Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A bit of winter blues

It’s Monday at the library, my last week of work for a while. Friday I take off with Serdar on our much anticipated week-long trip to Krakow and Prague. We will be taking the overnight train to Kyiv, spending the day there, and then catching an early morning flight to Poland. We will return to Kyiv the following Sunday, and Serdar will take the overnight train back to Simferopol, but I will stay in Kyiv for a few days to have my medical exam for extension clearance. I won’t be back to Simferopol until Thursday and then the following Monday have to leave again for a week to go to Moldova to get my Ukrainian visa (!)

I spent some of the weekend finishing the draft proposal for a Peace Corps grant that was due today. Most of my library time last week was devoted to writing the grant, which made me happy. I like having meaningful work to do; what I don’t like is feeling at loose ends and even more than that, feeling frustrated at the slowness of which things get done around there, which seems to be my major focus of angst lately. Of course, I understand that is a fact of how things seem to operate in Ukraine and probably everywhere in the post-Soviet world, but it’s hard not to be overwhelmed with frustration and ultimately, a feeling of hopelessness that anything will ever really change. But as is true of much of my life here, it becomes an occasion for “practice,” in the Buddhist sense. The practice of patience, of trust that it will eventually happen (and all my experience has shown that to be true), and the necessity of trying to stay open to whatever comes up, to step out of the framework of my culture and realize that perhaps there are other ways of doing things. That is, after all, one of my main reasons for joining the Peace Corps—to experience in a much deeper way life in another part of the world.

I don’t really have much to report in the way of activities these past couple of weeks. The hike I referred to in my last blog post never materialized, due to bad weather, nor did it happen the following weekend like we had hoped, also due to bad weather. Though today is sunny and kind of warm, for the most part the weather has been Crimea winter—cold wind, some snow, grey skies. Not conducive to outdoor activities. I do continue to go for walks from home up in the bluffs, and recently was up there right after a snowstorm and it was so lovely with the soft snow clinging to the trees all around me. But extended hikes haven’t been a possibility. We can only wait for spring and the return of the light and warmth.

My lack of trekking around has meant that I have spent more time at home, more time with the family. I especially like Sundays when often everyone is around, doing their own thing but gathering for meals. It’s a nice feeling, being part of a circle of people living together.

I will have much to write about in my next blog post, I imagine. Until then, love to all of you from your pal in Crimea.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Barb,

    I just read your entry from April 1 backwards to this one. I only drop in on you occasionally, and have lost a lot of the story of your sojourn in the Ukraine, but I find your writing compelling, and I hope to return more often.

    You sound good, even amidst the byzantine regulations you are encountering. I think I understand that you will have to move away from the family and connections you have made for the next year of your PC work. That must be hard to consider; the family having become so important to you. I admire the way you have taken the young boy under your wing, and the way in which you keep in touch with your Buddhist practice of patience and openness to not-knowing. In my past travels I became quite aware of a particular myopia that exists in the minds of many USA-izenz, myself included. I struggled for a long time, and continue to learn, even now, how easy it is to jump to conclusions about others, and how limited my american way of seeing is.

    I look forward to reading more about the Tartar you have just met, the man who will be your landlord. Your writing reminds me of a war correspondent's journals--moving quickly and with authority from the fine detail of one event or place to the next. It is, like I said before, compelling writing.

    This time next year I will be two months out from retirement from my job in the city. I have been working at North High for the last couple of years, and am feeling a lot of gratitude for the opportunity to work with African-American and Hmong kids in a struggling school and a community on the edge. I spend a lot of time in the music program with a great music director, who is a source of inspiration to his students. He does not leave the difficult subject of racism untouched, like so many other teachers, even teachers of color in the school system, do. I believe he sees me as an ally, and I am grateful for that, as well, especially at this time in my life when I am reflecting on my purposefulness.

    Speaking of which, I must get on with the day's agenda; however, I'm wishing I didn't have one, on this last day of spring break. I've had too much fun. I walked on an oak savannah, took a lot of photographs, helped to remove a 120 year old fallen oak from a friend's yard, did some beekeeping, finished a good book written by a young Hmong woman, began gardening, looked for a summer job (hoping that Judith at Scout and Morgan may call on me to fill in), participated in a county-wide poetry read-a-thon, walked and biked on the trails I have discovered.

    I continue to be a city nerd ploughing head on into the ruts of country living at times, but I'm mostly happy up here. I've just had to discover my own ways of doing things. Jacqui will take off on a shoulderless gravel road. I ferry my bike to a paved trail. We compromise. We have beaver renewing the wetland, more ducks and large water birds, the cranes, and our many sparrows. I am happy observing our migratory visitors.

    Must run. Your writing put me in a reflective state of mind.

    Stay well, Barb.


    Your pal on the Anoka Sand Plain