Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My first weeks of 2010

This week is a back-to-normal week for me. Last week, the first week of the New Year, I was sick. Woke up New Year’s Day feeling kind of lousy but still went off for a walk, up into the hills where I could say hello to my favorite mountain and leave some dried bread for the birds up there. A good way to start the new year. That, and washing my sheets—which since I have to do it by hand is not a very often occurrence these days.
But as the day wore on, I felt worse and worse. Spent the rest of the weekend and on into the following week mostly lying around and reading, watching Harry Potter movies (since I don’t have the books I seem to have gotten addicted to the movies, oh dear…). Didn’t work the first three days, Thursday was another holiday (Christmas) and the library was closed. I got better as the week went on, just a really bad cold. There is such a scare going on around here with a lot of cases of the swine flu that I wanted to be extra careful and take care of myself. So unlike what I might have done in the past, I stayed home and did just that--with the help of my neighbors, of course. Let’s see….during those few days I received milk and eggs from the grandparents’ village, oranges, a plate of manti (Crimean Tatar steamed dumplings, this time stuffed with pumpkin), lemons, medicine, and much advice. They were quite wonderful to me and checked in on me every day. And Nadjie called several times. Oh, how loved I feel. And how lucky.
By Wednesday I was feeling better, so I ventured out and met up with my new PC buddy here. Adrienne’s boyfriend was visiting from Prague (he’s Czech), and it was interesting to hear his comments about Ukraine—he had never been here before. He was rather appalled at how poor looking it was with the crumbling infrastructure and trash everywhere, though I think what most took him aback was the remnants of the Soviet era: Lenin statutes, streets named after Karl Marx, etc. He emailed his dad some pictures, and his dad said it looks like Czechoslavakia fifty years ago. I had gotten use to seeing all of it, but talking to him took the blinders off and I once again noticed the trash everywhere, especially. It’s pretty heartbreaking. Crimea is so beautiful and is so abused. Also while I was sick read a book about the Crimean Tatar deportation and return , and they talk in the book about how the Crimean Tatars were not returning to the Crimea they had known, that is has suffered much environmental degradation in the last fifty years.
By this past weekend, I was feeling pretty much back to normal, so I did my usual weekend stuff—bazaar shopping, laundry, visiting with the neighbors. And Sunday my other new friend here, Elizabeth the Fulbright scholar, came out to go for walk with another Fulbright friend of hers who was visiting. I took them on my favorite walk up into the bluffs where you can see the mountains and the sea in the distance. For once the wind wasn’t blasting up there, and it was quite warm, so we perched for a long time looking out over the now green fields (winter wheat I assume) and the distant mountains. They were so impressed that you could be in a place like that and be so close to the city. Just what I have always thought about this wonderful spot where I live.
Today was English Club day at the children’s library. We haven’t had the clubs the last couple of weeks, plus the schools are closed yet another week because of the quarantine around the swine flu, so I wasn’t sure who would come. The 11am club just had a couple of kids that I hadn’t met before—two 12- year- old girls. And they were a riot, I must say. We talked about what people like to do—sports, reading, watching television, playing the piano, etc—and then we played a game where one of them had to act out an activity and the other one guess it. And what hams they were, especially one of them. It was so much fun to watch her.
The 3:30 club started more like at 2:30 and kids just kept filtering in. Eventually we had about 8 including an adult woman. I showed them the power point Global Village where the world is reduced to a village of 100 people. I was hesitant to show it to them, not sure if the language was too much, but they really got into reading and talking about it. They seemed to be astounded at some of the figures—that that many of the world’s people live in poverty and are illiterate. They immediately understood the concept of starvation when I said like the Holmodor, which is the name for the time when 10 million Ukrainians died from starvation because of Stalin’s genocidal policies. And they were also very knowledgeable and proud of Ukraine’s high literacy rate.
The latter half of the time we played some mad lib games which were pretty hysterical. They love to play games. It is a great way to get them to use their English. I just need to stay on top of coming up with games!
Working with children is something I have never really done, never thought I wanted to do, never thought I would be any good at. And I am so loving it, loving their energy, their shyness and boldness, their way of looking at the world. When I was walking to the bus stop tonight, I kept thinking, why wasn’t I a teacher? And why not become a teacher now? Who knows what the world will bring, if I can just stay open to that shining path in front of me.
Much love to all. Hope those of you in the north are staying warm!


  1. Barb, I'm sorry I've been out of touch--sorry you've been ill, but glad you're surrounded by friends! I'm hunkering down, trying to get my next book finished before I leave for Foreignland on Feb 13


  2. you've always been a good teacher. I like the idea of you formally embracing the practice