Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Spring and mud
Once again, at the library, trying to remember my life of the past week so I can write this blog. Also, working on the blog I am going to write for the library and a power point presentation about my work here for a Peace Corps meeting in Kyiv in April. Murat, who runs the Community Development program for the Peace Corps, invited me to attend an advisory committee meeting and to present a short presentation of my “success” story here at my site for people from the Ukraine Ministry of Economics who will be at this meeting. I don’t really feel all that successful here, at least not in the terms they are talking about which is fulfilling the Peace Corps’ third goal of technical training for country nationals. But I will present what I can and hope they find it beneficial. And I will try not to tread on too many toes. I have learned more and more that there is a lot hatred directed towards the Crimean Tatars. I think it is mostly among the ethnic Russians in Crimea. Surveys done here annually on the anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars (May 18th) show that roughly 70% of the ethnic Russians justify the deportation. Moreover, a large portion of those responding maintain that the Crimean Tatars should be expelled from Crimean once again. Depressing statistics. And I hear snippets of that ethnic hatred everywhere—from a PCV’s host family “warning” her about the Crimean Tatars when she told them about her assignment in Crimea to a Russian woman I met here who talks about all the “privileges” the Crimean Tatars have, the way some people in America talk about affirmative action. So I don’t know what the reaction to my presentation will be on the part of the Ukraine government officials, but I will try to stay alert to their perceptions and learn what I can. It is hard enough in America to be awake to racism (at least if you are a white person). When that attempt at awareness is compounded by an ignorance of the culture and language, it is sometimes very difficult to really know what people are thinking and feeling.
So back to my week in review. Hard to remember because right now it is very warm and sunny, but early last week we had several snow storms and cold winds, wreaking havoc with the bus transportation. The buses just can’t make it up the hill to Ak Mechet if it is very icy, necessitating some hiking to get to the bus stop. And then later in the week as the temperatures warmed up, it was slogging through the water and mud. I don’t really know who, if anyone, maintains the roads in Ak Mechet. There is one paved road, but the rest of the roads are mud and filled with holes and ditches, and now the buses and few cars can barely drive over them. I think Neshet was telling me that you don’t really need oil changes because the bouncing effect of the roads keeps the engine oil stirred up and prevents sludge buildup.
One night this past week, I can’t remember which, I spent over at Neshet and Lenura’s as I often do, and it was just so peaceful sitting around the table, talking, drinking tea, watching TV. I kept thinking—and saying—that I really should go home because I had “homework” to do for my Russian tutor meeting the next day, but I just stayed on. We were all eating sunflower seeds—the Ukrainian pastime—taking a handful out of the bag and cracking them one by one. I am so much slower, so one of them periodically would give me a pile of shelled seeds. It was late when I got home, but really, what better way to study Russian then to spend a whole evening trying to speak it?
Last weekend was our first truly spring weekend, and of course, I wanted to get outside. My friend Elizabeth came out to go for a walk, so we rounded up Serdar and decided to hike to PCV Sam’s house. He lives in a village not far from here—I can see it when I am up on the bluffs and have always wanted to try walking there. The beginning of the walk along the road was fine. Then we followed a line of trees along a field and up over a hill, and that wasn’t too bad, either. But when we started down the hill on the other side, we were in soft deep mud, as the snow had just melted off the fields that morning (we found out later). So needless to say, we were a dirty mess by the time we showed up in Sam’s village. But no matter, we walked around town and saw his school, the three stores, and the one bar. And then we built a fire outside his house and had “sashlik”—the equivalent of our shish kabobs and a true Crimean Tatar tradition. It was so great sitting outside watching the sun go down with the smoke of the fire curling around us. Later, Serdar and I took the bus back home (Elizabeth had another engagement and left earlier) and walked the back roads (also very muddy) to our houses. A great day.
Sunday, I just spend the day puttzing—washing and hanging out laundry, getting my hair cut (really short again) at the neighborhood shop, walking down to the bazaar, having coffee with the neighbors. What a fine life I have here.
Heading home now from the library. Will post this with some pics of our muddy walk. With love from springtime in Crimea.