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“girl you live in a hurry, life comes at you in a furry”

26 May

End of service in sight, I’m being shredded by conflicting urges.   A wanderlust pulls at my feet, shoelaces, ponytail as it whips in the air on my runs.  It trips me in any direction, spinning me around for the sake of yet another city, journal entry, photograph, running event.  My headphones, their connection broken on one side, emphasize the lack where I could be hearing the crashing of waves as I run along the river in Budapest until the absence is all I can think about.  The screaming of adventures to be had reaches a shrill screech that leaves me deprived of any sense of direction yet feverish and itching to move until I throw open the windows in my new apartment and listen to the haunting sound of night trains passing through.  Their mournful hooting brings the quiet whispering of the familiar that beckons in the crisp night air, reminiscent of an Illinois frost.

Fears tug and scratch on either side; If I go straight home am I ordinary?  If I run home immediately after living abroad, does it negate my separation by revealing a yearning for the familiar, showing that there were indeed rough times or that, mentally, I was home all along?  But then, with what speed is it ok to return from a new culture without being seen as fleeing?  If I continue to move, am I running from something I’d rather not face?  Rarely have I met a volunteer who joined the program simply for the experience; there’s always an ulterior motive, conscious or subconscious, ranging from a desire to change or save the world to the less noble resume padding.  On several occasions it has crossed my mind that perhaps, in arriving I was running, making the only literarily (and, if the idea behind mimesis is correct, literally) appropriate next step a return to the abandoned.

The expansive horizon of possibilities has washed over me, suddenly and with surprising force.  Perhaps I hit the trifecta, the perfect combination of non-fiction adventure memoirs, personal travels, and boundless optimism, catalyzing my wandering desire.  A through-hike of the Appalachian Trail seems a logical next step, never having been seriously considered before.  Uprooting my life to live a clandestine year in Budapest makes perfect sense after a brief three day visit.  Reckless abandon seems to be the feeling I’m trying to embrace, something akin to what I felt visiting friends at College of Santa Fe when we went cliff jumping.  Every fiber tense with the natural urge to hold back, there was something intoxicating in breaking with logic and literally throwing oneself off a cliff.  The water’s cushioning presence in no way detracted from my vertiginous tumbling through the air, I tell myself, so why should home?  After all, the only reason I leapt was my security in the knowledge that the water would be there at the end of my plunge.

*Music: “The Quick & the Dead” -Bedouin Soundclash

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“hey, you’ve been used”

8 Apr

Lately I’ve been seized by an all encompassing quiet.  Exhaustion has set in, and only extreme quiet ameliorates my mood.  The mental silence of running has become my haven and training for the Prague Marathon is my foundation in many ways.  Routine has muffled any mental noise or confusion, and it’s calm if not entirely comforting.  My running schedule, diet, and water intake are all regulated closely which, to my surprise, ended up organizing all other parts of my schedule almost entirely.  Being without a computer for roughly two weeks did wonders for calming my nerves and anxiety, and I found myself much happier for my ignorance on world news.

Spring, it seems, is bent on ensuring my life isn’t too quiet.  My quiet morning runs are full of pops and snaps.  The emerging birds drop sticks from the trees with small pops that usually make me jump a little, which I am then forced to play off as if I’m an oddly bouncy walker.  Fires snap and pop thickening the morning fogs as the residents of Drohobych clear their yards of sticks, twigs, and trash.  The edges of the fields are being prepared for the spring plantings, and the black soil is usually rimmed with a thin red outline as the weeds burn wetly.  Sunflower seeds crack in the teeth of local high school boys skipping school as they lean on the sagging metal fences of the local stadium, watching me run.

With two months until the end of the semester I’m close to collapsing.  Seeing Erin was an amazing uplifter which turned into as much if not more of a downer the second I said goodbye to her at the airport.  I experienced first-hand the confusion of hours upon hours of translating until I could no longer tell which language I was speaking.  My working group is preparing for our first summer camp to teach Ukrainian children about healthy lifestyles and all that encompasses – alcohol and smoking awareness, HIV/AIDS awareness, nutrition, sportsmanship and teamwork, and respect for oneself and others.   I’m still working out plans for a very quick trip into Moldova to poke around wine country, will be enjoying historic Ukrainian/Polish sites in Poland around Easter time, and seeing a brand new city May 6-9 when my relay runs the marathon in Prague.  Things have ceased to seem new, making it hard to know what to write to all of you back home.  I’m largely inured to the ups and downs of daily Peace Corps life, but still thoroughly enjoy watching my month countdown dwindle.

*Music: “Expectations” -Belle & Sebastian

“eight miles a minute for months at a time”

12 Feb

I haven’t written a blog entry in quite a while, and that is most likely an understatement.  Journaling in general seems vapid and frivolous to me these days.  Running on full speed 7-11 each day has worn me thin to the point where I don’t have independent thought outside my minute to minute schedule, let alone find the little that passes through from time to time worth anyone else’s time or energy.

The only thing I’ve had to be thankful for in some time was moment of complete silence walking back from the grocery store two days ago (a three mile round-trip).  Along a major road, nonetheless, the only sound was the crunching of gravel under my shoes as I crossed one of the torn apart intersections.  It lasted for perhaps 20 seconds, but it was a glimpse of a break and rest I hadn’t gotten in over two weeks.  My emotional exhaustion has surpassed anything but vague, hazy notions of emotions and most of the time I feel unenthusiastic and generally sub-par.

I’ve started a journaling project at one school through which the senior students are consistently writing “letters to Linnea.”  Though the amount of work I have each night has skyrocketed as a result, the project is what I’d tentatively call fulfilling and a success.  Personalizing the attention I give each student through our letters back and forth has already achieved marked improvements their writing and participation.  Students I never thought would say a word in class are openly sharing their lives with me through these journals and I’m thankful for that step forward even if it means more sleepless nights of grading past 3 am.

Other than that, I’m regretting my luck of being out of the country for the release of such a ground-breaking book as Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes.  Most of you are well aware of my literary fixation, so I’m only going to say that this is the biggest step in melding literary art and visual art since the release of Tristram Shandy (in my humble opinion).  I’m jonesing a copy and tearing my hair out over Amazon not having it.

The daily grind keeps going day in and day out, though I’m enjoying a weekend of running, watching “The Wire,” and reading Gone With the Wind.  My next rest will be on International Women’s Day, a holiday I’m in full support of America finally adopting.

*Music: “Against the Wind” -Bob Seger

“I went and stole some wings and thought why can’t I?”

20 Jul

This is out of character, but just a straight forward update today to let everyone know what I’m up to, as I haven’t posted in about two months!

Life in Drohobych

Perhaps the happiest I’ve been throughout my service time at site, I’m currently extremely grateful for my phenomenal friends Olesya and Pavlo (they’re brother and sister) who patiently bear through our deal of alternating days speaking English and Ukrainian.  Several days ago Olesya and I sat in the park after doing some grocery shopping at the bazaar and I worked through translating the titles of the articles in a Christian newspaper we had been handed at some point on our walk.  Plus, seeing their family is continually a lift in my day!

On Friday as a storm rolled into town, I sat with Olesya and her mother in their home where a cool breeze whispering of an incoming thunderstorm could reach us, chatting about cultural ideas of the family unit as a fluffy puff of a kitten and his mother dozed lazily on my lap.  Sometimes I feel as if my Ukrainian would develop significantly more if I could relive days like this all year long.

Untangling Ukrainian

After the confidence shake that was Language Refresher, I have rebounded wonderfully.  The group I trained with at the Ukrainian Language camp was mostly volunteers who have been here longer, inevitably leaving me feeling incompetent after each session.  The only time I felt helpful was when we had to conjugate verbs; the tenses were indicated with the letters for their Ukrainian names, which my Ukrainian tutor had drilled into my head!  Point being, I survived the camp, and returned to site with a new found motivation to work on my Ukrainian.

These past few days I’ve been speaking so much Ukrainian with Olesya that I’ve been dreaming in a stressful mixture of English and Ukrainian that usually leaves me exhausted in the mornings.  Having felt my Ukrainian skills stagnate for quite some time, it’s a relief to feel a leap in my communication skills, and to hear that Ukrainians notice it as well.  Olesya’s mother and I can easily communicate now and she bolsters my confidence every time I see her by commenting on the marked difference in my speech.

A Sense of My Summer, Pictorially.

 <–My 11th form students graduated and made us proud by receiving a lot of medals.  The big ceremony was with all the schools in the middle of the town.  That’s the emblem for the lyceum where I work the boy is holding up.

 

 

 

 

 

On L’viv’s Day of L’viv there were –> many musicians playing out on the street, including one of this year’s contestants on Ukraine’s Got Talent.  He’s playing the bandura (as you can see, something like a traditional Ukrainian guitar), which I find to be one of the coolest instruments ever.  He can listen to a song on someone’s phone once and then immediately play it (while I watched he played everything from traditional Ukrainian music to hard rock).  Now that’s talent! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

<– I went with one of my students from English club to the old synagogue in town, which in good weather is turned into a local art gallery.  They had paintings done by a local artist as well as a photographic series.

 

 

 

 

 

Kari and I spent some –> time in Kyiv, showing her friend Jordyn around.  We went back to what we had seen in fall, and had much better lighting for some great photos!  This is my favorite statue to photograph.

 

 

 

 

<–We finally made it to the Chernobyl Museum where I snapped a couple photos before someone came to tell me I had to pay if I wanted to take pictures.  This picture has the words to a poem about the memorial of Chernobyl painted into the objects.  I love the rich colors and the traditional prints the painter put into the grandmother’s scarf and the long scarf wrapping around the perimeter of the work.  While we were there we ran into a group of Americans from the US Marine Corps – random.

 

 

 

 

I went to meet my family –> in Copenhagen and we drove across the bridge to Sweden.  We went hiking where part of the film The Seventh Seal was shot.  Even though it was raining/misting both times we were there, it was a great place!

 

 

 

 

 

<–The day before I had to fly back to Ukraine, the whole family went to the Carlsberg brewery.  Despite my aching feet from high heels, it was an interesting walk through the displays and we all enjoyed the beer tasting at the end.  The taxi driver who took us all the way back out to our hotel near the airport afterwards was wonderfully friendly and told us all about the challenges of living on the paycheck of an average person in an extremely expensive city.

 

 

 

 

After dragging myself off the plane into –> 40 degree weather in Kyiv, I barely made it to Nosivka to see my host family for the first time in 6 months.  I had a wonderful week full of movie watching with Ira, disco dancing with Ira and Yulia, Ira taking pictures of me, learning to make jam at home, and thoroughly enjoying some of the amazing cooking that I’ve missed so much the last six months.  I can’t wait to get back and see them again sometime soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

<–I had a whirlwind birthday weekend in L’viv with Olesya, Pavlo, Andriy, and some of their friends.  I got to see Olesya do her work with Artistry at a product show (a makeup brand of Amway) finally!

 

 

 

 

We had an authentic  Fourth of July BBQ in L’viv at –> Kari’s place.  A volunteer even provided us with real tortilla chips, graham crackers, and marshmallows from her parents in the states!  It was nice to spend the 4th with Americans.

 

 

 

 

<–At Language Refresher, Joe and I got in touch with our inner children and played on the see-saw.  We needed to blow off some stress after a day full of language classes on grammar and skills work.  Kari just laughed at us!

 

 

 

 

 

We were at a sanatorium –> for Language Refresher while they were celebrating a summer holiday that included massive amounts of dancing.  The little kids were digging it!  Despite the bug bites, it was a delightful evening.

 

 

 

 

 

<–Part of the holiday involved audience members popping balloons which contained strips of paper on which were written tasks for them to complete.  Matthew got to pop one of the balloons – it’s a nice action shot if I do say so myself.

 

 

 

 

 

Just so you’re all sure nothing –> has changed, here’s proof that, as usual, I found a kitten to play with at Language Refresher as I do everywhere I go.  Living without pets for this long has been harder than I imagined it would – I want a kitten so badly I already have a name picked out for one – Conrad. Yes, as in Joseph Conrad.

 

 

 

 

 

Though I’m kicking myself for posting a blog so somniferous, I hope all of you enjoy the photos and brief life update.  Here in Drohobych there’s a wonderful new volunteer named Kelly who lets me use her wireless internet (with which Skype video works), so let me know about Skype dates to be set up when I get back from working a private Ukrainian camp in the Carpathians for three weeks (I’ll be gone until August 16th).

*Music: “Sunrise” -Yeasayer

“there’s something good waitin’ down this road”

10 Apr

Happy Birthday, Dad!

If Mary Chapin Carpenter is music that reminds me of mom, Tom Petty is your music, and I’m listening to it all day.  Can’t wait to celebrate your birthday with you (a couple months late) in Sweden this summer.

Love, Bunny

*Music: “Runnin’ Down A Dream” -Tom Petty

“it would be so fine to see your face at my door”

3 Mar

Happy Birthday, Mom!

sorry this is a day late.

i listened to carole king and mary chapin carpenter yesterday, thought of you, and wished i could be home to celebrate with you.

Love, Bunny

*Music: “So Far Away” -Carole King

“Someone is hoping just that this will be the day”

14 Feb

This morning I walked back home through freshly fallen snow after seeing Kari off, headphones in, plugged into my own inner world.  Even with music on, my iPod has the astonishing ability to wrap me in nebulous silence from which I can absorb without taking part in my surroundings.  Though I have taken part in Ukrainian life, my life as defined by Ukraine has yet to gel.

Winter in Ukraine for me has been the way in which the blankets of snow lay perfectly across the fans of pine branches in the woods around Drohobych.  I habitually realize there’s something powerful about an unmarred stretch of snow, but never so often as here in Ukraine. Laying my boots in the footprints of others, my thoughts shuffled with each new song.  As Michael Buble’s “Home” slid through my headphones, my focus shifted from the branches to the banks of snow embodying both the ephemeral and permanent alongside the churned mire of the streets.  I stared at snow in Ukraine and saw snow in Indiana.

Four years ago, cold coffee turning icy next to my laptop, I stared out the library window as dense snow fell onto and was immediately indistinguishable from the drifts already covering the quad.  “Home” played over my headphones (then courtesy of a Dell DJ) as I, one of four people in the building thanks to the campus emptying effects of Winter Term at DePauw, sat in mental silence.  Thought is a lot like sound for me; focused solely on the remarkably steady pace of snowflakes gently erasing my path from the dorm, my mind was comfortably quiet.

I filled the day after Kari’s departure with annotating a Conrad, dismissing or pushing to the side any parenthetical concerns about the modest lassitude tugging at me.  The maudlin feeling was as disagreeable as unaccountable.  Setting aside my book (since Conrad has a tendency to encourage brooding), I decided to trade mental noise for musical.  Staring at nothing in particular, I let my mind drift…

…until Jason Reeves came on and “Someone Somewhere” found me on my morning walk up 8th Avenue two years ago.  I wore calf-length leggings in late November.  The air bit my knees through the material and my lower legs were florid from both my pace and the chill by the time I rounded on Times Square and dug blindly through my purse for my electronic work ID.  Matte grey was everywhere, unbroken by snow flurries until days later.  The elevator doors closed with their usual impartiality, but I felt nestled by the steel and content repeating this process interminably.

These songs made me miss these points of my life, who I was at these points in my life.  Kari once remarked that few people can be the same person no matter where they go; I’m not one of those few, and I’m not quite sure who I am here.  Today countless people feel a poignant lack of the person for whom they’ve been waiting.  I cannot say waiting to figure yourself out is poignant – it’s more of a dull ache.  Still, today I’m hitting the shuffle button waiting to find the song that tells me the person I’ve been looking for has been here all along.

*Music: “Someone Somewhere” -Jason Reeves