lenas and lock-ins

well…the weekend is over. the students are back. and so begins the knocking-on-my-window-then-run-away and the constant pouding of running feet and slamming doors above my head. sigh…my peace and quiet time is gone. well at least till next friday. is it bad if i’m already counting down the days? this is how parents must feel when their kids finally leave for school after a long summer. it’s eerily quiet and somewhat less fun without them, buuuut at the same time the best thing in the world!

my student-less weekend was pretty wonderful. it started out with a thrilling homework grading session and serious blog updating. but the homework didn’t take all too long to grade since most students copied off of one student’s homework. as though i wouldn’t notice they all had the same summer vacation hmmm curious. cheating is rampant in ukrainian schools. i mean these students know how to cheat. i think it has something to do with the whole former somewhat still ‘collectivists’ society. meaning that they’re all in this together so why wouldn’t they help each other out. we were warned about this mentality in our peace corps training and my stack of carbon copied homework was proof of it. if only they knew what happened to students who cheat in america!

i spent such a long time in the school (the only place where i have internet access) grading and internet-ing that i ended up getting locked-in. figures, i mean i’d honestly just been waiting for it to happen, i’d had a few very close calls. but this time really did happen. no one was left in the school…just me…trying to get out. i could have jumped out of one of the windows, which i thought about, but i’d probably get in trouble for not closing it behind me. i pondered over possible solutions to this problem when i heard some boys playing on the school grounds. i went to the window, spotted them hiding behind a tree playing hide-and-seek but i shouted for their attention anyways. maxim (one of my students who although goes to my school lives here so he doesn’t live in the dorms) spotted me in the window, looked somewhat surprised and ran to get help after i told him i couldn’t get out. in the end it turned out fine and i didn’t have to resort to my james bond tactics.

and you’d think i’d have learned my lesson to be sure i DON’T get locked in…but i’m afraid to say it happened again…today. at least this time i wasn’t in school alone. the lunch ladies were upstairs cooking and locked the door behind them so i was easily able to get out with their help. jeez i should start a tally of the times i get locked in cause i have a funny feeling this won’t be the last.

so on saturday, my completely studentless day, i took the much needed opportunity to wash my clothes (by my own two hands and a bucket) and hang them out to dry without all the students seeing my underwear. i even tackled my jeans and sweatshirt on sunday. washing those by hand (bedsheets included) is not the most fun but at least it’s a good arm work out.

after proudly handing all my clean laundry neatly out to dry i got my bike and camera and went for a bike ride to i don’t know where. the clouds were so beautiful that day and there was a steady fall-is-coming breeze. it had just rained the day before so the dirt roads were somewhat soft and still muddy. i had in my mind that maybe i’d ride to this canal people keep talking about, i could tell by the distant hazy tree line where it was…but as i rode further and further away from everything i realized i was absolutely alone and it was probably not the best idea to go further. so i took turned around and headed back taking pictures every now and then. whenever i’d stop i had to get off my bike and with my cool ukrainian-non-existant bike stand (i’m pretty sure only americans use bike stands) i’d set my bike on the ground and wonder off. though one time going back to my bike, i don’t even know what i did, but i managed to trip on something (or maybe even nothing at all) and did a summersault landing on the muddy dirt path. i dont’ even know what happened, i wasn’t even ON my bike. but somehow, miraculously, with my precious camera in hand i was able to set it gingerly on the ground as i flew into the air. i guess that’s the whole ‘mothers do extraordinary things for their child in time of crisis’ theory for you. it was pretty hilarious actually and i’m glad no one saw it. i was fine except for a sore butt and ego and now muddy jeans and a yellow-why-couldn’t-it-be-black! sweatshirt. hence why i had to finally wash them.

burnt fields on my bike ride

later that day after gathering my clothes from the line, i walked over to my neighbors for a visit. on friday i gave my neighbors a bag off my homemade cookies with the same note i wrote for the teachers ‘traditional american cookie : )’. they loved the cookies so much my neighbor insisted on having the recipe, lena sent her son to run over to the store to buy the ingredients i listed and wanted to bake them RIGHT then! it was so adorable. i was so happy they enjoyed them so much and wanted to learn the american cookie making way…but it was already 8pm and i told her starting tomorrow would be better.

so i went over to lena’s the next day (sunday) after getting locked in the school (good job kristen) and finishing a few more loads (aka buckets) of laundry. when i came over the kids were  all taking naps so lena and i began quietly baking. after the first batch was done the smell of fresh american cookies woke them up and they came to watch (and steal a few to ‘test’). my other neighbor, also confusingly a lena, came over and joined us. the two of them talked about their reality tv show they love to watch with lena (lena #1) periodically checking on the cookies. ira (lena #1’s daughter) sat with me and i braided her hair as i half listened to their conversations. lena quickly picked up on the (really not hard) art of american drop cookie baking and they turned out delicious. once we were all finished we sat down with tea and the plate full of cookies on the table. from my tally, both of the lena’s kids ate about 5+ cookies each lol. so there wasn’t much left after a half hour. but that was beyond pleasing to me. an empty plate is always the biggest compliment to a cook : )

she's adorable

after eating more than a healthy dose of freshly baked deliciousness i told the lenas i had to get back home and start planning my lessons. fuuuuun. lena #2 walked back with me and i asked if she had any dairy products for sale at the time (it’s her cow that i hear mooning all the time). he said no cheese or tvorodzjok (like cottage cheese) yet but milk yes and went inside to get a jar of milk. i didn’t even really want milk…i don’t actually like drinking it but i’ve never bought raw milk before from a cow whose moo i know intimately. so what the heck. she brought out a jar of lukewarm milk handed it to me and i handed her 5 hrv. cheaper than the store!….but now what do i do with it…lol i’m afraid to drink it during the week as it may induce very bad bathroom things and seeing as how i’m teaching all the english classes by myself…that would not be fun. i’ll figure something out. maybe i’ll give it to ‘my’ dog chucha for now.

straight from the udder

my parents called later that evening and it was so nice to talk to them. i have to walk around outside to get cellphone reception in my village and when my neighbors, little eddik and ira, saw me they called me over. i walked towards them talking on the phone and eddik started taking a video on his mom’s phone of me. they find the way i speak english so funny and the only time they hear it is when i’m on the phone, so they love being by myside when i talk lol. as i was talking i saw one of my neighbors stumbling towards us and 5 year old ira instantly acted much older beyond her age and with a concerned look and eye on the man literally pushed me inside. once the man passed i told her it was okay now and i’d be fine to walk on my own and with her permission she let me go.

ira and her nudist doll

once i finished my phone call and said bye to my parents half way around the world, i popped into my neighbor’s to say goodnight. though my ‘quick’ goodbye turned into lena insisting i try on clothes she doesn’t wear and modeling them for her, her kids and my drunk neighbor kola. it was pretty funny and slightly embarrassing i was told to drop my pants infront of her lol. but it was so nice of her to give me some new things to add to my very small wardrobe. she begged me to sit and chat for a little even though i told her i hadn’t even finished planning my lessons. but, persuasive as she is, i sat. lena, kola and i talked for a little. or rather they did, i couldn’t understand much of their russian. though i did understand when kola asked for my phone number so he could add it to his phone. lena, stood behind the fridge out of his eyesight and shook her head no with such a serious ferocity i got the point. and said i didn’t know my phone number, maybe some other time. i was thankful for her signal of caution since i too thought i was a bad idea. i’m glad i know i can count on her for looking out for me. but it seems no matter where you go in the world, or what language you speak (or don’t speak), drunk men always ask for your phone number.

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