I didn’t get invited to any Independence Day happenings last Monday, so I decided to go into the city center and explore a park I have been eyeing on the map. And what a lovely discover y it was. There is a fast flowing small river that comes down out of the mountains and winds its way through the heart of Simferopol. There is a walkway the length of the river—I had been on some of it, but never followed it the whole length. It was such a treat to walk along the river, listening to the rushing water, watching the river spill over little concrete dams here and there. There is some trash on the river, as there is everywhere in Ukraine, but most of the river was pretty clean and the water was clear. I eventually ended up in a large park where I came across an eternal flame monument to the Great Patriotic War (as World War II is called here) and a monument commemorating the Chernobyl disaster (called a “catastrophe” on the plaque). I wandered through the park—beautiful tall trees, a small lake with an island in the center and people on paddle boats, a kiddie area with some rides, wilder areas of grasses and trees. It’s quite a large park for a city the size of Simferopol—I’m glad I finally checked it out.
Eventually I made my way to the train station and caught a bus back home. Later I went for a long walk with Sirdar and one of their dogs—Lutsa, a dachshound/cocker mix-- following along. I kept getting nervous about her as there are a lot of large dogs on the loose and of course, none of the dogs are spayed or neutered. But she managed to hold her on, though we had to change our route on the way back to avoid a street that really had a lot of dogs. She wouldn’t follow us down it. We got back as the red sun was sinking into the distant hills. A good day.
It’s Saturday evening now, and I want to write about my day, surely the highlight of this week. Though some other interesting things happened this week, so those first. Tuesday I went into the library as always, but Nadzhiye wasn’t there. I knew her vacation was starting—she gets a month off, which is typical here--but she had told me she would be in on Tuesday. I did run into her on the street over my lunch break—she told me she would be in zavtra (tomorrow), but unfortunately, I wasn’t going to be there. So hopefully we will connect this week, as I haven’t a clue where she is at with the project ideas. And one of the grants she wanted to apply for is due in rough draft form at the end of September. So we will see where it all goes. We’ll connect somehow.
Wednesday I took the bus with a couple of other Crimean PCV’s to Bachiserai, a beautiful old town in the mountains about 45 minutes from Simferopol. It was the capital of the Khanate—the Crimean Tatar governing body—from 1400-1700. The Khan’s palace is still there along with a “cave city” where people had lived for eons. So it is always a place I wanted to visit. However, this was a meeting of PCV’s in Crimea to talk about English teaching, so I didn’t do any sightseeing. Though I really only do English clubs, I wanted to come and get some ideas and meet other volunteers (and also learn how to get to Bachiserai) . There were about 8 of us and some new faces for me. I especially liked the young man who lives in Bachiserai and Nastia, a Russian-born volunteer who lives in one of the villages on the coast. More people to go visit! The only down part of the day was that on the way back, the two volunteers I was traveling with got their bus tickets and got on the bus and it took off before I got my ticket! They didn’t really mean to leave me, but I did feel a momentary panic and abandonment, but then I just got on the next bus, and it did teach me how to read the ticket and know which bus to get on.
Friday was a somewhat disheartening day. Spent the morning meeting briefly with the artists. One of them seems to be getting upset that nothing is happening yet in the way of grants. I am beginning to wonder what it is they were told—their expectations are so out of line with the reality of the world of grants. It feels sort of like a set up for failure, but I’m trying not to go there, and to just keep plugging away. The problem , of course, is that I can’t explain any of this to them because of the language barrier. I think even through an interpreter it would be difficult. Sometimes I think to myself, if they are getting impatient after only two months, how are they going to feel after twelve months (or more) and nothing has been produced? I think I need to start thinking creatively about what other projects I could do with them that aren’t grant dependent. Spent Friday afternoon at my Russian tutor’s home, which was fun but exhausting as she talks to me in Russian nonstop. She does speak some English, but doesn’t use it much. Probably good, I know, but really tiring. She lives in another Crimean Tatar community across the mountain from where I live, but it is an hour bus ride because there are no roads across and you have to go into the center of the city.
Friday evening was quite delightful, as the 21-year old daughter of my neighbors’ has returned home from working on the coast for the summer. I really like her a lot. She speaks no English, but we have fun talking anyhow. She came over, and then I went over to their house and had dinner with them. Afterwards another neighbor showed up, and then they all starting talking in Crimean Tatar—yikes! Though when people are talking among themselves, I pretty much can’t understand anything anyhow, just pick up a word here and there and sometimes get the gist of what they are talking about.
Today I went with my neighbors, Maya and Server (parents of the 21-year old but she didn’t go) to visit Maya’s sister and her family. They live in Bachiserai, or so I thought, but actually they live in a tiny village 30 minutes past Bachiserai on the bus. What a beautiful setting, surrounded by forest covered mountains. The bus weaved past high canyon walls with caves set back into what looks like limestone. Their house is small and they have a large garden and raise turkeys, rabbits, a cow I think, and I’m not sure what else. We drove in a battered old car they have up to see a reservoir, and then took a long hike up into the hills, picking kisel berries as we went off of what looks like dogwood trees. I’ll have to check it on the internet. Maya’s sister cooked plov—the Crimean Tatar version of rice pilaf—in the outdoor summer kitchen, and we had that along with fresh tomatoes. So yummy. The men weren’t eating because of Ramadan, so they fell asleep in front of the TV. Server decided to bring back 5 pieces of very long lumber—his brother-in-law is a logger. Somehow we managed to transport them on 3 different buses—pretty hysterical. I kept wondering exactly how this was going to happen, but Server managed to convince each of the drivers (probably along with some cash slipping). It was truly a great day, and I feel yet again, I have been gifted with a piece of Crimea. And I didn’t speak a English word the entire day!
Sorry this posting is so long. It is my way of keeping a record of what I am doing here, so don’t feel obligated to read it all. I am going to try and post a few pictures too. Much love to everyone. (Maya just brought over some compote made with the kisel berries. Compote is a very popular fruit drink in Ukraine that is basically cooking berries or fruit in a lot of water and straining off the pulp. Frequently it is sealed in jars for the winter.)