Sunday, April 11, 2010

The First Week!

Greetings from Ukraine. I apologize for being under the radar for so long, and I especially apologize to any of you who had to calm down my parents when they hadn’t heard from me in over a week. I assure you that I am alive and well, and if you are reading this post, that means I successfully made it to the big city to use the internet and buy a cell phone.

Besides the lack of communication with the states, things here are going really well. I am in training village about 20 minutes away from the larger city of Chernihiv. There are 1,600 residents, and the school, which is K-11, currently has 169 students. However, despite being in a small village, I’m living the high life: shower with hot water, toilet, and electricity ALL THE TIME! So yeah…no complaints here. So far my days have been filled with language and technical training for Peace Corps (along with 4 other American classmates), as well as a few other activities, including a 3 AM Easter service, playing cards and battle ship in Ukrainian, and working in the fields to help prepare for the planting season, although I‘ve only done this one once, so we‘ll see how it goes. I’m loving it!

Probably the most important factor to my happiness here is the fact that yet again, I’ve lucked out with an amazing host family. There is a dad, Vitalick, mom, Natasha, and a daughter, Nastia, 11. It’s a pretty great situation for me, because even though they’re supposed to take care of me, both Vitalick and Natasha are in their early thirties, so it’s not really like they’re my parents (hear that Mom and Dad: I’m unsupervised!). A very important note about this family is that they speak no English, so we’ve been playing a lot of charades and my Ukrainian has been progressing quickly purely out of necessity. Nastia is very sweet and has all the attitude one would expect of the eleven year old girl. Vitalick in a very jolly man and loves to sing along with the TV and make dumb jokes to the point where Nastia rolls her eyes and says something I don’t understand but which I can only imagine means, “Daaaaaaad, you’re embarrassing me!”

I probably spend most of my time with Natasha. She is incredibly nice and always has a smile on her face. She is a professional cook and works at a restaurant in Chernihiv three days a week, which means fabulous Ukrainian food for me. We hang out in the kitchen and we “cook” together, and by that I mean I cut things and she does all the heavy lifting. I think my favorite thing about her is how patient she is with my language skills. She just seems to really want to talk to me even if it means it will take 15 minutes just to clarify one sentence. But hopefully it is paying off, because I feel myself understanding more and more every day.

While I have many funny stories about misunderstandings and what-not, I’ll leave you with the two that are currently in my mind.

Who’s on first? (this whole conversation should be written in Cyrillic, but I don‘t know how to change the language on my computer so I’ll use the English alphabet)

Natasha: Brat zvatea? (What’s your brother’s name? in the most simplistic Ukrainian she can possibly use for my sake)
Me: Brat zvatea Bret. (My brother’s name is Bret).
Natasha: Tak. Brat. Zvatea? (Yes. Brother. Name?)
Me. Tak. Zvatea Bret. (Yes, name Bret).
Natasha: Ni “Brat”, z-v-a-t-e-a? (Not “brother”, name?)
Me: Ya rozumiyou. Zvatea B-r-e-t. (I understand. Name Bret.)

Well, we went on like this for a little longer until I finally wrote down the word for “brother” and the word “Bret“, we both saw that there was one letter difference, and now everything is under control.

Group Hug

The days when Natasha works, she generally comes home between 9 and 10, which is also when I go to bed because at the end of the day of speaking a language that I don’t really speak, my brain hurts and I have to rest it. Well, on Monday Natasha came home from work as I was getting ready to go to bed.

Natasha: djkeoidljdwoeibnowidn? (No idea what she said)
Me: Huh?
Natasha: djkeoidljdwoeibnowidn? (Still no idea)
Me: Ya ne rozumiyou. (I don’t understand).
Vitalick: grhskjgfjdfjeufgjkfghdfjlksfdl? (still clueless…)
Me: goofy grin.
Vitalick: something, something, something, word-I-recognize-as-”dictionary”.
I go get my Ukrainian-English dictionary, and Vitalick flips through to find the word he is looking for. He points to the word.
Me: Sad? (I thought maybe it was the wrong word.)
Vitalick: Tak. Ty “sad”? (Yes. You “sad”?)
Me: Ni. (No)
Vitalick: Dobre (good). Vitalick (points to himself), Nastia, i Natasha “looooove” Becky.

Then the four of us group-hugged it out in the middle of the living room before I went to bed. The next day I told my language teacher about it and she said Vitalick had gone over to her house (we’re next door neighbors) that morning very concerned that morning because apparently at 7 AM that morning, I hadn’t been smiling as much as I usually do. Go figure.

Anyway…Moral of the story, I have Ukrainians here who, even after only a week, are very concerned that I am happy. I’m so happy I decided to come here, and I think it’s going to be an amazing two years. I’ll leave you with that. Check out the new pictures. Keep me posted on what’s going on at home.

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