Yesterday was kind of a Coney Island beach day. Went on a bus with Natalia, director of the Children’s Library where I work on Thursdays, and her two daughters, 15 year-old Olga, and 20-something Kseniya, who speaks pretty good English. It was a different kind of Black Sea experience. We went northwest for about an hour to get to the coast. Slightly rolling land-- pastures, wheat fields, vineyards. Dry and dusty. The beach is a long pebble expanse and fairly narrow, with scrub land behind it. I saw on the map it was marked for camping, and there were tents lining the back of the beach. No toilet facilities, so people went across the highway to an empty field, as far as I could tell. The beach was pretty crowded—blankets and people every few feet. So not for me the ideal beach experience. But the swimming was great—clear cool water and some good sized waves as the day got windier. And I had fun hanging out with them, especially the 15-year old who was into swimming with me. But overall they are much more reserved than the Crimean Tatar people I am mostly around. They were yakking away and laughing with each other, but I was really not part of it. Natalia really only wants to talk with me through Kseniya interpreting, and that makes all the difference in the world. But she is very kind and wants to make sure I have a good time. She asked me if I wanted to go with them today (Sunday) to a horse competition of some kind, which I would have liked to do, but am leaving tomorrow for the week and felt like I needed a day at home to prepare.
At the end of the day we were waiting for a bus, and some guy stopped and offered us a ride. He had a Mercedes sedan and was into driving, so I just sat in the back seat and tried not to look and thought, “well, we will get back home really fast, or we won’t get back home at all!”
Leaving tomorrow with Nadzhye to go to Kyiv (the Ukrainian capital) for a 3-day workshop on how to build volunteerism in a community. I didn’t think Nadzhye would be interested in the topic, but she definitely was, so we decided to go. There do seem to be some volunteers at the library, but I don’t really have a clue how tied in the Tatar community is to the library or the arts organization. It would be great if some kind of project came out of our attending the workshop. I am starting to feel that I would like to figure out some additional way I can get involved in the organizations besides grant writing, because I am afraid that could be a dead end endeavor. I think we will be able to get some small grants to fund projects like conferences, but the bigger projects are going to be difficult, especially in these economic times. As you all know.
The trip to Kyiv is a 17-hour ride on the train. I think there is a faster train, but it is the height of the tourist season, and we were lucky to get tickets at all. As it is, we ended up in the “platcar” which is a class down from koupe, where we would normally travel, and our seats are close to the toilet and along the side, whatever that means. I just know Nadzhye wasn’t too happy when we went to purchase tickets. Furthermore, everyone I have told about the tickets start laughing. Not a good sign. I will report back next week and give you the whole, and hopefully not too awful, story.
The really wonderful thing about going to Kyiv is that I will get to see a couple of the people I got close to in the training months. We have been talking on the phone since we have been at our sites and made a plan to go to this workshop at least partly to see one another. I will be glad to see them, but otherwise I don’t have a strong desire to be in contact with other Americans, as some of my fellow PCV’s do. I really like where I live, the people I work with, and my neighbors who I have gotten to know a bit these past couple of months. I so look forward to my relationships with them continuing to grow. The language barrier does keep us from having real indepth conversations, but yet there is so much we are able to communicate. At least two or three times a week, I go across the road to Neshet and Lenora’s house, and the three of us spend a couple of hours talking with the aid of the dictionary. When Sirdar, and to some extent Sophye though she knows much less English than Sirdar, is there, it is much easier, but it is kind of amazing what we are able to talk about, just Neshet and Lenora and I. A lot of it is the willingness to keep trying to explain oneself and to understand the other person. I am so grateful they want to make that effort. I just hope they don’t tire of it at some point.
At the end of this post there is a link to see the pictures I put on Facebook. Please let me know if this way to doing pictures isn’t working for you. I know not everyone is on facebook, but you shouldn’t have to be to see the pictures. Unfortunately, it is pretty difficult to post pictures on this blog.
Back from my lovely evening walk now. The little group of sheep were out on the road as usual, and the herd of cows were heading home. The call to prayer from the mosques were sounding in the distance. It's a good life here. Love to you all.