sportsmenka sightings and village voyeurism

so i was sort of wrong about the exorcism of the boys room next to me. for one because the boys are still blasting a speaker they’ve recently acquired and two because it was more likely to be ‘have-the-priest-bless-the-dormitory’ day. ukraine has a day for everything. yesterday was ‘day of tatianas’ and ‘day of university students’. which makes me wonder why there aren’t more hallmarks in ukraine…they’d make a fortune off all the various holidays! i’m still waiting for the ‘wear your wristwatch on the same hand you write with’ holiday. it’s probably out there floating around on one of those ukrainian calendar that has more holidays than actual days of the year.

even though wednesdays, with only one afternoon lesson, are my late days at school i left super early to grab some books before the first bell rang. so i bundled up and headed out into the icy tundra the landscape has turned into. good thing my commute is only 3 minutes heh. as i cautiously made my way in my giant timberlands over the ice, my students in high heals confidentially striding past me, a hunched over old lady caned her way towards me. she was layered in baba scarfs of varying colors that somewhat made her look like the bottom of a mexican dress.

i said good morning figuring she’s simply return the greeting but she stopped me, smiled reveling two, and only two, front teeth in her wide grin. i might be terrible with names, but faces, faces i never forget. especially hers. she looked like pixar could have based a character off of her. she told me she sees me running and that i’m a good girl for doing it. and don’t i get cold? and how is the weather like here compared to back home? (everyone always hopes where they live will win the prize for the worst)

as hunched over and toothless as she was, this lady had spunk. something in her still bright blue eyes told me she’s young at heart. she went rambling off about something i couldn’t understand laughing in between and confessing to me that she loves to joke. i don’t know who this lady was, or what she was really even saying, but she’s certainly someone that i want to be friends with. you can never have enough baba (babushka) friends. especially ones with only two teeth that love to joke and laugh.

once i grabbed my books i still had quite a bit of time before i needed to lesson plan so i walked over to my neighbor. just as i went to knock on the door i spotted some icicles on her laundry was still hanging outside to dry, in 0*F weather none the less. i was surprised to see eddik (lena’s 8 year-old son) home from school when they invited me in. apparently the school bus to take them to the elementary school hasn’t shown up for the past two days because it’s too cold. so staying at home to play legos and watch tv it is. i started to wonder just how many days he’ll miss of school because of the cold and how that could possibly hinder his education, but quickly got sidetracked and stopped worrying by lego playing, little ira, and the fact that this is ukraine.

i had forgotten how much fun legos are and quickly realized that what kid wouldn’t rather stay at home playing legos and watch russian dubbed american films?? staying home from school got even sweeter when lena gave me a slice of cake, a mug of cherry compote, and a pillow to sit on. this is the life! i was almost ready to call in that it was too cold for me to make it to school too so i can eat cake and play with kids. well not really. maybe.

cherry compote and nuts (too bad i don't have a nutcracker)

but i had responsibilities to tend to, ones that trumped lego time. so i left with a gift of cherry compote and walnuts and decided to throw a run in before lesson planning. nooooo, i wasn’t procrastinating. i geared up for my run with my very limited running wardrobe, shoe spikes, and a pep talk that once i start running i won’t be so cold. but the minute i stepped outside, the wind blew right threw my shirt and i ran in to layer on one more and wrap a scarf unfashionably around my head. this time the nurses in the room next to me stopped and asked if i was going to be warm enough. they checked my pants, my ankle socks, my shirt, my gloves to which i answered yes yes yes they’ll be fine. though i even doubted my own answer.

i’ll never once complain about the motivation it takes to train for a half-marathon on a treadmill again. let me tell you…running outside with snow blowing across the flat open landscape,  -18*F windchill and ice, avoiding attacks by dogs, geese, turkeys, and drunks takes a whole ‘nother kind of motivation. probably one called craziness. and also the reason why i’m the talk of the town as the ‘sportsmenka’.

with snot frozen to my nostrils and eyes teared up from the wind (attractive i know), a car approached me from behind and slowed down. it slowed to the point where it was driving right next to me and gave me no other choice but to turn and acknowledge it. sure enough a big white haired, mustached, ukrainian man rolled his window down and gestured for me to remove my headphones. just like the two-toothed woman, i’ve never ever seen this person before. which is odd because the first thing he said was not ‘do you have any grey poupon?’ but rather ‘where have you been??? i haven’t seen you!’.

peepin' pups

…uhhhh exsqueeze me? baking powder? who are you?? i just sort of awkwardly laughed, trying not so slow my pace, wondering just how many people creepily watch me run, and just how long this man would drive along side me. thankfully after a polite refusal to let him drive me to my destination, he sped along. seemingly excited to have me back in his life.

huh, i thought, running back to the dormitories. eeeeeveryone really does know me here. and apparently sits at their windows to watch me run by. which wouldn’t be hard to do with the uproar of barking chained dogs that ensues as i approach. it’s sort of flattering to know everyone knows me, but also kinda worrisome that everyone keeps track of me from the warmth and comfort of their houses. i guess this means i should stop picking my nose and wedgies when i walk down the street.

classes have been…well…classes. the students have all seriously check-out mentally and i’m pretty sure on top of that have a case of cabin fever. i know for sure they’d rather be playing legos at home too. my 11th formers are the worst. i’ve still never experienced such disinterested young people. they’re just a bunch of goofballs and don’t care about learning what. so. ever. and they’re pretty much the reason why i’m so crazy as to run for an hour in the tundra. outside of class they aren’t so bad, one of my worst 11th former boys even helped me reach for the other arm of my coat today, but something happens to them once they step inside the classroom. oh well, thankfully i only have them for the rest of the semester. and if anything i guess at least they give me lots of motivation to run and solo-dance-party-rave away my stress.

by the way i realize village people watching me run is not actually voyeurism (well…i have been known to run naked a few times). but the alliteration was just too nice to pass up.   ; )

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