Friday, September 30, 2011

Sept 30th

Before I came to Ukraine, I spent hours compiling a list of things that supposedly couldn't be found here, worried there might be something I just couldn't live without.

Let me tell you this: you can find anything in Ukraine. Seriously, in a place where you can buy Oil of Olay products next to apple-scented toilet paper, what can't you buy?!

Oh yeah, one thing: peanut butter.

Aside from that, I've had no trouble finding anything else, even things I was warned would be impossible to find, like post-it notes and vegetable peelers.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sept 29th

The tide turned last night...classes went decently, especially the TOEFL class. I really enjoyed that particular class. Today I taught corporate classes, which also seemed to go well. The plus side of teaching 9:30 AM classes across town is that...well, would I ever ride 45 minutes on the metro in the morning crowds for fun? (No.) So this experience is showing me things I wouldn't normally experience. Normally I would experience my pillow, or maybe a sleepy breakfast! :p

The weather is true autumn now- rainy, heavy, a little dreary. It's pleasant to see autumn again after years of Alaska's seasons (summer, winter, and slush). I've realized I have forgotten how to dress for such not-exactly-summer, not-exactly-winter weather. Umbrellas and light coats might have to re-enter my wardrobe soon!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sept. 26th

Highlight of the day- check out dinner:
"hinkeli"
They're boiling. Verdict is still out on whether they taste as good as they look.
(Update: DELICIOUS! But don't buy the plain variety. Make sure it's the green label!)

Today was not the greatest day. Classes were just, eh, not good. I don't know if it was the lesson, the students, me, the weather, the day of the week (Monday) or all of the above. But rewinding back to the beginning.... at 10 AM this morning someone started doing a ремонт in a nearby apartment. Remember when I said that remodeling is a national obsession here? You're either actually doing it or you're on the verge of doing it, there is no third option (contentedness?)...today a neighbor started doing some heavy demolition. Heavy as building-shaking, massive thuds with a sledgehammer.... I could actually hear things crumbling. I went out and did more shopping for 2 hours (apartment is looking very comfy! Joyce, you'd be proud! D, you will be proud!) Came back, still marathon of destruction going on. Went to a new nearby cafe (local wifi finally, yeah!!!!) for 2 hours, attempting to lesson plan. The cafe was nice. Maybe I'll go there tomorrow to post this, as internet in the apartment has been like an election campaign promise. Supposedly I'm top priority now, they say. Uh-huh. Anyways, then classes, which fell as flat as a bad loaf of bread. All today I had this low mood, this feeling of burn-out. Students can be vicious little beasts; they pick up on that mood so quickly.

Yesterday a coworker took us out to a fancy restaurant called Мiсто.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kleenex update

This just in! New Kleenex scent discovered: eucalyptus! 
That's perhaps not quite as odd as some of the other scents I mentioned before, though....
Flower-scented toilet paper

Menthol & Nectarine-scented Kleenex

Sept 24th

Scored a couple English language newspapers today! Yes!! After reading them, I want to use some clippings in the TOEFL class but must be careful, as not all the English is grammatically correct.

Ukraine just consolidated the number of visas they offer from 18 (types) to 3. I'm not sure if the visa I arrived here on is still valid. Oh Ukraine, please don't kick me out so soon! This is an incredible life over here, so different and so fun. 99% of the time I wake up and look forward to a new day here in Kharkov. I really, really, really want D and I to be able to spend some time here as residents, not just as 90 day tourists. Also, you now have to prove you have sufficient funds before they'll let you in the country. 

Taught an extra class on Thursday after another teacher fell ill.... total of 5 classes. My first class started at 9:30 AM across town (45 min on metro) and my final class ended at 10:05 PM. That was quite a day! I was in power-save mode for most of the day. Had about 15 minutes to prep for the sick teacher's 2-hour-long class, a level I'd never taught before. The students, of course, were skeptical when I first walked in, but they warmed up and even stuck around to compliment me at the end. That was nice!

On Thursday, Timur and I went out and about-
The Opera House
Park across the street from the opera house
A wedding! The bride and groom are by the fountain. Check out the decorated car in the foreground. That's party- I mean, part- of the wedding tradition here. Drive around in a procession of decked out cars, honk loudly, and stop and take pictures at all the famous monuments. Pretty cool, huh?
Schevhenko Park
Schevhenko Park
A statue of Schevhenko, the famous poet.
Kharkov has amazing architecture. Imagine this on the roof of your apartment building!
My amazing tour guide for the day!
...and then we went to.....

Special note for Russian speakers

Dear Ukrainian & Russian readers,

Have you ever wondered why so many foreigners are terrified of your beautiful language? It's because when the sounds of your words are written with the Latin alphabet, they sometimes look like these words do:

Ukrhazvydobuvannia
Zhytomyrstandartmetrolohia.


Aren't you scared of those words too? :p

Sept, 21, feeling good in Kharkov!

My long-term goal achieved at last; it's beautiful to live with less. Finally, instead of having too much stuff, I have not enough. Want to do my nails? Have to go out and buy a nail clipper. Trying to remember an old grammar activity? Have to get on the metro and go find a coffee shop with wifi. Groceries? Stock up on what can be carried every 2 or 3 days. As Cowboy said from the first day he arrived here, “a simpler and more noble time.” I'm always thinking of things I forgot to bring, things I meant to bring, but really, it's not so bad without them. And seriously, without internet at home....I have SO MUCH time. It'll almost be a pity to go back to my old aimless web-surfing ways. There's something nice about a life where you have less and do more, but- that said- I think it only works when you make a conscious decision that's what you want. If someone takes your stuff, or if you never have it in the first place, this enjoyment does not apply.

Fog descends on the city nightly now. I was really surprised to see it hovering around the street lamps. Isn't Kharkov massively inland? Is it coming from the rivers? Tonight the fog was thick and the street were deserted by 10 PM. Even the metro was empty.... the 4 cops I saw there outnumbered us passengers in transit. The fog smelled heavy and warlike (winter?) and hung around in a smoky haze underground. Other than that ominous sign, this has been a storybook autumn, leaves turning crisp and golden and ever so slowly drifting to the pavement. It was even hot today, under a clear sky! My classes went well today, even the dreaded TOEFL class, and once I get through tomorrow it will be smooth sailing. Tomorrow morning I'll be teaching a couple of corporate classes....another round of new names and faces to learn.

Walking home tonight I passed a guy freaking out, swinging himself around and yelling obscenities. This was sad, yes, but had a silver lining for me- I understood his swear words! My Russian must be improving!

I went to make xerox copies today- the clerk was gone and the sign on the copy machine said “on technological break”. Uh, what exactly is that?

Snapshots of Ukrainian life, Part 2


At the little local “supermarket” there is a gigantic selection of alcohol. Funny labels always catch my eye: there is a brand of vodka with a label similar to Smirnoff's, sold in 4 varieties: PARTNER (probably for business meetings), PICNIC (what else would you bring to a picnic?), RELAX (of course), and TRAVEL. I am setting aside some of my first paycheck to buy these so that I can take pictures of them. There's oddly a 'no picture-taking' icon on the supermarket door, so.... okay. I remember finding funny vodka like this in Russia before- one was for drinking in the sauna (picture of a manly guy in a towel), one was for taking on hunting trips (picture of a guy hunting ducks), etc. They weren't comical pictures either- they appeared very serious tributes to the tradition of vodka. 




As far as I know, crosswalks do not exist in Kharkov. There is kind of a place to cross the street, and there is sometimes a functioning walk / don't walk sign that most people choose to disregard. Also, number one rule of Ukraine: Cars have the right of way. Not pedestrians. Ever. Remember this.

(Here's a public service announcement of sorts: it says "this guy didn't make it 20 meters to the crosswalk". However, like I said, being in the crosswalk- even with the green walk hand showing- doesn't mean people still won't try to run you over. Be careful out there!)





 What Americans think of as farmers markets (aka a quaint throwback to our early days, perhaps a once-a-week event in your town) are regular daily life here. You buy your fruits and veggies fresh from little old ladies on the metro stairs, or from robust looking, dark-haired women in the marketplace. In the next stall you can buy hammers and toilet paper. On the other side is a stall with shampoo and pots/pans and plastic hangers. Markets rule!


Speaking of buying fruits and veggies, in most grocery stores there is a very limited selection of fruits and veggies (probably because everyone goes to the market). Often what is offered in the grocery store comes wrapped up on a Styrofoam tray with a white printed price sticker on the outside, just like raw meat is sold in the US. Glad to know Americans aren't the only ones guilty of over-packaging food!

Life in Ukraine means that instead of a dishwasher and a microwave in your kitchen, you have a small washing machine. I thought it would be toughest to live without a dishwasher, but surprisingly it's actually the lack of a microwave that proves more challenging. I have tried several rather creative methods of reheating food on a gas stove. None of them succeeded.

D told me stories he heard growing up (from his parents) of how apartments literally explode in Ukraine after someone forgets to turn off the gas on the stove....and someone else flips on a light (spark from light bulb ignites the gas). He says this is a favorite murder method on detective tv shows here. I am now living in complete terror of my stove. (2012 update: Walking by two women on the street, I heard them discussing how this had happened nearby! Ack!)
This safety warning for kids is in the common area of our building

Park day

A very Soviet-style conversation:
Me: Timur, do you think they use mayonnaise or tomato sauce on the pizzas?
Timur: Probably mayonnaise.
Me: Hmmmm......
Waitress: What do you want?
Timur: Is it possible to get a pizza without mayonnaise?
Waitress: No. All pizzas are standard pizzas.
Timur: Is it possible to ask to cook to use less mayonnaise?
Waitress, not amused: I'll ask....but it will be a standard pizza. (Я спрошу, но будет стандарт.)
Does this sound as funny in English as it did in Russian?
I will admit, the pizza was delicious, whatever they used.

Timur invited me on an amazing city tour yesterday!! It was wonderful to get out and enjoy the afternoon. In just three hours we visited a very interesting history museum, several cathedrals, many parks, and a cafe! Ukrainians sure know how to design parks! Check it out:
Timur also gave some great advice:
  • don't be so friendly with strangers, in shops, etc.
  • if your elevator gets stuck between floors, call me right away
And I saw a golden retriever being walked in the park! Most dogs here are either street mutts or smaller, pampered dogs, not golden-retriever size beasts. I wonder what people will think when I get my Burmese mountain dog and walk him through the park! :p

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Snapshots of Ukrainian life

At any given moment on any given street:
  • 75% of people are carrying a bag (a lady purse, a man purse, or the ubiquitous large plaid zippered plastic bag of Ukrainian shoppers, merchants, & travelers)
  • 20% are pushing a baby stroller or holding the hand of a child
  • only 5% are free to swing their arms
You can buy a roll of rough, stretchy, brown toilet paper for 20 cents, or you can buy brightly-colored and scented toilet paper for a couple of dollars (for example, flower scented toilet paper in pastel orange). The cheap stuff is just wound upon itself, the more expensive rolls have an actual cardboard tube in the center.
Lemon-scented toilet paper vs. the regular 20 cent kind
If you like to smoke (cigarettes are cheap and sold every 5 feet in every direction) and eat fancy chocolate (astonishingly HUGE variety and relatively inexpensive), then Ukraine is your dream destination. Move here now.

Little Kleenex packs, sold everywhere here (remember, most bathrooms don't have toilet paper) come not only in unscented, but also in the following scents: nectarine, menthol, chamomile

Traffic lights have 4 stages here: solid green, flashing green, yellow, and red.

Many, many essential items here are sold in kiosks. I hope you're either really good at charades or you learn some Russian/Ukrainian before coming here!

Since I've been teaching in a lot of public schools for children, I've noticed the majority of the bathrooms- even the girls- don't have doors. They are simply a row of holes in the ground with partitions in between. If there are doors, there are about 3 feet in length, so your head and your feet are still visible to the general public. Also, like I mentioned before, there tend to be a lot of large windows in these bathrooms, so you can watch what's going on in the outside world... it's like free tv, haha!

The Fishermen

Remember the fruit tree I mentioned earlier? And the old man with a sawed off two-liter plastic beer bottle on a fifteen foot pole, trying to collect pears? I have a story to top that one! 

The apartment building next to the tree is about nine stories tall. This time I saw two men on their seventh floor balcony with a fishing pole, trying desperately to hook a pear. The woman on the balcony two stories below was laughing her head off!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

September 18th

Taught 4 classes today and am wiped out! The last class was very low-level English and only had two students, one of which practically burst into tears from shyness from the beginning. That class took a loooooot of energy.

I got my schedule settled today, at 30 hours of face-to-face teaching a week, 16 classes a week....will be happy when this week is over, because it will have 5 new classes full of names and faces to memorize, exhausting work!! I must have memorized at least 50 names already. Thankfully the names aren't foreign sounding (after having studied Russian for so long) so they're pretty easy to pronounce and sometimes to remember.

YEAH! I'm finally freakin' online in the coffee shop! When classes ended at 7 PM, I struggled to download the massive TOEFL teacher guide on the office computer and finally gave up. My escort home had already ditched me long before this, so what's a girl to do but go to the coffee shop for a mojito ($3.50) and hope to get online. I'm surrounded in here by couples....many of them appear to be text messaging even while they sit together, surprise, surprise. Did you know that many restaurants and coffee shops here in Ukraine are unexpectedly upscale? There are some serious interior designers at work here. My favorite pastime is to appreciate their work : )
Coffee Life at the Kharkov (Southern) train station. It's very nice, but the other Coffee Life locations (Pushskinska and city center) are rather run-down.

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 copies....it'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.

Musings from Sept 17th

Finally, sweet, sweet freedom! As of...10:27 PM on this Saturday night, I have finished my lesson planning. For tomorrow.

I think things are getting better now. Of course, they first got a little worse but hang in there, readers...do not despair! Upon entering my apartment last night, I found myself confined to the dimly lit, lace curtained sitting room (my bedroom) because the light bulb in the other room (the kitchen / my work area) was out. It was too late to buy a new bulb at that dark hour so I slunk around in the sitting room for a while and sulked, and then opened a box of Crimean wine I had bought for such an occasion. Sadly, it was less than stellar wine. Pretty unpalatable, really, but desperate times...

Friday, September 16, 2011

September 16th

Wow, I'm finally writing in real time.....I was finally forced to come to (how appropriate) McDonald's to use wifi. McDonald's is a happening place here!! Free balloons for kids and FREE public restrooms = recipe for instant business success. I'm not joking. How many cashiers are in your local McDonalds? 4? 5? Here there are EIGHT registers plus the drive thru!! I got here at rush hour....a huge mob queued around the registers, because after you order you wait at the counter for your food- while the cashiers are taking the next person's order.

Things are okay here in Kharkov. I've been a little bummed out and lonely lately, and work has been a lot. I told the corporate manager today that I would only take one of the 9:30 AM corporate classes (considering I work until 10 PM the night before) and she was pretty upset, saying there aren't enough teachers or they're not the right age or they're not responsible enough blah blah blah. I don't care. I signed a contract to work 27 face-to-face hours, not 33. And seriously- the students demand teachers based on their age? For real?

September 15th

What a week........!!!!.........I haven't been online since I got to Kharkov, and as I write this I'm still offline. I've come to Coffee Life in hopes of catching some wifi, but nothing so far. My computer informs me “it's taking longer than usual to connect”. I'll say! I also have a second purpose in coming to the coffee shop; I'm waiting to meet my internet penpal, Timur.

Finished teaching. Finally a 4 hour day. That sounds like so little, but it feels like a LOT. I taught 6 straight hours Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. It was pretty intense, being the first week of classes and all that. Haha, I know Russians so well- they're always very skeptical when they first meet you, but if you manage to win them over they're extraordinarily loyal. That's a nice trait, I think. Americans are much more likely to turn on you. Anyways, the trick is winning them over. Hmmmm....I think my theory could explain a lot of 20th century Russian history.

First day of teaching

Wow. Thank God that day is over and can never happen again! Unless tomorrow I wake up in some terrible kind of time-loop.....no, that's too awful to imagine. Let's stick to the facts.

The next day....

Settling into Kharkov.... maybe it's just culture shock finally catching up with me, or maybe it's having left the insulated dream bubble of Kiev, but Kharkov is more like the Ukraine I remember from before. The Ukraine that makes me cry. The Ukraine that makes me angry. The Ukraine that makes me wonder why the hell I left the States. 

September 10th, part 2

The train ride from Kiev to Kharkov took 6 hours. The school paid for my ticket (about $12) and Lena kindly helped me navigate the train station.... after watching me frantically try to pack my bags in 10 minutes as the taxi driver waited downstairs (Cowboy, thank you for your stalling tactics!!). I traveled second class on the express train, a train with seats like a regular commuter train instead of the bunks I'd seen on long-distance Russian & Ukrainian trains.
The train was not completely full of people, thank goodness, so bringing on my heavy luggage was nothing more than the inconvenience of carrying it on and off the carriage. I was able to leave the suitcase in the back of the carriage and a guy helped me lift the duffel bag into the storage area above the seats. It's interesting how often people switch to English with me, even if they know very little. It's kind of sweet, like they want to be nice. The guy who helped me with my luggage switched to English, good English....later I saw he was reading an English-language book during the journey. I wonder what his story was.

When my seatmates arrived, I said hello to the girl and she looked at me like I was crazy. Ooookay. Maybe people don't say hi on trains. But then her father spilled a beer across the mini table and onto the pants of the guy sitting next to me, and when I offered him some napkins he asked “Where are you coming from with such an interesting accent?” and the ice was broken. We all pretty much talked for the next 6 hours. I sometimes find it really hard to answer the questions people ask me here. What would you say in response to inquiries like “Do you have a lot of stray dogs in America?”, “Why do you build houses out of such cheap materials? Why don't you use something sturdy, like bricks?”, “Is it true American women are insulted if a man holds open a door for them?”, “Why would you come here? Are there not enough jobs in America? What do we have that you don't already have?”, or even the classic “How much money do you make?”

September 10th

 To sum up this day:
and

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 8th

It felt like fall blew into town today. Rain started rattling against the windows as I taught an evening class and later I walked home on wet streets. It was the first time I'd been out by myself in the night. I finished work around 7:30 and had dinner alone in the cafe/cafeteria. The food here is SO DELICIOUS and I recognize so much of it from meals with D's parents.
A typical meal at this restaurant
Instead of borsch, tonight I chose лагман as my soup and tried something called sasusage ragu (cabbage, potatoes, sausage, and carrots) and had a little bowl from the salad bar. (Don't get excited: salad doesn't necessarily involve lettuce here in Ukraine. Think more along the lines of beets, mayonnaise, cucumbers, and carrots.) It was neat to sit alone in the crowded dining area and let the conversations wash over me. I cannot believe how comfortable I feel here! I wonder if it's just Kiev's cosmopolitan vibe. Maybe I will feel more foreign once I move to my assigned city.

Oh, total for dinner (including a box of apple juice): 39 griven, or about $4.50.

The money here is called grivna. Or sometimes, hryvnia. Гривня.
This is a perfect example of why Russian is not as difficult as it looks. I see this all the time; you take a word in Russian and by the time you've sounded it out in English, you end up with 14 extra letters. Hryvnia....say what? Seriously? That looks impossible to say in English. Anything with the letters h,r,y,v,n in succession looks absolutely insane, don't you agree? Trust me, just learn the Russian alphabet. It's way easier than trying to understand the same sounds in the Latin alphabet. Don't believe me? Which looks easier: Крещатик or Khreshchatyk? Ah-ha, got you!

Anyways, I'm thrilled that training is over. It was a good experience....but it was a demanding experience. I can't help but think the actual teaching part will be somewhat easier? No more 11 AM - 10 PM days....instead it will be mostly evening work. And I'm slated to move to Kharkov via the Saturday night train, finally! Here's to having my own room again!
A rainy afternoon in Kiev
Minor success of the day: I was finally able to buy a pair of scissors. Don't ask how much time I've spent carefully tearing squares of paper for class activities.

Engrish phrases of the day (spotted on t-shirts): "Where is my special shoes?" and "haughty bearing girl". (Amused? More Engrish here: www.engrish.com)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ode to Ukrainian apples!

As far as fruits and veggies go, I'd only eaten 2 bananas and half a cucumber since I arrived here a week ago. Isn't that sad, especially since there are countless corner stands with food like plums, pears, watermelon, herbs, and tomatoes? The watermelon stands are funny.... they stack the watermelon up in a big cage just like you see colorful rubber balls sold at Walmart. Anyways, I managed to add some radish and cucumber (in a raw salad) to my lunch and pick up some apples on the way to the metro. Check these out:
They're not all shiny and polished like they are at a U.S. grocery store and some of them have some spots to cut out, but they are the ABSOLUTE tastiest apples I've ever eaten! And a kilo (2 lbs) only costs $1....

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Тимошенко

I first noticed these stickers on the side of my apartment building and have since seen them all over town.
These ones say "Yulia, we're with you!" in Ukrainian
In a nutshell, Yulia Tymoshenko was the prime minister of Ukraine twice between 2000 and 2010. Now she's in jail for "misusing funds" and there's a big protest / counter-protest going on.

Kiev Metro

According to Wikipedia, the Kiev Metro carries..........1.38 million passengers every day! Here's some footage from a slow day:


Each metro station is designed differently. Here's where I catch the metro to training:

Sept 4th


Родина мать (Mother Motherland) viewed from the metro while crossing what I think is the Dniepr river. The statue is 203 feet tall!

Either we've sped up mightily or I overestimated....it's now taking us only about 45 minutes to get to our training. I know this because we booked it there this morning!
A classroom in an elementary school
This little girl came and sat by Cowboy during training

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sept 2 & 3

Another beautiful day in Kiev!!

I took the metro completely on my own yesterday and had no trouble getting to the school (getting back home was another story). I was very curious to see how the visa situation would be discussed at this policy meeting. In the end, I was impressed by their approach...which was pretty much "this is Ukraine, no one knows anything and what they do know will change tomorrow." So.....yeah. If the school had said anything else, especially something along the lines of "Don't worry, your status here is completely secure and legal" then I would have felt cheated and lied to, because it's hard to make a promise like that here. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Thursday, September 1st

This morning I made a “Russian” breakfast for my roommates- gretchka, pickled mushrooms, and fresh cucumber. There are many interesting products here in Ukraine; for example, the ketchup in this picture is actually garlic-flavored ketchup. Another example- on the metro today I saw an ad for mojito-flavored yogurt, imagine that!

We left early for the school today because we'd been assigned a ton of lesson prep and no one had time to do it the night before.

Check out this metro ad:
This is an ad for a local business English school. A special kind of school, apparently, according to the pics :p
There was a quick moment of panic when I accidentally got on the wrong train and got separated from my roommates, but I was able to figure it out...thanks to my cell phone. So yes, I finally have a cell phone, except I'm still not using it. That's my goal for next week.

Even though we got to school with an extra hour to spare, I only spent 5 minutes of it checking email before having to start prep. Unfortunately a really bad cold started to show up during that time and it dogged me for the rest of the day. Since home is over an hour away from the school, I tried to make an ATM withdrawal to get cash for the drug store...and the ATM wasn't working. Another teacher spotted me some cash... and the drug store was closed. Just one of those days!

The training was more interesting and relevant today after observing the four hours of classes last night. We all were assigned a lesson to teach for tonight, either 40 minutes of grammar or 30 minutes of conversation. I ended up with an hour of conversation, a full class. I didn't mind at all- it just took some extra prep time. I think a lot of the other teachers were really nervous, especially those who have never stood in front of a class before, but I've been through so many classroom scenarios (teachers of the Koran from Somalia, illiterate Bhutanese farmers, university students from the middle east, Iraqi schoolteachers, Russian kids & teenagers & elderly, hospitality workers in Nicaragua, lawyers from the Congo, etc) that nothing can shake my confidence. I had a really good time teaching and got so absorbed I forgot the cold for an entire blessed hour. I then got to observe another trainee teach grammar and ended the evening observing another class. The night ended again at 10 PM.

Both last night and tonight there were loud public demonstrations going on to protest the imprisonment of Timoshenko. I'm not going to get into that now, but man, they're loud! One of the trainers told me that it reminds her of the Orange Revolution.

We are at the Ukrainian cafeteria again tonight and I'm 3 for 3; third day in Ukraine, third bowl of soup (Denis, your dad would be proud of me!) I wanted to have Ukrainian borsch today but had to settled for gretchka soup. Haha, that means both my meals today consisted of gretchka! I don't plan to eat out constantly, but there's really no choice in this city. It takes so long to commute to school, there's no easy access to tupperware, and grocery shopping here is very different anyways. No more Costco or buying stuff in bulk....instead I have to go every 2-3 days to buy for the next 2-3 days, including a big jug of water to drink.

While walking with Cowboy to school today, we passed a fruit seller. Cowboy has been after some good fruit after getting a rotten peach at the grocery store, so we stopped to buy some apples. I kind of 'advised' Cowboy on what to say (he's starting Russian from zero) and the fruit seller assumed I was his Ukrainian translator! I was happy to have “passed” the speaking and appearance test. It makes me feel like I have made progress in understanding the local culture and language.

Tomorrow was supposed to be a day off, but we've been summoned to have a policy meeting with the school director. I hope it's nothing bad about the visa situation...

Some extra pictures:
Check out the part about the diplomas....looks like I have a back-up job if teaching fails :p
Roommates trying to open a bag of milk. Yes, milk in a bag.

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.

Tuesday, August 30th, Part II

Greetings from UKRAINE, everyone!!!!! : ) I love it here!!!!!!!!!!

My flight touched down at 3:45 PM yesterday. The plane was semi-full and everyone around me was speaking in Russian/Ukrainian except, of course, my seatmate. Haha, how did we end up next to each other? I said hello to her in Russian (she looked 100% Russian, Denis- she looked exactly like Nastiya from Fairbanks) and she looked at me with an expression of panic and replied “uh...English?” She was a French woman working for a pharmaceutical company in Switzerland, coming to Kiev for training. 
Lunch on Ukraine International Airlines. Blue & yellow are the national colors of Ukraine.
According to the information, this sandwich is supposed to be pretty healthy.
Does it look pretty healthy?

Yeah, Ukrainian-sized beer!
When the plane landed,