorrow.


*Music: “Pull My Heart Away” -Jack Peñate

“Fill me up, fill me up I’m a long way from home”

3 Nov

Laconically, how you know we’ve reached week six of training:

  • I am not phased by my second bout of food poisoning.
  • Two shots in my rear and I took them like a good little soldier.
  • Night falls at 5 pm.
  • Studying burnout is in full gear.
  • I miss fleece blankets so much even a snuggie sounds appealing.
  • Cuddle withdrawal is getting unmanageable.  I took for granted the American lack of boundaries and my movie night/cuddle dates with friends and sorority sisters.
  • The metric system is starting to make sense.
  • I’ve stopped arguing with the idea that eating more garlic and onion will protect me from getting the swine flu.
  • I have worn flats four times since my arrival.  Three of those times were on runs.
  • My English grammar is possibly going downhill.
  • Certain Ukrainian words have become second nature, such as; можліво, нормально, пока, я не знаю