Sunday, February 21, 2010
Life rolls on
The days seem to be blurring more and more together now, as I have become busier. With what, I am not real sure. I think part of it is now there are two other Americans here in Simferopol who have become my friends, and so I have more of a “social life” in the city. I have also started to spend more time with my young Russian friend, Dima.
Adrianne, the new PCV in town, is helping with my Thursday evening English Club, so that has been a lot of fun. Last Thursday after the meeting, we went to a Russian play. The director of the library had given me two free tickets. It was a comedy in two acts, at a Moscow dacha (country home), but that is about the most I got out of it. Adrianne is a much better Russian speaker than I am, but she had a hard time following it too. We left at intermission, but it was a nice experience being at the theater, which was quite modern and several levels. I had walked by it several times, so I was glad to actually see the inside.
On Wednesday, most of the PCV’s in Crimea gathered at my library for a meeting with our Regional Manager (our supervisor) and the Peace Corps safety officer to go over various policies and safety issues. Nothing too exciting, just the usual Peace Corps bureaucratic stuff, which by now I have gotten use to. Earlier in the day I had gone with Serhiy (the security officer) to meet with the head of the police in Crimea. Adrianne and I are the new “wardens” in Crimea, which basically means we are responsible for getting information out to the other PCV’ s in case of an emergency. Meeting with the police head was interesting because he was definitely the jolliest Ukranian official I have met. As usual, I didn’t have a clue what was being talked about, and the rest of the men in the room were very dour faced, but this guy was just smiling the whole time and chuckling occasionally. I know that might not seem all that remarkable, but in Ukraine, it is. People really don’t smile here. It is one of the distinctions of being American—that we are “always smiling.” Not that that is true, of course, but it certainly is the perception.
We got word that the Gasprinsky Library received the grant I had applied for through the Peace Corps, so that made Nadjie and the director of the library happy. It is to fund a conference for Crimean librarians on Crimean Tatar language and literature and then to help them organize conferences in their regions and to develop Crimean Tatar sections in their libraries. Besides the conference, we will also be able to buy some equipment for the Gasprinsky Library—a laptop computer, camera, copier and scanner-- and will also be able to purchase copies of a new Crimean Tatar/Ukrainian/Russian Dictionary for all the participating libraries. So I think it will be a worthwhile event and hopefully will lead to other projects. Meanwhile, we continue to search for other grant sources for different projects, particularly preservation of old documents. The wheels turn slowly here, and I am learning to adjust to that pace.
Also, this week I hope to finish up a grant application for Enver, one of the artists, for his idea of an Illustrated Alphabet Book of the Crimean Tatar Language. I am going to submit it to the Netherlands and Norwegian Embassies here, both of whom have cultural grant programs. I feel that somewhere we will be able to find funding for this project, as it is so needed. The Crimean Tatar language is one of the most threatened languages in Europe. UNESCO gave is at “severely threatened” status in their 2008 Atlas of Endangered Languages. It is estimated that only 5% of Crimean Tatar children know the language. The only people I have heard speak it are adults.
The pictures I posted are of the old part of Simferopol where Enver lives. The mosque is the oldest building in Simferopol. It was built in 1508. And that is Enver on the left, Seitabla on the right. They are the two artists who form the NGO I work with on Fridays.
That’s all for now, I think. Next weekend, my beloved cousin Sara is coming for a few days. She will be my first visitor from America. I am excited to see her and hear her reactions to my life here. I no longer see it through totally American eyes, I don’t think. And we will see how I do as her “translator.” I was thinking today, in my ongoing conversation with myself about my Russian, that I need to just relax about it, to not always be afraid to speak if I can’t figure out the correct way to say something. I am sure that is what many of the young people do, as they have more confidence in their language training overall.
Bye for now. By the way, if are reading my posts and enjoying them, could you let me know? I feel myself beginning to drift away from doing it, and I don’t really want to do that if people out there are finding them interesting. Hopefully, I will continue to write with the purpose of recording this experience for myself, but having readers is a motivation.