Sunday, September 18, 2011

What I did apart from 96 billion hours of lesson planning on Sept 17th

I was sooo depressed in my fortress, and I needed to buy a light bulb (remember?) and make photo copies for class. Timur messaged me with ксерокс, the word for xerox. (Speaking of brand names that become actual nouns, did you know the Russian word for diapers is “pampers”? I kid you not) Anyways, I set off in search of a copy machine in my Ann Taylor sweater, plaid miniskirt, and brown boots with a fake fur trim. I crossed over to the other side of the highway for the first time (see? I really haven't had time to get out much!). It's a little more upscale than my side. I did some discrete searching for the word ксерокс, but no luck. Finally spotted a tea store, yeah!, and went in and asked for my usual: anti-stress tea. I can't say this stuff actually works, but it's very scary to think of life without at least the placebo effect. The nice saleswoman, using too many words I didn't understand, pointed me in the direction of the elusive copy machine, but I ended up in a second story bookstore where I again got redirected with more nonsensical words. Don't know what was going on with my Russian today.... In a small mall, I finally found a guy sitting at a desk near the words ксерокс! Yeah again! He pulled a plastic sheet off the machine and, as it warmed up, explained that I was the first person to copy anything today. He was really sweet even though he didn't make much eye contact. He even tried to throw in a little English. I was very relieved to find a place to make's useful for future classes and it only costs 40 kopeks per copy...that's...hmm....I don't know. But 100 kopeks = 1 grivna, and 8 grivna = 1 dollar. You figure it out.

I felt a little bit triumphant after successfully completing this task- my spirits had lifted a bit- and I detoured into a random street market in search of the light bulb. It only took a few minutes to locate one (about $2). This vendor also practiced a few English words. I went into another little stall and finally purchased a tea pot!! ($3) (If you don't know that I'm a serious tea drinker, you should by now!) This vendor too, asked me where I was from, tried to give the price in English, bemoaned her lack of English, and talked about what a bad student she had been in school. It's so cute- you must understand these interactions are not with people who actually speak any serious level of English; instead, it's like if you know a couple of words of Japanese and want to make the Japanese tourist in your shop feel at home. These people are going out of their way to do this extra kindness for me- recite the days of the week, count to 12, etc- and I really appreciate it. I truly believe that people here have kind hearts.

After finishing up with my purchases in the outdoor market (toothpaste, blank paper for class, a sponge) I took a circuitous and unexplored route home. With 100 grivna left (about $12) I decided to hit up the nearby supermarket. There I got both another phone call from the school director, checking in, and a call from EC, who was on his way to the supermarket for junk food. I had just discovered pre-popped popcorn in a sealed plastic cup, pretzels, nutella, even a real bag of microwave popcorn, and was happy to show them to EC (did not buy them myself!) But no peanut butter. The poor guy has been crazy for peanut butter, which is practically non-existent here in Ukraine. I'm relieved I haven't had the same craving, but maybe it's because I ate so many peanut-butter covered chocolate bars this summer (mmmm....I know you think it's wrong, D, just don't understand the perfection of peanut butter!)

I came home, did more lesson planning not going to talk about it, and made pasta. All this stress has been making my stomach hurt so I stopped dinner, went to the balcony, and leaned out the window for a while. In the night time, Kharkov twinkles off into the distance...there must be so much out there! I'd like to explore it all! And wow, it's mid-September and the weather is real fall weather. Still sunny and warm but with a hovering chill sometimes and yellow leaves blowing off the trees. I've been through so many Alaskan “autumns” that it's hard to believe fall is an actual season! As in, more than 7-10 days! They say there won't be snow on the ground here until November or December, and I'm excited to experience that. I don't know what I'll wear, because my wardrobe has been based on cold temperatures for so long, but if there's anything that Ukraine can be proud it, it's fashion. I'm not talking about the mullet, which is still popular with specific segments of the population here (such as men, women, teenagers, and children), but clothes. The 14th largest market in the world, Барабашова, was full of awesome fashions. The women here have much nicer (more feminine) clothes than we wear in America.

H called me tonight. I'm amazed that this group of us spent less than 2 weeks together but bonded so tightly (under duress and extreme conditions, that is). It's like we graduated from boot camp together :) I eagerly await their stories from class and Ukraine in general!
2012 Update: Actually, we sadly all fell apart. Some people left faster than you can say "quit" and the others just kind of drifted into a different orbit in their new cities.

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