Sunday, October 23, 2011

Beautiful Burty

I promised an update so here it is:

            I now live in Burty, Ukraine. I am about 2 hours (by bus) south east of Kiev. My cluster mates (Drew, Sam, Caitlin, and Anna) and I learn Ukrainian for about 4 hours per day along with technical sessions about safety, culture, and teaching. We spend a lot of time together with our language teacher, Sasha, and other instructors. Sasha is a wonderful guide through a complicated yet beautiful language that I continue to butcher. Someday, with continued encouragement and giggles from peers I know Ukrainian and I will be on speaking terms. My dream is to be a long winded story teller in multiple languages.

            I left my parents house for the Louisville airport just a few weeks ago. My life has transformed into a polar opposite state. Instead of a queen size bed, my own car, private bathroom in a two story heated home, I now live on a small farm with 7 pigs, 10 geese, 2 cats, 2 dogs, 2 rabbits, and too many chickens to count. My host family and I have already eaten a few of our feathery animals. This past Friday was a holy day to mark the end of harvest (and sadly the start of winter!) so my host mother took us to church with her. It was magical. Chanting. Blessing of candles. The church is beautiful inside and out. My host mother rushed my camera and I around to ensure "her Cassie" got good photos. I greatly appreciated that she could explain to the priest and others I am a photographer not a crazy lady holding a big, black box. For the big holiday, my host father killed one of our geese last week and I got to help while photographing. It was a very interesting process. Since I already help him working our large vegetable fields and feeding all our beasts it made sense I should help kill one of them. Right? My host mother also taught me how to make a sort of bun sandwich with meat or apples inside. While we cooked and stuffed dough and baked, I counted or identified each ingredient in Ukrainian or identified each object in the kitchen. Her kitchen is quite small so I nailed that vocab. Despite some very maddening and/or awkward moments with my host parents during my first week in their house - the heat broke, I discovered showering is an weekly occurrence, communication was very difficult - I am swiftly loving in love with Moms and Pops (my nicknames for them) each day. 

            I share Ukrainian class and teaching and living and hanging out with Drew from Houston, Caitlin from Seattle, Sam from Miami, and Anna from DC. Our instructor and my roommate, Sasha, is a great man. The bond within our classroom has already grown tight and thick. We share stories of confusion and challenges as well as our personal victories over language, culture mishaps, our outhouses, or crazy neighbor dogs. We've established Friday Movie Night and survived an Ukrainian cooking day together. After spending some time with other Peace Corps training staff and clusters, we realized - individually and in mutual agreement - we are very happy to be together. Our combination of experience, intelligence, personalities, and differing histories seems to be shaping up into a unstoppable force. We are pushing through our issues with outhouses, cold weather, and being misunderstood most every moment. After only these few weeks, our unity has been called in play to defend each other in discussions or create solutions to issues in our lives and our village. It's maddening to walk all over town searching for the ingredients for dinner but wandering with each other isn't so bad. In addition, Burty is amazingly beautiful. Most days I look forward to finding free time to get lost with my camera or Ipod.

            My internet connection is, currently, borrowed and bad so uploading photos is impossible. For that, I am truly sorry. I have many frames ready to share as soon as I am able. I hope my words are enough for now! All my love to all of you! ­­