Sunday, June 27, 2010

Beaches and conferences

It’s late evening, an d cool air is beginning to waft through the window. Thank the goddess! It has been hotter than Hades here lately. Sometimes over the course of the past year I found myself wondering why I chose not to go to Africa in the Peace Corps as I had originally thought I might. But the heat today brought it all back—the main reason I decided not to go was that I couldn’t stand the thought of living in intense heat for so long. I must say, it really doesn’t make me very happy and I can get pretty irritable. Even my Russian suffers, because I don’t have the energy to try to communicate.
Well, enough of that. At least my house stays relatively cool, and the nights are lovely once the sun goes down. And I have been to the sea twice in the last few days! Friday I traveled with several of the library staff to the site of an international library convention that happens every year in a seaside resort town. The Gasprinsky library hosted a roundtable of librarians from the Turkic speaking world—there were people from Turkey, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and other Central Asian countries. The theme of the seminar was Ismail Gasprinsky and my co-workers asked me to do a presentation on what is available by and about him in English. I was a little nervous about it all, but it turned out fine with the help of my translator from Moscow, an older man who does freelance technical translating for a living. All of the staff, including the director, told me that I had done a great job, so that made me feel very good. Afterwards, I went with Nadjie down to the sea and went swimming! The water was pretty cold so Nadjie didn’t get in, but I, being the Minnesota gal that I am, loved it. It was especially nice before the very hot bus ride back to the city.
Saturday I spent putzing around my house, something I haven’t had the chance to do for what seems like a long time. I did not even go down to the bazaar—too hot—but just made do with what I had in the house. I cleaned a little, did a little English Club preparation, read a lot, visited briefly with the neighbors. It was a treat.
It is a week or so later now. I’m having a hard time getting my blogs written lately, plus now I have started to wrote a blog for the library and need to keep on top of that too. Anyhow, back to what I was doing when I left off writing.
The next day, a Sunday, was my Fulbright friend Elizabeth’s 26th (I think) birthday. She wanted to go on an excursion to celebrate, so her and I and a Lithuanian student and a Ukrainian student all went to a place on the coast called Cape Fiolent. It was a haul to get there—a 2 hour ride on the train, two buses, and then a walk down to the beach on a 800-steps stairway built by a nearby monastery. But it was very worth it—a beautiful coastal region of cliffs and rock formations that reminded me more than anything I have seen here of northern California. However, unlike northern California, there is not a big surf and the water is not so cold, so we spent the day swimming and playing in the water. Despite the difficulty getting there, the beach was quite crowded. I’m not sure where you can go in Crimea that doesn’t have a crowded beach. This has been the resort for all of Ukraine and Russia for over a century, and finding any “pristine” areas is probably not possible. Maybe if one had a car and could explore…or a kayak! My fondest dream—circumnavigating the Black Sea in a sea kayak. For the first time, I did actually see some people with a sea kayak—a Russian folding one—with camping gear piled high (very high—good thing the waves were minimal). Tried talking to the guy about where he got the kayak, but all I found out was that his father bought it in Russia a long time ago. It did not look very seaworthy, but at least it was a kayak—first one I have seen here.
The next week I spend preparing for our seminar at the library which happened last Thursday and Friday. Hmm...can’t seem to remember much what I did on the weekend. Visited with the neighbors, went on a long and hot walk to distant bluffs with beautiful views, did my usual laundry and some cleaning in anticipation of my next visitors. The highlight of the past week was our seminar Thursday and Friday at the library. This is the seminar we received the Peace Corps for—a training for 25 librarians from across Crimea on Crimean Tatar language and literature. Thanks to the grant, we had a lot of materials to give them that are published by the Gasprinsky Library, plus we gave them each a copy of the Crimean Tatar/Russian/Ukrainian di ctionary for their library. We had a nice hotel for them to stay in and provided food. They seemed to really enjoy the seminar and get a lot out of it. It was, of course, a bit hard for me to tell, as I couldn’t understand much of what was being presented, but there were many smiles all around. I gave a short presentation on my work as a Peace Corps Volunteer and tried to encourage them to apply for volunteers for their libraries. And they gave me a present as a thank you for the seminar, which they apparently had all chipped in for. I was so surprised and grateful.
But who should really get the kudos for making this all happen is Nadjie. I must say I was having a lot of doubts that this was all going to get pulled off. Unlike our American advance planning, as of a couple of weeks ago, little had been done to organize the seminar. I am not sure the speakers and participants had even been invited. And as of two days before the conference, we did not have an adequate place for them to stay. But somehow, Nadjie pulled it all together, and it turned into a well attended, well organized conference. I was really astounded, I admit. I said something to her about what a great job she did, and she told me that she has organized a lot of large conferences, and I can believe it. Certainly, there were things I would do differently and a little advance planning definitely could help in some areas, but it was an interesting lesson for me in how things can—and sometimes do—work in this country.
Heading off with Serdar in a couple of hours to get the train to Kiev, so I think I will get this posted and also try to post some pics. Love to all from very rainy Crimea (like every day in the last week!)


  1. I hope you and Serdar are having a great time in Kiev. Am humming "Pictures at an Exhibition" in your honor.

  2. Hi, Barb,

    It's Robin. I just love hearing you describe what happens there and how open you are to it all. It's really an inspiration. Two successful conferences and a successful presentation across languages - it's exciting. You do good work - as always.

  3. Barb. I just did a double-take on the date of the Deportation. It was the same day as the Normandy landing. Wonder whether Stalin chose it on purpose or at random, but at the same time that Courtenay was on the HMS Apollo setting sail for Omaha Beach, Neshet's grandparents were being forcibly shipped to Uzbekhistan. Hard to fathom.