Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer begins

Lenura's 40th Birthday. That's her mom, Lilye, whom I adore.

Having some food and drink with the library folks in a hotel room after the library seminar.

The beach in Sudak where I got to take my first summer swim.

Oh, I am so feeling the need for a break from the constant struggle to live in this world in which I understand the language so little. Soon, I know… Anyhow, wanted to get caught up a bit on my blog, though haven’t been doing a whole lot lately, it seems. Last week was Lenura’s 40th birthday, which in America can sometimes be at least a fun occasion, but here “jubilee birthdays,” as they are called, just seem to mean a hell of a lot of work, especially if you are a woman. Because that is what you do to celebrate birthdays here, Lenura prepared a huge feast for 30 of her co-workers. Her mother, Lilye, came the day before to help and I came over that night to also lend a helping hand. Early the next morning, Lenura hauled all the food to the hospital where she works while Lilye made 140 manti to be delivered later. Needless to say, by the time we had a small celebratory birthday dinner that evening (leftovers from the big feast), Lenura was exhausted and not feeling too joyous, especially combined with the fact of turning 40—she started crying when Neshet was making a toast to her, and it didn’t seem to be tears of happiness. Many neighbors and friends dropped by in the next few days to wish her happy birthday, and the next time I was part of a birthday dinner—a couple of nights later with their friends from the neighborhood—she seemed to be in better spirits and enjoying herself. Maybe it was the vodka toasting….
Last week went with some of the library staff to the annual international library conference in Sudak. Check out my library blog for a description of our event. I actually didn’t do much this year, tried to meet the few Americans who were there-- which I did--but they were on their way to an excursion somewhere, so we didn’t get a chance to talk much. The real highlight for me was that, like last year, it was an opportunity for my first swim this summer in the Black Sea. The water is still cold this time of the year, so there were few swimmers, but being from Minnesota, I loved it. Was feeling kind of shy so chose to bring my tank suit instead of the bikini I wore all last summer, but that will not happen again—felt like I had on way too many clothes to be swimming!
This past Wednesday was my last day at the Children’s Library. I had considered continuing to do one English Club in the fall for older kids, as many of the kids had asked me to “keep teaching” them, but when I brought up the idea with the director, she told me that they will be partnering with a language institute here who will be having a new Peace Corps Volunteer in December. So that was a relief, because I didn’t actually want to keep coming to the Children’s Library, even for the one or two hours of an English Club. I have never felt very welcome there, nor have I connected with any of the staff. I did connect with a few at the beginning, but they all left within the first few months I was there. I feel a bit of a failure in my work at the Children’s Library, but I also know what could be accomplished was limited by the small amount of time I was there—one day a week and sometimes not even that—and the amount of time involved in preparing and conducting two English clubs. So that phase of my Peace Corps life here is over. No one much acknowledged that it was my last day, and it felt strange to walk out of the building with just the usual goodbyes. But I didn’t really expect anything else, and it seemed okay. Most of the kids I had gotten to know were gone for the summer, but two sisters came that I know pretty well, so that was nice. I do think I will see at least the older one (she’s a first year university student now) some in the future.
Well, off to the bus station to meet Grace, who is coming into Simferopol for her last visit before leaving Ukraine. I sure will miss her.
Love to all from Crimea.

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