Sunday, January 20, 2013

Snowball Sledding

 Christmas was simple this year. On American Christmas, I went to work. Taught 5 lessons. Received a ton of candy and other sweet gifts. Cooked far too much food and watched Elf. 

On Ukrainian Christmas, I returned to Burty. My first visit since Rachel's week in July. A long overdue return. Drew, Sam, Dima, Maxim, Yulia, and Igor were all in town for the 3 days flew by. We climbed the tallest, longest street and spent each afternoon racing down it. Of course, we ate a lot and visited around town. Nothing new or strange about that. Burty is a constant source of sleep, eat, and repeat. Sledding was new. I've never been in Burty when there was no much snow and ice. Pretty combination for our old fashioned sleds. The boys get them sharpened and repaired before each day. 

After we got tired of the street, we headed over to a hillside. A hillside that ended with a slide on to the frozen lake. Dima sits right at the end of ice.

 After a few trips up and down, we all ended up with this much snow attached to us. 

 Yulia brought her dog out to enjoy the snow and play with us. 

 Waiting for our train in Kyiv. 

Ignor, Serhiy, Vanessa, and Drew 

Yaremche, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast 

Where Ukrainians go on vacation.

 The powder was perfect and kept coming down. Of course, our inner children began a snow ball fight of epic proportions. 

 Our second day, we went to a ski village called Bukovel. It's national known to be expense to live in but easy to visit and ski for a day. Yulia and Yulia did some skiing, the guys went snow boarding while Vanessa and I took our sled all the way to the top of the slope. 
Yulia making sure our cabin was secure before we left for skiing. 
To get to Bukovel, one must hire a driver in a four wheel truck to 
maneuver the narrow, icy, cliff slide road. 

 My first and only photo of Bukovel. It is a stunning beautiful valley sprinkled with cabins. But on this day, I put down my big bag and big camera in exchange for several slides down the hillside. 

Thank you Vanessa for your handy dandy pocket camera and these photos! 

Vanessa and I spent several minutes sitting at the top just looking around. Bukovel is like nothing I've seen in Ukraine. Being from Houston, this winter is Vanessa's first winter to make a snow angel and skit and experience real snow and ice. We sat in awe of our surroundings. We sat long enough that other skiers and sledders were bugging us to get up and get moving. We insisted we would, after we had had enough of just looking at it.  

Snow covered and delirious after a crash landing in drifts as tall as a car but very happy. 

 Our last day of holiday, fried ice cream and exploring the Ivano-Frankivsk center. 

Igor, Vanessa, Serhiy, Yulia, Yulia and Drew 

Two Thousand Thirteen

To celebrate New Years, I went back to my old village, Syhnayivka, to visit friends and my host families there. After a busy and stressful end to the semester a few days among ponds and farms and snowfall was refreshing. 

I spent a few hours with Nazar (below) and his furry companions. He was a kindergardener I taught last year. I still keep in touch with his family and spent a few hours there each visit. His mom and grandma always prepare massive meals in order to send me home with leftovers. 

New Years Eve dinner, Baba Katya (from host family #2) invited me to her place where her entire family was coming together. My portion of the family - Luda and Peter - joined us along with Luda's sister and family. I got to hang out with Vladic while the adults prepared the food. He showed me all sorts of toys and trucks. He doesn't do much talking but he can follow instructions, dance like crazy, and is quite ticklish. 

Peter and Vladic checking out what the dinner table has to offer. 

A portrait with the whole family before I went back to Kati and Maxim's house. 

A few minutes before midnight, I walked across the village to join Kati, Maxim, Dana, and their large family for another dinner. Dinner and a show. Dana and I had decorated her tree earlier in the day along with tested out her New Years presents. Kati and Halya worked on food - I did as much as I was allowed - while the guys set up fireworks and got the farm taken care of. They did a weeks worth of work in one day so we could all relax the weekend away. I celebrated Ukrainian Christmas with Kati's family last year so it was great to sit at their table again. Maxim got 6 weeks off work so his presence at work was a great enhancement. As midnight arrived, everyone began toasting, wishing, and dreaming of next year. Even Dana added what only a 1st grader could, "I wish that everyone is happy. Everyone gets a present and everyone has a friend." 

Dana's Tree
Dana the Magenta Warrior 

 Maxim being a very good dad and a master of fireworks. 
Kati, Maxim and Dana. I love this photo of them. 

After the fireworks show, we ate another course and sent more wishes into the future. Vova joined us for his third meal of the day. He asked me a question I lacked the ability to answer. He said, "Last year you were in Ukraine. This year you will be in Ukraine. Where you will be next year?" This particular question has been asked with increasing frequency since my months of service left is under 12. Picturing my life somewhere else is possible yet painful. I have fallen in love with this country, its history, culture, food, music, and its people. Set apart from the others are people like Kati and her family. They took me into their home for dinner my 2nd day in Syhnayivka. (that was December 19th, 2011) We had a terrible thunderstorm so I spent the night in hopes of walking home after breakfast but the storm continued. I spent 3 days with them. I've spent countless more with them since. When Vova saw the stress in my face after his question he grabbed my hand and said, "Don't worry about it now. You have time. You will plan. If you don't plan you can just live here with us." To which Kati added, "Yeah if you weren't aware you are one of ours now. You're my best friend. Our sister. You're Dana's aunt. My parents call you their American daughter. You can live here with us for as long as you want. I really want you to live here because I have idea what I will do without you. I don't know what I'll do when you go back to Kentucky." 

To which I said, "You and I will save all our money for your plane ticket that's what!" 

A couple of songs with the boys to finish the night! 

School #3

This is where is all happens. School #3. Consuming the bulk of my time, money and energy. Conveniently located right across the street from my apartment allowing me to get from my front door to my classroom in less than 5 minutes. Great thing when it's time for 1st lesson on Monday morning. 

English Club for 5th and 6th grade got a grand surprise early in the year via a shipment of reading and lesson materials. They get to enjoy pictures and learn new phrases while I get to read aloud some of my favorite childhood stories. Oh, we also got a ton of candy too! 

6B has learned quite a bit about transport and related vocabulary. Taking a cue from PC training, I simulated a train or bus in my classroom, assigned jobs to a few students and had the rest buying tickets from the ticket office staff, buying snacks or drinks from the grannies sitting around, and finding their seats through questioning a giggling conductor. Writing a few key phrases on the board during lesson one helped a great deal. By the end of week, the board was blank and my seats were tracking down train schedules from Kyiv to Kentucky or an express bus to Australia.  

Ukraine has an array of holidays that cause the nation to constantly celebrate and constantly hold programs. The military students at my school celebrated something similar to Veterans Day by determining their fitness and battle readiness. I'm proud to say my language kids won each contest with ease against the sections of our school. Not only can they express their thoughts about the weather and their future careers trilingually, they can take you to the floor in an wrist lock or arm wrestle you out of your chair. The're pretty cool kids. 

Once December arrived and the holiday season began full swing it was hard to focus on grading papers and/or studying for exams. But we did. After all that, we got to enjoy ourselves. Each class performed a holiday program with singing, gifts, and dancing for parents to attend. My 6B hosted a grand event with a disco, English songs, dressed up and gifts all around. The older students always help out as Father Frost and his granddaughter, the Snowflake Princess. 

 You know you work at a school when the decorations are made out of the same paper as math assignments. 

Forms 9 to 11, presenting a couple contest. One guy and girl of each class was selected to complete for Mr and Miss of the school. Through trivia, a dance contest, timed food preparation, the best couple was selected. Although, everyone went home with a medal and lots of candy so the winner wasn't as important. My favorite part was watching my kids use their manic energy and non-stop chatter to win medals.