Last weekend was a treat—filled with fun activities and even a little alone time at home. Friday afternoon I spent at the Windows on America Center, enjoying talking with Alie, the director, and helping her with some English translations; and then later the third meeting of my little English club on American literature, this time discussing a story called “The Witch’s Husband” by Judith Ortiz Cofer, a Puerto Rican American writer. As always, I found fascinating the insights from this intelligent group of young people.
The next day at the Center was an all-day seminar on public speaking and debate put on by a group of Crimean Peace Corps Volunteers. These sessions are held periodically on various topics and occasionally I have helped with them, but I wasn’t planning on attending this one. However, I was convinced by the pleading of some of the young people in my group to “Please, come!” Hard to resist when you feel so wanted.
So the next morning I decided to drop in for a while and ended up staying most of the day. I would have remained until the end of the seminar but it was “Men’s Day” in Ukraine—an annual holiday celebrating men (do they really need this?) to offset International Women’s Day, which is a much bigger deal here-- and Lenura and I had decided to make lasagna together, as it is a favorite meal of Neshet’s. I told her I would do the shopping and get home early to help cook.
I had a great time at the seminar—it was so fun to be around these lively, articulate young people, all wanting to speak with me because I am a native English speaker. It gave me a chance to ask about their ideas for the future of Ukraine, democracy, living abroad, the beauties of Crimea, etc.
|With two of the young people in my reading group|
And then Sunday, despite the crappy weather, I went HIKING!!!! And the biggest treat of all, I finally got to go hiking with the woman my age whom I had met three years ago and had so admired for her vast experience of Crimea and ability to tramp all over the place. Polina, her 30-something daughter who speaks English, told me that her mother had been taking her hiking since she started school, and that they had spent most of the weekends of her childhood out in the nature of Crimea.
It was just the three of us, and we met early in the morning at one of the bus stations, taking a bus to the nearby city of Bakhchisaray and then a local bus out to the edge of town. From there we just started walking, winding our way along the tops of beautiful bluffs, looking at fossilized creatures from the ancient seas that form the Crimean mountains, the rock formations and caves, the first very few spring wildflowers, and a rare and endangered juniper-like tree, which up until that time I hadn’t known much about. We stopped for lunch in a wind-protected place on one of the bluffs, and Nada and Polina pulled out potatoes and meat patties and some kind of homemade liquor they added to the hot tea they had also brought. I, of course, had my usual meager offering of sliced cheese and bread. Really, when am I going to become a better Ukrainian hiker?
Despite it being cold and foggy with limited views—they both kept lamenting that they weren’t able to show me the beautiful views because of the weather—I had such a wonderful time and was so very grateful to be there, to be with them. I hope it is the first of many more hiking adventures.
To add to the enjoyment of the day, when we were sitting at the bus station in Bakhchisaray at the end of our hike, five of Nada’s hiking pals showed up, also at the end of their hike in a nearby area—all “old” women like us, and one token man. How I loved sitting there, looking at their lined faces animated with their joking around about their adventures. Truly, Crimea is a hiker’s paradise, and not just for the young. How lucky I am to be here.
With love from Crimea.