Tuesday night, nursing a bit of a cold, trying not to worry that it will turn into the “California grippe”—what people here are calling the swine flu. There has been an outbreak of cases in western Ukraine that has sent the country into a panic, with the government closing all schools and universities across the country for three weeks and banning any large gatherings. Some small towns in western Ukraine are quarantined, not letting anyone in or out. Much to the dismay of Peace Corps Volunteers who live there and ended up not being able to return if they happened to be visiting somewhere when the quarantine was declared. One poor guy is at the end of his service and has a non refundable ticket to go back to America, but he can’t get his stuff from his village! But here in Crimea there have been no cases of the swine flu, and people seem a bit more relaxed about it, though there are some folks wearing face masks. And the schools are closed here too.
Struggling this past week with my growing apprehension about the fact that I am at three sites, none of which have had a PCV before, all of which want me to get money for them, and now they are beginning to get it that maybe that isn’t going to happen in the way they had expected. Besides my ongoing issues with one of the artists, I also had a meeting with the director of the Children’s Library who thinks I should be able to raise donations from the U.S., because that is what she was told PCV’s do. When I explain to her that they need a project to raise donations for, she just sort of rolls her eyes. And then at the Crimean Tatar Library, I know Nadjye is under pressure from the director to produce grant money, and so keeps fruitlessly searching on the internet instead of pursuing the smaller amounts of money that are available. Though today she did start working on one of those grants, so that was gratifying to see. I just have to keep remembering that it is a process, that what I can to is to help them along in that process, and if it doesn’t produce results this time, then maybe it will pave the way for the next PCV to work with them. I have to keep reminding myself that I have only been here (in Simferopol) about 5 months now, and that isn’t a very long time.
Wednesday afternoon now. I decided to stay home from the Children’s Library and nurse my cold a bit, especially since the English Clubs aren’t really happening (had one kid show up last week) due to the quarantine. Doing some laundry, sipping some coffee (I now have a little stove top espresso maker thanks to Lenora who dug it out of her cupboard for me), trying to get caught up on emails, and cleaning my house. Turns out I’m going to have guests tomorrow. My friend Debbie and another older PCV I don’t know, Suzanne, are going to come into town for the day on their way to somewhere else. I knew they had planned to spend the night, but they decided to make a whole day of it and celebrate my birthday a few days early. So, what a treat! Maybe I will take them to the nearby cave city.
Last Saturday Serdar (I found out I have been spelling his name wrong—it’s Serdar instead of Sirdar) and I took off on another adventure. I had asked him if he wanted to go hiking, and he said sure and then we sat around with Lenora and Neshet and discussed where , or rather they discussed it, and came up with going to the fortress at Sudak, a town on the coast I have wanted to visit. It is a 2-hour bus ride from here, which was a little more than I had planned, but of course, I agreed. And what a great time we had. It was just the two of us—Saphye is at her grandparents in their village. We took a marshuka to the train station, got tickets there for a bus to Sudak, and then in Sudak took another marshuka to the fortress. On the ride to the fortress, Serdar struck up a conversation with a couple who lived nearby, and the guy was very excited about me being an American. I, of course, did not have a clue what was going on, but when we got off the bus he wanted Serdar to take a picture of us—he with his arm around me—and then he walked us to the entrance of the fortress and convinced the ticket cashier to give us free tickets! And we exchanged contact information. He clearly had been drinking some, but I think he was harmless and just an exuberant soul. Serdar kept rolling his eyes at me but was very excited at the free tickets.
The fortress was built by the Genoese in the 14th and 15th centuries mostly with Tatar workers. Much of it is still standing, and it is quite an impressive structure, with a long, 2 meters thick and 6 meters high, wall, and many towers. What is most amazing is its location on a towering cliff face above the sea. The views were absolutely stunning—of the village below with its curving beach, the surrounding mountains, the beautiful blue sea. We perched high up on the rocks and ate lunch and just marveled at our surroundings. And also, as Serdar said, at what it must have taken to build such a structure in that location.
After exploring the fortress, we still had some time left before our return ticket to Simferopol. Serdar wanted to explore a nearby village and mountain because he had heard it was very beautiful, so we headed out in that direction, but I convinced him we really didn’t have enough time to get there and back. Ah, the exuberance of youth—too bad it had to be reined in by old lady me (as I called myself). But instead we made our way down to a rocky beach below the cliffs the fortress is perched on. It was such a gorgeous day and there were people actually swimming, so Serdar decided he wanted to get in. Well, neither of us had brought swimsuits, but we just stripped down to our underwear (I had a nylon tank top on) and got in! Serdar went all the way in, but I just sort of waded in up to my thighs. It was really cold water, and I decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of the day with totally wet underwear. We hung out on the beach for awhile, and then headed back to the bus station. It was dark and cold by the time we finally arrived home that night, but a “very good day,” as Serdar said. How lucky I am to have such a wonderful young friend.
Uh oh, it is clouding up and looks like it might rain. Better go out and get my laundry and hang it up inside. There are so few hours of sun now, anyhow—only about 9, even less than Minnesota. I have a hard time thinking where I am at is further north than Minnesota because the climate is so much milder, but latitude wise, it is.
Much love to all from the land of wonders.