Saturday, June 13, 2009

My last week in Chernihiv

Well, here it is, my last week in Chernihiv. Feeling many emotions—excitement to get to my site and start my life of the next two years, sadness at leaving my new found friends—American and Ukrainian; and anxiety about how I will cope with the changes.
Last Saturday Fran and I had our second reading seminar, and it was a great success. We read two Ukrainian writers from the pre-revolution time, both of whom were imprisoned for their beliefs, and then an excerpt of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. We had planned on showing it on the computer in the library, but the internet was down, a common occurrence here. It was a good discussion, especially about the metaphors in one of the Ukrainian writer’s piece, as he was unable to write his political beliefs without risking imprisonment. A couple of wonderful results came out of the seminar—my friend Iryna at the library said that it opened up the world of poetry to her (not her words), and the other woman I liked so much in the group (yet another Iryna—there were 5!) said she was going to use the materials in her English classes. So Fran and I thought the experience a success. We both certainly enjoyed it a lot more than the community projects we were working on with our clusters.
And speaking of my community project, we finished it up this week with a training seminar on fundraising events. I think it went okay, but it was not what I would have done if I was working on my own with the NGO. But it satisfied the PC requirements for the training, and hopefully the participants got something out of it. They seemed to. My biggest challenge, I think, was working with my fellow Americans in the group. Different working styles, different beliefs, attitudes, etc. It was a good experience for me—what a change from the world I have been part of most of my life! I know Debbie and I from the group will always be friends, but I doubt I will see much of the other three.
Now it’s Thursday night. Had my language proficiency test today. I thought I did terrible—had a hard time understanding the interviewer’s questions, plus she asked me a lot of questions that were hard for me to answer with my limited vocabulary—like what problems do we have in America! However, after talking with my friends, maybe I did okay because some of them had very limited interviews with no hard questions at all. Well, need to let go. Will find out the results on Tuesday. It doesn’t really mean anything, just gives you an indication of where you are at. No matter the result, I will hire a tutor once I get to my site and will take part in the language reviews the PC does once a year. And will keep studying…I really do want to be able to converse with people here.
Saturday now. I need to get this off today because probably won’t be at the internet cafĂ© tomorrow, my last day here. Yesterday, three of us from our group visited another organization. The young guy who runs it (23) is such a sweet, energetic, enthusiastic type. The organization works with children and youth teaching them healthy lifestyles. It is affiliated with a children’s hospital—we had tea with the director and got a tour of their facilities and their new offices. One of the rooms in their new place is a therapy room that is totally lined with sea salt crystals. They said it is good for breathing problems. Anyone ever heard of that? I need to look it up on the internet. The Peace Corps is considering the possibility of working with them, which is why we ended up to going there. They would be a great organization to be assigned to.
Spent the rest of the day doing some secondhand store shopping. Today I was going out in the dragon boat with a bunch of folks, but it is pouring rain—a welcome relief after the intense heat this week. Air conditioning is rare here, as are fans and window screens. People just deal with it…
Every Friday night there is a television show that comes out of Kyiv called Ukriane Talent. My family is into watching it, and I have gotten into it too. It is a trip. Like American Idol—three judges, audience voting, very Hollywoodish with elaborate staging, etc. But the talents acts—what a slice of Ukraine. Last night there was a large man who went from priest costume to military uniform while belting some song; a belly dancer; a group of break dancers; two guys on bicycles; a couple performing tricks with blowing bubbles; two young girls doing acrobatics; an old guy who’s talent was being able to lift a kitchen table holding it in his mouth; and for the final act, a blatant drag queen in an amazing long red dress singing some beautiful song in a soprano voice. They were all very talented at what they did, and each act was a spectacular show, but this is something you definitely would not see in America. I just sat there watching it and smiling and thinking how much I love Ukraine.
Hopefully, the next time I post I will be at my permanent site, or at least know where it will be. Monday we find out and meet with the Regional Managers—the PC staff person you are responsible to at your site (they aren’t located there—they are all in Kyiv). I keep feeling like I really don’t care where I go, but we’ll see how I react when I get my assignment!
Love to you all from Ukraine.

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