Sunday, September 6, 2009

Fall comes to Crimea

It’s Saturday evening, about 9 pm, and I just got back from a delightful time at my neighbor’s across the street. I hadn’t really seen them for a couple of weeks almost. With school starting this week and the days getting shorter, I haven’t run into them and am too shy to just appear on their doorstep. But today I made myself do just that, and I am so glad I did. Lenora gave me a big hug, we sat and chatted for awhile, and then later she went for my evening walk with me—first time she has done that. Afterwards I helped her cook dinner—also first time I have done that, usually I am the “guest.” Neshet, her husband, wasn’t around, but her father is here for a week so I got to meet him, and, of course, I love being around the kids, Sophye and Sirdar. So, once again, I am so glad I listened to that voice inside saying “just go ahead and do it, no matter how scary it seems.”
It’s been kind of a slow week in Barb’s Adventures in Ukraine. Nadzhiye, my counterpart at the library, did come in on Monday despite her being on vacation. She presented yet another idea for a project, but I realized we don’t really need to talk about it or make a decision until she comes back at the end of the month, so I let go of my anxieties and frustrations about the process. We weren’t really having a very good day in the communication department, and later she wanted me to go over a letter she had just written and then run through a translation program. She wanted me to “check for errors” so she could get it sent out that day. I had a hard time explaining to her how I couldn’t just check for errors, that I would have to take her ideas and rewrite the letter, as the translation programs are really worthless for something like a long letter. She got very frustrated with me it seemed, but I stayed late and finished the letter and she managed to get it sent out, so we ended the day (and our time together until the end of September) on a good note. She was very grateful, I think.
I had wondered what exactly I would do at the library while Nadzhiye is gone, but I realized that it is going to give me an opportunity to get to know better some of the other people I work with. Like the elderly man we share an office with. This week it was just the two of us. He speaks no English at all and is one of the folks who just talks more in the hopes that I will be able to figure out what he is saying. Sometimes I can, but mostly not, and it is pretty frustrating to try and talk with him. But I made more of an effort this week, and I think we made some progress. At least we are communicating a little bit. I would like to get to know him. He is the deputy directory of the library and is 79 years old, which means he must have lived in Crimea and been part of the deportation as a child, as it happened 65 years ago. Everyone else I have met was born in Uzbekistan to parents who were deported. So obviously there is much I could learn from him, if only we could talk. Someday….
Wednesday and Thursday afternoons I spent at the children’s library on my new split schedule. The plan is to have two English clubs at the library. Unfortunately, I only had one kid at each club. Obviously, the times were a poor choice. Next week we are going to try a morning club one day and an afternoon club the next day and see how it goes. I hope we get some kids, because I actually I have begun to enjoy being a teacher. Imagine that…. I got kind of attached to a couple of the regulars from the summer, and I was sorry not to see them. They are great kids. Part of the deal is that the school schedules of classes aren’t set yet. This is pretty crazy sounding to us Americans, but they don’t really have the class schedules worked out until a couple of weeks after school starts. The PCV’s I know that work in schools teaching English have to check every morning to see when their classes meet. I don’t understand how they let the kids know where to go when. As I recall, it seemed pretty nuts when you did have a schedule. But like everything else in Ukraine, I’m sure there are many underlying reasons that I have no knowledge of as to why things are done the way they are.
Friday is turning out to be my most exhausting day, because it is the day in which I am constantly trying to speak Russian with no real breaks. In the morning I meet with the artists—this time just with Enver which made it easier—and we are trying to communicate the whole time, talking about the project we are working on and other things. And then in the afternoon I meet with my tutor for a couple of hours. She speaks very poor English, and we do most of our talking in Russian. So far, I have my doubts about whether or not she is going to work as a tutor for me, but I really want to stick with her. She is a single mom of a 2 year old boy, lives with her parents across the mountain from where I live in another Crimean Tatar community. She told me about her “no good husband” and how her neighbors shun her because she doesn’t live with him. I know she needs the tutoring money, and I have begun to like her a lot. And she is trying very hard to help me. She is a Russian teacher and is educated, it’s just that she doesn’t speak English well so I have a hard time asking her questions. Ah, another cultural experience.
It’s Sunday evening now. Spent the day cleaning my house for the visit of my regional manager tomorrow, and then went on a two-hour walk, exploring a back road I had never been on. It winds along the fields that I see from the bluffs I frequently hike. A beautiful day with clouds floating in the sky, the mountains in the distance, hawks circling above, wildflowers along the roadside. A few people out working in their garden plots, but otherwise I didn’t see anyone. A couple of dirt tracks wandered off in the direction of what I now call “my mountain.” Got me entertaining the idea of a having my backpack and sleeping bag, and just start hiking there and see what happens. Maybe next summer when I can speak the language a little better.
It’s late, I need to get off to bed. Wonder what this week will bring… Love from Crimea.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes it can be just as frustrating trying to communicate with coworkers who DO speak English. (As I ponder returning to work after the long holiday weekend...) Hang in there-