Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Once there was the sun...

Oh goodness, I can never write all the stuff that has happened in the last week so I'll just put the highlights which still promise to be extensive.  Monday, I got a package from my family.  There is a Ukrainian custom which our native coordinator enforces with glee which says you must dance for your letters.  So I had to make a fool of myself to get it.  But, it was worth it for the package contained hot chocolate and even better "The Adventures of Styopa, Vanya, and Sasha", a book written about my host family's adventures in Texas.  I took it home that evening and showed it to Vanya and Styopa.  We were looking at it when Sasha got home, Vanya called to her and explained the story to her in Russian and then we finished going through it.  Then I started translating it into Russian.  Vanya has decided I am the human dictionary so as I was working on translating the book, he was working on his English homework.  He would come ask me to translate words.  Sasha was getting really frustrated with us as I was dancing around the room trying to explain 'the way'.    She said, "Ваня!!!  Здесь словарь, делать уроки!"  (Vanya!!!  Here is the dictionary!  Now do your homework!).  
Tuesday, Natasha and Styopa were listening to music in the kitchen while I was working on my lessons (little cardboard dancing men).  Styopa would sing "LET MY PEOPLE GO!!!" at the top of his lungs.   Turns out none of his family actually knew what the song was about or even what that meant so it was good that it wasn't a bad word.  I found it very amusing.
Wednesday, I bought a Russian fairy tale book of Pushkin's skazki.  It is gorgeous.  I finished making my men and they debuted in my class in an awesome way for Parent's Day.  Then for maintenance I introduced vocab words and I have agreed that for every word they learn in English, I will learn in Russian.  
Thursday, I took the metro to Lukianivska where I always smell something delicious on Sundays.  So I wandered the market and then ordered a gyro with cheese.  It was really crazy Russian fast food.  There was a guy taking orders and making all the stuff at the same time.  He cut the meat off this huge hung thing on a stick and caught it in a dust pan, threw it in a flat bread with sauce, cabbage, and other stuff and then threw it on the grill for 5 minutes.  It was everything I dreamed it would be.  Oh yeah, and it snowed and was gorgeous.  And I got to enjoy it because I jumped on the red line (not my usual green) and road it out to the end.  The red line on the left bank is above ground because it is newer so it wasn't built to be a WWII bomb shelter so I could actually see stuff.  That night, the dedushka came over and yelled at me for writing on my lap.  Finally he dragged a stool in and made me write on that.  He's so cute.  We just found out he was an officer in the Soviet Army and he showed Megan his old pictures.  I really want to see them.  
Friday, I watched Russian comedy like DI.  They had lots of amazing ideas I wished I could use.  I miss DI.  And I learned a new phrase in Russian.  I'd heard Natasha say it a couple of times and then all of a sudden Sasha said it.  So I asked her, "What does 'yolgi polgi' mean?"  She laughed and said word for word it is fir tree branches but it's like 'oh my goodness'.  So that's one of my new favorite Russian phrases.
Saturday, I painted postcards and listened to Sasha read the Little Humpbacked Pony to Styopa which was incredible because it's all in verse and it included another of my favorite Russian words in the name of the main character "Иван дурак" (Ivan the Fool).  It's so awesome to listen to Russian fairy tales in Russian.  Then Sasha and I watched Brother Bear.  The best part for me because it was absolutely ridiculous was part where all the bears are sitting around telling stories and there is a Russian bear.  He mumbles something that is supposed to sound like Russian, but next to the actual Russian of the dubbing it just sounded ridiculous.  Americans really don't understand Russian at all.  Anyways, that evening, I went to Палац Украина (palace of Ukraine, it's a big concert hall thing) to see Ukrainian folk dancing.  It was incredible!!!!!!!!  It was interesting to see that Ukraine (despite most appearances) is not completely heterogeneous.  they had distinctly different Russian, Turkish, German, and Gypsy dances.  I decided that it may be true that most white people don't know how to dance (the German dances were kind of boring) but Slavic people are a total exception.  The guys at least really really really know how to dance.  It looks so cool and fun.  And it's crazy because while the kids in my classes can't do it as well as the professionals, they all can do those amazing traditional kicks and stuff.  Think the dancing tavern from "To Life" in 'Fiddler on the Roof'.  Maybe it's some kind of Popeye thing, if you eat a diet of pure cabbage, you are gifted with incredible dance moves.
Sunday, Megan was sick so I had to go to church by myself.  the subway broke between the last two stops.   I was alone in the car and had no idea what was happening and being so far underground I didn't even have cell phone service.  It was  very scary.  Fortunately it only took 7 minutes to start back up (yes, I was timing).  So when I got off I couldn't remember what маршука to take.  I started to freak out and said a little prayer.  I looked up to realize the people I was following were all carrying scripture cases.  I have never been so relieved to see scriptures in my life.  That evening I went to a fireside about personal histories given by the missionaries which are here writing the history of the church in Ukraine.  Did you know the first missionaries came in 1991, like a month after Ukraine declared it's independence from the Soviet Union?  They were really fast.  In 1998 the temple was announced though it took another 9 years until they were able to break ground but it's going to be finished next year!  The only unfortunately thing is that in a city with some of the most incredibly beautiful churches in the world, our temple is pretty ugly.  Anyways, it was really cool because it was given in English and then translated into Russian so I could kind of follow.  Then I went home and got to try my first salo (raw pig fat, the reason Ukraine and Russia are not now Jewish, Prince Vladimir just couldn't give it up).  It was in a soup made by the dedushka which was good though I don't really want to know what else was in it and I didn't really enjoy the texture of the salo.  I talked to Sasha about her grandpa and the end of winter festival next sunday where they are going to go into the forest burn winter in effigy and eat millions of blini (I'm trying to figure out how to get an invite).  Then I got to try some Торт which translates as cake but it's more like layers of pavlova or merange with hazelnut spread between them and choclate icing.  It was way good and I want to see if I can figure out how to replicate it because I don't think one would make it home but it is very traditional of Kiev.
Monday was Men's Day and Veteran's Day.  I gave Vanya some Harry Potter Uno cards because they don't have Uno here but they all love it and he loves Harry Potter.  I gave Volodya a card I made with a mug.  It seemed to make him happy though nothing could touch how happy I'd made Vanya and Sasha with my gift.  It was really fun to play Uno with them and eat pickle, kielbasa, and ketchup pizza that their mom had made.  We played in a mixture of Russian and English and was funny to follow.  We were using enough English that their mom wouldn't send them to do their homework because they were 'practicing their English' but we were really playing in Russian.  Then, Sasha and Vanya started telling each others futures with the cards.  It was hilarious.  Apparently I'm going to marry Снег sounds like 'Sneg'--Snape in English.  I want to teach them the Kings game but by this time our games had devolved into just Russian and their mom made them do their lessons. Oh yeah, and this day was the day I started writing this post.  Hence the title is because it was so sunny it was gorgeous because it had been snowing for the last 4 days or whatever and the air was full of microscopic water crystals so the world literally sparkled.  Everyone (and I really mean everyone) was smiling because it was so beautiful.  Unfortunately the title for this post was prefigurative for once again 'winter has killed everything' so it was only a brief moment but I made the most of it.  
Tuesday was uneventful actually.  I worked on lessons.  I was making myself Milo and poured the milk into a cup and Megan thought I was pouring myself a cup of сметана (sour cream).  She freaked out and was very relieved when she realized I was not that far gone yet.  She'd been starting to consider how to drag me forcibly onto a plane back to America before I went totally crazy and Ukrainian (though I don't think even they drink the stuff).  All the teachers think I'm a little weird because I have stewed cabbage and sour cream for lunch like every other day.  Taylor (one of the other teachers) was sick so we had to do some improvising.  So I taught the old kids for an hour and a half.  We made bread pudding which was fun.  The coordinator was aghast that I was going to feed it to the kids when she saw the mixture.  She asked her son, Ivan (who is 6 so he's not in the class), "Ты хочешь кушать?" (you want to eat it?).   He shook his head in a big way.  He's so cute, all the girls have a crush on him and I can't blame him.  He's adorable.  He always tries to stop me from leaving the school and yesterday he gave me a picture of a cat and a tree.  Then I played with Styopa at home and discovered I have actually learned to roll my р almost like Natasha when I say 'рыба' (fish).   
This morning, I ate blini with sour cream and jam (my favorite way) and played with Styopa.  We built 'красивый замок' (a beautiful castle) as Natasha called it.  And we made all the animals which lived in the castle drink tea.  Styopa would pour and I would bring the animals to drink.  All the animals made Russian walking sounds; I have been so tainted by this experience!  And then  we made a picture of everyone eating.  Стьопа, мама, папа, Ваня, Аннилин, и Саша кушают кашу и пьют чай в кухне где лампа и окно. (Styopa, mama, papa, Vanya, Annilyn, and Sasha eat kasha and drink tea in the kitchen where there is a lamp and a window.)  Oh, yeah Styopa is learning my name.  Currently, it sounds something like Annannnininininnninninininin!!!!  It's adorable though doesn't always get my attention the way he wants.

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