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“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

“your heart’s a mess; you won’t admit to it”

28 Oct

*Written before my trip to Poland, but failed to post.*

Though the weather here seems to have abated into a normal autumn and the leaves have metamorphosed into a living painting, my homesickness refuses to be alleviated.  The past week has been trying, though interspersed in the maudlin days were some moments of an esoteric contentment rather germane to a year spent acclimating to life abroad.  Walking home from the store on the edges of town, it chanced that I had a moment of life amplified by music, inspiring the creation of my autumn playlist to which I have been continually listening.  A thought struck me immobile as I walked along the edge of the woods; though autumn is fragrant and beautiful, the air crisp and smelling of frost, and I felt as if I could have stood forever on that carpet of carmine leaves…I wanted to do so in Central Park.

I yearn for the concrete of New York.  I miss the pace of life, the acrobatics of ducking and weaving through the mass of humanity on my way to work in the mornings, the brilliant sun tunneled down the avenues, and the feeling of gliding between frosty shadow and blinding daylight surrounded by glass, concrete, and steel.  Unequivocally linked with my feelings of futility and lack of accomplishment here in Ukraine, the sentiment is no less arresting for my comprehension.

Perhaps this ache for the familiar comes from eagerness to embark on my next step of life now that I have chosen one; we all know I never wanted to be a teacher.  Admittedly, there are evanescent moments in which I adore my job, namely when the announcement that a class has rotated back to being my students is met with fervent cheers and a mad dash for my classroom.  Being forced to teach to an established formula created long before my arrival, my lack of a creative outlet leaves mountains of frustration festering in the back of my mind.  Under these conditions I cannot help but feel that my accent is the only thing valued about my presence.  Whatever the truth of the situation may be, with every fiber of my being I itch to feel prolifically productive as I did in New York.

Setting dates I can look forward to has been an invaluable tool for surviving this semester.  On Saturday, Kari and I leave for a week trip in Poland where we will meet up with her friend Ama, tour Auschwitz (none of us can handle Birkenau), (after which we’ll need to) drink margaritas and eat guacamole at a Mexican restaurant, and enjoy wandering around the city of Krakow.  Ideally, an absence from Ukraine will counteract all the pent-up grievances I’ve accumulated in cross-cultural interactions and classroom difficulties.  Check back later to see if it worked!

*Music: “Heart’s A Mess” -Gotye

“you know I’ll fall for each and every pretty word”

25 May

A brief account of a moment that has brightened recent saturnine days;

Studying my students to ensure they were actually watching the movie I was playing to bolster their lagging energy the last few minutes of class one day last week, a sudden torrent of “What’s shakin’ baby!” burst out in my classroom.  Parroting occasional lines from “Coraline,” my class picked this particular one up with fervor.  Slang is, unfortunately, rendered meaningless when subjected to the word-for-word translation with which my students like to be supplied.  Grasping for meaning, they worked through the slang by searching for words they knew in English.  From this farrago of UkrainianslangEnglish came a cry of, “Shake the baby!” to which, after a snort into my coffee cup, I quickly put an end.

*Music: “Swallow People Whole” -The Receiving End of Sirens