We got back late on Monday night from Sevastopol (missing a plov dinner that Lenura had made for us, I am sorry to say), and I had only one day to get as much done as I could at the library, and then off on the overnight train on Wednesday to Kyiv, and then Chernigov. Chernigov is the city I lived in when I first came to Ukraine during my ten weeks of training. It is a lovely northern city with tall chestnut trees lining its main boulevard. Surprisingly, it was much warmer in Chernigov than down in southern Crimea. The chestnut trees were in full bloom, and the center plaza was filled with beds of blooming tulips.
I had come to participate in the “Adopt a Cluster” program in which experienced volunteers become a mentor to a new group of training volunteers. I also made two presentations for the community development volunteers on my work at the library and on Crimean Tatar culture. They all seemed very stressed out—I so remember that constant feeling during training—but I think they particularly appreciated the information about the Crimean Tatars, as most people know so little about them. While in Chernigov, I stayed with my original host family from when I was in training, and it was the highlight of my visit. It was such a treat to spend time with them, to see how Artum—now 6—and Max—now 16—had changed. And the very best part of it was that now I could talk with them! They thought my Russian was pretty good—wow, what a great encouragement that was. I think at least some of their enthusiasm about my language skills was in response to the shyness of their current volunteer to speak with them, but nevertheless, it sure made me feel good. Of course, the next day when I spent three hours in language class with the new volunteers, I saw all the ways in which my language hasn’t greatly progressed—that grammar gets me every time. I seem unable to learn it. But all in all, it was a very encouraging experience.
I also enjoyed getting to know the new volunteers a bit—it will be interesting to see where they end up, how their lives develop at their sites. Some of them seem to be adjusting better than others, but I have found that doesn’t necessarily indicate how well they will adjust to their permanent site. There are fewer older volunteers in this new group, which is a disappointment, but PC Washington is no longer recruiting older volunteers, so not surprising.
I got back to Simferopol on Sunday morning and spent the day resting up, visiting with the neighbors, and getting prepared for the upcoming week, our last week of preparations before the SPA seminar the following week. Turns out I needed to be pretty rested, because trying to do that much planning without Nadjie—even though she participated as much as she could from her bed at home and I frequently went to her house to consult—was a huge challenge. I had to take over much of the preparations that she normally did, and it pushed my lousy Russian to the max. Different people at the library did take over various tasks, but they still kept coming to me for information, questions, etc. In ways it was good for me—I definitely participated much more fully in the preparations—but I sorely missed Nadjie. And, of course, it was so frustrating for her to be stuck at home, unable to contribute much to a project she so believes in.
By Friday I was pretty exhausted, but my PCV friend Adrianne’s mother was here for a visit, and I wanted to spend some time with them. Turns out another PCV, Nitai’s, who lives in northern Crimean, grandparents were also here. They had rented a car and driver to escort them around, and since there was room for all of us, we went on a day excursion together to Yalta to see the botanical gardens and the Livadia Palace. I had been to both places before (Livadia several times), but it was a treat to just hang out with them all. The funniest thing that happened was at the botanical gardens there was a “labyrinth” advertised—it cost extra to go into it, but Judy (Adrianne’s mother) and I both jumped at the chance to “walk the labyrinth,” a spiritual practice we were both familiar with. Well, it turns out the word “labyrinth” in Russian translates to “maze” in English, and that is definitely what it was, complete with screeching sounds that went off when you went under certain arches. Definitely not a spiritual experience. The rest of the group joined us after a bit, and we all proceeded to get very lost and continually set off the screechers. Judy and I were laughing so hard, we could barely get out of the maze. So much for walking the labyrinth in Ukraine.
The rest of the day was very pleasant—what a major treat to be driven around in a car (!!)—so by the time I got home in the evening, I was pretty relaxed. The next morning I took off with Adrianne and her mother on a two-hour bus ride to a PCV’s village in eastern Crimea where a big gathering was planned as a sendoff to the four volunteers that are leaving their sites in Crimea. Judy couldn’t believe that we would travel two hours for a party, but we, of course, thought nothing about it, as that is typical here if there is any kind of PCV gathering. It was a lot of fun and some really great food, and though I got back pretty late, I had the next day to rest up for the SPA seminar week. More on that in my next post.
Love to all from Crimea.
Language lessons in Chernigov. That's Tamila on the left, my original language instructor.
Mike practicing presenting flowers and wishing happy birthday.
My adopted cluster in Chernigov.
The Yalta group pose for photo in front of Aya Dag--Bear Mountain in Crimean Tatar.
Judy in the maze.
A scene from the gardens.
The bamboo forest.
Adrianne and Nitai's grandmother enjoy a beer in a cafe in Yalta.