Friday, September 2, 2011

Wednesday, August 31st

Ouch. Today was a lot. I heard someone else describe it that way and as unspectacular as those two words are, they'll have to do.

So, apartment. There's me, a Hayden Christensen look-alike (henceforth referred to as H), and an upbeat mid-westerner named Cowboy. Cowboy claims to be the oldest trainee out of the group, but wow.... his enthusiasm is refreshing. He's has a sincerely great attitude for a country as unusual (in both good and trying ways) as Ukraine. The apartment is nice enough and steadily growing smaller (more roommates expected). There are 3 rooms, two long hallways, a toilet room, a sink/shower room, and a kitchen. Oh, and two balconies! 
The room I'll be sharing
View from my balcony
From my balcony- view to the left
View from the kitchen
Vesna- look familiar?
We started out with a room each. Today the EC came. EC = East Coaster, because he's very east-coast. You know what I mean. They're different from us west-coasters. EC and H are sharing a room. Cowboy is currently expecting a roommate. I am also expecting a roommate, female, thankfully, because we'll have to share a bed for the duration of training. I guess it's really true- you get what you pay for (and this was free). The apartment is nevertheless better than I expected. It even appears to flush toilet paper, which is always a minor triumph in Ukraine. I'm working on getting wireless turned on. The downside is that they apparently couldn't find us an apartment near the school, so we have to travel on the metro to get there and back, plus a robust walk from the metro stop to the school. Probably about...75 - 90 minutes travel one way.
I marked our apartment and the main school with red arrows
We left the apartment at 11 AM today to get to the school. It took about an hour on the metro plus an hour of walking. This is exactly why I have no desire to live and work in a city like Kiev or Moscow. Zero. Zip. Nada. And the temp today was in the 80-90 F range and in case you didn't know, air conditioning is still a wonder of the future here. Especially on the metro, when you're shoved in there like a freakin' sardine.
Oh, the joy

Training started at 1 PM. It required a lot of participation and for those who didn't appear confident of themselves, a healthy little dose of belittlement too. Hey, this is Ukraine; that's the system here. By that I mean- in America we encouragingly say “There's no such thing as a dumb question.” is. But all that aside, I thought it was pretty good.

There was one incident. A guy who had spent some time in Russia came back from the bathrooms looking shell-shocked. “What the hell was that?!” he asked us. I guess the toilets he'd experienced in Russia were, well, more toilet-y and less pit-like. Or perhaps it was the complete lack of toilet paper or any scraps of paper. Or soap. Maybe it was the lack of a door on the bathroom stall that did it. He ended up absconding to the ladies' bathroom (we at least had doors in this particular bathroom) with my packet of Kleenex. Let this be a lesson to you: when you are traveling here, make sure you at least have a receipt in your pocket!

Training ended after 4 PM and we had a quick break to grab some food at a Ukrainian-themed cafeteria. I had borsch for the second time- “Ukrainian” borsch last night and green borsch today. I also had a salad of shredded carrots with sunflower oil, pepper, and garlic, and shish-kebob. It felt like home food to me, since that's basically what Denis' parents have been feeding me for years. We had to wolf down our food to catch the metro to another school for 4 straight hours of teaching observation, until 10 PM. Hour one was interesting, two was okay, three was getting there, and the fourth was spent watching the clock tick closer to 10 PM. Hmmm...
The bathrooms in this school have two swinging doors on the stalls that don't quite meet in the middle. Since there is oddly and unfortunately a large, long, unnecessary window at squatting height along the entire length of the bathroom which happens to face a hallway in the next building, you are at leisure to put on quite a show for people in the hallway! And did I mention there's very rarely soap or toilet paper? Of course. At least it's a clean bathroom. I've seen far worse (hint: if you ever have to go pee at Nikitski Botanical Gardens...just don't do it. It's better to die from an exploded bladder, trust me!)

After teaching observation ended we went on a hunt for toilet paper. Most stores close at 10 PM here, so it was an elaborate hunt. I now see how much of our time here will be consumed by things like searching for toilet paper. Then we had a long walk back to the metro, which was still pretty crowded for 11 PM on a Wednesday night.

We have the same schedule tomorrow. Leave here by 11 AM, if not earlier to try to use the internet somewhere, training all afternoon, teaching observation from 6 – 10 PM again. We also have a couple homework assignments, including prepping to possibly teach a 30-40 minute class to students tomorrow, but since we didn't get back to the apartment until midnight, everyone crashed instead of doing any lesson prep.

It sounds like I'll be training here through next Wednesday, then have the next 3 days to take the train to my assigned city, get settled in a new apartment, and begin teaching full time on Sunday.

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