Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November holidays

It feels so slow at the library these days. Without Nadjie to bounce ideas off of, I feel a little groundless and unfocused. Also, she always made an effort to keep me informed of what was going on in the inner workings of the library, and now that is pretty much left up to conjecture on my part and what I can determine from Elmas, the quasi English speaking young woman in my office. However, next week our long awaited rare book scanner that we purchased with a grant I wrote last spring will finally show up. Though I am itching to be part of the decision making around where it will be located, how it will be used, who will be trained on it, I have been pretty much hands off—out of necessity because of language, but also because I think the library needs to make these determinations. I am curious to see how it will all come out.

This is a time of holidays in my life—or “prazdniks” as we call them here—starting with my birthday on November 14th, followed by Serdar’s on the 22nd, Siyare (the neighbor daughter) on December 2nd and then Safie’s on December 6th. Throw in Thanksgiving and New Year’s (Christmas as we know it doesn’t exist here), and it is one long celebration from the beginning of November to the end of December. Or so it seems. I get a little stressed about what to do for presents, especially since I have given up on getting packages from America—any present from America would be a sure success--but mostly it is a fun time of lots of good food with the family. So, a few words and pictures from all these prazdniks:

Because the weather was not so great this year, I didn’t make it out on any hike for my birthday. Instead, I went to work, wondering if they would remember my birthday without Nadjie there, and sure enough, they did, and presented me with flowers. I had bought a small cake in case they had and shared it with my office mates and whoever else happened by. Maybe next year I will get it together to bring (or make!) a cake for the whole library staff, which many people do. I just find it hard to be the subject of so much attention. But home is a different story. I loved the warmth they surrounded me with—literally with the gift of a New Zealand wool wrap knitted in Ukraine to help with my cold room, the delicious dinner complete with one of Lenura’s legendary cakes, and just that feeling of being so loved. That alone is the best gift I could possible hope for on any birthday.
Lenura making my birthday cake.A toast over plov for my birthday.
My family on my 64th birthday.
And then the following week was Serdar’s 18th birthday—a very big birthday here when a child officially becomes an adult—can legally drink, vote, drive a car, apply for an international passport, be drafted—many of the same landmarks as in America on an 18th birthday, but for some reason, here it has taken on a greater significance. Lenura had cooked a wonderful dinner for Serdar with his favorite foods, but with at least her blessing (I am sure Neshet would have preferred he stayed home, but he didn’t say no), as soon as I got home, he took off to the center to celebrate his birthday with his pals. It seemed a little odd to be having a birthday dinner without the intended celebrant, but Neshet and Lenura didn’t seem too outwardly disturbed by it, and in fact, the three of us (Safie took off to the computer as soon as dinner was done) had a nice time sitting around the dinner table, drinking a bottle of wine and talking for several hours. So at least we celebrated, even if Serdar was nowhere around.

Two days later was Thanksgiving. The last two years I just worked on the holiday (since it obviously is not a holiday here), and then got together with other Peace Corps Volunteers on the weekend for a traditional Thanksgiving. This year I decided to switch my days off so I would have Thursday off and cook a Thanksgiving dinner for my family. I invited the other two Peace Corps Volunteers in Simferopol, but only Adrianne was in town. She worked that day and ended up coming after she got home from her school and helped me finish up the cooking. I had never in my life cooked a Thanksgiving dinner, but the family was very excited about the idea, and Neshet searched around where to buy a whole turkey, so I thought I would give it a try. I kept telling Neshet a small turkey, but he came home with a 15 pounder—the smallest he could find. But I read up on the instructions and got it in the oven on time, and it didn’t come out too bad, though next year I can think of some improvements. We also had stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce from fresh cranberries, candied carrots (no sweet potatoes here) and creamed spinach and pumpkin pie contributed by Adrianne. So, my first ever Thanksgiving dinner—in Ukraine! Adrianne was a big help—I guess next year I will have to pull it off without as her, as her Peace Corps service is ending in a few weeks and she is heading back to the States. Sigh…

Coming up: Siyare and Safie’s birthdays. More on that next time.
With love from Crimea.

The turkey comes out of the oven.
Looks like a Thanksgiving plate in America!
The family minus Serdar and with Adrianne on our first Thanksgiving together.

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