Thursday, January 29, 2009


Alright, here is a quick run down of my week.  Sunday night, Sasha asked me to draw her.  We had a lovely chat and she drew me after I finished her.  It was really fun.  Monday was relatively pleasant.  My host dad was freaked because since I had lost my voice I wasn't talking to him in Russian and I was coughing.  So he made Natasha ask me what was wrong.  I told them that I was speaking too much at school and so I had developed the cough.  They went and got me a lemon and honey (the honey here is awesome) and cut the lemon in slices and made me eat the whole thing dipped in honey...rhine and all.  Yes, I know I'm not going to have any teeth but it did help.  Monday night, I got food sick again.  Tuesday, I hated the world but particularly the Kievian part of it and didn't eat anything all day long.  My host mom freaked out but I don't think Ukrainians understand what you should eat when your sick so not eating anything was the easier solution to trying to explain..."Please don't give me anything fried, pickled, covered in milk, or sopping in oil.  And don't make me eat a whole plate heaping with stuff."  She asked me what was wrong and I said everything is different.  She asked me what we eat in America and I tried to explain that it's mostly the same just cooked differently.  I don't think she understood that but she understood that I said something about potatoes and from the last few nights meals, I think I may be eating potatoes for the next 4 months...heehee.  Wednesday, I felt much better.  I got up early wrote a (I hope) grammatically correct note in Russian to my host mom.  She'd left out some oladshi for me which happen to be my favorite Ukrainian food.  So I found some smetana (sour cream) and started eating.  But then I noticed there was some jam on the table.  It looked way sketchy but I really wanted jam so I ate it anyways (anyone still wondering why I'm getting sick?).  Then I met Meagan to go to the art museum my guide book said was free on the last wednesday of the month.  When we got there we found a sign that I set to translating from Ukrainian into Russian into English.  5 minutes later we realized there was a sign in english at the next door but I had translated it correctly.  my guidebook was off by a week.  It was the first wednesday of the month.  So we decided that we'd come back next week.  But we decided to try the blini stand across the street in the park that my guide book said was the best in the city.  So we went up and decided what we wanted and I ordered using instrumental case!!!!  блин с шоколадом!!!  Go me!  I got one with honey and Meagan got one with jam.  They were sooooooo good.  So...much to the chagrin of the Russian lady in the stand...we were back 5 minutes later for 2 chocolate blini.  They were delicious as well.  They warm the topping up so they are melty and runny in the middle of the blini which is rolled up and served in hot dog bags because they are that big.  Such fine food.  That night, I went to institute which was really fun.  Then today, I had a good day.  I made bears in pajamas with my kids which they absolutely loved.  So that was really fun.  I really really love the basic reading kids because they can actually talk to me.  Today we talked about wearing socks to bed and where bananas grow.  It was funny.  Well, that's all the news from Kiev.  Hope you all are doing well!  Much love!

Sunday...and the elevator adventure

Alright so already, things are looking up.  I have to say I love church.  It made me feel so much better today.  I heard just what I needed to in every class.  The relief society lesson was on Elder Whirthlin's talk, "Come What May and Love It" which I heard my mom teach in Australia and I can remember thinking at the time, this is going to be important to you, so remember it.  But the details that I remembered that time were much more general so that this time hearing it again, it really could speak directly to my heart and give me the comfort I so needed.  After church, I was able to go to a member of the branch presidency's house for lunch.  We had pasta and spoke English, which was a welcome respite.  Not that I don't love Ukrainian food and Russian all the time but you need something familiar every once in a while to bear you up and refuel your courageous spirit.  I definitely feel like now I can go back to eating cabbage, potatoes, and pickled fish with renewed vigor. Best of all, he had an embassy phone that could call the US so I got to call my family!!!  This was the greatest of the Lord's mercies today.  Just the night before, I had plead with Him saying, "I think I could keep going, if only I could talk to my family.  Please let me talk to my family."  And today I got to!  It made me unspeakably happy.  The only less wonderful moment today was a very Ukrainian moment which is hilarious in hind-sight when the elevator to my apartment stopped working.  When I got home, I went to get on and a babuska said "Elevator (I still don't know that word in Russian) не робатает".  I started poking around for the stairs, going down the lit hallway only to find apartments.  Then I saw the stairs...the dark abyss in the corner.  Seriously there were no lights!  And it was 5 pm so it was dark as pitch outside so the few slit like windows didn't help.  So I got out my cell phone and could see for about 1 foot in any direction.  So I groped my way up the stairs.  I miss counted and ended up going 7 levels up.  So then I went down a level.  But the door on my level was locked or actually I think it was nailed shut.  So I had to grope my way back down six flight of stairs to the main floor.  I buzzed back up to my apartment and tried to explain what was wrong but Vanya didn't understand because he didn't know the word for elevator in English and I didn't know it in Russian and my frantic gestures were to no avail.  So finally he just buzzed me in again and said "Okay, come up and I will understand you".  Only I still couldn't.  So I just stood in the lobby looking stupid until finally my host dad came down.  Apparently at some point the elevator had recommenced operation and he was thinking I was a retard. Unfortunately, I was so flustered that I don't think I countered that assumption at all with my babbling in English since he only speaks Russian.  But it was an adventure.  So the two take-aways are God is great, Soviet housing stinks. (And as a side note: Annilyn is amazing at alliteration).

Traveler's Tip #1 Never travel to 3 continents in the same week!

My biological clock has been blown to pieces.  I am usually pretty good about jet, I've been awful.  I've been here almost two weeks and I have gotten no where on getting onto Kiev time.  My body is convinced I've gone back to Australia, so even if I stay up until 12, I can't sleep past 3AM.  And normally I might try to just exhaust my body and beat it into submission but I have already been sick sick sick so that's not an option because the only way to get better seems to be to sleep and sleep a the middle of the day.  Add to that the fact that I've not only had the cold kind of sick but I've also had Khlemnytsky's (Ukrainian folk hero who actually ironically is the guy that accidently sold them out to Russia) revenge all night long starting at 1 in the morning after eating something that didn't agree with my stomach.  It's amazing how much harder it is to be positive when you feel like hurling.  Walking to school that morning, everything made me mad, the ice, the stray dog poo, the smoggy sky, the charcoal like pill my host mom gave me when I said I didn't want breakfast because I felt sick, the car that stopped to let me cross the street, even the little litter picking babustka who smiled at me.  I had a very good Russian face that day.  Fortunately, my lesson went well.  But I crashed as soon as I got home and slept for 2 hours and woke up with a fever.  But I am starting to be afraid that because I've been sleeping so much my host family thinks I don't like them so I am trying to be friendly.  I played with Styopa and Vanya and watched a movie with Sasha.  The movie was in French about American money in Japan with Russian dubbing...maybe that induced the trippy dreams last night.  Anyways, later that night, I went to bed and slept how you sleep when you have a fever...not really well with really really strange dreams.  When I woke up at 3 I decided to just try to over power my body so I stayed in bed staring at the ceiling for hours and hours until I could hear Natasha feeding Styopa.  Then I got up and started cleaning my room.  I was supposed to go meet Meagan and Christina and we were going to explore the shopping center and market around our area but when the time came, I still felt awful.  So I went to try to call them but my phone is out of grivna so I couldn't call out.  Finally Meagan called me and told me Christina had gotten herself lost.  I tried to help but wasn't very effectice.  Meagan said she's call later and see if I was feeling better and when I wanted to meet for the ballet.  Then I went and had blini (like crepes) for breakfast with my host family, which were relaly good.  then I went to try to get things together to do my laundry.  But I felt really awful so I decided to take a short break.  I didn't want to fall asleep so I lay down on the floor which is concrete and impossible to sleep on right???  Well, I was reading and I can remember Styopa coming in and climing over me and then all of a sudden I was waking up to Meagan calling me.  She said it was 3 and sh'd call back at 5 and see how I was feeling because from my groggy answers she could tell I wasn't yet ready to meet them.  I can't remember if I tried to get up or not but I slept feverishly (more weird dreams) until I woke with a start to find it was 6:55 and the ballet would start in 5 minutes.  I had slept though Meagan's phone call and there was no way I could go now.  It nearly killed me.  Add to that the fact that I'd slept for almost 7 hours and totally set myself back in any attempt to get on the right time.  But I was feeling a bit better.  I think my fever had gone away.  And I got to take a shower!  My 4th one!  Two showers a week seems a pretty good average here.  
It's interesting, my internship class teacher said the first two periods of culture shock are the honeymoon when everything is new and exciting (this is the only period you really have when you go on vacation for less than a month) and then the plunge when everything stinks and you hate the world and you compare everything to your country and find it lacking.  This he said usually sets in when you realize this is not a vacation or an adventure but regular life.  It can be set off by several things often the first day at work or sickness.  In my case, the two came at the same time and then I continued to get sicker so now I'm really really suffering culture shock.  I still really think I will like it here it's just a matter of struggling through these next couple of days or weeks.  

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Teaching Kids

Teaching has gotten better.  We're starting to figure out which kids go well together and which kids to keep apart.  I have a couple of favorites.  Andrew is a problem child because he's really smart and his parents know English so he's ahead of all the other kids and gets bored but when he is well behaved he is a joy to have in class.  Artiom is way way cute when he wants to do something because he will fold his arms and then jump up and down saying "Pvick me!  Pvick me!  I vant to do eet.  I being goood."  Nastya and Anya are both adorable little girls that are very well behaved.  Barvara is way cute too though she doesn't speak very much.  Sviat is the cutest kid in glasses ever.  Ilya works well with certain kids and badly with others but when he's good he's golden.  Our biggest problems are actually not the hyper kids because they usually lead the other kids in speaking and if you can channel the hyperactivity it makes our job a lot easier it's the kids who are tuned out.  Alice, Anya, and Ivan are all off in their own Russian world so that the English can't penetrate so we can't get them to do anything with us.  And it's weird because they can speak when they are plugged in they just rarely are.  But "iz fun" as they say.  They all have the most adorable Russian accents.  So it's a constant struggle but it's fun.  I'm loosing my voice from talking so much though.  Three hours of constant talking is hard stuff.  As for adventures, Tuesday the morning teachers all went into the city to wander.  We went down souvenir street which was way cool and took the funicular back up.  Then we went to a cafe for hot chocolate and then went to the Branch President's to watch the inauguration of Obama.  The next day the papers had a picture of Obama with the caption "новый пресидент америки" which was cool to see.  Wednesday, I waited at the school so that I could go home with Meagan, Vanya, and Misha.  The two boys were showing us the fast way home because we had aparently been going ridiculously out of our way to get on the metro and then walk to the school.  It was quite an adventure to be led through the dark streets of Kiev by two 11 year old cousins.  Wow.  But the way is a lot faster so I am indebted to them.  Then I had an awesome dinner of kasha, sausage, and vinegrette (beets, onions, and other vegetables cut up with vinegar on them soooo good).  I got to take my third shower here!  It was awesome.  Today  I think I'm going to go to the store and then go into Kiev to see some of the monuments.  I've finally figured out how to really use my guide book so that should be good.  Thanks for all the comments, it's really encouraging to know I have friends back in the US! 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Okay, I'm back.  They called me and I knew I was going to be late but I decided to go anyways.  So I walked down to the metro station (it's about a mile so it takes a while) and got on.  Soon I was kind of dozing.  All of a sudden I heard palatz sportoo so I jumped off the metro right as the doors were closing...only to find they had been announcing that was the next stop.  So by this time I was going to be really late.  I was trying to decide what to do when this guy comes down the stairs chanting something.  I thought maybe he was collecting money because I'd seen a little boy doing that earlier but when I listened to what he was saying I heard, "Don't learn English.  We are Russian.  The Soviets were awesome.  The Americans brought this depression upon us."  and I started to freak out thinking "He's going to kill me!"  So I edged closer to the two babuski I was standing next to hoping they'd protect me and as soon as the next train came I ran and got on.  But it was headed back.  So I decided just to go home.  On my way, I had another interesting encounter when I ran into some Russian guys.  I can usually intimidate most guys by being so tall, but Russian guys are tall to so they were scared.  They were right in my way so I had to go between the two of them and they called out to me, "Девушка, девушка, где вы ходите?" (young lady, where are you going).  It was extremely terrifying.  But I didn't make eye contact and just kept going and they didn't follow me.  I was really really happy to get home that night.  And I got to eat borscht which was delicious.  The next day I had to teach.  It was a fiasco because none of us knew what we were in for.  I had to teach in the kitchen but I wasn't teaching kitchen because we decided not to do it this week so I was trying to teach games and all of the kids were throwing a fit because they wanted to eat.  This situation was exaccerbated by the fact that I had only gotten 4 hours of sleep because my stupid body believes that in changing time zones again I've gone back to Australia and therefore need to get up at 3 when I went to bed at 11 and this was the 6th night I've done that so I was getting really sick from lack of sleep.  So when I finished, I went home and crashed on my bed and slept for 11 hours.  This morning when I woke up, my host mom knocked on the door and said, "Bы гивёте?" (You're living?) When I said I was, she answered, "I vas first day?  Yes?"  Goodness life is getting hard.  I think I am now going through culture shock.  The first week was fine but now that I actually realize I'm staying here and have to teach kids everyday I'm kind of freaking out.  But this too shall pass.  Let's hope it does quickly.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Kiev continues!

So saturday we went and saw the city.  It was really fun.  We saw the Golden Gate (the ancient entrance to Kiev 900AD), Saint Sofia Cathedral, and Independence Square.  And we went to the most awesome Ukrainian cafeteria.  You pointed at amazing Ukrainian food and they gave it to you and then you went to the kaca and paid (2 dollars for a HUGE meal, varenki, borsht, dill bread, potatoes, the exchange rate is awesome) and then you went and sat down at one of huge, very Russian, very unprivate tables.  It was sweet.  Sunday, I went to church at the international branch so sadly it was in English.  But the speakers were both actually Russian.  One guy gave an awesome talk about how Satan could be compared to this radio sport that he used to play when he was younger where you would stick radio signal messer-uppers out in the field so that your enemy couldn't find their way to the next spot.  He's the institute teacher too so it'll be fun.  Then after church we went to the Branch president's house for brownies and a security briefing.  They said Kiev is actually comparatively safe when compared to Philadelphia, New York or other US cities of comparable size.  But he said that crime is on the rise because of the depression which is hitting Ukraine hard.  One of my friends told me her host mom said we have to be careful because last month a lot of people weren't paid so they are desperate.  He said also that political demonstrations tend to happen during depressions so we need to be careful.  I was really tired so I decided to go home.  I started walking back with two friends.  But pretty soon we didn't really know where we were.  They begged me to ask for directions but while I knew how to ask I wasn't sure if I'd understand the response so I was really really nervous.  Finally, I mustered my courage and asked a less angry looking babushika (everyone here looks extremely angry because smiling or talking in public is not done).  I asked very haltingly where the metro station was.  She smiled and nodded encouragingly and then took me by the arm and dragged me over and pointed (I love babushki).  We were 100 feet from it.  So then I got on and went home.  Pretty soon it was time for me to leave for the fireside but the other girls hadn't left yet so I wait for them.  to be continued....

Saturday, January 17, 2009


The actual post is a comment on this because I can't get the site to let me paste.