Saturday, May 9, 2009

This week in Ukraine

It’s Friday night, I’m sitting at my “desk,” trying to remember what exactly I did all week! Busy, busy, busy… Last Saturday went out to visit the dachas—gardens on the outside of the city, many with tiny rustic houses—which many people have to grow vegetables. Our hosts were planting potatoes in a big field they also have. Rode the marstruka out there—they are small van-like buses that go all over the city and are usually crammed with people. Lots of babushkas (grandmothers literally but basically any woman over 60) on the bus heading out to their dacha with a plastic shopping bag filled with seeds, seedlings, tools. A note on the plastic shopping bags—if you were to watch people on the streets, you would think everyone has just come from shopping somewhere. But the actuality is that people use those bags as their purse, briefcase, backpack. The women have a large purse and a plastic bag, men usually just the bag. You have to pay for a bag at the stores, so folks hang on to them and use them over and over to carry absolutely everything. Now that is a lesson us Americans could use…
Rest of the week spent language learning, a health workshop with a Ukrainian doc who works for PC, working on our organizational project. We have a new language teacher for 3 weeks—the idea being to have another speaker to get used to. Her name is Natasha. Very young, very beautiful, very fluent, and a good teacher. It is true what they say about Ukrainian women—they are quite beautiful by western (white) standards.
Tomorrow is one of the big Ukrainian holidays—Victory Day, which celebrates the end of the “Great Patriotic War”—what we call World War II—in which over 6 million Ukrainians died (including 2.6 million Jews which I have yet to hear referred to). A group of us along with a couple of the language teachers are going to a military museum. Something that would normally not interest me, but here it is such a huge part of the culture.
My friend Fran and I have got our little reading seminar worked out. The librarians are quite excited about it. I hope we can pull it off. But Fran has a Ph.D. in something and is a retired history prof, so that should help. Anyhow, what we are going to do is have everyone read a very small excerpt (3 pages) from Willa Cather’s My Antonia and a similar excerpt from a famous Ukrainian writer whose home is preserved here—Miklailo Kotsyubinsky. They were both writing about the same time and with similar themes—at least the passages we picked. I think the discussion should be pretty interesting, especially since Kotsyubinsky was writing of the time leading up to the Russian Revolution (called the October Revolution here) and the unrest of the peasants.
Well, this is probably way more than you really want to hear, though it is fun to think of sitting and talking with all of you. Hopefully, I have figured out why I’ve had trouble posting pictures and will get some up this time.
I don’t know yet where I will be posted—much speculation as we meet PCV’s who are currently serving in Ukraine and get their feedback. We won’t know until our actual graduation from training-June 18th-and then a couple of days later we pack up and head out to who knows where! More of the unknown. Gotta love it….life in the Peace Corps.
Love to you all.


  1. Sorry to be out of touch, Barb. I've been in NY. Saw Dorothy, and also my publishers, who told me I should be writing three books a year. Maybe it's time to retire to my dacha on the Crimea. I'll try to call you later this week.

  2. It's never "way more than we want to hear", Barb. I look forward to reading your posts here and imagining another world over there. Keep writing! --sandy