if the world can come to any sort of agreement on one thing, it would probably be ‘being sick alone and away from home is the worst’…well that and homelessness and hunger. you would think ukraine is trying to get rid of me from the number of stomach problems it has so generously given me. like the national anthem of ukraine (no really google it), i can weakly cry, ‘i’m not yet dead!’…though i just sort of feel like death right now. and that’s no fun.
this marks the fifthish serious bout of sickness i’ve had while in ukraine (yea i tallied that). the peace corps medical doctors probably answer the phone and think ‘YOU again?!?’. yea…it’s me. but this time i didn’t drink the kool-aid. or eat the various meat and cheese products that sit un-refrigerated. i mean…how can you get food poisoning from a diet of potatoes with potatoes and a side of potatoes? while i thought i’ve done everything right, ukraine got me, again. and frustratingly there’s still no telling where it’s coming from.
i had to call in sick from classes yesterday, making it a(n) (awesomely) short week with only a total of 2 days actually teaching. i hoped resting drinking fluids and catching up with harry potter would do the trick but instead of getting better i only got worse. thankfully, the nurses are right next door so when they got to work this morning i handed them some money and begged them to buy me some water cause i was too weak to make it to the store myself (and i wasn’t gonna risk drinking my home filtered water). the nurses handed me a total of six different medicines to take, which i’m still not so sure about, and returned few hours later with what i’d hoped for was my water. the nurse rapped gently on my door, and parched mouth i gathered my strength to open it, hoping to see a bottle of water. but, there was no water in hand as apparently the store was sold out of water. OHHHH village life.
no store-bought water meant i had to resort to boiling the heck out of my water and forcing myself to drink it, little pieces of calcium floating around and all. i’ve just been lounging around in my room with the mice wishing someone would miraculously appear to take care of me (i think the mice are too small to bring me crackers and soup…and plus i’m still mad at them for eating all my pencil erasers while i was on vacation). so it’s just me. me and my boiled water. and the mountain of laundry i so regretfully didn’t ‘carpe diem’.
as i lay there somewhat delirious, dreaming of mice serving me soup, someone knocked on my door. i figured it was the nurse checking up on me, though she very well could have just shouted to me from her office chair, but instead it was my counterpart’s sister (who has been helping with the english workload). as i’ve mentioned before my counterpart, the only english teacher at school and one i’m supposed to be co-teaching with, hasn’t been at school since the second day. and last sunday when i called to check-in on the health of her sick daughter and her status of coming back or not, she told me she’d most likely not be coming back to school since her five-year-old daughter had, after months of tests, been diagnosed with cancer. and with such devastating news i felt selfish for even momentarily thinking ‘what does this mean for me?’. but i did have to wonder. since she’s the only english teacher at school, what would happen next? i certainly could continue teaching blindly without a counterpart or someone to guide me along.
that’s where the woman standing in front of an un-showered sick mess of myself in the doorway comes into the story. after speaking with my regional manager about the situation, he then called my school director, and relayed the plan of action to me. the plan looks like this: i teach with lesya’s sister (who is actually a chemistry teacher not an english teacher) at least till the end of the semester and then maybe they’ll see about hiring someone new. my regional manager timidly laid all this out on the table to me, half expecting me to cop-out and ask for a new school. but i told him none of this is anyone’s fault and i wouldn’t be a very good volunteer if i didn’t stay and try to make the best of it.
so lesya’s sister stood in my doorway, hopefully not appalled by me or the condition of my room, as my ‘new’ counterpart. i thought maybe she’d come to talk about what the next week will bring as far as lessons go, but she pulled a folded lined piece of paper out from her pocket with the numbers 1800 written on the outside. she told me to take the homemade envelope that this was my money…..huh? probably from not having eaten for a few days i somehow thought it was logical that i left 1800 hryvins lying around school somewhere….wait…what was i thinking?? coming to i told her i didn’t understand what this was for, it certainly wasn’t mine, but she insisted that i take it for all the solo teaching i’ve done without a counterpart. essentially substitute teaching. whoa.
i was so surprised. she stood there waiting for me to take the envelope, the elegant numerals 1-8-0-0 staring back at me. but like refusing a third helping on thanksgiving, i gestured ‘no’ and told her that i couldn’t take it. she probably thought i was being delirious, but i gave her my gratitude and told her i just couldn’t accept it. confused she stuffed the wad of cash back in her pocket and said ‘ooookay we’ll just have to see what the head teacher says about that!’ and was on her way. i didn’t mean to be rude by not accepting the generous, generous gift, but firstly, i’m not even allowed to accept monetary gifts, even for tutoring, and secondly, it certainly wouldn’t feel right getting paid for what i’m supposed to do, even if it didn’t turn out exactly like i expected…now extra vacation days, on the other hand, is a different story ; )