football firsts and failed feminism

while i should really be preparing for my english club’s ‘women’s day’ party today, i’m currently infiltrating my itunes with some notorious B.I.G. and 2pac (better late than ever, right?) and catching up on my words (also, better late than never, though i don’t usually have this problem).

women’s day is HUGE in ukraine. it’s a holiday, celebrated in most countries (except the USA), on march 8th that celebrates all women — mothers, daughters, sisters. my students have been preparing for the upcoming school concert for about a month, religiously practicing the sentences they have to recite and making various cards. the anticipation and excitement for this day in someways feels like the countdown to christmas. and in some ways it is like christmas, because if you’re a lady you’re showered with chocolate, cards, flowers, and cheesy songs — wait that sounds a lot more like valentine’s day…

my english club students asked me if we’d have a ‘women’s day’ party (they must know how much i love themed parties). i hadn’t even really thought about it, but agreed that it was a good idea. i figured i’d make some sort of “women who changed the world” powerpoint and maybe listen and dance to beyonce’s “run the world (girls)” on loop. they told me to be sure i bring some, and i quote, “nom noms”, so maybe my baking is really why they want me to have this party. they’ll probably be disappointed that i haven’t had time to bake (tragedy!) but they can feed on some feminism instead.

this past weekend i traveled even further east into russialand to donetsk (the neighboring oblast). my ultimate destination was the site of my friend joe, who also lives in a place called konstantinovka. but of course traveling in ukraine is never as simple as point a to point b so it took a few trips to and from donetsk to get there.

i normally have horrific travel stories, for some reason ukraine like to let me have it anytime i travel, but lately it hasn’t been too bad. that was until i got on my train thursday night to find my sleeper bed occupied with banana boxes. that was a first.

i thought maybe they were someone else’s but as it turns out the banana boxes were placed there by the train wagon lady worker and she had no intention of moving them. my only other option was the bed where the heavy bags of used linens are stored, not an ideal seat, but it had to do.

the train lady was quite annoyed by my existence and ‘made’ the bed available by shoving a huge bag of linens under it leaving the middle part of the bed rather uncomfortably jutting out. i knew this wouldn’t do so rather than bother her again i struggled to lift the heavy sack over my head and to the shelf above. it was at this moment, heavy linens hovering over my head, arms weakening under the pressure along with my patience for non-existant customer service, that i said ‘f*** you ukraine!!!’.

i’m not sure if the man near by heard me, or understood what i said, but at that point he got up and helped me. maybe he didn’t exactly understand my words (though most young people know english swear words, thank you music industry), but sometimes a slew of swears is universally understood. eventually i got my reject bed made and tried to fall asleep for my 7 hour train ride all the while eying my original seat and the bananas that sleep soundly there with jealousy.

i spent the majority of friday visiting joe’s school and being his ‘guest speaker’. every kid loves a  guest speaker because it usually means they get out of doing any regular work. being a guest speaker is pretty easy, though my cheeks hurt from smiling so much (such an american problem) and my hobbies started to sound kind of boring after repeating them for the 20th time.

we did some Q&A (some of my favorites were “do you have a boyfriend?” and “YESSSS!” when i replied that i did not have one (you’re a bit young for me 5th grade boy), “do you read the bible?”, “do you drink hot chocolate?”, “you’re from chicago??! they have great coffee there!” and apparently they even asked joe if i do parkour), later played hangman, mafia, and even some ping-pong in between classes.

i always love seeing a different school and meeting new kids/teachers. it’s always nice to be reminded that all kids are hilarious crazy goofballs in the classroom — not just yours. not to mention joe has the nicest/sweetest counterpart ever who kindly had us over to lunch on sunday.

on friday night we headed back to donetsk (where i just came from at 5:15 am that same morning) for a donetsk shaktar soccer game with some fellow volunteers. i’m kind of ashamed to admit i’d never been to a professional soccer game (i guess soccer hasn’t really been a favorite sport of mine, but it’s growing on me thanks to ukraine), so this was a first for me. i was pretty darn excited! excited to see some good friends, drink some brews, eat some pizza, and pretend that i know a thing or two about soccer.

i’d been to donetsk before and seen the famous ‘dunbass arena’ from the outside before, but this was my first time getting the real dunbass experience — the whole flashy “this was built with mob money” ambiance, enthusiastic shirtless ukrainian soccer fans, and getting vertigo from our nose bleed seats. the evening ended with a win by donetsk, continuous shouting “SHAKTOR CHAMPION” from the tipsy fans on the way home, and of course no peace corps gathering would be complete without sleeping sardine style on the floor with coats as blankets at our friend’s apartment. it was a great weekend.

* * * * * * * *

well i ended up running out of time to post this before school, not to mention my internet went out (typical), so this post is now in two parts. like a novella. or a serial. or a two part blog post.

i did in fact end up finishing my presentation for my ‘women’s day’ english club. but it was basically a total flop. well not completely…but basically. and noooo it’s not because i planned it last minute. gosh! (just kidding it probably was). well, the material and plan was pretty good but it’s just that i had to translate everything on the spot without help from my counterpart into a mix or ukr/russian because my students couldn’t understand otherwise. normally i can translate basic texts without too much of a problem, but trying to explain the influence of rosa parks, marie curie, etc. to the kids wasn’t easy. especially when they know nothing of the civil rights movement in america.

did my best to simplify things and get the gist across, but i could see their eyes glazing over. it was brutal. and the song learning didn’t go very well either since they had no interest in singing today. trying to save my own sinking ship i figured we’d talk about music and songs that are positive for women. i gave a few examples and played them but when i asked what their favorite song is they replied “nirvana’s ‘rape me’!”.

i asked them “a song called ‘rape me’??” for about 5 minutes…“there’s a song called ‘rape me’??!”. i wouldn’t be surprised really, there are a lot of songs i don’t know. hence why i’m just now adding biggie and 2pac. but they’re too young to listen to music like that, not to mention the irony of their answer was just too much.

you hear that? yea, that’s the sound of a successful english club hitting the bottom of the ocean.

at this point i thought, screw it! there’s no way i can articulate the messages that i want to right now. besides, i’m boring them to death. so we switched to a much more widely received activity: card making! i had them make women’s day cards for their other english teacher, my counterpart, and their mother or grandmother. they seemed to like this activity, thank god.

i was disappointed with myself for not being able to release a hefty dose of feminism on their impressionable minds, but i guess i tried. i have some time before i give similar presentations to all my classes on thursday (we won’t have classes on friday, women’s day. score!) so i can get my shit together and figure out how to better get my thoughts across and hopefully inspire some young ladies out there. hopefully…


the other konstantinovka


the other konstantinovka


joe and his students ping-pongin between classes


lenin in donetsk


our spaceship to the motherland. but really it’s just the dunbass football arena


volunteers of donetsk! plus a new photobombing friend on the far left


donbass arena


i was impressed


photosesia with volunteers and tanks


the ladies showin how the ‘dima squat’ is done. it’s common to find ukrainian men squatting on the sidewalk like this. we find it hilarious.


english club kids


my ugly card examples, but my kids were quite impressed! lol

One thought on “football firsts and failed feminism

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s