as my vincent van gogh calendar from america comes to a colorful end in a mater of days, so does my first semester of teaching in ukraine…though admittedly slightly less colorful. soon enough it will be the year 2012 and ol’ vincent will be replaced with a ukrainian-made calendar of byzantine religious figures, cyrillic alphabet, and all…a calendar that will stay up until the next new years i spend in ukraine. so weird to think about. buuuuut i won’t get too ahead of myself.
while i’ve already spent nine months in ukraine, there’s something about the fact that next year marks a full year, new years to new years, that i’ll spend here in ukraine is pretty mind blowing. i’m goin full circle baby! but in reality, while that ukrainian-made calendar of stern-looking byzantine religious figures and cyrillic alphabet is intimidating in itself, the time isn’t so much and has really seemed to pass quickly.
my last day of the semester at school is tomorrow (well, today, by the time i post this) and the school year is half-way over. so this will be rather short (in comparison to the novels i typically write) as i have yet to fill out a bunch of peace corps paperwork, figure out grant stuff, give christmas presents and pack…again. i JUST got back on monday from traveling this weekend and i’m leaving again for israel. woe is me!
you might be thinking ‘gee does she actually work?’ but in my defense the past couple weeks at school have been loads of final tests from the ministry of education (totally sounds like harry potter) which have NOTHING to do with what the students have actually learned and more with memorization and crafty ways of cheating. if only i could change the system to test them on what they actually know…now that would be something.
without missing much at school, i didn’t feel so bad in taking leave for the weekend. so i spent it with some of my favorite americans celebrating christmas, minus the 37 hours total of transit (some of my friends had it worse). fellow volunteer michael, whom i traveled to istanbul with, and i had hap hazardly discussed a ‘christmas vacation’ watching tree chopping christmas party. so with a few other people on board to celebrate, traveling from all throughout ukraine (and brian even flying back from a visit in america), the party was realized and an indian-mexican-american-ukrainian christmas ensued.
as the first ones to michael’s city of borzna for the weekend, megan and i helped michael with a christmas party at his school that saturday. his kids were (not) so surprisingly much better english than my students and really enjoyed the ‘gingerbread’ (but really just shortbread) house and christmas card making, christmas carol singing and christmas movie watching that was planned for them. it all turned out to be a big hit, the kids left with smiles and michael, megan, and i left with a stack of homemade christmas cards and our example ‘gingerbread’ house to eat on the way home.
soon becca and brian arrived, after surviving a bus ride with a drunk man who soiled himself, and the party began. white elephant gifts were exchanged (ukraine has quite a lot of good options) a mexican christmas dinner from scratch was prepared, samahon (homemade vodka gifted from michael’s ukrainian friend) was poured, toasts were made and that weekend quickly won the ranks of one of the best i’ve spent here in ukraine. ever. i was sad to part such good company, and even more sad when becca, megan, and i got on the bus back to kyiv with guess who…the same drunk soiled pants man that was there the first time. just our luck.
though other than poopy pants man, my luck with traveling in ukraine went MUCH better than usual. yea it still took forever to get places and wasn’t necessarily the most pleasant experience, but things didn’t go as terribly as they usually do so that was a huge plus.
it might have to do with the fact that when i left the dormitories and said goodbye to the school nurse, i was scolded (as usual) for not dressing properly for the cold. when i explained that i’ll just go back to get a scarf i was literally blocked and told that ‘no no no you must’n it’s just not right’ (‘it’ being karma) and bundled up with the nurses own old lady perfumed scarf instead. while i’m not superstitious like ukrainians, i can’t help but wonder if my borrowed old lady perfumed scarf is what helped things go so well….and if i can borrow it again for my travels today hehe.
i’m leaving for kyiv tonight, on the same train that i just took less than a week ago, meeting up with fellow volunteer kate and flying to tel aviv in the morning. SO CRAZY. i can’t believe that i’ll be in israel for christmas and even bethlehem on christmas day. it doesn’t seem like christmas here at all (maybe in part because i’m the only one here that celebrates christmas on the 25th because christmas here is on the 7th of january, i’m not celebrating with my family, and there’s no 24-hour christmas radio stations, store decorations or cheezey hallmark channel christmas movies to prove it’s happening) but maybe that will all change when kate and i head to israel where it all started. for a REAL christmas…whatever that might really be. and while we won’t be home exchanging gifts and drinking egg nog with family and friends we so dearly miss, we’ll be celebrating it soakin up the history, sun, slightly warmer temperatures, and hopefully feasting on a christmas dinner of authentic falafel and hummus.
merry christmas to all 🙂